A stronger economy and a fairer society for 2015
Christmas message from Kirsty Williams
I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
2014 will be remembered as the year of the Scottish referendum. Whilst Scotland's decision to remain in the United Kingdom was welcome, it must not be considered a vote to retain the status quo. We need a reformed union: a union of distinct nations with our own ambitions, our own needs and our own outlook. In 2014, the Liberal Democrats were the only party who clearly set out what further powers Wales should have. I challenge the other parties to make 2015 the year when they too made a strong commitment to bringing further, meaningful powers to Wales.
For me, the most incredible story that came from the referendum was the remarkably high turnout. With the General Election just around the corner, we must take this enthusiasm and momentum forward. It was heart-warming to see so many young people taking part in the democratic process. This was by far the most positive case for votes for 16 - an issue I expect to see coming increasingly to the fore over the next twelve months.
I think it is fair to say that 2014 has been a particularly difficult year for the Welsh NHS. It's a sad fact that under Labour, Welsh patients generally have to wait longer for treatment when compared to the rest of the UK. That frankly isn't good enough and we all need to work towards a solution. I hope in 2015 my 'More Nurses' bill will become law. This will ensure safe nurse staffing levels in our hospitals. It's time for a good news story in the Welsh NHS and this bill has the potential to be just that.
There have been fewer people that have been stronger critics of Welsh Labour's handling of our NHS than me. However, we must never let these failings allow us to forget the incredible work NHS staff do. Christmas and New Year in particular is the time of year when we should all remember the sacrifices they make to ensure we have a health service always available to us. And of course that sentiment extends to all our vital services that must continue to operate no matter the time of year.
Our economy remains the biggest challenge of 2015. At a UK level, the Liberal Democrats have proved our commitment to building a stronger economy by halving the budget deficit and helping business create over 1.8 million jobs. But we recognise there is more to do. This is a job not yet finished. We can't risk allowing the Labour party to govern on their own; time and time again we have seen that they can't be trusted with our country's finances. Likewise, the Tories would simply cut too harshly, threatening public services and sacrificing the poorest. Therefore our message going into the New Year is clear: it is only the Liberal Democrats who will create opportunity for everyone by building both a stronger economy and a fairer society.
We all have a busy year ahead of us. But in the meantime, I hope over this holiday period you have a chance to relax and to spend time with family and friends.