The more things change, the more they stay the same – an old adage which has taken on a new salience in the wake of the recent Labour leadership election in Wales.

Vaughan Gething’s victory may herald a new era in the history of his party, but the shadow of the former Economy Minister and former Health Minister’s less than inspiring record looms large.

Next month marks twenty five years of devolved government in Wales. A quarter of a century dominated by Labour rule and defined by a failure to realise the full potential of the autonomy granted to us over health, education, the economy, transport, the environment and more.

Autonomy which is severely curtailed by Westminster’s stubborn objection to more devolution for Wales, but nonetheless, Labour’s half-hearted half-measures approach to addressing some of the unique challenges facing our nation certainly hasn’t helped.

The spirit of 1999 was one of ambition and expectation – a chance to devise Welsh solutions to Welsh problems. An ageing population, an antiquated transport network, lower wages and higher rates of child poverty than many other parts of the UK formed the backdrop to the inception of an institution which dared politicians in the then-Assembly to do things differently and to do them better.

Sadly, the story of 2024 on Labour’s continuous watch is one of targets missed (or otherwise dropped), opportunities squandered, and in many communities throughout Wales, hope extinguished almost entirely.

Politicians are often accused of navel-gazing; talking to each other rather than talking to ‘real’ people, but in the case of the Welsh devolution journey, I would argue that we have in fact failed to hold a mirror up to ourselves often enough.

Why is turnout in Welsh elections so poor? Why do so many people still not know which government – Westminster or Cardiff – runs the NHS in Wales? Why is the Welsh media deficit still so large when our Senedd’s powers and responsibilities have grown significantly?

These are just some of the uncomfortable questions that we must interrogate if we are to truly understand not only the point we have reached as a nation but more importantly, where do we go next.

The challenges facing Wales are numerous – some even monumental – but it’s my deeply-held belief that none of them are insurmountable that drew me into politics in the first place.

In 1888, The Encyclopaedia Britannica read “For Wales, see England.” It is the lingering fixation with seeing our nation through the lens of another which holds us back in many regards. What hope is there when the bar is set by a disastrous Tory Government in Westminster? It is little wonder that the Labour Welsh administration appears all too comfortable with mediocrity.

What sets Plaid Cymru apart from the other parties is our belief that there is nothing inevitable about Wales’s fate. There is nothing inferior or irregular about our people which pre-determines their destiny as one of little hope and opportunity. I have always been at ease with the concept that the Welsh Government of the day should take full responsibility over its own actions and decisions, whatever criticism that may attract; it is a shame that the current administration appears to disagree.

Yes, the Conservative UK Government is guilty of chronically underfunding Wales, hindering our government’s ability to adequately resource our public services, but my sympathy is curtailed once reminded of their own short-sighted decisions.

Claiming to want to boost the economy whilst ending vital rate relief for the hospitality sector, purporting to support young people whilst cutting the apprenticeship budget, and insisting that preventative health is a priority whilst allowing funding to be cut and squandering millions on NHS agency staff.

The reason why the more things change the more they stay the same is that the Labour Welsh Government is trapped in a vicious cycle of its own doing. Preoccupied with sticking-plaster solutions, they fail to make the longer-term holistic thinking required to get to the root of Wales’s problems.

Last month, a report on the major challenges facing education in Wales was published by the influential and highly-respect Institute for Fiscal Studies. The report highlighted large declines in reading, maths and science skills and makes a series of constructive recommendations on how to improve outcomes. This is the kind of forensic analysis too scarce in our public discourse and which reinforces my view that more critical thinking and rigorous debate would enrich Welsh democracy.

Labour in Wales once lauded the ‘clear red water’ between itself and Blair’s New Labour, but the closeness of Gething and Starmer’s politics suggests that the new First Minister will seldom stray from the Westminster whip.

On meaningful devolution of justice – a key issue at the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections where Plaid Cymru will argue the case for a distinct Welsh jurisdiction, on HS2 consequentials for Wales, and on reform of the unjust and outdated Barnett Formula, Keir Starmer has been at best ambiguous about his intents to right these wrongs should he become Prime Minister later this year.

At the start of a new Senedd term, the First Minister will be setting out his priorities this week. I have little doubt that I will agree with many of those priorities, but when it comes to delivery, the First Minister and his government must realise that when you do the same thing over and over again, you cannot expect different results.

I am positive about the future Wales could have. A change of focus and urgency is not desirable but essential and whether it’s your child’s education, the pressure on the NHS or the propspects for your business, Plaid Cymru has a vision that offers new hope – one that I am convinced will materially change people’s lives for the better when put into practice.

A commitment to fair funding, a credible workforce plan for the NHS, and an economic programme targeted at creating high-skilled, well-paid jobs should underpin a different approach. This week will be a critical test of whether the First Minister has learnt lessons during his many years in government and is willing to change course for the sake of Wales’s future.