BBC InDepth

Plaid Cymru manifesto: 11 key policies analysed

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Rhun ap Iorwerth

Plaid Cymru has launched its 2024 election manifesto, in which leader Rhun ap Iorwerth called for "fair" funding for Wales. The document, external sets out the party's plans if it was to form a government.

Here are the most eye-catching points, analysed by BBC correspondents.

Welsh independence

Plaid Cymru still believes in independence. For many of its members, it is an ideological position. But the pitch in the manifesto is more pragmatic and nuanced. It is designed to appeal to the non-converted.

Independence would be the "best way to deliver real fairness and ambition for Wales", the party says. Mr ap Iorwerth rejected an independence timetable in a BBC interview last summer.

This document promises a consultation on the path to independence, rather than a referendum within five years - as it set out in the 2021 Senedd manifesto. No date appears in this manifesto. It is a softer approach and part of Plaid’s broader appeal to left-leaning voters, specifically Labour ones.

Plaid says Wales is being hard done by. But there are challenges. Can the party convert people to the indy cause? Can it tempt voters away from Labour? Can it hold on to the party's two seats and win its two targets? Can it break out and win where you might not expect?

HS2 and 'fair funding for Wales'

The HS2 rail scheme has taken on totemic significance in Welsh politics, even though not a single mile of its track is on Welsh soil. All parties in the Welsh Parliament agree Wales should get some cash as a result of the billions of pounds being spent on it by the UK government.

But rail infrastructure is not devolved to Wales - unlike in Scotland - and so the Conservatives have rejected the calls. Labour has also made no commitments on HS2 funding ahead of the election. For Plaid Cymru, it is a symbol of how the rules of devolution need rewriting. Plaid’s manifesto says Wales is “owed £4bn” – but that is an estimate based on other estimates of the cost of building HS2.

The party also wants to change how the Treasury adjusts the size of the Welsh government’s budget every year. Since the 1970s, it has relied on the population-based Barnett formula. Despite tweaks to the formula, critics say Wales is still not funded fairly under Barnett. But this arcane piece of mathematics is hard-wired into UK government spending and removing it from the system would have potentially big implications for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Funding for 500 more GPs

Health is devolved - so whoever wins the UK election will not be responsible for the NHS in Wales. But how the next UK government decides to spend its money will have an impact. Choices around funding public services in England will determine how much money comes to Wales. It will be up to ministers in Cardiff to then decide what to do.

Plaid's pledge to recruit an 500 extra GPs comes amid concerns that primary care services in Wales are struggling to cope with huge pressures. According to the latest workforce statistics, there are more than 2,000 registered GPs in Wales.

But fewer are working full-time and many are choosing not to run their own practices. There are almost 100 fewer GP surgeries than in 2013 and demand on those surgeries is greater than ever. Any pledge to increase GP numbers will not be a quick fix as it takes about 10 years for someone to qualify and train to become a family doctor.

Increase child benefit by £20

Although child poverty rates in Wales have fluctuated in recent decades, for most of the time the proportion of children in poverty has been above the UK's average. The latest official figures estimate that 29% of children in Wales live in poverty. This is defined as living in a family where the income is 60% less than the national average after housing costs are paid.

It is an issue that both the Welsh and the UK governments can influence with the different sets of policies under their control. Plaid Cymru wants to see a change in the welfare system, which is controlled at Westminster, with an increase in child benefit payments of £20 per week. It says this would put a big dent in child poverty levels but without support, it is difficult to see how the party can deliver the change.

Windfall tax on energy companies

One of Plaid Cymru’s plans to redress “economic unfairness” is to increase what are known as windfall taxes on oil, gas and energy companies.

As chancellor, Rishi Sunak introduced a one-off windfall tax (known as an Energy Profits Levy) to help pay for help with energy bills for households. Plaid Cymru says “energy companies should be subject to an increased windfall tax, and will close loopholes which they currently exploit to avoid this”.

The party says it will also “promote renewable energy investment as an alternative” at the same time. In its manifesto, the party says money raised from measures like this one will be used to “create green jobs and built prosperity”.

Re-join the single market

Plaid Cymru’s manifesto says Brexit was a “failure” and Wales would be best served by re-joining the EU “at an appropriate point in time”. In the meantime, the party says the UK should re-enter the single market and customs union “as soon as practical”. As part of that, Plaid says Wales should also allow freedom of movement, which it says has been “damagingly denied” since leaving the EU.

The party clearly wants to distinguish itself from the two main political parties with this policy. Mr ap Iorwerth claimed “unlike Labour and the Tories, we in Plaid Cymru are not afraid to call out the disastrous consequences of severing ties with the world’s largest trading bloc". It also hopes the policy will appeal to farmers in the rural areas it’s targeting, as well as Labour supporters who favour a closer relationship with the EU.

But it is not a policy without risk. Opponents will likely accuse the party of fighting old battles about EU membership or not respecting the Brexit result. And how will it play with Welsh voters, more than 50% of whom voted to leave the EU in 2016? Plaid Cymru feels public opinion has shifted since then.

This is not a devolved matter.

Scrapping the Rwanda plan

Plaid Cymru opposes the plan to send some English Channel-crossing asylum seekers to Rwanda - so the question is what would it put in its place? The party says it wants to uphold the UK’s observance of the international system, which guarantees in law the fair treatment of refugees.

This means it wants to restart processing the tens of thousands of people in hotels and other accommodation in the UK who have been in limbo since 2022. Those people are not being told by the government if they are going to be accepted for protection - and therefore allowed to rebuild their lives - or removed from the UK.

That takes resources, which in recent years the Home Office simply has not had. Plaid Cymru backs creating “safe routes” - specific ways to reach the UK for those in danger. The question there is how would it propose such routes would work without them becoming a magnet for false claimants?

This is not a devolved matter.

Net zero by 2035

The headline figure is very ambitious – net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. That is more ambitious, in fact, than any other major party. The Conservatives and Labour, for example, are both committed to the existing 2050 net zero target.

Plaid Cymru says its accelerated approach is required because “climate and nature emergencies are the biggest threat to mankind on a global scale”. The party calls for greater investment in green jobs, and pledges increased taxes on flying to reduce its climate impact.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it also calls for Wales to have greater control over its energy resources. But it is questionable whether the 2035 date is achievable. Last year, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) – the independent advisers on cutting emissions – warned Wales was falling behind on progress towards its 2050 target.

Plaid Cymru has previously admitted it may be forced to adjust the 2035 target date, blaming decisions made at Westminster. The UK government is ultimately responsible for reducing emissions across all nations – and the devolved administrations help to create climate change policies and implement UK-wide initiatives.

But the CCC has previously highlighted lacklustre progress in areas such as tree-planting and electric vehicle charging points - which the Welsh government has power over.

Ceasefire in Gaza

When it comes to the war in Gaza and wider policy on the Middle East, Plaid Cymru’s manifesto goes far beyond current British policy. The party’s call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza was passed by the Senedd back in November and its manifesto doesn’t hesitate to condemn what it calls Israel’s “horrific genocide” of Palestinians.

It also condemns “in the strongest possible terms the atrocities committed by Hamas" on 7 October. Neither Conservative nor Labour agree with South Africa’s claim, brought to the International Court of Justice, that Israel’s actions in Gaza are genocidal.

Plaid Cymru says it already recognises the state of Palestine, describing this as “an essential step towards peace in the region”. Again, Plaid is going further than either of the main parties. The UK government’s view has long been that a Palestinian state should be the end result of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

In recent months, this has shifted, with Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron saying statehood could come earlier in the process. Labour takes a similar view. Plaid’s move echoes that of three European countries – Ireland, Spain and Norway – who all recognised the state of Palestine last month.

Opposed renewal of Trident

Plaid Cymru says it is opposed to nuclear weapons and the renewal of Trident. That’s a clear difference with the three main political parties who, in this election, all support the UK maintaining and modernising the Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD).

Plaid Cymru says it is opposed to nuclear weapons in principle and wants to support global disarmament. It’s not unique. Both the SNP and the Greens are opposed to nuclear weapons. But the party is also opposed to any increase in defence spending. That goes against the grain. Most European nations have increased defence spending in recent years – in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Plaid appears to question that logic, stating “if defence spending is required, then it would be better used on conventional defence and to peaceful ends”. There’s no commitment that any money saved from scrapping Trident would go on conventional weapons instead.

Plaid Cymru’s position on defence also puts it at odds with most Nato members, which have been urging members to increase defence spending to at least 2% of GDP. The party appears to be more focussed on taking a stand against increased defence spending at a time when most western political and military leaders are warning of rising global tensions and threats.

This is not a devolved matter.

Devolve policing to Wales

Calling for Cardiff politicians to take control of the police is the sort of policy you would expect from Plaid Cymru, which has backed devolution since the start and ultimately wants the country to run all of its own affairs.

In this election, it is potentially a wedge issue for Plaid, which will highlight the splits in Labour over whether the Senedd should have more powers. The Welsh government’s Labour ministers think policing and the wider criminal justice system should be devolved, but central Labour and many Welsh Labour MPs have rejected it.

Plaid says Wales is an “anomaly”, when Scotland and Northern Ireland’s governments have responsibility for the issue. In practice, it is wider than just handing control over the police – it’s also about whether Wales should have its own system of criminal justice, including its own prison system.

Plaid say if the Senedd has control of policing and justice it could be better integrated into Wales’ systems of housing, health and education, some of which already provide services in prisons - where Plaid say Welsh policies could tackle overcrowding. Detractors in Labour argue that improvements to criminal justice are a priority, rather than constitutional tinkering.