Pandemic a 'game changer' in argument for independent Wales, says Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price

The coronavirus pandemic has been a "game changer" in the argument for an independent Wales, Plaid Cymru's leader Adam Price has said.

Mr Price said a new "national consciousness" had been boosted by the Welsh Government's contrasting pandemic response to the UK Government.

Plaid Cymru will lead the first ever debate on Welsh independence in the Senedd on Wednesday evening.

Mr Price said: "I think that it's caused many more people again to question the future for Wales as a nation, whether we're actually better placed to make decisions for ourselves.

"Not just in the limited context that we have at the moment, but also across a broad array of powers that would come to us as an independent nation."

He added: "I think that absolutely has changed the context, entirely. And I think that people are seeing Welsh politics, Welsh Government, the Senedd, the elections next year, the future of Wales as a nation in these constitutional terms, through a very different lens, even compared to a few months ago.

"I think that in the midst of this dark cloud that has been the coronavirus crisis, in terms of Welsh democracy, there is a silver lining there because we are having a national conversation.

"There is a national consciousness about Wales, a Welsh Government, the role of the First Minister, and Welsh health minister, the Welsh education minister.

"And I think that is a bit of a game changer in the way that we not just regard Welsh politics in the months ahead and leading up to the next election, but on the deeper question about where do we want to be as a nation over the next decade, and the fundamental question for us of course is independence."

In June, the latest Welsh Barometer opinion poll for ITV Cymru Wales revealed 62% of those surveyed felt the Welsh Government was handling the crisis well, compared to only 34% for the UK Government.

Plaid Cymru's leader said the "largely positive" response to Mark Drakeford's government would lead the public to consider independence Credit: PA

Mr Price said the "largely positive" response to Mark Drakeford's government would lead the public to question whether they would be better off by breaking free from the UK.

"I think we have seen that in those areas where things haven't worked so well, it's tended to be where we've listened to the kind of 'Westminster knows best' kind of mantra," he said.

"Well Westminster doesn't always know best, as we've seen, and I think that's been pointed out rather starkly over the last few months."

But Mr Price admitted independence would not receive widespread support from the public unless they were presented with "detailed answers" to questions on currency, international relationships and borders, for an independent Wales.

He said his party's independence commission would publish a report later this year on what an independent Wales would look like ahead of the 2021 Welsh Parliament elections.

June's Welsh Barometer poll also revealed 25% of voters supported independence if there was a referendum the next day, the highest ever level of support recorded.

But the same poll also found 25% of people asked would choose to abolish the Senedd if they were given a referendum on doing so.

On Monday, the First Minister Mark Drakeford said he believed that "the decision about the future of Wales should lie in the hands of Welsh people."

But he said at the May 2021 Senedd elections, he will be advocating the benefits of devolution - not independence.

"A devolved Wales, still in the United Kingdom, so drawing on the strengths of being part of that wider union. That is the position that I will be putting in front of people in Wales in May", Mr Drakeford said.