Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru - Party of Wales in English - is a Welsh centre-left nationalist party. The party's principal long-term objectives are Welsh independence from the United Kingdom and the preservation of the Welsh language and culture, alongside economic affluence. The party's slogan is 'Making a difference'. Despite their nationalist stance, the party also strongly advocates pacifism, equality, environmentalism, and socialism. Read on to discover the ideology, structure, and history of this one-of-a-kind nationalist party. 

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Table of contents

    Plaid Cymru Ideologies

    Initially known as Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (The National Party of Wales), the party's original logo consisted of a green 'triban' meaning three peaks, each representing a core party objective. The three objectives include Welsh independence, Welsh cultural prosperity, and economic affluence. Later, the Welsh dragon was also incorporated into the logo. In 2006, the party underwent profound internal transformations, rebranding itself as simply 'Plaid' for everyday use (with Plaid Cymru as the official party title) and changing its logo to the Welsh Poppy.

    Plaid Cymru Logo of Plaid Cymru showing the name of the party in Welsh and English and a yellow flower StudySmarterFig. 1 - Plaid Cymru Logo

    Plaid Cymru is an adamant pacifist nationalist party, having publicly declared its disapproval of the UK's nuclear capabilities and voted against direct UK involvement in overseas conflicts such as the Vietnam War and the Nigerian Civil War in 1967. This sets the party firmly apart from its right-wing counterpart, the Gwlad party, which also advocates Welsh independence. Gwlad translates to 'nation' in English, and the party has been referred to as the UKIP party of Wales (a far-right populist party), holding strong nationalist views.

    In their 2022 local government manifesto, Plaid Cymru highlighted its immediate goals as1:

    • Securing free childcare for infants up to the age of two

    • Free school meals sourced by local producers in primary education, which would also be extended to secondary education within the coming council term

    • Installation of nationalised and renewable energy schemes

    • Addressing the Welsh housing crisis through sustainable social housing schemes

    Plaid Cymru policies are generally rooted in community-based solutions. The idea of 'community socialism' became a fundamental focus for the party, as cited in its 1981 manifesto. The manifesto also emphasises the importance of local and grass-root politics and shows the combination of both nationalist and socialist ideologies.

    In 2020 Plaid Cymru launched an 'I'm Buying Local' campaign to support Welsh farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign encouraged the public to buy food from local producers. The party took an active role in physically distributing food aid parcels sourced mainly from Welsh farms around the country. The party also set out to establish a nationalised Welsh healthcare service, independent from the National Health Service (NHS).

    Plaid Cymru Structure

    At a national level, Plaid Cymru's structure includes two leading organisational bodies. These are the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the National Council (NC).

    The National Executive committee's duties include:

    1. Determining and re-focusing the party's political aspirations and strategies ready to be presented to and agreed to by the NC during the annual conference.

    2. Ensuring the implementation of party resolutions decided upon at the annual conference

    3. Handling party finances

    4. Organising and overseeing the creation of election manifestos and national campaigns

    5. General oversight of party function, particularly those involved with policy implementation

    6. Authority to make changes to all standing orders in an emergency

    The National Council's duties include:

    1. Confirming the party's political aspirations and strategies as suggested by the NEC

    2. The debate and creation of policy

    3. Approving election manifestos

    4. Determining membership/registration fees

    5. Approving the creation or abolishment of National Sections

    6. Determining implementation strategies for new policies

    At a more primary level, constituency committees are in charge of party activity. These committees manage party functions at local levels, such as campaigning, policy development, and recruiting members from their respective areas. The committees can also create branches, which aim to provide and maintain close and intimate relationships with the electoral and secure funding for the party. This is the main objective of all local branches, as Plaid Cymru does not receive any secondary funding. Party members may also form National Sections with the approval of the NC. These bodies are formed when members wish to address specific issues or areas which are of particular interest to them.

    Plaid Cymru History

    Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru (The National Party of Wales) was the party's original name. It was formed on August 5, 1925, by several nationalist politicians who shared the aim of preserving the Welsh language in Wales and eventually establishing Welsh as the country's sole official language.

    These politicians included the party's first president, Lewis Valentine, a pastor and author, alongside the party's second president, Saunders Lewis, who was a poet, historian and literary critic. Distinguished Welsh-language writer David John Williams was also among the party's co-founders. Due to prominent members having roots in the literary arts, the party promoted little else and lacked political and economic direction, resulting in very little recognition as a political party in its early history.

    In the early 1930s, the party adopted the preservation of Welsh culture and Welsh independence as its main aims and functioned as a successful patriotic social movement by promoting Welsh pride. In 1936, Valentine, Saunders and Williams were arrested and imprisoned after protesting an RAF airbase constructed on the Welsh-speaking peninsula Llŷn, by setting it on fire. Their distasteful treatment by the authorities and courts became a controversial matter in Welsh politics, giving the party considerable publicity and boosting its membership.

    During the Second World War, the party promoted the idea of neutrality and conscientious objection among men. This made the UK government nervous about the possibility of German moles infiltrating the party. Plaid Cymru had approximately 2,500 members and had yet to win any parliamentary seats by the time Gwynfor Evans became president in 1945. He would remain president for 36 years.

    Conscientious objection

    Conscientious objection is defined as the refusal to execute a legal role, duty or responsibility due to personal beliefs, such as refusing to go to war on behalf of a government. In the UK, laws limit the scope of conscientious objection.

    During his lengthy term, Evans became a significant figure in the recognition and establishment of Plaid Cymru as a political party, claiming the party's first parliamentary seat from 1966 to 1970 and then again from 1974 to 1979. In 1962, the party established the Welsh Language Society, which led to the creation of the Welsh Language Act of 1967, allowing the use of Welsh in courts and the publication of various documents in Welsh. Evans strongly influenced the creation of the Welsh TV Channel S4C in 1982 by threatening to go on a hunger strike if Margaret Thatcher's government failed to keep its election promise to do so. The party also saw the 1993 Welsh Language Act as a thrilling win as it established the Welsh Language Board, which aimed to promote the use of Welsh, alongside other similar provisions.

    Plaid Cymru, Photograph of Gwynfor Evans in 1951, StudySmarter Fig. 2 - Gwynfor Evans, 1951

    1997 was a momentous year in Plaid Cymru history. Not only did the party gain four seats in the UK parliament, but after a second referendum on devolution, the first having been in 1979, the Welsh public voted to create the Welsh Assembly. The assembly was given authority on a series of devolved matters such as health care and education from the UK parliament and first convened in 1999. Plaid Cymru won 17 of 60 seats in the Welsh Assembly and became the party of opposition to the minority Labour government, which had won 28 seats. Since the creation of the assembly, Plaid Cymru has remained an influential political force, and in 2007, the party formed a coalition government with Labour, experiencing its first time in government.

    Plaid Cymru Leader

    Any member of Plaid Cymru can challenge the incumbent leader and set off a leadership race. During the elections, members vote using a preference system.

    Preference Voting

    Preference voting is a voting system in which voters select candidates from a pool of available candidates in order of their preference. Suppose no candidate receives more than half of the first preference votes. In that case, the votes of the candidate with the least preferences are then redistributed to the voter's second preference until one candidate achieves more than 50% of the electoral vote.

    Adam Price became the tenth Plaid Cymru leader as a result of a leadership election in 2018, winning in the second round. Since his election, Price has advocated Welsh independence much more vigorously than his predecessors. Prior to the 2021 Welsh Parliament elections, polls estimated another minority labour government in need of a coalition with Plaid Cymru. Price declared that this would only be possible if a coalition of 'equal partnership' were formed, stating

    Being a junior party in a coalition would not deliver the kind of change that we would need.3

    When Welsh Labour did become the minority government, the parties agreed on a coalition government, under which many of Plaid Cymru's main aims were adopted as policy, such as the creation of a Welsh national health care system and free meals for children in primary education. Price called the agreement:

    a unique Welsh Departure from the British Constitution – a down-payment if you like on independence…It launches us on a pathway to a united Wales, one that, sooner than we perhaps think, will find it both comfortable and natural, indeed essential, to join the world community of normal, independent nations.4

    The agreement garnered overwhelming support from Plaid members, who approved the deal in their 2021 annual conference.

    Plaid Cymru Members

    In 2018 there were just above 10,000 Plaid Cymru members. Regular party membership costs £5 per month. However, those with less than £15,000 income per year can contribute £2 per month. Membership is free for those aged 14 to 18 years old. The party also runs a ‘Friends of Plaid' scheme in which people can show support for the party without becoming members and contribute £5 a year.

    Plaid Cymru - Key takeaways

    • Plaid Cymru is a left-wing nationalist party in Wales, with the objectives of Welsh independence from the United Kingdom and preserving the Welsh language and culture alongside economic affluence.
    • Plaid Cymru is an adamant pacifist nationalist party, setting it firmly apart from its right-wing counterpart, the Gwlad party, which also advocates Welsh independence.
    • Plaid Cymru generally promotes socialist and grassroots policies, a concept they refer to as 'community socialism.'Plaid Cymru is a constitutional party.
    • Their constitution outlines the party's principal ideals, methods of achieving them, the party's internal structure, and general party governance.
    • The party was formed on August 5, 1925, by several nationalist politicians who shared the aim of preserving the Welsh language in Wales and eventually establishing Welsh as the country's sole official language.

    References

    1. Assets.nationbuilder.com. 2022. 2022 LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANIFESTO. [online]
    2. The Party of Wales. 2022. Constitution. [online]
    3. Adam Price as cited in Hayward, W., 2022. 'Anything less than First Minister is failure': Price on Senedd election. [online] WalesOnline.
    4. Adam Price as cited in ITV. 2022. Adam Price: Labour and Plaid's co-op agreement is a 'down-payment on independence'. [online]
    5. Fig. 1 - Plaid Cymru logo (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Plaid_cymru_logo.svg) by Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales 2021(https://www.partyof.wales/) licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Plaid Cymru

    What does the Plaid Cymru mean?

    It translates to ‘party of wales’

    What are Plaid Cymru policies?

    • Free school meals in primary education sourced by local producers, which would will also be extended to secondary education within the coming council term.
    • Installation of nationalised and renewable energy schemes
    • Addressing the Welsh housing crisis through sustainable social housing schemes

    What is the ideology of the Plaid Cymru?

    Their principal and long-term objectives are Welsh independence from the United Kingdom and the preservation of the Welsh language and culture, alongside economic affluence.

    Who are the members of the Plaid Cymru?

    The members of the party differentiate as elections occur but the number of members stands at around 10,000 members. 

    What is the biggest party in Wales?

    Currently (2022) the conservatives are the largest political party within Wales, mainly from counties in south wales (that have more of a relationship with England). 

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