The 2015 UK General Election was noteworthy for a number of reasons. The number of female candidates for the House of Commons broke the 1,000 threshold, the result itself has been labelled as breaking the record for the most disproportionate result in British electoral history (Electoral Reform Society). What is particularly interesting is the performance of non-establishment parties.
Whenever economic turmoil and societal instability occurs, it is unsurprising that the electorate normally turn to political movements that are detached from the established order. In its most extreme case, this was seen in Germany during the 1930s where punitive and malicious war reparations undermined the state and economy and contributed (alongside other factors) to the rise of Nazism on the wave of discontent.
In the present day context of the UK, the factors contributing to the rise of the anti-[UK]establishment party, the SNP arguably include the 2008 Great Recession and many other factors (MPs expenses scandal, the fall of Scottish Labour). Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the SNP have grown from polling below their Welsh counterparts to eventually forming a minority government in 2007. Then in 2011, defied belief and secured a majority in parliament in a voting system designed to discourage majority governments! Since the Scottish Independence Referendum, support for the SNP has continued to surge and now stands above the 50% mark.
What about Plaid Cymru, then?
The most recent Welsh Assembly constituency opinion poll (if we can still believe them.. *shakes fist*) has Plaid Cymru in third position behind Welsh Labour and the Welsh Conservatives.
This isn't great news, considering the success of their Scottish counterparts. Even so, Plaid are being beaten by UKIP as the anti-establishment party, who even gained more votes at the 2015 UK General Election!
There is a problem for Plaid Cymru, a party based on the principle of nationhood, it is struggling to grasp Welshness away from Welsh Labour. In addition to this, while Plaid Cymru's full name is "Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales", demonstrating clearly its bilingual nature, there is a distinct perception in Wales that you don't join Plaid Cymru unless you speak Welsh. Obviously this isn't a literal truth, but perception is as important as reality when it comes to politics.
Plaid Cymru are modelling their behaviour on the SNP, but Plaid Cymru seem to forget that the SNP are the party of government not them. Mirroring SNP anti-Labour rhetoric from the same 'Left' position as Labour are is difficult, considering that there are three other parties in Wales in which Plaid Cymru need to seriously focus on if they have a chance of dismantling the Labour hegemony in Wales.
Perhaps though, these observations are premature, and are not long-term in their outlook. In a recent survey, more people failed to recognise First Minister Carwyn Jones than those who didn't recognise Leanne Wood (a result of her presence on UK General Election TV debates). Is the tide turning? Probably not, but Plaid Cymru are in their strongest position in their history.
Increased visibility, Welsh-learner leader, proportional representation and anti-establishment all help their situation. Just don't compare them to the SNP, things will get awkward then.