Transport, a boost for the NHS and fairness: key takeaways from the Plaid Cymru manifesto

<span>The overarching theme for Plaid Cymru going into this election is fairness for Wales.</span><span>Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA</span>
The overarching theme for Plaid Cymru going into this election is fairness for Wales.Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Plaid Cymru has launched its election manifesto titled For Fairness, for Ambition, for Wales. Here are some key takeaways.

Fair funding

Central to Plaid Cymru’s pitch is the idea of economic fairness for Wales. Technical and dry though it may be, the party sets its sights on the Barnett formula, the system that sets public spending in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which it advocates scrapping entirely.

The party argues “even Lord Barnett himself – the architect of the formula in 1978 – said that it passed its sell-by date many years ago”.

Instead, Plaid Cymru calls for a “needs-based model” to adequately fund public services in Wales.

The ‘outstanding’ £4bn

Continuing the thread of fairness, Plaid Cymru argues that Wales is owed £4bn to which it is entitled (under the Barnett formula) for money spent by the UK government on the high-speed rail project HS2.

The project was classed as an England and Wales project but not a single-line of track was to be laid in Wales, “clearly” making it an England-only project. The party says Scotland and Northern Ireland have been compensated but Wales has not.

The £4bn it says it is owed would be invested in Wales’s public transport network – buses, roads and railways.

“With that £4bn additional funding, we could revolutionise our railway and transport systems, including properly connecting north and south Wales for the first time within Wales, reopening major railway lines closed under Beeching, electrifying the north Wales main line, improving existing railway services, and increasing and improving services west of Swansea,” the manifesto says.

Tax overhaul

More on “fairness” as Plaid Cymru sees it. The party wants the Welsh government in the Senedd to have powers to set income-tax bands and thresholds, as they do in Scotland.

In a short paragraph, the party manifesto mentions increasing capital gains tax to equalise it with income tax, raising between £12bn and £15bn. It also says it would “investigate” increasing higher earners’ national insurance contributions, and “support” introducing a wealth tax.

Elsewhere in taxation, it argues that energy companies should be subject to an increased windfall tax.

A boost for the NHS

Running with the fairness theme, Plaid Cymru advocates what it calls “fair play for patients” and pledges several enhancements to NHS provision in Wales.

It says the country has had a significant reduction in the numbers of GPs over the past decade and pledges to reverse the trend by restoring funding for GPs to 8.7% of the Welsh health budget, and by recruiting an additional 500 GPs across the country. It adds that this would be a “two-term pledge”.

It also promises a “stop cancer strategy” to prevent downgrading of urgent suspected cancer referrals, increase rates of lung cancer screening and boost investment in the workforce to recruit, train and retain more oncology staff.

Labour is going to win it

The party leader Rhun ap Iorwerth was clear at the manifesto launch as to the perceived outcome of the election on 4 July, saying: “In three weeks’ time, we can almost be certain that Sir Keir Starmer will be moving into No 10 Downing Street.”

So why vote Plaid Cymru? “The Tories are finished, but we can influence the change ahead of us,” Iorwerth argues. “Keeping the Labour government in check. Not giving them a free pass to take Welsh votes but then cast Wales’s interests aside.

What about independence?

At the manifesto launch, three speakers addressed the Marble Hall in the Temple of Peace in Cardiff: Iorwerth; Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru’s leader in Westminster; and Kiera Marshall, the party’s candidate for Cardiff West. None of them mentioned independence in their opening remarks.

It does feature briefly in the manifesto on pages 42-43, in which the party pledges to “prepare” a green paper on the “path” to independence, and create a national commission.

It says it will make the case that independence is “not just viable, but desirable”, and will “engage” with the people of Wales to convince them of its merits. It says it believes the power to call a referendum on the constitutional future of Wales should lie with the Senedd in Cardiff, and not with the UK government.

But the party’s founding principle of home rule seems to have slipped down its priority list and it is instead focusing on economy, health and the cost of living.