Extending free school meals to all children in primary schools would be a “personal commitment” under a Plaid Cymru government in Wales, leader Adam Price has said.
Mr Price said his experience receiving free meals as the son of a Welsh miner during the year-long strike of the mid 1980s formed his view that such a scheme would give every child “a fair chance in life”.
He used the launch of his party’s election campaign on Friday to also pledge the creation of 60,000 green jobs and the recruitment of 6,000 new frontline NHS staff.
Welsh independence was explicitly mentioned only once in his speech in Cardiff’s Atlantic Wharf, with Mr Price promising to hold a referendum on the country remaining part of the UK.
Following his speech, Mr Price told the PA news agency his free school meals pledge for all primary pupils was “the only way that you can ensure you provide for all children in poverty”.
“It’s about universality. Just as we don’t have people from those middle class or affluent families contributing to actually going to school, as it’s free, and the meals that are provided as part of education should also be free,” he said.
“In England and Scotland they already have universal free school meals for infants, so Wales is now way behind the pack.”
Mr Price said the “transformative” scheme would also benefit local food producers and he would extend it to all pupils in secondary schools were Plaid to secure a second term in government in order to “give every child a fair chance at life”.
Mr Price, who was brought up in a mining family in Carmarthen, added: “It’s very important to me, personally, coming out of the miners strike when things were difficult for us as a family. I was on free school meals during the strike. So, I’ve been there.
“It’s a big personal political commitment from me, but it also makes sense for us as a nation.”
Mr Price said his Green Economic Stimulus, creating 60,000 jobs, would include investing in retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient as well as improving Wales’ “patchy” digital infrastructure including broadband.
He said he also wanted to realise the country’s “latent potential” for marine energy and would create a new state-owned energy company.
Mr Price said people craving a way out of the coronavirus pandemic was “all too familiar” for those wanting to escape “the prior pandemic in Wales – of deprivation, inequality, and apathy”.
He said his party would provide “solutions” to solving the issues were it to lead the Welsh Government after the May 6 election.
Mr Price said: “Unlike Labour and the Tories, we refuse to defer to Westminster – the former passing the buck when things go wrong and the latter duplicitously claiming the credit as they wish.
“Unlike Labour and the Tories, we believe that the people best placed to decide our nation’s future are the people of Wales themselves.
“But to set us on that path, we first need a government with a transformational programme – the energy and the ideas which have been lacking under Labour over the last twenty years.”
Mr Price also said Welsh Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford’s call for “home rule” in Wales amounted to “nothing more than Westminster rule”.
“You don’t have to put up with Labour leaders constantly blaming Westminster for all of Wales’s ills,” he said.
Plaid Cymru will publish its election manifesto on April 7.
Other pledges include:
– Delivering 50,000 social and affordable homes
– Training and recruiting 1,000 doctors, 4,000 nurses and 1,000 allied health professionals
– Good quality green space within a five-minute walk of all households
– Reforming council tax and cutting the average bill