Welsh nationalists' drive for independence steps up a gear today when the country's leading politicians argue over splitting from the rest of the UK.

The Senedd in Cardiff Bay holds its first ever debate on separation – 21 years after the Welsh Assembly was established.

Coronavirus has seen Wales plot a different path from England, with restrictions imposed and lifted at different rates.

Nationalists believe the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted a growing gulf between London and Cardiff​ - and want a vote to test people's desire for greater freedom from England​.

Boris Johnson was greeted by Welsh flags during an election campaign visit to Barry, South Wales
He famously waved Union Flags while stranded on a zip wire during the 2012 London Olympics

Senedd Members will today hear calls from Plaid Cymru for Wales to be handed powers to trigger an independence referendum.

Party leader Adam Price said: “Wales has proven itself during the coronavirus crisis by acting independently to protect our citizens from the dysfunctionality and ineptitude of the Westminster Government.

“As we come out of this crisis, we cannot go back to the status-quo; the status quo has failed Wales.”

Plaid leader Adam Price will issue a plea for an independence referendum in the Senedd today

Just 25% of people in Wales back independence – though that is up 4% since January.

Mr Price insisted: “Support for Welsh independence is on the rise and the people of Wales are waking up to the idea that there is another way, another future, another choice – and that choice firmly resides with the people of Wales.

“That’s why we are calling on the Welsh Government to seek the constitutional right to allow the Senedd to legislate during the next term to hold a binding referendum on independence.”

Wales fans with flags
There is rising support for separation - but it is still only backed by a quarter of the population

However, the bid looks doomed to fail​ - Wales is run by Labour, propped up by a single Liberal Democrat.

With both parties supporting the union, they are unlikely to pile pressure on Westminster for a Welsh independence ​vote.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Nia Griffith said: “Plaid's warped priorities are staggering.

Shadow Welsh secretary Nia Griffith blasted the move

“At a time when families across Wales are facing all the distress and upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic, it beggars belief that Plaid is using this moment to push for a divisive and unnecessary referendum.

“Instead of indulging in this ridiculous fantasy politics, it’s time for the nationalists to get real and focus instead on the serious and unprecedented challenges that are facing Wales at this time.”