Thursday 22 November 2007

Beyond the Vale

In the 16th Century, as part of the colonization of Ireland under the English Crown ‘plantations’ were established where English & Scottish settlers were placed to displace the local population. While only partially successful in the ‘Pale’ of Dublin, this tactic was very effective in Ulster, and which ultimately led to ‘the Troubles’ and the partition of Ireland.

A similar tactic was also used in Wales, most notably in South Pembrokeshire, where Flemish settlers were used to displace and dilute the local Welsh speaking population, and the linguistic divide is still very apparent today.

While I sympathise with those who oppose the ‘University of Death’ at St Athan on pacifist grounds, I oppose it because it represents nothing more than a repeat of these earlier settlement tactics, brought forward to the modern day.

Peter Hain and the promoters of the scheme claim that it will bring 5,000 jobs to Wales and will be a huge boost to the local economy – not just in the Vale of Glamorgan but in neighbouring Cardiff and Bridgend. But lets look at this more objectively and ask what jobs will be created and who will fill them.

In the short term, around 1,000 construction jobs in will be created during building of the facilities, and while these will be mostly filled locally, they will only be temporary lasting no more than two years.

Of the permanent jobs, around 3,000 will be filled by trainers, technicians, military support staff and civil servants. These jobs will not be filled locally, but will be transferred from existing military bases elsewhere in the UK, and many of the positions will be viewed as ‘expatriate’ postings.

Potentially 2,000 jobs could be filled locally, but these will be mostly low paid support jobs including cleaners, cooks, secretaries, administrative staff etc. While these jobs are better than none at all, they must be balanced against the fact that the incoming transferred staff will also be bringing their families, many of whom will be looking for work locally and these new job seekers will largely offset the new jobs created.

There will undoubtedly be a boost to the local economy as money is spent in shops & pubs, houses are rented etc but this will also increase prices and put a strain on local services and we can soon expect a vociferous minority to demand ‘English-curriculum’ schooling and opt-outs from Welsh lessons.

The local economic benefits from this project are questionable (incidentally I would also raise similar concerns about the proposed Severn Barrage), but this is not why the project is proposed.

This is simply a 21st Century Plantation - designed to dilute the local population and defuse nationalist sentiments.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Get Dafydd Iwan in to the charts for Ray Gravell

A campaign has started on Facebook to try and get the song 'Yma o Hyd' into the top 40 of the UK Charts this week in memory of Ray Gravell, and Dafydd Iwan has stated that profits will be going to the Ray Gravell memorial trust. Please buy 'Yma o hyd' online from itunes - it will only cost you 79p. Going by recent trends, 'Yma o Hyd' should reach the top 40 of the UK Charts if more than 3,000 copies ar sold on Itunes. 2,000 people on Facebook have already promised to buy the single. Please buy THIS VERSION now (Dafydd Iwan ac Ar Log - Album: Yma o Hyd - Song 21: Yma o Hyd)

The song must be purchased before the end of Saturday to be included in the Sunday UK Charts. The song is currently No. 1 in the iTunes 'Folk' Chart and No. 99 in the iTunes general Charts.

Monday 5 November 2007

Supermarket Carbon Footprint - Somerfield Llantarnam, Cwmbrân

On my way home from work I passed up through Casnewydd onwards up to the Cwmbrân area when I realised I needed to go and do a bit of basic shopping.

I turned into the Somerfield Supermarket in Llantarnam near Cwmbrân.
Shock and horror total AWE ! not one Welsh pint of milk, not one product displaying any dragon and worse everything on the shelves appeared to have come from hundreds of miles away. Like the milk from JERSEY and Guernsey and YORKSHIRE !

I sought out the manager but only got the deputy manager - bemused he politely passed off - more like brushed off my comment, "that the stores' Carbon Footprint must be as big as an Elephant if not as big as a Mammoth since everything comes from anywhere except Wales." When I asked him why do you buy everything from the British and not from Wales - and further commented, "that nothing in here is from Wales" - he replied, " I do not not know why ." I asked that he convey my dismay to his manager. He luke warmly agreed and walked off. Am I the only one that has ever made this sort of complaint?

I then left the store with nothing in my trolley not having spent one single penny and went to ASDA where Welsh produce is sold.

An independent Wales could ensure that all supermarkets in Wales sell a percentage of Welsh produce, it is readily available.

John Frost

Economic ABC

If an Independent Wales is to succeed, then we have to develop a stronger economy. I believe that employment activities can be broadly classified into three types:

A: Wealth Creators
B: Wealth Distributors
C: Wealth Consumers

The Wealth Creators are those jobs that result in something physical being produced – these include the older traditional industries such as coal and steel, as well as manufacturing, agriculture and construction, etc. These jobs are the engine that drives the economy – for every job created here, one or more are typically created elsewhere in support industries. We should do everything in our power to encourage and develop these ‘Type A’ jobs, but which should generally be provided by the private sector. This should include distribution of grants but I would prefer to give tax-breaks instead – give new enterprises a 5 year holiday against corporation tax. This tax loss would be offset by taxes paid by new jobs created elsewhere in the economy.

The Wealth Distributors are those jobs that do not make anything physical, but support the Wealth Creators – these include transport, financial services, IT, retail, etc. These are real, valuable jobs, but they simply move existing money around – they do not create any new money. These jobs do not directly add anything to the economy, and are dependent on the Wealth Creators for their success – they follow the economy – they do not drive it. The creation of ‘Type B’ jobs should be only passively encouraged and facilitated, for example by the removal of red-tape. However, they should not receive any precious grants, and tax-holidays should be limited to say 2 years.

The biggest legacy of the Thatcherite years was her policy of eradicating the Wealth Creators in favour of the Wealth Distributors. This worked well in the City of London, where the distribution is on a global level – but has resulted in the devastation of many Welsh communities. I am not advocating reopening the mines, as there were underlying reasons for their closure – but we have to replace them with real jobs – that are wealth creating and will encourage the creation of others, for example in manufacturing and construction.

The Wealth Consumers are those jobs that do not directly contribute to the economy, and are generally funded as public services – these include health, education, government etc. Despite their negative name, these jobs are an essential part of our society, without which the economy can not operate. But we can only afford a limited number of these jobs, and must ensure that these deliver value for money. I consider these jobs to be broken down into a further 3 types:

C1: Service Providers
C2: Service Supporters
C3: Service Passengers

The Service Providers are the front line jobs – the teachers, doctors, even our AMs. To provide these services effectively we must establish service levels (eg the right to a doctors appointment within 24 hours) and ensure that we provide the right resources to meet these service levels (eg one dentist per 10,000 population). These service levels should become manifesto commitments for our politicians and they should be judged against them.

The Service Supporters are those essential support staff, without whom the Service Providers can not function, eg school secretaries, hospital cleaners. We must develop ways to ensure that these support services are provided in the most efficient manner, using benchmarking to compare different service providers (eg Hospital A costs £x per patient to clean – Hospital B only costs £y – how can Hospital A match the Hospital B level?). This is not a question of ideology but of efficiency. I do not advocate that all such positions should be in the private or public sector – simply that we must spend our limited money wisely to ensure that our service target levels are met.

The Service Passengers are those staff that exist but which do not directly contribute to meeting any agreed service level, for example management, administration, compliance officers etc. While some of these staff are necessary, others clearly are not, and some hard questions need to be asked - Why does Powys County Council need a Communications Manager? Why does Bridgend Council employ an IT Manager to read staff’s e-mails? Why do some councils want to employ race relations compliance officers? What would happen if these positions simply ceased to exist ?? Some of these positions are a necessary evil, but many are simply jobs for the boys, and usually highly paid ones.

I suggest that we should grade every job in our local councils and public sector bodies as either C1, C2 or C3, and publish annual statistics on the percenteage of such jobs, and their cost.

The harsh reality is that in Wales we have become too dependent on such Wealth Consuming jobs, and that there are too many Service Passengers. Of course, this issue is not related to Welsh Independence, and can be adressed at any time. But this issue will become critical following Independence as we will have limited resources, and we will have to carefully prioritise our spending.

Sunday 4 November 2007


This article was published on the Cross of St George website, in support of English Independence. It is not quite as catchy (or pronounceable) as the Balkanisation of Britain, but the Scandinaviaisation of Britain has some good examples:

Scandinavia, a region of five countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland), has seen its constituent countries form different unions with each other from the Middle Ages to 1918, until Iceland became the last independent nation. They share similar cultures and similar languages, but have remained separate sovereign nations ever since.

So for a lot of people, a possible break-up to the United Kingdom is something they fear, believing this would cause many problems and challenges. The prospect of this raises many questions. However, one only has to look towards Scandinavia to realise all these questions have already been answered:

Would the home nations be economically viable?
The Scandinavian nations top all tables on average wealth per person. Size of country has no bearing on economic success. No reason why the home nations can’t be economically successful too.

Isn’t Britain stronger together? Wouldn’t England, for example, have a lower standing in the world than Britain?
If enjoying a high standing in the world means participating in numerous foreign wars, who needs that? Does a Swede, who lives in a wealthy nation, and has not seen his country fight a war for 200 years, envy our status? I seriously doubt it.
Perhaps countries like the USA, Russia and China dominate world markets, but their citizens don’t enjoy the same wealth per person as in the Scandinavian countries.
And if a lower world standing also means not sending men into space or topping an Olympic medals table – then I can live with that.

Would there be passport/border controls between the home nations?
No. There are no border controls between the Nordic countries.

Many Scottish people have relatives in England and vice versa. Doesn’t this make independence difficult?
Not when there’s free movement of people between nations as per Scandinavia.

What would be the constitutional position with the monarchy?
In Scandinavia, some countries are kingdoms, some are republics. It’s up to each home nation to decide their constitutional position.

Wouldn’t there be problems if England was a member of the EU, but Scotland and Wales weren’t?
Denmark and Sweden are in the EU, but Norway isn’t, and there are no problems.

And wouldn’t it be difficult for Scotland and Wales economically, when they have a much larger economic neighbour in England?
Hasn’t affected Denmark, who share their border with Germany.

Would the break-up of Britain lead to problems with security? Especially if England has an independent Scotland on its northern border?
Why? Is there a problem with security in Scandinavia? Is England likely to do something that will prompt an invasion of a foreign army? If Scotland did, would that automatically mean this army would move onto England? Even in the dark days of WW2, when Germany invaded Norway and Denmark, this didn’t spread to Sweden.

But on a small island, there must be issues where there needs to be co-operation?
Indeed, and this is true in Scandinavia. However, these issues are dealt with by the Nordic Council, without impairing any of the nations’ sovereignty.

I don’t know if I’ve listed all of the questions regarding this issue, but I’m sure if you need an answer – look to Scandinavia.

Friday 2 November 2007

Ray Gravell 1951-2007

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Ray Gravell - Not only a highly successful rugby player but one of the most passionate Welshmen of our generation.

Ray Gravell was a huge man in every sense, and would have been an ideal candidate for the position of President of an Independent Welsh Republic.

Ray Gravell 1951 - 2007
Rest In Peace.