Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Founded by idealistic nationalists in the 1920's, Plaid Cymru was in the political wilderness for many years until it finally won its first Westminster seat, Carmarthen, in 1966, on the back of a groundswell of national feeling.
Plaid is currently toning down its traditional image as a party built around the single issue of Welsh self-government and drawing the bulk of its support from Welsh speakers, and for the National Assembly elections, it is portraying itself, as its new bilingual name suggests, as "the party of Wales".
Despite having been the second Welsh party in terms of Westminster seats since 1997, they have actually been fourth in terms of overall votes in the whole of Wales in every General Election since 1970.
Their top target constituency seat for the Assembly elections is Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, which was the scene of its first-ever Westminster success.
They have a realistic chance there, but elsewhere their chances of getting another first-past-the-post seat are more limited. However, the list vote provides them with a substantial opportunity to increase their representation, and Plaid will have been encouraged in this respect by a series of opinion polls which place them second to Labour.
In terms of strategy, Plaid are making much of their experienced president, Dafydd Wigley, and are playing down their associations with the Welsh language and with demands for taking devolution further. Whether this will finally give Plaid the breakthrough it seeks outside its heartlands remains to be seen.
It wants health authorities to directly employ GPs in areas of particular need, and says the Assembly should argue for increased resources for the NHS from the UK Government, refersing the penny cut in the basic rate of income tax in order to pay for this.
Plaid says priorities should be changed to reduce expenditure on free provision of inessential drugs, and instead to provide dental and eye checks free of charge.
It plans to establish a new Education & Training Council for Wales (ETCW) to bring together curriculum development, assessment, advice, and in-service training, and it wants to end competition between schools and reduce the burden of bureaucracy and marketing.
It proposes to establish pilot scheme for the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification and to develop links between higher education institutions and economic development, arguing for Wales to get its fair share of research council funding.
The party says that for both health and education, and public services generally, the choice at this election is "an income tax bribe versus more resources for the public services", and says New Labour have adopted the Tory approach.
Plaid says that it is the party which is leading the fight to defend health, education, and other public services, and that this is a major reason why many past Labour voters are likely to vote for Plaid.
It says it believes it is "misleading" to describe this as "independence". It prefers the term "self-government" , which it says would be realised in through a gradual increase in the powers of the National Assembly, moving in the next stage to parity with the current powers of the Scottish Parliament.
Progress in this direction, it says, depends on the wishes of the people of Wales, and this in turn depends on whether they see the Assembly delivering real improvements in their lives.
Plaid Cymru says it is therefore committed to making a success of the National Assembly, "despite the current severe limitations on its powers".
Plaid Cymru, Party of Wales, says it is not a separatist party but that it seeks closer links between Wales and its neighbours in the European Union.
It says it believes the institutions of the EU must be reformed to provide for greater democracy, and that this should involve more power for the European Parliament, with the Committee of the Regions being turned into a second chamber.
It says Wales needs a stronger presence in the EU, particularly in discussions in the Council of Ministers on matters such as agriculture. It supports entry into EMU, but believes that this should be balanced by stronger EU regional policy and a greater EU commitment to full employment, with democratic accountability of the European Central Bank.
Plaid welcomes Objective One status for west Wales and the Valleys, and call on the Government to provide match funding in full.
It says the Assembly should set up a Sustainability & Labour Market Unit, independent of the WDA, to monitor the Welsh economy and progress within the economy on meeting the responsibilities in the Government of Wales Act to promote sustainable development and equal opportunities.
It also says the Assembly must "speak up for Wales, alongside other disadvantaged parts of the UK, against Tory and New Labour economic policies which favour already prosperous regions at our expense."
In particular, it says, there is a need to give the Assembly power over rail and bus regulation, so it can consider public transport in an integrated way with roads and the private car.
It seeks an environmentally sustainable transport system, giving greater importance to public transport, and with the aim of reducing road traffic.
Plaid says it is opposed to New Labour's planned large-scale investment in expanding the M4 and a new road to Wales International Airport, Cardiff, and favours instead a rail link to the Airport and improved rail links for the Valleys. It also wants an improvement in north-south transport links within Wales.
The party draws attention to the succession of crises in the farming industry and the associated communities, and it calls for greater diversification in the rural economy. It says the Assembly should campaign against cuts in agricultural support from the UK government, and for more support for agri-environmental programmes, with special attention to the family farm and new entrants to the industry.
Plaid calls for a fully-funded Tir Gofal scheme, the promotion of green and cultural tourism, for sustainable forestry, for renewable energy and for greater development of a Welsh food strategy concentrating on marketing Wales as the source of high-quality environmentally-friendly product.