30 May 2017
The Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto is in surprising contrast to other parties, particularly Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives, and focuses heavily on both Brexit and "bread and butter" issues.
Significantly, the manifesto emphasises both further devolution and infrastructure. While a focus on the latter is particularly welcome, it is vital that co-ordination is maintained with the UK Infrastructure Commission, under Lord Adonis, as well as the emerging City Deals across Wales and England.
There is also a pledge for 15,000 new homes, even though this would overwhelmingly fall within the remit of Welsh Government; we hope that they will continue to give this policy area the priority it deserves. Most eye-catching of all is the call for significant new devolved powers, some remaining under Silk Part 1, as well as implementing Silk Part 2 recommendations.
In principle, the drive for longer-term infrastructure is to be welcomed; this will ensure, wherever possible, that both the projects and the commissions complement rather than compete for the widest possible benefit. Wales was the only devolved nation to have a spatial plan approach and a return to this strategic approach would be very pleasing.
Specific projects highlighted in the manifesto:
- Electrifying the North Wales main rail line and funding for a feasibility study into re-opening rail links between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen.
- Investing in the South Wales Metro.
- Giving the immediate go-ahead to the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.
The main rural focus for the Welsh Liberal Democrats is Brexit. The party promises to fight to ensure access to European markets is maintained and that financial support continues; they also promise to maintain community facilities and promote Wales as a tourist destination. Further priorities include assisting younger entrants into farming by promoting new forms of ownership and promising superfast broadband throughout Wales. The party wants a significant increase in affordable and social housing in rural areas.
As expected of a party with a long and deep commitment to both devolution and the European Union, constitutional matters occupy a prominent role in the document, with the party promising to deliver more powers to Wales. This would be done by implementing the remaining Silk Part 1 proposals on financial powers and the Silk Part 2 proposals. Silk 2 involves plans to devolve powers over transport, all Welsh ports, energy, broadcasting, air passenger duty, youth justice, policing and other justice powers.
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