Wales politics

Plaid Cymru launches 'bold blueprint' for assembly

Plaid Cymru manifesto launch
Image caption Plaid said its programme was bold but affordable

Plaid Cymru has promised a "bold blueprint" for Wales at the launch of its manifesto for the Welsh assembly election.

The party said it had a set of "workable" policies, which would transform Wales.

Plaid goes into May's election defending a four-year record of coalition assembly government with Labour.

But it blamed Labour for a "culture of excuses" and said it lacked ambition.

Speaking at the launch in Cardiff, party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said in government Plaid had "demonstrated that new thinking can indeed make a real difference".

"But we want to do more. Wales needs Plaid's leadership to transform our public services, not just to manage them."

He said the manifesto was a "bold, workable, affordable and if implemented would lead to the transformation of our economy and some of our key public services".

Plaid attacked its coalition partner in the last assembly government, accusing Labour of a "dearth of ambition and record of failure".

Plaid has put education, a portfolio held by Labour since the two parties went into coalition in 2007, at the centre of their campaign.

Its four key policies include a commitment to make sure children can read, write and count to a standard expected of their age when they leave primary school.

School inspector Estyn has said that 40% of children entering secondary school have a reading age below their chronological age.

In its manifesto, Plaid offers to reexamine the length of time teachers spend in training, a "more rigorous inspection system" and a review of school hours and term times.

Mr Jones said: "We want to transform education. This isn't tinkering with education. This is really transforming the system."

The party had identified a "wide arc" of what was possible for the next assembly government despite the impact of spending cuts to the administration's budget.

"The big difference between us and the three other parties this time is that we want to move Wales forward with new ideas," said Mr Jones.

Other key pledges include proposals for better transport and telecommunications links, and to make it easier for patients to see GPs out of hours.

Plaid has also proposed to create a not-for-profit company that would raise money to invest in public infrastructure projects. Rivals have questioned the scheme, which Plaid claims would create up to 50,000 jobs.

The party had named its manifesto after what it mistakenly believed to be a quote from Dylan Thomas, saying it "believes his mantra that 'ambition is critical' should be the guiding principle of the next Welsh government".

It said the manifesto would bring "new thinking" to the economy, health and education.

The manifesto re-states Plaid's long term goal of an independent Wales within the EU - "a decision that will rest ultimately in the hands of the people of Wales."

'Vision and hope'

It promises "a cultural revolution" in the civil service, a cut in the number of assembly government cabinet posts, a 10% pay cut for ministers and to officially rename the devolved administration as "the Welsh government".

Plaid would negotiate with Westminster for the devolution of power over water and energy generation.

It would also seek a new funding settlement for Wales with the Treasury, replacing the Barnett formula, which critics say short-changes the assembly.

Party policy director Nerys Evans said Plaid wanted the next 10 years of devolution to be a "decade of delivery".

A Labour spokesman said Plaid's manifesto contained "many ideas that we broadly welcome", but added: "The problem for Plaid Cymru is that none of this would be possible should they enter a coalition with the Conservatives."

Plaid has said it would be difficult to form a coalition with the Tories because of the actions of the UK government.

Conservative assembly leader Nick Bourne said: "Plaid has missed an opportunity. If they can't get it right in government, there is absolutely no reason why anyone should believe their empty promises now."

Lib Dem Ceredigion candidate Elizabeth Evans said: "Plaid may not like it but they share responsibility with Labour for the failure to deliver for the people of Wales."