Manifesto Check: Plaid Cymru’s top policies

Leanne Wood has been putting Plaid’s policies forward to the public - but do they stand up to expert scrutiny? Ken McKay/ITV/Rex

Welcome to The Conversation’s Manifesto Check, where academics subject each party’s election manifesto to unbiased, expert scrutiny. Here is what our experts had to say about the Plaid Cymru’s top policies. Follow the links for further analysis.

Devolution

Roger Scully, Professor of Political Science at Cardiff University, and Richard Wyn Jones, Professor of Politics at Cardiff University

That Plaid Cymru advocates more devolution for Wales must be one of the least surprising findings of The Conversation’s Manifesto Check. Yet there are two elements in the framing of the party’s arguments, which are noteworthy.

The first is the party’s stress on parity with Scotland: “Wales should have the same powers as Scotland”. This is an argument that the party believes has considerable appeal in Wales. Indeed, both Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones and Conservative Secretary of State Stephen Crabb have argued that Wales should be offered – though not necessarily accept – the same powers on offer to Scotland through the Smith Commission process and its aftermath.

Plaid Cymru both removes the caveat from this position, and extends the argument. For Plaid, parity of treatment with Scotland also means devolving those areas of policy that are already currently still organised on an England and Wales basis.

Read more here.

Economy

John Fender, Professor of Macroeconomics at University of Birmingham

When it comes to finance and monetary policy, the Plaid Cymru manifesto contains some sensible policies – and some less sensible.

Plaid makes a number of suggestions for monetary policy, including Welsh representation on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) and giving the Governor a statutory requirement to attend National Assembly for Wales scrutiny meetings. Also, the party seemingly wants to change the Bank of England’s remit by making it “responsible for considering the needs of the whole, wider economy, including regionally-balanced economic growth, unemployment and inflation amongst other indicators,” although precisely how it intends to change the remit is not clear.

Read more here.

Chris Martin, Professor of Economics at University of Bath

Plaid Cymru’s manifesto on growth combines a clear rejection of austerity with a mix of industrial intervention and directed use of public expenditure to support and nurture the Welsh economy. This is line with the approach being taken by other smaller parties in the general election, including the SNP, the Greens and (in some respects) the Liberal Democrats. It is pitched at the sort of left-leaning voter these parties are hoping to attract away from Labour. The numbers more-or-less stack up, but there are issues around whether some of the policies would represent value for money for taxpayers.

Plaid’s approach is based around a rejection of the austerity policies, which the coalition government has followed for the past five years. This is in line with other smaller parties such as the SNP and the Greens and, to a lesser extent, the Labour Party. More widely, views on austerity are mixed. Already, 100 business leaders supported the continuation of austerity in The Telegraph, but a clear majority of the leading economists does not, instead arguing that it harms growth.

The manifesto argues that “the cuts … have had such a detrimental effect on our way of life and hit the poorest in our society the hardest”. Evidence from the Institute for Fiscal Studies supports this view, but on the other hand, the increase in taxes has fallen most heavily on the richest 10% (in terms of cash – but not as a share of income).

Read more here.

Immigration

Ian Preston, Professor of Economics at UCL

Wales has a lower immigrant population than almost any other region in the UK. Plaid Cymru’s manifesto adopts an unabashedly positive tone, much more focused on the benefits of immigration – referring to migrants as “world-class experts and those who can help run our public services” – compared to what we might expect from some of the other parties. Unsurprisingly, the need for immigration policy to recognise the specific needs of Wales is a central theme. Plaid wants to pursue immigration policies in accordance with the needs of the Welsh labour market, but such changes could be difficult to implement in the current context.

Immigration rules are a form of labour market restriction that may match the needs of some regions better than others. For instance, restrictive policies based on a UK-wide assessment that there are no skill shortages may be ill-suited to the needs of regions where skills are in short supply – particularly if those regions find it difficult to attract skilled workers from within the country.

Assessments of skill shortages made by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) as a basis for decisions on visa policy can take into account submissions by regional bodies, but are not currently region-specific, except for the special consideration of Scotland. The Plaid Cymru manifesto proposes the creation of a Welsh Migration Service to assess Welsh skill needs and liaise with the MAC. It also contains a proposal, for example, that the Welsh government should be allowed to decide which companies can sponsor immigrant workers within Wales.

Read more here.