Saturday, May 11, 2019

TIDE IS TURNING


The “tide is turning” on Welsh independence according to Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price.

Speaking ahead of the first ever March for Welsh independence held today in Cardiff organised by AUOB Cymru, Adam Price said that people were “waking up” to the idea that independence is normal.

Mr Price said that decades of neglect from the UK Government has resulted in poverty in Wales and that coupled with the Brexit chaos was enough to show that Westminster was “not fit” to govern or represent Wales.

He cited the emergence of various grassroots organisations including Yes Cymru, Undod, AUOB and Welsh Football Fans for Independence as a sign that attitudes towards Welsh independence is changing.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said,

“For many years, our desire to see an independent Wales has seemed distant. But the tide is turning, the marches are growing, and the voices are louder.

“Decades of Westminster neglect have resulted in poverty and under-investment. A third of our children are living in relative poverty and you only have to look at the Brexit chaos to see that Westminster is not fit to govern or represent Wales.

“People are waking up to the idea that independence is normal and that the solution to our problems in Wales is to take our future into our own hands.

“Grassroots organisations like of Yes Cymru, Undod, AUOB and Welsh Football Fans for Independence, the repainting of Cofiwch Dryweryn and the sold-out, thousand strong Yes is More gig shows there is a new-found confidence in Wales’ future as an independent country.

“Imagine what an outward, fairer, progressive and welcoming country, with all the democratic and economic levers it needs and where anyone who wants to be Welsh can call Wales their home, could contribute to the world.

“Today, I will be proud to march alongside my fellow citizens from all across Wales to proudly declare that Wales’ brightest possible future is as an independent nation at the heart of Europe.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

POST-BREXIT FUNDING FARCE


Plaid Cymru Brexit Spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP, has attacked the Westminster Government for failing to deliver any details over the replacement to regional development funding, despite promising to do so by the end of last year. Mr Williams made the criticisms during a parliamentary debate on The Future of Regional Development Funding in Wales.

Little is known about the so-called Shared Prosperity Fund, which is meant to replace regional funding if the UK leaves the EU, because the Westminster Government failed to meet its own deadline on publishing a consultation by the end of 2018.  

Plaid Cymru have put forward detailed proposals for a replacement regional development funding system in a recent paper Not A Penny Less. Included in their proposals were a call to ensure that Wales does not receive a penny less in funding, that the National Assembly for Wales remains responsible for its distribution and that funds are fairly pre-allocated on need rather than doled out using a competitive bidding process, to ensure the three nations and English regions are not pitted against each other. 

Plaid Cymru supports a People’s Vote and would campaign for Wales to remain an EU member. Research by Cardiff University found that, as an EU member, Wales receives around £245 million more a year from the EU than it pays in.

During the debate, Hywel Williams MP said:

“Two years ago the Westminster Government committed to creating a UK Shared Prosperity Fund, ‘specifically designed to reduce inequalities between communities across our four nations.’ Well, where is it?

“Wales won’t forgive a Westminster Government that can’t or won’t plan the funding on which so many of our communities are forced to depend.

“Decisions on future funding must be timely, we can’t have a government caused funding gap disrupting a proper transition in the delivery of projects on the ground… we need timely planning and proper funding to enable Welsh solutions for Welsh problems.

Mr Williams went on to say:  

“The UK Shared Prosperity Fund must deliver for Wales.  Otherwise ever more of our citizens will conclude, rightly I believe, that we are better out than in. Out of the UK and back in the EU.”

Saturday, April 27, 2019

HS2 AND WALES


HS2 has been branded an “affront to the Welsh taxpayer” by Plaid Cymru’s Transport Spokesperson Jonathan Edwards MP, after new analysis showed costs spiralling to over £150 bn.

Analysis by the Midlands Economic Forum (MEF) shows that the original construction cost of £30 bn could reach as much as £106.35 bn. This excludes further costs such as local infrastructure connection terminal (£43 bn) and rolling stock (£2.5 bn).

Mr Edwards said that Welsh taxpayers would be paying for an English railway, without receiving any benefit. The Westminster Government has already refused to give Wales any Barnett Consequentials – the normal mechanism by which a population share increase in funding for Wales is received relative to spending in England – for the project.

Transport expert Professor Stuart Cole has also demonstrated how HS2 will have negative consequences for Wales, particularly in the south of the country, as journey times to cities in the midlands and north of England are reduced and new technology encourages companies to areas with HS2 stations. Professor Cole’s analysis was supported by a report from Greengauge 21, which drew on analysis by KPMG, that found that HS2 could reduce employment growth in Wales by 21,000 jobs between 2007 and 2040.

The MEF report also claims the power requirement costs of HS2 would be approximately one third of the output of Hinckley C, and would cost £5 bn.

The overall cost of HS2, as calculated by MEF, would be £156.95 bn, which equates to 7.4% of UK GDP in 2018.  

Commenting, Jonathan Edwards MP said:

“HS2 has always been bad news for Wales – independent analysis shows it will mean an economic hit for our country. These latest figures, however, shows how much of an affront to the Welsh taxpayer HS2 really is.

“When costs are spiralling over £150bn for a railway between English cities, the Westminster Government remains committed. But when it comes to Wales, the British state can’t find the money to electrify a few miles of track between our two biggest cities.

“Welsh infrastructure is creaking. You can’t even get from the north to the south without going into a different country.

“Not only is this state of affairs symbolic of Westminster’s disdain for Wales, it is hurting our economy. Wales is stuck with a 20th century transport system, whilst helping fund the development of a multi-billion pound new transport system in England.

“We simply cannot trust another country to dictate our transport policy for any longer.”

ENDS

Note


Friday, April 26, 2019

THE DAYS AFTER…


Well there we are then, the Newport West By-election is over (our cities fourth by-election since 1922 **) and the voters (those who turned out to vote that is) have spoken. It was an interesting by-election campaign, somewhat overshadowed by Brexit, especially in the last week. It was my first election since the passing of my much missed late father, who would, like the late Steffan Lewis, have relished a Westminster By-election in Newport. 

There should be another massive thank you to my wife, my agent, my campaign team and the electors of Newport West / Mynwy for their support. And a massive thanks to the dozens of volunteers who came to help from all over Cymru / Wales - who remained in good cheer despite the hail, sleet / snow and the risk of sunburn - sometimes all within the same morning or afternoon. 

A positive endorsement...
Any election, but, particularly a By-election campaign should give every candidate the opportunity to listen to, to talk to and to meet with many Constituents during the course of a prolonged walking tour of (in my opinion) one of Cymru / Wales's more interesting constituencies. It was very clear early, on during what was essentially a short but intense campaign ,from the doorstep that not every candidate exercised that opportunity to actually listen and talk to prospective voters.

Elections are not simply about the voters and the candidates, a whole host of people work very hard behind the scenes to make things work smoothly, including the Retuning Officers, their staff, the council staff who run the polling booths (for some hours on polling day done if then were literally in the dark and the cold) and the staff who count the votes and the other council staff and the Police who work tirelessly to make the count function flawlessly.   

In Newport West constituency former candidates and the successfully elected  candidate life can now begin the odd process of returning to some form of normality. For the next few weeks after returning to normal sleep patterns and a normal intake of coffee may be something of a priority, that and resisting the strange desire to knock on the doors of perfect strangers and push leaflets through complete strangers letter boxes.

Sadly there were only two hustings (mostly but not entirely attended by political hangers on), something that may reflect on the price our society in Newport has paid for an over dominance by an often unresponsive Labour Party, perceived by some voters (correctly) as being more interested in Labour Party interests than the interests of our city and our country. 

Now that the sound and the fury have faded, and the hustings/ door knocking and. conversations blended into one former candidates can take stock. This is no glory in this, merely hard work, any dreams of political immortality / longevity should regularly doused with hard cold realism. 

A couple of election campaigns ago having been featured on the front page of a local newspaper in relation to the campaign to Keep Abergavenny Livestock Market I had the surreal experience of going to buy some chips in a local chip shop with a friend only to find myself literally being wrapped around chips (Sic transit gloria mundi - or "Thus passes the glory of the world”.

** Newport By-elections - 1922, 1945 (March), 1956 and 2019. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

GREEN JOBS FOR NEWPORT


Tories and Labour dragging their feet over renewable developments

Plaid Cymru’s Newport West by-election candidate, Jonathan Clark has said Newport must make use of its natural advantages if it is to compete with neighbouring cities.

It’s now over 20 years years since former Tory leader and then Welsh Secretary, William Hague scrapped potentially transformational plans for an Usk barrage. The South Wales Argus, in 2016, reported that “It was hoped the barrage would transform the waterfront of Newport, create more than 5,000 jobs and 2,300 new homes as part of a £400 million waterfront park alongside the river.”

According to Jonathan Clark, “Our city needs a second chance by making good use of its natural position.

“The river Usk has one of the highest rise and fall of tides in Wales, and with its history of manufacturing and heavy industry, should be well placed to benefit from the development of tidal lagoons to the west and the east of the city and the harnessing of some of the tidal energy potential of the Severn estuary - with a combination of tidal turbines, wave power, off shore wind and solar.”

Arguing that the two main Westminster parties weren’t taking climate change seriously enough, Jonathan Clark added “Children are going out on strike because of climate change, the UN is warning of impending disaster, and we are already seeing the effects of global warming.

“While Labour and the Tories compete for who can be Newport’s biggest polluters with their backing for the wasteful M4 black route, Plaid Cymru is the only party that is planning a Green Jobs Revolution for Newport.

“We are committed to utilising Wales’ most untapped resource, our maritime energy potential. We will build tidal lagoons, harness offshore wind, and capture the power of our waves to create a Green Jobs Revolution for Newport.

“While Labour and the Tories drag their feet on renewables projects and plan to decimate the Gwent levels, Plaid Cymru is offering a prosperous and sustainable future to our city.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

IT’S OUR WATER


The chief executive of the Environment Agency - the public body responsible for protecting the environment and wildlife in England - Sir James Bevan, told a Waterwise conference, a few days ago that within 25 years England will not have enough water to meet demand

He stated that the impact of climate change, combined with population growth, means the country ( England ) is facing an "existential threat", "We all need to use less water and use it more efficiently and that, in around 20 to 25 years, England would reach the "jaws of death - the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs".

Last October, a water company, Southern Water - which serves customers in south eastern England, stated that customer demand is estimated to be double its available supply by 2020. As a result of climate change, a reduction of the amount of water allowed to be taken from natural sources, and a rise in population demand would outstrip supply. The company's plan for 2020-2025 sets out how it will overcome the deficit  by reducing leakage by 15% and encourage customers to use less water.

It's our water...
Now this could be good news for Wales, but only for if we had control of our own natural resources and could benefit from a fair price for our water. For amongst our rich resources is the literal stuff of life – water. Water is likely to become a valuable resource for the people of Wales in future years, and who owns, it who controls it, and who benefits is likely to remain one of the key issues, of potential dispute between Westminster and Cardiff Bay. 

While our country’s voice has been significantly strengthened since 1999, with various Wales related acts, as yet we still do not have the same degree of control of our natural resources as either Scotland or Northern Ireland. Not for nothing does the issue of water rightly still understandably raises strong emotions and stirs long memories here in Wales. 

Not that long ago Boris Johnson (then Mayor of London, lately, after May 2015 an MP, former feign secretary and now with other things on his mind) was wittering on about the need for a network of canals being needed to carry water from the wet North to the dry South (for the ‘wet North’  read ‘Wales). Boris's revolutionary thought, not to mention his poor grasp of geography, was not a new idea.

Back in 1973, what was then the Water Resources Board, a now defunct government agency, wrote a major report that advocated building a whole raft of infrastructure to aid the movement of water, not to mention constructing freshwater storage barrages in the Ouse, Wash and Morecambe Bay, using a network of canals to move water from north to south, extending reservoirs and building new aqueducts, not to mention constructing a series of tunnels to link up river basins to aid the movement of water.

Back to the 1970's
Despite the demise of the Water Resources Board in 1974 (two years before the 1976 drought) and its replacement by regional water management bodies, which were privatised in the 1980’s this issue has never really gone away. In 2006, the Environment Agency produced a report entitled "Do we need large-scale water transfers for south-east England ?" which in a refreshingly honest answer to its own question at the time was an emphatic ‘no’.

That said, faced with a prolonged period of drought in the South East of England, DEFRA itself held a drought summit on the 20th of February of 2012. The then Con Dem Government stated that it remained committed to the remaining legislative measures set out in its Water for Life agenda , which later became the Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Act. That is as they say history, but whatever Westminster eventually decides to do in relation to water resources, we in Wales still need to have full democratic control of our own resources. 

Our resources incidentally should include those parts of our country where Severn Trent Plc runs our natural resources for a fat profit. This process can begin with repatriating control of the Crown Estates and transferring control of lands in (and off-shore) to the Welsh Government in Cardiff. For the life of me I can see no realistic reason why this feudal anachronism cannot be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Time to make sure our history is not repeated
We need a whole Wales strategy to develop, conserve and enhance our water supplies and our planning regulations will need to be tweaked or rewritten accordingly. We need to take a long hard look at our water resources and what we get for them and how we can develop them.

I see absolutely no reason why the Welsh people cannot fully benefit from any future exploitation of Welsh resources, including our water. Most politically aware people would not have been particularly shocked to discover that coincidentally that the Government of Wales Act (2006) thanks largely to Peter (now Lord) Hain (amongst others) specifically excluded the Assembly from making any laws relating to water supply – hmm – odd that isn't it?

Now such duplicitous behaviour on the part of New or re-born Old Labour is not to be unexpected. The problem is that it does little to engender any trust or visible demonstration of an understanding of devolution or Wales, especially when the bearded one’s version of Labour starts talking about re-nationalising the Water industry.

Putting Tory and Labour spin and rhetoric aside, the bottom line is that all our water resources should belong to the Welsh people, not to Private corporations or to the UK Government. Any post BREXIT future draft Wales Bill should strengthen the powers that we in Wales have over our natural resources and associated planning processes and devolve control of those parts of the Severn Trent water franchise to Wales.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

TAKING BACK CONTROL - POLICING


There are at least 500 fewer police officers are on the streets in Wales than since the Conservatives first came to power in coalition with the Lib Dems in 2010. If policing was devolved and funded on a population basis as is the case with other policy areas our Welsh police forces would receive upwards of £20 million more per year. Policing is devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland, making our National Assembly the only devolved legislature not to have any control over its nation’s police forces. Once again, we remain the poor relation amongst the devolved institutions across these islands. Perhaps its time to take back control…