Jonathan Brooks-Jones reports on the launch of Plaid Cymru’s election manifesto
Today Plaid Cymru launched its manifesto for the forthcoming Welsh General Election, insisting it is the only party that has the ‘new thinking’ required to deliver a stronger, more resilient Wales.
Leader Ieuan Wyn Jones criticised Labour for lacking ambition and constantly pointing to the economic limitations of the next Assembly term, and saying that they had, instead ‘mapped out a wide arc of the possible’ in terms of creating a better Wales.
Acknowledging the challenge £1.52bn cuts to public expenditure in Wales, Ieuan Wyn Jones said his party has created policy aims which are ‘bold, workable, affordable and, if implemented, could lead to a transformation of our economy and some of our key public services.’
While they will continue to push for an improved funding settlement for Wales, Plaid Cymru also has a number of strategies aimed at improving the state of the Welsh economy.
One part of their economic strategy focuses on actively encouraging small business growth by the establishment of a Small Business Bonus, which will use £90 million to provide a small business loans scheme. They also propose to create a not-for-profit company, Build4Wales, which would raise money to invest in public infrastructure projects and creating 50,000 jobs.
The other part of their economic policy is to save money by making government leaner, more efficient and effective. These plans include a 10 per cent pay cut for Welsh Cabinet Ministers and salary-freeze for Ministers and Assembly Members, following a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which indicated that savings of up to £192m could by cutting down on bureaucracy.
Plaid has put education at the centre of their campaign, saying they want to ‘transform’ education in Wales. They pledge to halve illiteracy and innumeracy rates by 2016, and eliminate it by 2020. However, rather than micro-managing schools, Plaid say that in government it would allow schools to devise their own clear plans for reaching targets, and more rigorous and flexible inspection systems will be created to improve Welsh schools.
The party also pledges to increase the availability of GPs and dentists, and make it easier for patients to see their GPs out-of-hours, to make the NHS provide a more patient-oriented service.
Another key policy aim is to vastly improve Wales’ connectivity, both in terms of communication and transport. They plan to carry out major improvements in mobile phone, 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi coverage, and improve transport links in Wales. This will involve calling for the devolution of functions and funding of Welsh rail lines from Network Rail.
Plaid also calls for the devolution of the police and criminal justice system, allowing Wales to develop its own distinctive body of law and tailoring the administration of justice to suit the economic and social needs of Wales.
Viewing the creative industries as one of Wales’ strongest assets, Plaid will also negotiate with Westminster for the devolution of broadcasting to protect and develop S4C, as well as ensuring that we make the most of our creative talent.
Plaid will also call for the devolution of powers over one of our main exports, water and energy. They also pledge to make full, and intelligent, use of Wales’ abundant sources of renewable energy to help cut our carbon footprint.
The Plaid Cymru manifesto also sets out their policies for ensuring better access to decent, more affordable housing. For example, they would support low cost home-ownership through the Homebuy scheme, which allows people to share the cost of buying a house with a social landlord, reducing monthly mortgage payments.
Plaid Cymru have named their manifesto after a quote from Dylan Thomas, saying it believes ‘his mantra should be the guiding principle of the next Welsh Government.’ Plaid’s Director of Policy and candidate in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Nerys Evans said: ‘To date, only Plaid Cymru has offered that vision and hope for a better Wales – We cannot afford 5 more years of Labour failure and lack of ambition.’