WREXHAM’S future is to become a city at the centre of a “powerhouse” North Wales, according to one of the country’s leading politicians.
Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, who has served for over 40 years as a Plaid Cymru MP and AM and is a former Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, was guest speaker at the annual gathering of Wrexham Business Professionals (WBP) at the Ramada Plaza.
WBP, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, is a group of highly skilled professional firms of solicitors and accountants working together to raise the profile of expertise that exists in the region and beyond as well as fostering business entrepreneurship and encouraging the development of skills.
The seasonal event attracted over 140 WBP members and guests, and organiser Gill Atkinson, a director of Chartered Accountants and Registered Auditor Coxeys, was delighted to welcome Lord Elis Thomas who she described as “one of the most renowned and insightful politicians in Wales today.”
Lord Elis-Thomas, who has been the Assembly Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd since 2007, told his audience that the recent referendum on Scottish independence had created a “window of opportunity” for Wales to exert its presence on a more diverse United Kingdom, with the north of Wales playing a crucial role.
He said: “We are now in a totally different situation and we are talking about citizenship – citizenship of the UK, of Wales and of Wrexham.
“My great mentor, Lord Cledwyn Hughes, when he was Secretary of State for Wales in the 1960s, tried to create an elected council for Wales as part of local government reorganisation but he also wanted to create one county for North Wales because the north is one place, and I agree with him.
“The north is the powerhouse of Wales, in terms of energy and in manufacturing.
“I believe the key thing for North Wales is to work with the north of England because of the opportunities being offered by the lead Manchester is taking in the creation of a large city region there.
“When the high speed HS2 railway line comes we have to be ready. The corridor between Manchester and Dublin is where we belong and Wrexham is at the centre of that.”
Lord Elis-Thomas stressed: “The future of Wrexham is without doubt to be a city – a rejuvenated manufacturing city and a developing services city. This is what Wrexham has meant to me over the years.
“Devolution was something people feared in 1999 but devolution in 2014/15 is something now accepted by the overwhelming majority of the people of Wales.”
Lord Elis-Thomas served for nine years from 1974 as MP for Meirionnydd and for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy 1983-1992.
On leaving the House of Commons he was nominated for the House of Lords in 1992 and chaired the Welsh Language Board from 1993-99.
He was elected by his colleagues as ‘Llywydd’ or Presiding Officer of the National Assembly in 1999, 2003 and 2007, and has led improvements and reforms in the Assembly’s ways of working.
As a former researcher and teacher in adult and higher education, he maintains close links with Bangor University as Chancellor, and with Coleg Llandrillo of which he is President.
He is Vice-President of the National Trust Snowdonia Appeal which invests in sustainable farming and conservation in Snowdonia. He is active in the Church in Wales.
He has lived for most of his life in the Snowdonia National Park and enjoys hillwalking and jogging from the family cottage in Betws y Coed.
Gill Atkinson thanked Lord Elis Thomas for his “unique insight into the world of politics.”
She said the evening rounded off another busy and exciting year for Wrexham Business Professionals and looked forward to next year’s programme, which would include special events on tourism with the Welsh Deputy Minister responsible, Ken Skates AM, and another on planning issues with the Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant AM.
Also planned for 2015 were special sessions for members with expert speakers on retailing, new tax-raising powers for the Welsh Government and the possibility of Wrexham achieving city status.
“We will also be asking that `Brand Wales’ should fully embrace the north as an economic, commercial and cultural powerhouse,” she added.
During the evening WBP members took part in a prize draw which raised around £1,400 for the forces charity Help for Heroes.