Ryan Williams is the candidate for Gwlad- The Welsh Independence Party for the Torfaen seat in the Senedd Election on Thursday 6 May 2021. Cwmbran Life readers suggested some questions to go the candidates. Here are Ryan’s answers. Visit Cwmbran Life to read the answers from the others who took part. Visit Torfaen Council’s website to see the full list of candidates.
Q. Very simple question to start, why should voters in Torfaen put the X in the box next to your name?
A. Gwlad is the only party in this election that’s committed to growing the Welsh economy and making Wales a more prosperous, successful and free country:
- Labour won’t grow the Welsh economy: they’ve been in power for 22 years, if they were ever going to they’d have made a start by now. We’ve actually gone backwards relative to the rest of the UK over that time.
- The Conservatives won’t. They know that if they did, it would embolden the independence movement still further, and they will always put preserving the Union ahead of Wales’s best interests.
- Plaid Cymru, sadly, will just support whatever Labour does.
- The various rag-tag abolitionist parties have nothing positive to offer. They’d place us under direct colonial rule from Westminster at the exact time that the number of Welsh MPs is being reduced from 40 to 32. It’s so absurd that it’s hard to take seriously.
Gwlad wants to see Wales as a thriving independent country, but we know that can only be done by improving things here, a step at a time, using the Senedd’s existing powers.
Q. There are many ‘play parks’ in Torfaen, but they are such basic provision. The newest one local to me has a wobbly pirate ship and a stack of logs. This counts as a play park? It has been a hard year entertaining children and keeping them physically healthy, play parks are more important than this basic provision. What plans do you have to add more equipment to current play parks and increase the quality of our local open spaces to encourage play and exercise for a generation that is happy in front of a TV/computer, when the alternative entertainment is a wobbly pirate ship and a stack of logs?
A. That’s really a question for the council – the Senedd doesn’t have direct responsibility for play parks in individual boroughs. As a party, though, we are strongly in favour of simplifying local government structures and giving them more power, including more power to raise their own revenues via a reformed business rates and council tax system. This would ensure that local councils have all the tools they need to address issues like this.
Q. Will you push for a huge increase in support for mental health awareness in schools? This is more than the ‘wellbeing’ buzzword.
A. Under the last 22 years of non-stop Labour rule, there has been a steadily smaller proportion of the national budget spent on young people and a steadily large proportion spent on older people, many of whom are attracted to move to Wales in their retirement because they get better benefits than in England. Children of school age have had a particularly raw deal, with funding-per-head in schools down by about £500 per pupil per year just over the last decade. This impacts mental health services alongside every other aspect of childrens’ education provision. It has to stop.
Q. With the amazing support over the last year these professionals have provided pupils around Wales, will you support a pay rise for our amazing Teaching Assistants?
A. Many people in the public sector have done fantastic jobs over the last year, and we should never forget that. Even so, we also mustn’t forget that many people in the private sector would have loved the opportunity to do fantastic jobs as well, but have found themselves furloughed or in many cases, sadly, unemployed altogether. Yet these are the people whose taxes have to pay the salaries of public sector workers, many of whom already enjoy higher salaries than the private sector along with much better job security. Now isn’t the time to take from one group and give to the other, but we want to prioritise economic recovery across the board from which everyone can benefit fairly.
Q. Do you think there is a need for clinics to combat the number of people suffering from Long Covid? Many of us have been unable to work or have lost jobs. The advice from doctors only seems to be “it takes time” but no investigation into whether the symptoms we are experiencing are associated to Covidand /or have any lasting damage.
A. That’s a good question but it’s one for a doctor rather than a politician. What’s clear to me is that following the disruption due to Covid the NHS is going to be under strain from many directions, the biggest concern of all being missed cancer diagnoses or disrupted treatment for other chronic conditions. It’s important that the NHS be equipped to respond properly as the clinical understanding of Long Covid improves, and very important that research is carried out in this area, but I don’t want to make unrealistic promised about something which is still poorly understood.
Q. Is the council tax ever likely to be reduced as it’s a lot to pay for what services we actually get. Eg change to the fortnightly collection but no reduction in bills. We tend to take most of our own rubbish to the tip.
A. As I mentioned earlier in response to question 2, Gwlad has a policy of reforming business rates and council tax and giving councils more power over how revenues are collected and spent. This is a question for a local council rather than for a Senedd member.
Q. Are you prepared to take a lead on action for climate change and tackle the important issues? What do you think the important issues are in respect to climate change and the environment?
A. In Gwlad we have a line in our manifesto that says “we are more concerned with the damage that the global climate can do to Wales than the damage that Wales can do to the global climate”. Wales is a small country; if we cut our carbon emissions to zero overnight, any one of a number of large cities in the world would make up the difference in very little time. We want to see Wales take advantage of new, green technologies, and we’re very excited about Wales’s potential as a centre for renewable energy technology and a net exporter of energy from renewable sources, especially offshore ones. But we’ll always prioritise the growth of the Welsh economy and the living standards of Welsh people over aiming for unrealistic and arbitrary targets. In particular we will not allow Wales to become the ‘carbon sink’ for the rest of the UK, with our farmland being rewilded or forested and our environment blighted by onshore windfarms.
Q. How do you plan to reduce littering and remove what is already there on the streets and highways?
A. This is another council issue, really. In general, though, we want to see people take more pride in their local communities, but we’re sympathetic to ideas such as deposit schemes for packaging and even the printing of identifying details onto takeaway wrappings, for example.
Q. What do you personally do in your life to ensure you are leaving the smallest environmental footprint on our planet?
A. I ensure that answers to questions like this take up as little newsprint as possible.
Q. How do you plan to support local produce businesses to reduce plastic and carbon emissions?
A. As mentioned in my answer to question 8, the reduction of wasteful disposable packaging through deposit schemes is an attractive idea.
Q. Why is it that we (Constituents) only get asked opinions and greeted with smiles and false promises when there are local elections or general elections?
A. Constituents are welcome to contribute their opinions at any time, and hopefully at least some of the promises made to them at election times aren’t false!
Q. Do you think Wales should: a. pursue independence; b. reverse devolution; c. maintain devolution?
A. (a), definitely. Wales is a nation. The normal state of a nation is to be independent. Wales should be independent.
Q. How important do you think it is to live in the constituency you represent to truly understand the needs of the people in the three very different towns of Torfaen?
A. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I do not, so it’s a bit of a pointed question! The answer is obviously that I think I could represent the constituency very well if elected, but it’s important to speak to local people and listen to them carefully to understand what’s important to them.
Q. What are your passions on the decriminalisation of drugs in Wales?
A. It’s important to remember that there was a time when all drugs were legal, and the ones that are illegal now were made so because of the harm they caused to people who used them. Therefore the blanket legalisation of drugs, even the ‘milder’ ones like cannabis, would be a step too far. There is a case to be made for making some drugs available legally to some people, in controlled environments – and unquestionably when there is a medical benefit. But it’s very important to ensure that children or other vulnerable people can’t gain access to them.
Q. Do you support the idea of a Universal basic income?
A. Yes. This has been Gwlad policy since the party was founded in 2018, when it wasn’t being talked about nearly as much as it is now. We think it’s an idea whose times has come, but in Gwlad we see that it’s not practical to introduce it by itself, leaving everything else the way it is. We want to introduce it alongside a new, much-simplified ‘flat tax’ system which will ensure that it’s affordable, that most people in work wouldn’t see a substantial change to their net incomes, but that all the advantages of helping people back into work remain.