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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 September, 2003, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Plaid commits to independence
Dafydd Iwan at the Plaid conference
Dafydd Iwan's ended decades of debate on the issue
Plaid Cymru has committed itself for the first time to wanting an independent Wales.

Delegates at the Plaid Cymru conference in Cardiff voted unanimously on Saturday to affirm the party's long-term aim to secure independence for Wales within the European Union.

The commitment ends decades of debate about the party's official line on the subject.

Delegates voted to drop the term "full national status" and declare the party's constitutional aim as "independence" - a word it has been avoiding until now, for fear of alienating some voters.

The party will also aim to achieve a seat as a full member of the United Nations.

Plaid Cymru' s assembly group leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones was not on the conference floor to take part in the historic vote.

His aides said he was finalising his conference speech and that he was "relaxed about the outcome of the vote". They denied any attempt to avoid involvement in the debate.

Ieuan Wyn Jones
Ieuan Wyn Jones wants a Welsh parliament
He had earlier refused to reveal how he would vote, saying he would make up his mind after listening to the debate.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said, after the vote : "Now everybody in Wales knows what Plaid Cymru is about - full blooded separation and independence, which would bankrupt Wales and make us an international laughing stock."

When Mr Jones took to the stage, he avoided using the word "independence".

Instead he described Plaid's vision as "self-government" for Wales.

Referring to the leadership battle and admitting he had had a "bruising" summer, he told delegates it was now time to unite.

The party now had to become a more "modern, professional" machine, he said, and he promised a new approach in the assembly.

Plaid had tried to make the assembly work, but it now realised it could not deliver for the people of Wales without extra powers.

The party had to be at the forefront of a new campaign for a "proper parliament", he said.

Dafydd Iwan
On Friday Iwan flexed his political muscle for the first time
"Without it there is no way we can fulfil our destiny as a nation," he added.

"Wales has all the attributes of being a fully-fledged nation, apart from one: It does not have its own government. It cannot settle its own destiny."

Labour came under severe attack from Mr Jones. He branded it the "Not me, guv" Government for allegedly refusing to take responsibility for its failings.

He said the Labour administration wanted to take credit for everything, but disappeared when things went wrong.

Education Minister Jane Davidson, he said, had refused to take the blame for the problems of education quango Elwa, and Health Minister Jane Hutt refused to take responsibility for spiralling hospital waiting lists and an NHS in crisis.

'Claiming credit'

And he attacked First Minister Rhodri Morgan for not doing more to help the thousands of workers who lost their jobs with steel giant Corus.

"New Labour wants to claim credit for everything and responsibility for nothing," he said.

"They are the 'Not me guv' administration. That is the Labour Party we have to face. But Plaid Cymru will be putting them on the rack in the National Assembly."

On Friday, new president Dafydd Iwan delivered a dramatic speech in which he said Wales must emerge from England's shadow and take its place among the world's nations.

On Friday, Mr Iwan underlined his aim of achieving full independence for Wales.

"Self-government, self-determination, autonomy, home-rule, freedom, independence, full national status - call it what we will," he told delegates at Cardiff's St David's Hall.

"We know what it means."

It was the first time party members - who chose the local councillor above former AM Cynog Dafis as president in a summer vote - had a chance to see the strength of Mr Iwan's politics.

The BBC's Wyre Davies
"Today's vote at the party's annual conference is a victory for grass roots members"

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