Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth accused Wales' new First Minister Vaughan Gething of lacking any ideas to solve Wales' challenges. Mr ap Iorwerth was speaking to Plaid Cymru's spring conference in Caernarfon on Friday, March 22.

He said Mr Gething should take responsibility for "creating the challenges they themselves now inherit" and called on Mr Gething to pay back the £200k donations he received during the Welsh Labour leadership contest from a man whose companies committed environmental crimes and to rebuild trust following the controversy.

The Plaid Cymru leader also spoke of his hope of electing more Plaid Cymru MPs in the next UK general election in order to keep the Conservatives out and to send a message to Labour that they could not take Wales for granted.

This was Rhun ap Iorwerth's second conference speech since becoming Plaid Cymru leader in June of last year. 2023 was undoubtedly a tough year for Plaid Cymru after a damning report looked into the party’s culture and consequently a new leader was brought in. But things seem to be changing for the party.

READ MORE: Plaid leader Rhun ap Iorwerth on his plan to win votes in the Valleys and take on Vaughan Gething

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On Friday afternoon, the Plaid Cymru leader was warmly welcomed as he walked onto the stage, with a standing ovation at the beginning and at the end of his speech. While on stage, he discussed what an upcoming general election would mean for his party, the new Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Vaughan Gething MS, as well as Welsh independence. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter.

Vaughan Gething needs to rebuild trust following donation controversy

The Plaid Cymru leader has called on the new Welsh Labour leader and First Minister to rebuild trust following the recent donation controversy. Mr Gething received two £100,000 donations from Dauson Environmental Group, whose director David Neal was given a suspended prison sentence in 2013 for illegally dumping of waste on a conservation site.

Four years later, Neal was prosecuted again for not removing it. Vaughan Gething has refused to repay £200,000 given to his leadership campaign. You can read more about this here.

Mr ap Iorwerth said: "Let’s not forget that this was no ordinary campaign. The voting stitch-up, the ducking of scrutiny for his own record, and whilst we’re used to questions about dodgy donations around the Conservative party, what we’ve seen during this Labour campaign has undermined so much faith. And when we talk about the need to pay something back, we can mean that in two ways – it's not just the cash, it's trust too, and that is even more valuable."

Electing more Plaid Cymru MPs is a priority

Mr ap Iorwerth asaid that electing more Plaid Cymru Members of Parliament in the next UK general election is the party's immediate priority. As it stands, Plaid Cymru has four MPs.

The Boundary Commission for Wales has confirmed that the new map of Parliamentary constituencies, which will come into force at the next general election, will see Wales losing eight UK parliamentary seats. The changes will redraw every Welsh seat except for Ynys Mon.

With a stark reduction of seats in north and west Wales, this could have an impact on Plaid Cymru’s four current seats. During his speech, Rhun ap Iorwerth said that the reduction had been a "deliberate move" by the Conservative government.

He said: "This time next year, the number of MPs from Wales will be cut by a fifth. That’s a deliberate move by the Tories to not only game the system for their own electoral self-interest - though that’s not going well, but also to diminish Wales’ voice in a Chamber where it is already dwarfed. This means that what Welsh MPs do with their time in Westminster will now matter more than ever before."

With the new boundary changes, it is predicted that the party will win three seats but all within the west Wales heartlands. The party could be reasonably confident about retaining Ceredigion Preseli and Dwyfor Meirionnydd, the latter of which will see the addition of Caernarfon and Y Felinheli, and could make it a solid win for Plaid.

In the new seat of Caerfyrddin, which covers the northern part of Carmarthenshire, Plaid could be facing new competition from Conservatives in the Whitland area and Labour in Carmarthen.

Meanwhile, Ynys Mon could also be an interesting three-way battle, while Labour and Conservatives will arguably have more financial resources than Plaid, the Party of Wales has found a strong candidate in Isle of Anglesey Council leader, Llinos Medi.

He wants people to 'feel hope about politics once again'

During his speech, the Plaid Cymru leader said that his party "stand apart from UK establishment politics", that he didn't "want the future to look like the past", and that he wanted "people to feel hope about politics once again".

He referred to the proposed Senedd reforms. The Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill plans an increase in the number of Senedd members, making changes to the electoral system, and changing the constituencies across Wales. The hope is the bill will get royal assent this summer meaning it will be in force for the 2026 election.

He compared the proposed reforms to that of the 1999 National Assembly for Wales election. He said: "The spirit of '99 was one of ambition and optimism – of possibility and purpose. Twenty-five years on, our Senedd is being reimagined, more proportional in its numbers and more representative of the people of Wales.

"And just like in 1999, I am proud of the role Plaid Cymru has played in building our national institution. But I know that you, like me, are restless. Impatient, itching for change, imploring those in Labour who deep down agree with me when I say this isn’t as good as it gets for Wales, to have the courage to say so out loud – to call out Westminster as a system which is not simply failing but has categorically failed.”

'Wales can and will one day decide her own future'

As expected, the discussion around Welsh independence became a key point during the speech. The Plaid Cymru leader referred to the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, which said that independence was a "viable option".

Referring to former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s comments that devolution was a “dangerous game”, Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “Their mantra? Let devolution work for the Labour party, perhaps let it work for the Union, but not really for the people of Wales.

“Devolution is only a 'dangerous game' for those who refuse to accept not only the viable but the inevitable – that Wales – like the vast majority of nations in the world, can and will one day decide her own future. Independence is viable.

“Not just our view in Plaid Cymru but the recent view of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales. Words like 'landmark' and 'historic' are perhaps over-used, but they really are words that reflect the significance of the Williams-Mcallister Commission’s report.

“It rightly warns of the unsustainable nature of the status quo, and affirms that independence has earned its place at the heart of Wales's national conversation. Not muttered around the margins, but said with purpose and conviction - Wales can. Mi all Cymru wneud hyn.”