Adam Price reparations call for Wales 'wrong', Plaid Cymru admitted

By David Deans
BBC News

Media caption,
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price made the comments at a party conference speech

Plaid Cymru has conceded leader Adam Price was "wrong" to call for reparations for Wales without referring to the country's role in empire.

Last year he said Wales should receive UK compensation for a century of being "ground down" into "poverty".

An email to a BAME campaign group said Mr Price accepted criticism of the argument, made around last year's Plaid Cymru conference.

Plaid said the party is "continuously" in dialogue with the BAME community.

The party's BME branch added in a statement that it knew "Adam Price wasn't equating Wales's historical plight to that of the suffering of the BAME community".

The concession was given in an email written in October last year, the same month Mr Price made the initial call.

At a party conference in October 2019 Mr Price said Wales was owed "reparation for a century of neglect that has left a country, rich in its resources, a bitter legacy of poverty, sickness, blighted lives and broken dreams".

"Westminster owes us twenty times that for the wealth that they stole. Northern Ireland deserves a New Deal absolutely, but surely that's right for Wales too."

In a Nation Cymru piece around that time, Mr Price wrote: "The argument that the British Empire owes reparations to the people of its former colonies is powerfully well-made by the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor.

"But England's first colony should be added to that long list of creditors."

About three weeks after the conference a senior party official got in touch with a Welsh BAME-led campaigning group, offering a meeting between them and Mr Price to discuss their work and what he could do to help.

The email, seen by BBC Wales, said: "You may also remember that around the Plaid Cymru conference he called for 'reparations' for Wales from the British state.

"He now recognises and accepts the criticism directed at the story - that is, to present such an argument without considering the part Wales played in empire and colonialism was wrong."

Image source, Getty Images

During the General Election campaign the issue came up again when an interview conducted with Mr Price in October was published the following month.

Then, Mr Price's argument was criticised by Labour Health Minister Vaughan Gething, who said he was "pretty staggered that he's chosen to use such deliberately offensive terminology that directly references the experience of Wales and colonialism, and further back slavery".

"You just cannot compare the experience of Wales in the 19th and 20th centuries with the experience of the emancipation campaign from slavery, or indeed the state-backed racism that was visited upon African Americans in America," he said.

Mr Price said at the time that Mr Gething's comments were a "deliberate attempt to distract from the real issues" by "smearing" him, and described it as "ugly politics".

What is Plaid Cymru's response?

In response to BBC Wales enquiries, Plaid Cymru said: "Adam Price is continuously in constructive dialogue with the BAME community and the party actively sought a meeting with individuals after the autumn party conference."

"It was heartening to read the support and praise for Mr Price in the correspondence, and the offer of a meeting still stands.

"Further and independently, Mr Price was very grateful for the opportunity to meet the chair and representative of Plaid BME in February. In the meeting, Mr Price highlighted Wales's role in colonialism and the need for it to be foregrounded, and the discussion was welcomed by the chair."

A statement from Plaid BME added: "Plaid BME had a very constructive meeting with Mr Price in which we heard him elaborate on his argument in a thoughtful and logical manner."

"We were reassured in no uncertain terms that Mr Price has a deep understanding of the nuances of the debate, and this was something we were eager to relay to our community. We know that Adam Price wasn't equating Wales's historical plight to that of the suffering of the BAME community."

"We also welcomed Mr Price's commitment to us that he would be writing further on this topic and look forward to reading his thoughts in the post-Covid period."