Plaid Pushing for 'National Status' CONFERENCE: Party Decides to Change Constitutional Aims but Steers Clear of 'Independence'

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Byline: CLIVE BETTS Assembly Editor

PARTY leader Ieuan Wyn Jones has bluntly rejected suggestions that Plaid Cymru should change a policy which has been described as a hostage to electoral fortune.

Labour has consistently claimed the nationalists have a hidden policy of independence for Wales but dare not reveal it because they fear it would lose them votes.

At the weekend, the party decided at its annual conference at St David's Hall in Cardiff to change its constitutional aims. After a strong argument, the conference voted to opt for "full national status within the European Union" as the aim.

But a large minority of delegates demanded the policy should be described as "independence".

Party policy director Cynog Dafis agreed, "You could argue that full national status and independence are one and the same."

Some delegates claimed afterwards that the party's refusal to spell out the meaning of its new policy would harm the effectiveness of the campaign on the streets in 2003.

In 2003 the party will campaign for equality with Scotland and at the following election for nationstate status within the European Union, plus a seat at the United Nations, with an election-vote for such status having to be confirmed in a referendum David Senior, of Welshpool, said afterwards, "It will be very difficult to retain any enthusiasm from most party members with this policy of calling for full national status, rather than independence.

"If you have a party which does not have the courage to state what it means, it does not give the right lead to members."

But Mr Jones stamped on any suggestion the issue could be reopened at next year's conference.

Former party chairman Dr Phil Williams, AM for South East, had forecast during the debate, "We are going to make this change now or in the near future."

Mr Jones disagreed: "You cannot change a constitutional position every year, " he said. "That is university-debating tactics. This conference has settled the matter and there is no going back on it.

"It is very foolish to think that you can change your party aims every year. …