The “if” stated by Dafydd (satisfying the environmental objections) is a mighty big one, of course. It seems to have been more than a little underplayed in the newspaper’s report, which gave a rather more positive spin to his support for the barrage. Properly evaluated, it’s hard to see how that ‘if’ can amount ultimately to anything other than opposition (although of course Hain himself seems to believe that all of the environmental objections can be overcome by deregistering the Natura 2000 habitat, and pooh-poohing the other objections).
Still, it was clear that ‘in principle’, Dafydd was now supporting the building of a barrage.
The story does rather reinforce once again the fact that Plaid’s energy policy is all over the place. To summarise:
- On nuclear energy, the party is formally opposed, but any member who disagrees is free to campaign in favour; and a significant proportion of the party’s elected representatives seem to fall into that latter category.
- On wind energy the party is formally in favour, except that all those members who disagree are free to oppose every single proposal to actually build any turbines, and do so with vigour.
- On tidal power the party is in favour of lagoons around Wales instead of a barrage, but it now seems that members are free to support building a barrage instead if they wish.
- On gas, the party is opposed to the negative environmental impacts of building gas power stations, but is not opposed to actually building and operating the stations in the first place.
In summary, the party appears to be formally committed to a future based on renewables, as long as its members are free to oppose all proposals for renewable installations and to support any non-renewable proposals. Effectively, and regardless of the formally-adopted policy, Plaid's policy on energy is now whatever it's local representatives say it is, and varies from constituency to constituency, depending on what might be attractive to local electors - an approach to policy which is almost indistinguishable from that of the Lib Dems.
Energy policy is central to any coherent environmental policy – Wales needs leadership and direction, and is not getting it from any party now. Plaid used to provide that leadership, but has moved a long way from its position in the 1970s and 1980s.