Welsh election: Independent Wales would borrow to furlough, Adam Price says

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image captionAdam Price said Wales would also have "money to spare" by not buying nuclear weapons

An independent Wales would have run its own furlough scheme for the pandemic, Plaid Cymru's leader has told the BBC.

Asked if the job retention scheme was an example of the UK's strength, Adam Price said an independent Wales would have funded an equivalent by borrowing.

He also claimed it would have "money to spare" by not buying nuclear weapons.

Tory MP Andrea Leadsom said he should consider the "cost of borrowing of an independent Wales, versus the cost of borrowing for the United Kingdom".

Plaid Cymru has promised to hold an independence referendum in Wales within five years if it takes power in May's Senedd election.

Speaking on the BBC's Politics Live programme, Mr Price said the pandemic suggested a "very different story" on the strength of the UK union and claimed "support for independence has surged".

Asked about the hundreds of thousands of Welsh jobs supported by the UK government furlough scheme, the Plaid Cymru leader said: "They funded it by borrowing.

"An independent Wales would have done the same," he added.

Leaders debate: If you would like to be part of the virtual audience for the BBC Wales Election 2021 Leaders Debate on 29 April, please email us your details to waleslive@bbc.co.uk.

image captionAndrea Leadsom said the "majority of people in Wales" believe they are stronger in the UK

Mr Price also said that an independent Wales would have had "money to spare because we wouldn't waste £200bn on a trident nuclear missile system".

In response, former Conservative cabinet minister Ms Leadsom said she thought the "majority of people in Wales" continue to believe "we are very much different groups of people who are much stronger as a United Kingdom".

"He needs to look at the cost of borrowing of an independent Wales versus the cost of borrowing for the United Kingdom," she added.

Responding for the Liberal Democrats, Cadan ap Tomos accused Mr Price of "clearly struggling with his sums".

"One moment he says Wales needs to borrow to fund certain projects, yet a moment later he says we'd would have money to spare," he said.

"While Plaid fixate on independence, Welsh Lib Dems want to put our recovery first. We're confident that the public agree with us on what the priority should be for the next five years."

WALES ELECTION: THE BASICS

What elections are happening? On 6 May, people across Wales will vote to elect 60 Members of the Senedd (MSs). The party or parties that can command the support of a majority of members will form the Welsh government. Find out more here.

What powers does the Welsh Parliament have? MSs pass laws on many aspects of day-to-day life in Wales, such as health, education and transport. They also have control over some taxes. Defence, foreign policy and immigration are decided by the UK Parliament.

How do I vote? Anyone who lives in Wales and is registered to vote is eligible, so long as they are aged 16 or over on the day of the election. You can register to vote online.

Mr Price did not say whether or not he believed Wales had benefited from the UK government's vaccine procurement but said the success of it in Wales was due to "the Welsh NHS, local authorities working together".

"We've actually dealt with the pandemic in a far more effective way, for example in the track and trace system, because we didn't privatise it," he said.

"An independent Wales would have done a better job. Look at the legacy we had going into the pandemic. It was the UK government who was responsible for the PPE stockpile - they didn't put the right items into the stockpile.

"Health and care workers not just in Wales but throughout the UK were put in harm's way because of the failures of the UK government."

Mr Price did not offer his view was on whether or not the Queen should still be head of state if Wales was independent.

He said it would be a "matter for the people of Wales".

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