Politics: Plaid Cymru denies it wants independent Wales

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PLAID CYMRU launched its manifesto for the Welsh Assem-bly elections yesterday by saying it is not calling for an independent Wales.

However, the party president, Dafydd Wigley, said he hoped the Assembly would be given more powers in future.

The Welsh Labour Party responded by saying Plaid Cymru wanted to separate Wales from Britain, which would put the principality pounds 6bn into the red.

Mr Wigley said in Cardiff: "Plaid Cymru has never advocated independence. Our objective has been full self-government for Wales. As we build our confidence in our country, I believe people will want to take more powers."

Mr Wigley said giving the Welsh Assembly law-making and tax-raising powers was an objective of his party. The Plaid Cymru manifesto, called Working for the New Wales, contains 80 policy proposals for the next four years.

The party said it would give more support to Welsh businesses, abolish the internal health market and put more resources into education for the very young.

Other proposals include improving the rail link between North and South Wales, expanding an agri-environmental scheme to boost farming and giving Wales a stronger voice in Europe by creating a special Assembly minister.

Mr Wigley, MP for Caernarfon, said: "We have set out in our manifesto a comprehensive set of proposals in each of the Assembly's areas of responsib- ility. They are policies designed according to Welsh priorities and tailored to the realities of Wales."

Peter Hain, the Labour Welsh Office minister, hit back by claiming Plaid Cymru was still following a separatist agenda that would leave Wales pounds 6bn in the red. Mr Hain said: "I challenge them to answer the pounds 6 billion question ... the cost of separating Wales from Britain. This would be the biggest divorce settlement in history."

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