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.