The conference took place at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Friday 23rd October and Saturday 24th October 2015, and finished up the party conference season across the United Kingdom.
Nicola Sturgeon walked into the Main Hall of the Arts Centre on Friday afternoon to a standing ovation, a warm welcome that continued throughout her speech as the audience reacted to her jokes and her attempt to speak Welsh. She even recognised the shared “robbery” the two countries faced in their Rugby World Cup losses, and congratulated Wales on their qualification for Euro 2016.
Sports references aside, one of the constant themes of the speech was the history and friendship of the two parties – where she made it very clear that by standing shoulder to shoulder the two parties could achieve more in Westminster.
The Scottish First Minister made both of the parties intentions very clear in her speech, even going so far as to say:
“Scotland and Wales are home to the only real anti-austerity parties in the UK.”
On behalf of the SNP and Plaid Cymru she promised that both the parties would: stand against tax credit cuts proposed by the Conservatives; oppose the Conservative “assault” on the vulnerable and disabled; support investment in public services, infrastructure, and the economy. But by far one of the most important promises she made was that they would “stand strong and united against the unjustified, unaffordable, and downright immoral” proposals to spend £100 billion on renewing Trident.
Despite most of her speech focusing on the friendship that SNP and Plaid Cymru enjoy, and future of Plaid Cymru, Nicola Sturgeon also talked briefly about Scotland. She pointed out that the Conservatives are doing the SNP’s job for them when it comes to trying to get the country behind Scottish Independence, following broken promises over more powers for Scotland. She still believes that independence is in the cards for Scotland.
“Scotland is on a journey, and the destination is independence.”
The speech and conference coincides with the SNP’s campaign for a third term in the Scottish Parliament, and Nicola Sturgeon’s own campaign to be re-elected as First Minister. It also coincides with the upcoming Welsh Assembly elections in May 2016, in which Plaid Cymru are hoping to become the dominant party, and with Leanne Wood’s campaign to become the first female First Minister for Wales.
Nicola Sturgeon expressed resounding confidence in Leanne Wood, saying she has “star quality” and outlining her leadership skills, particularly highlighting her impressive performance during the general election in May 2015.
“In my view, she put it beyond doubt that she is ready and able to lead Wales as your First Minister.”
There is no doubt that there was a tone of urgency in the latter parts of Nicola Sturgeon’s speech as she rallied support for Plaid Cymru, and as she spoke of Plaid Cymru winning in the Welsh Assembly elections next May as being a possibility. The key theme of this speech was that the battle of the two nationalist parties against the Conservatives, and Labour, could not be won without the support of each other, and that Wales could follow in Scotland’s path to devolution as equals. In case there was any doubt, Leanne Wood came out onto the stage and embraced Nicola Sturgeon and the two women stood side by side while the audience stood on their feet and gave them a thunderous applause.