Beware of simplistic explanations for the Welsh government’s shabby treatment of our chronically exploited junior doctors.

Frankly Speaking has repeatedly pointed out that the medics, who are planning further strikes later this month and in March, are paid less than their colleagues in England and Scotland, and dramatically less than junior doctors in a load of European countries.

But politics-watcher Sion Griffiths, of Trawsgoed, isn’t impressed. Coming to the government’s defence in a letter to the Cambrian News a couple of weeks ago, he explains away Cardiff’s measly pay offer by claiming it “can only offer a five per cent increase” because Wales is short-changed under the Barnett funding formula.

The reality is less straightforward. Certainly, UK government block-grant calculations should long ago have begun to take into account not only the devolved administrations’ populations but levels of low pay and bad health and numbers of schoolchildren and retired people, and the Welsh government’s weakness in failing to fight hard for a new relative-needs system is a black mark against Labour, and hardly less against Plaid Cymru.

But the point is that, despite its deficiency, Barnett did not leave the government powerless to offer more than five per cent. It chose to leave ‘junior’ doctors, who are in fact often highly experienced specialists, disgracefully underpaid and, as they have been for decades, overworked.

Labour could easily have afforded more, but decided not to. Because it wanted to give spending priority to its own pet schemes - the very unpopular 20mph experiment, and a hugely enlarged Senedd - from 60 members to 96 - a probable exercise in empire-building which should be tested at a referendum.

Health minister Eluned Morgan (salary £105,701) has said the pay offer for junior doctors (newly qualified salary £28,471, or £13.65 an hour) is “at the limits of the finances available to us”.

She’s being economical with the truth. Had she been open and above board, she would have admitted that this dreary increase of around £1,500 a year - the lowest offer to junior doctors anywhere in the UK, and later rejected by BMA Cymru - was the outcome of a choice.

Five per cent would have cost the taxpayer about £6m. It’s reasonable to suppose that, if Wales’s junior doctors had been offered the 12.4 per cent that settled the dispute in Scotland, they would have accepted. Such an increase would have cost about £15m.

That is less than half the £34.5m the government is spending on introducing the 20mph limit, an unpopular measure justified by Mark Drakeford on the basis of his unproven assertion that the measure will reduce deaths and accidents and save the NHS “£92m every single year”. He doesn’t say how he worked that one out, but it seems implausibly precise.

Meanwhile, Labour documents estimate the cost of increasing Senedd membership by 36 - that is, by more than a third - will add £18m a year, rising to £19.5m in 2030, to the current £67m spending.

There is thus not the shadow of a doubt that the Welsh government could afford to offer the junior doctors more than five per cent and is being dishonest in pretending it can’t.

It sees ploughing tens of millions into the 20mph experiment, and vast amounts into elevating their institutional status, as more important than ensuring fair pay for doctors and, consequently, cutting dramatically long NHS waiting-lists. This ranks with the worst examples of bad government.