Plaid Cymru: Leanne Wood's economy 'green new deal'

Leanne Wood told delegates that the country was being held back by economic underdevelopment

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Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has promised a "Green New Deal" to rejuvenate the Welsh economy.

She told the party's annual conference in Brecon that "economic underdevelopment is the single biggest hurdle to our progress as a nation".

Ms Wood said a Plaid Welsh government would establish new national bodies to invest in green energy and boost innovation and enterprise.

The aim is to give "skill, work, hope and opportunity for a new generation".

In this, her first speech to the annual conference, Ms Wood said the weak Welsh economy "condemns us to dependence on a government in Westminster, of whichever hue, that will never have Wales' interests as its over-riding priority.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has delivered her first speech at conference as Plaid Cymru's leader.

Concentrating above all on economic matters, she said a new generation "have a right to believe that life can be better".

Analysis by Adrian Browne, BBC Wales political unit

When she was elected leader six months ago Leanne Wood was seen as a fresh start for Plaid Cymru.

As a plain-speaking Welsh learner from the south Wales valleys, not Plaid's traditional Welsh-speaking heartlands, her party hopes she can widen its appeal.

But last May's local elections showed how Labour can harvest opposition to Conservative-Liberal Democrat UK government policies.

Ms Wood's aim is to offer a more positive and credible economic vision of Wales' future than other parties.

She knows mainly criticising governments in London and Cardiff is unlikely to bring an electoral breakthrough, and is determined not give the impression she's leading a party pre-occupied with independence when people are worried about whether they'll keep their jobs and pay their bills each month.

Economics and politics have changed much in recent years, and Plaid has been coming to terms with this.

There's still a long way to go before Leanne Wood faces the assembly election in 2016, which are by far the most important test for Plaid.

Yet she knows she now needs to give the electorate, and the party, a clearer idea where she's heading, and that's where the "Green New Deal" she announced in Brecon comes in.

"People are thirsting for something new," she said, "and I'm determined that we are going to give it to them".

"One of the first acts of a Plaid Cymru government will be to establish our own national powerhouse, a Glas Cymru for green energy, investing in national infrastructure from tidal energy to community-owned wind and hydro power, focused on our own energy needs and yes, where appropriate, exporting this valuable commodity but here's the difference, repatriating the profits and reinvesting them for the benefit of the people of Wales."

Describing a vision of an "energy independent" Wales she promised that if her party formed a government after the 2016 assembly election it would "set ambitious but achievable targets to get us powering our cars and our futures renewably, weaning ourselves off our addiction to oil".

She pledged Plaid would spent the next decade developing and implementing policies to raise Welsh economic performance to a level equal to the rest of the UK.

"Wales needs jobs, it's as simple as that. And there's plenty of work that needs doing.

New generation

"Like Roosevelt in the United States of the 30s, Wales needs a new New Deal.

"A Green New Deal aiming to provide skills, work, hope and opportunity to a new generation who have a right to believe that life can be better."

President Roosevelt's New Deal was widely seen as turning around the US economy after the 1930s depression.

Ms Wood outlined plans for new Wales based financial institutions and tax breaks for pension funds investing in Wales.

"As part of our recommendations to the Silk Commission we will seek the power to offer tax breaks, similar to those currently available in Canada, to those pension funds prepared to invest in their own communities," she said.

"Investing two or 3% of our workers assets in Wales would help transform the Welsh economy while representing no risk at all to the future returns to scheme members".

Although the theme of the speech was that Welsh independence, Plaid Cymru's long term aim, would not be achieved until the economy was in much better shape, she did quote the Welsh historian Gwyn Alf Williams reference to self-determination.

"We as a nation have been around for a millennium and a half, it's about time we had the keys to our own front door," she said.

Plaid Cymru's long-term ambition of achieving Welsh independence did not feature prominently.

However, visiting Scottish National Party MP Angus MacNeil told the conference that ultimately, without independence, Wales would "remain at the edge of someone else's world, rather than at the centre of your own world".

More renewable energy production and a national home energy efficiency programme will form part of Plaid Cymru's proposals for a greener future.

Details of the green new deal are expected to be central to Plaid's manifesto for the 2016 assembly election.

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