Y Byd ar Bedwar last night focused on solar farms in Wales. As most readers of Syniadau will know, I am entirely in favour of renewable energy ... although that doesn't mean I don't have concerns over some individual proposals or the financial framework which applies to energy projects in general.
In particular, I think local communities should either partially own or receive a fair share of the profits made by developers and landowners for renewable schemes such as solar and wind farms. Much of the programme examined complaints that local communities were not in fact benefiting in the way that had been promised/expected when these schemes were given permission. I think there would be a better chance of it happening if that financial framework were administered by the Welsh Government rather than the UK Government in Westminster.
The full programme (with subtitles) is available here, but I would like to highlight something that Llyr Gruffydd said in it:
"The Westminster Government, as we've seen, has done nothing less than attack the renewables sector since the British General Election last May; through cutting subsidies, through changing the rules, and so on.
"And of course they, in London, are now looking to invest more and more in fracking and in nuclear – the sort of methods which are not, in my opinion, going to allow us to fulfil our climate change and environmental obligations here in Wales."
I agree with him entirely on this. But what I find sad is that he is only able to offer this as a personal opinion, rather than as the policy of Plaid Cymru. If he were to say that Plaid Cymru's policy is one of total opposition to any new nuclear power stations in Wales (which is in fact true, because that's the position endorsed repeatedly in party conferences) he would immediately be contradicted by other prominent Plaid Cymru politicians saying how much they support new nuclear power. Similarly, if he were to say that Plaid supported other renewables such as onshore wind farms, he would immediately be contradicted by other Plaid Cymru politicians saying that they oppose them. In fact it has become something of a mantra for Plaid politicians to talk about personal opinions rather than party policy when interviewed in the media, in an attempt to avoid highlighting these divisions.
As everyone knows, Plaid Cymru is all over the place when it comes to energy policy, because no-one in the party leadership is strong enough to unite the party around one policy for the whole of Wales. The same is true in other policy areas, too.
As things stand, Plaid Cymru is not a party for the whole of Wales, but better thought of as a set of local parties with often different local policies. This is the main reason it is going to continue go backwards in terms of the seats it will hold in the National Assembly after the May elections, and why it is in danger of falling to fourth place in terms of the vote across most of Wales. Yes, it will still hold on in its local heartlands, and perhaps even increase its level of support there, but it will do so at the price of becoming more and more irrelevant at a national level.