Wales politics

Plaid Cymru campaign for 'fairer, more prosperous' nation

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Media captionLeanne Wood says many of her party's policies will need no new money

Plaid Cymru has pledged to create a "well, well-educated, wealthier Wales" as the party launches its assembly election campaign.

Shorter NHS waiting times, free care for the elderly and improved school standards were among the policies unveiled by leader Leanne Wood.

She said 17 years of "unbroken Labour rule" had brought "economic stagnation" and declining public services.

"People in Wales are crying out for competent leadership," Ms Wood added.

Plaid Cymru had ministers in a coalition government led by Labour from 2007 to 2011, but lost seats and power at the election which ended that four-year term.

The party unveiled nine key policies to support its ambitions to boost the nation's health, education and economy, including:

  • Cancer diagnosis within 28 days
  • Extra 1,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses to cut NHS waiting times
  • Abolish home care charges for the elderly and people with dementia
  • Free universal pre-school care for children from three years of age
  • 10% pay boost for teachers who gain extra skills
  • Pay off student debts of up to £18,000 and create 50,000 new apprenticeships
  • Invest in transport, energy and green infrastructure
  • Create a Wales Development Agency
  • Cut business rates and give more public contracts to Welsh firms

Ms Wood said Plaid Cymru had been "listening to what the people of Wales want" over the last five years.

"Their hopes and frustrations have informed our most ambitious programme for government to date," she said.

"At the heart of this programme lies our three ambitions - to create a well, well-educated and wealthier Wales."

Plaid Cymru wanted "a fairer, more prosperous nation which can stand on its own two feet", she added.

Ms Wood denied the party was making unfunded spending announcements, saying its tuition fee and health merger policies would save money, while a tax on sugary drinks would raise extra cash.

Analysis by Tomos Livingstone, BBC Wales political correspondent

Plaid Cymru has mastered the art of the smooth campaign launch - the challenge for the party now is to make sure that professionalism turns into actual votes come polling day.

The party is not short of policies, and thanks to the TV debates in last year's general election its leader Leanne Wood has a higher media profile than some of her predecessors.

But the question is - how to get her and her colleagues into power?

Plaid dreams of following the SNP route: largest party and minority government in 2007, then a majority in the Scottish parliament in 2011.

Is that a feasible outcome for Plaid? Leaping from third place to first in terms of assembly seats may be asking too much - hence the talk of coalitions or deals with other parties.

Talks with the Lib Dems and Greens have already fizzled out - and the Tories are making hay with the idea Plaid will simply team up with Labour after polling day.

Hence an increased emphasis on Labour's perceived failings in office at today's Plaid launch.

But there is another problem - the rise of UKIP means Plaid is no longer the default option for disgruntled supporters of other parties.

All of which means Plaid needs to work harder than ever to achieve the sorts of success it enjoyed in the first assembly elections way back in 1999.

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