Change is possible if we insist upon it: that is the hopeful message of democracy.
In Wales, it is young people that are at the forefront of that change – from the climate strikes to ensuring that mental health and well-being will be enshrined in law in all aspects of the new curriculum.
You demonstrated that again last summer by forcing the Labour Welsh Government to recognise the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on your education; I was proud to stand by your side on the steps of the Senedd to protest the unfair award of GCSE and AS/A Level grades and Plaid Cymru was proud to be on your side in this successful campaign which saw social justice prevail.
On Welsh independence – the most significant change of all – it is the young people of Wales who are again leading the way, with a majority of 16–24-year-olds in favour of independence.
For the first time ever in a Senedd election, 16- and 17-year-old citizens will be able to directly shape your own future and Wales’ future by casting your own vote.
As we emerge from the shadow of Covid-19, this election is our chance to choose a new path, a path to a better future that only we ourselves can build – a future of fresh possibilities, new energy, and hope.
In this election, Plaid Cymru is presenting the most radically ambitious and transformational programme offered by any party in any Welsh election for decades. We are looking forward to the green, confident, and independent country that we can become – an equal nation and a nation of equals. You can view our manifesto in full on our website www.partyof.wales/manifesto. This page contains 10 of the pledges I believe you’ll be most interested in.
A vote for Plaid Cymru in this election is a vote for a Youth Job Guarantee for 16–24-year-olds, a Welsh Green Deal to help tackle the Climate Emergency, and a vote to let you, not Westminster, decide Wales’ future.
Based on your success as young people over the past few years, I am confident that we will all succeed in building a new Wales. But on May 6th you have an opportunity to use your new vote to bring about that new nation. Here’s what you’ll get if you vote for Plaid Cymru.
1. Action on Plastic
Plastic waste is polluting our oceans, our green landscapes, our water and food systems, and even our own bodies.
We will ban non-essential single use plastics straight away such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery and nonbiodegradable wet-wipes. We will work towards the goal of having zero waste ending up in landfill by 2030.
We will make it easier to recycle, and make the ending of plastic pollution the responsibility of those who make it.
2. Climate emergency
Facing up to the climate and nature emergency is the defining challenge of our time. We are committed to tackling the climate emergency so that Wales and the world is protected for the next generation.
We will set a target for Wales to have net zero carbon emissions by 2035; 15 years sooner than the current target. We want all our electricity, heating and transport to be powered by renewable energy by then.
We will plant the equivalent of 100,000 hectares of new woodland per decade. The trees planted will help lock in carbon, encourage biodiversity, and prevent flooding.
3. Mental Health
The impact of Covid-19 has affected us all in different ways. For young people, it has caused huge uncertainty when it comes to education, wellbeing, and social life. We need to make sure that young people can get the support they need.
We will set up a number of mental health and wellbeing hubs to be able to offer support and advice as you walk-in, rather than being faced with a waiting list.
We want to increase mental health care for anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and all other mental and emotional ill-health. We will increase the amount we spend in this area if we are in government.
We want to change the way young people are given grades and qualifications. The new curriculum for Wales encourages creativity, teamwork, and big ideas and we think that should be reflected in assessments too.
We will move away from GCSEs and A-Levels to a system which continuously evaluates performance. This should be based on real world experiences and community projects for example, and teachers should be given the time focus on being in the classroom rather than extra paperwork.
We will stand up for the young people who have faced uncertainty during this strange period of a global pandemic and make sure that the assessment methods used are fair and take into account the circumstances of the past year.
5. Post-16 Education
One of our greatest resources in Wales are our people and our minds. We should be able to offer exceptional courses and qualifications to anyone who wishes to study here. As a first step towards making university education free, we will reduce the maximum tuition fee for Welsh students studying at universities in Wales to £7500. We will also protect inward and outward student mobility between Wales and the European Union post Brexit.
To ensure parity of esteem across all pathways of post-16 education, we will increase funding to careers services and advice in schools and colleges – reversing cuts over a number of years.
Wales’s network of Further Education Colleges will be made community hubs for collaboration with businesses and local authorities to create more coherent work opportunities.
We will increase the cash value of the Educational Maintenance Allowance to £45 a week and Welsh Government Learning Grant for FE students to £2,350 a year.
All apprentices under the age of 21 should be partnered with a Further Education college to ensure appropriate support, including access to college days or off-site training/education for key skills or other appropriate education choices. We will tackle under-representation of women and people of colour in apprenticeships with stretching targets, linked to funding.
Across the UK, 47% of jobs filled by workers aged 24 and under were furloughed for at least some time between March 1st and June 30th, 2020, compared to 32% of all jobs.
We must recognise the economic impact of the uncertainty arising from the pandemic on young people. There is a real risk that school leavers and university graduates will face unemployment when they join the post-Covid jobs market.
We will establish a national Youth Jobs Guarantee to provide secure employment, earning at least Living Wage, for every 16 to 24-year-old that needs one, working on a green recovery, caring for our children, for our elderly, for our planet.
7. Free Bus Travel
An unstable job market, low wages and the high cost of car insurance are all challenges to overcome when considering travel to education, training and job opportunities.
Plaid Cymru will provide free bus travel for young people between 16 and 24 year olds. Increasing spending on public transport will allow us to improve bus connections and frequencies.
We may even see the added benefit of reducing emissions if we create an active travel and public transport infrastructure suitable to end our dependency on cars.
We want to see a Wales where you can choose to stay and thrive in your local community, and expect high-quality housing rights wherever you want to live in Wales. For too long, our young people have been priced out of their local communities because of a property market dominated by unaffordable second homes, or unable to move out of their parents’ houses as rent is too high.
We will end no fault evictions during the economic fall-out from Covid-19 and implement a new system of fair rents for the future. We will strengthen the powers to deal with poor landlords that don’t meet housing standards or social responsibilities.
Our aim is to make it affordable again for young people in all parts of Wales to buy their own home. To make young people’s savings go further and to broaden chances to access the housing ladder we will build or convert 50,000 public homes over the next five years, including 15,000 genuinely affordable homes to buy. We will also take steps to address the second homes crisis which is especially gripping Wales’ eastern seaboard and driving local people out of the property market.
9. A Socially Just Wales
The circumstances of Covid-19 have highlighted inequalities and injustices already deeply embedded in our society: systemic racism, violence against women, gender inequality, and economic disparity. We need a Welsh Government that will do all it can to alleviate these issues, and effectively tackle the root causes of such inequalities and injustices.
In terms of visibility and representation, we will aim to to achieve a 50:50 gender balanced Senedd, at the same time increasing representation of people of colour, LGBT+, disabled and working-class women. We will also create a Cabinet-level post of Minister for Equalities and Women’s Empowerment.
We reaffirm our commitment to actively promote the rights of LGBT+ youth by ensuring that relationships and experiences of the LGBT+ community are included in the statutory element of Relationships and Sex Education of the new curriculum. We will continue to fight for rights and equality for trans people, supporting the reform of the Gender Recognition Act to introduce a streamlined, demedicalised process based on self-declaration and in line with international best practice.
We will create and implement a Race Equality Action Plan for Wales. We will promote anti-racist training such as unconscious bias and gender stereotyping training in workplaces and education settings. We will fund more mentoring, shadowing and anti-racism programmes and investigate the culture of public and political bodies at all levels to identify potential barriers.
10. An equal, independent Wales
We know that there is a growing interest in Welsh independence. There is nothing the people of Wales cannot achieve when we work together for Wales's best interests.
We want a Wales for all, where all individuals, groups and communities feel included, supported, and listened to. Our goal is to build a national community based on the equal worth of every person, whatever their race, language of choice, nationality, gender, colour, faith, sexuality, age, ability or social background.
We want to harness the energy and passion of young people and put Wales on a path towards a Wales which stands on its own two feet. We will work towards an independence referendum where 16-17 year olds will be able to have their say on the future of Wales.