Saturday, 3 April 2010

4 Wales 4 Scotland

Plaid Cymru and SNP chose the week when the Tory lead in the polls began to widen - making a hung parliament less likely - to announce their joint demands in the event of a hung parliament.

Ieuan Wyn Jones and Alex Salmond used a joint press conference to announce that they would not enter into a formal coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour but would instead offer their support on a vote-by-vote basis. The price of their support would involve the minority government agreeing to the below four pledges:

1. Fair funding for Wales and Scotland
2. Protecting local services and the most vulnerable
3. Action to help the green economy
4. Support for business growth

All very vague and, curiously, why is the wording different on the little Six Nations style graphic (above) they made to launch these pledges? Also, as far as I can see on the Plaid and SNP websites, there is hardly any further information on what each pledge actually means in policy terms - although the Guardian's Michael White helpfully comments that the "wishlist could translate as a high-speed rail link from London to Swansea, an end to Trident and to ID cards, and something called "Barnettisation" of English public spending budgets, the Olympics and prison building for instance."

The Druid has blogged before on the question of whether Plaid Cymru will really have any extra influence in the case of a hung parliament (here and here) and some of the points I raised previously are still valid:

(1) Fair funding for Wales & Scotland.

According to Gerry Holtham, whereas the Barnett Formula under-funds Wales by about £300 million a year it over-funds Scotland by a whopping £4.2 billion a year. Any adjustment to give Wales a more equitable settlement would necessarily mean Scotland receiving less - and the SNP will never agree to that. Even Dafydd Wigley has acknowledged this stating in effect that they’d be working at cross purposes and should hold separate negotiations with the Tories. No wonder this announcement has been so vague as the SNP and Plaid have obviously not been able to square this particular circle.

(2) Protecting local services and the most vulnerable

I assume that this includes Plaid's previous pledge to raise pensions by 30% for Welsh OAPs over the age of 80. Does it? Plaid haven't mentioned it for a while and its nowhere to be seen in the coverage of this joint Plaid/SNP announcement.

(3) Action to help the green economy

Every time I read something like this I cringe a little. How much of a contribution does the 'green economy' currently make to Wales? How much is it really likely to make in the future, i.e. not one of those ridiculously over-optimistic hopeychangey predictions we often hear politicians spouting? Is it really a top priority? Why not just make it 'Action to help the economy as a whole'?

(4) Support for Business Growth

Why is this the last pledge? Was it an afterthought? Surely a healthy, growing business sector is the engine which drives a country, provides employment, and pays for all the public services we need. Michael White mentions a high speed rail link to Swansea - that's great for Swansea and South Wales I'm sure, but what about North Wales? It only takes 3 hours from London to Swansea - it takes another hour and a half at least to get to Holyhead...

Anyway, I think the rather luke-warm and muted response which this agreement has generated on Plaid supporting sites shows that the grass roots are fairly disappointed with it too.

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