Britain is stronger untied

If ever we wanted confirmation that the LibDems don't have the first clue about the way the European Union works, we need look no further than this story in today's Scotsman:

Scotland in EU weaker than Greece, say Lib Dems

An independent Scotland would be allocated less voting power in the European Union than Greece, according to information extracted by the Lib Dems from the European Commission.

The United Kingdom currently has 29 votes within the Council of Ministers – the same number as France, Germany and Italy. This would fall to 27 votes, based on population size, if Scotland were to become independent. Scotland itself would be allocated seven votes as an independent nation – the same number as Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, Ireland and Lithuania.

George Lyon, the Lib Dem MEP, said such a small number of votes would mean Scotland would have to rely on building “shaky alliances” with other member states to pass any motion, or block any proposal.

Scotsman, 28 December 2011

This story is just plain wrong on so many levels.

First is the idea that the LibDems had to "extract" this information from the EU Commission. The information is common knowledge, and all the details of the voting weights in the Council of the EU are here.

Second, why should it be any surprise that Greece, with a population of 11.1m people, should have a greater voting weight under the current system than Scotland, with a population of 5.2m people? Of course it should.

But third, and rather more seriously, if the LibDems had actually asked the EU Commission they would have been told that the current system of voting weights in the Council of the EU is going to be replaced with a new system of qualified majority voting (QMV) from November 2014 anyway.


When this is introduced, it means that decisions taken in the Council of the EU will need to be approved by a 55% majority of member states and that these states have at least 65% of the EU's population. 55% means at least 16 out of 28 member states, for Croatia is set to join in 2013.

So let's imagine a situation where the UK wants to either get through a proposal which it considers to be in the interests of Britain or block a proposal that it considers not to be in the interests of Britain. It will no longer be able to rely on its current veto for a whole range of policy areas (there's a table of them here) and so will have to find at least 15 other like-minded countries in order to get something through or 12 to block it.

But when Scotland and Wales become independent members of the EU, the interests of Britain—and it is right to acknowledge that there are many areas where we do share a common interest—will be represented by three member states rather than just one, so we will not need to get support from as many other countries on any issue on which we can agree. Therefore Britain as a whole will have a stronger voice in the Council of the EU when England, Scotland and we in Wales can represent ourselves directly. The same will also be true in the European Parliament, although the maths is slightly different.

All three unionist parties like to tell us that Britain is stronger united, but they couldn't be more wrong. Britain isn't stronger united; Britain is stronger untied.

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Wales, Slovenia and Independence

If we want to compare ourselves with other similar countries in Europe, Slovenia is an almost perfect example. It is virtually exactly the same size as Wales, though with just over two million people.


It even gives us a run for our money in the spectacular mountain and castle department:


And the flag of the capital city, Ljubljana, bears an uncanny resemblance to a flag we are all more familiar with:


Slovenia used to be part of Yugoslavia until it declared independence in 1991 and became a member of the United Nations in 1992. Unlike Croatia and Bosnia, it was fortunate not to suffer from more than a few days of skirmishes with the Serbian army, and didn't require any post war rebuilding. So it has become a model of how a small country can prosper as a result of becoming independent.

Like Wales, Slovenia has a rich half and a poorer half with about the same degree of difference between them. These are the GDP per head figures (on Purchasing Power Standard, to adjust for differences in the cost of living as explained at the end of this document) for both countries going back to 1997, taken from this site:

Wales         EastWestSlovenia         WestEast

As we can see, back in 1997 Wales was significantly more prosperous than Slovenia. But in the past twelve years Wales' economic growth has been fairly pathetic, while Slovenia's rate of growth has been about double that of Wales. This means that West Slovenia has now become richer than East Wales, and even poorer East Slovenia has become richer than West Wales and the Valleys.

I see this as a good example of how a small country can benefit as a result of becoming independent rather than remaining in a comfort zone of being part to a larger state. Slovenia has become more outward looking, needing to adopt a more open trading and export orientated strategy with neighbouring countries to survive ... and has done very well as a result. It is another example of what Adam Price and Ben Levinger described in The Flotilla Effect.


Now of course there are no automatic guarantees that Wales would do as well if we were independent. It would depend entirely on the policies pursued by the governments we elected. But there is a consistent pattern of small independent countries outperforming larger ones, and there's no reason to believe that Wales would be so different from Slovenia.

So if we imagine that instead of voting for a limited amount of devolution within the UK in 1997 we had voted for outright independence from the UK, then the GDP of East Wales would now be 34,600 per head if it had matched the performance of West Slovenia, and the GDP of West Wales and the Valleys would now be 23,700 per head if it had matched the performance of East Slovenia.

I wouldn't want people to think that I've cherry picked the best example in choosing Slovenia. I chose it because of how similar it is to Wales. In the Baltic States the rate of economic growth has been very much greater. Estonia (1.4m people) grew by 150%, Latvia (2.3m people) grew by 152% and Lithuania (3.2m people) grew by 143% over the same period [see this spreadsheet]. But as ex-Soviet countries they were starting from a very much lower base, and are still below the level of GDP per head for West Wales and the Valleys. Slovenia is a much more relevant example because it did not start from very far behind us, but has now overtaken us.


Those who argue against independence for Wales say that we can't afford it. These figures are an indication of how much we are losing out as a result of not being independent. The choice for Wales is either to carry on as we are, tied to a United Kingdom that is more concerned to protect the interests of South East England and its financial services sector than it is about Wales, or to put ourselves directly into the international arena. We might well go through hard times for the first few years after independence as we rebuild our economy, but in ten or twelve years we will have more than made up for it.

Update - 23:00 14 March 2012

The 2009 figures have just been published. Looking through them, the figures for 2008 have changed quite dramatically, which I think probably represents a correction largely due to the impact of the debt crisis. But the figures for earlier years have also changed slightly, which might perhaps be explained by an adjustment to the PPS formula.

These are the newly published figures for all years. The figures for 1997 are not on the latest Eurostat table, so I have kept the figure published last year:

Wales         EastWestSlovenia         WestEast

The basic picture is still the same. Slovenia is more prosperous than Wales, and the rate of growth is much faster than in Wales. The previous figures to 2008 showed a total growth about double that of Wales, but the new figures to 2009 show that the growth in Slovenia is now more like three times that of Wales.

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Nadolig Llawen i chi i gyd



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Plaid Cymru Leadership Odds

I sent an email to one of the betting comparison sites this afternoon to find out if any bookies were offering odds for the Plaid Cymru leadership race.

None of them had, but I got another email an hour or so later to say that Paddy Power had just done so. Their prices are:

Elin Jones ... 4/7
Dafydd Elis-Thomas ... 10/3
Leanne Wood ... 5/1
Simon Thomas ... 5/1

Oddschecker, 22 December 2011

Any comments?

Part of my reason for asking was that Martin Shipton had described Dafydd Elis-Thomas as "the front runner in the race to become leader of Plaid Cymru". I didn't think that was likely to be true ... but if it was, it certainly isn't any more.

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What is Independence?

In the Western Mail on Friday, Rhodri Glyn Thomas claimed that independence was "a concept that no-one fully understands". I can't say for sure whether he genuinely doesn't understand what independence is or if he just said this as a way of justifying his opposition to it ... though I suspect the second is much more likely to be true.

Independence is a very simple concept, and nobody should have any trouble understanding what it is. Here are just some examples, though I could provide many more:


Slovenia used to be part of Yugoslavia, but became independent in June 1991 and became a member state of the United Nations in May 1992. It then became a member state of the European Union in May 2004.


Estonia used to be part of the USSR, but became independent in August 1991 and became a member state of the United Nations in September 1991. It too became a member state of the European Union in May 2004.


Slovakia used to be part of Czechoslovakia, but became independent in July 1992 and became a member state of the United Nations in January 1993. And it too became a member state of the European Union in May 2004.


Montenegro used to be part of Serbia and Montenegro (and of Yugoslavia before that) but became independent in May 2006 and became a member state of the United Nations in June 2006.


South Sudan used to be part of Sudan, but became independent in July 2011 and became a member state of the United Nations five days later.


Independence is moving from the position of being a constituent part of a larger state to being able to represent our own national interests directly on the international stage in organizations such as the UN and EU. No nation can become a member of either one or both of these organizations unless they are independent, so for virtually all practical purposes this acts as the definition of what independence is.


One part of the smokescreen that Rhodri Glyn and others like to put up is that independence and interdependence are somehow mutually exclusive. That's silly. All independent countries are interdependent to a greater or lesser degree. On the positive side they can agree to trade with each other, cooperate with each other, make treaties and international agreements with each other, and sometimes pool aspects of their sovereignty with each other. On the negative side they will sometimes choose not to trade with certain countries, to impose sanctions or not to have diplomatic relations with them, or even go to war.

This is all part of the responsibility of being an independent nation. We will be able to make these decisions for ourselves to suit our national interests and our sense of what's right and wrong.

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Spluttered Cornflakes all over the Western Mail

I want to thank the Western Mail and Wales on Sunday, and Martin Shipton in particular, for such extensive spreads in the two papers on Friday and yesterday. The articles are on line here and here, and there was also an editorial which is not on line but can be read here.

When I and others made our formal complaint about what Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Rhodri Glyn Thomas had said, our first purpose was not to get either man deselected. We sought a conciliatory solution, recommending that the party should formally instruct them to make public statements saying unequivocally that they support the aims of the party ... and specifically the aims of independence for Wales within Europe and Wales becoming a member of the United Nations. We only wanted to see a more severe sanction if they refused to make such a statement, and suggested that this should be removal from the party's national register of candidates so that they could not stand for Plaid Cymru in future elections.

Both men had treated the disciplinary procedure with contempt by refusing to take any part in it or make a statement of the kind we requested. So one of the satisfying results of making what happened known to the wider public has been to see Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Rhodri Glyn Thomas treat a journalist with more respect than they showed anyone in their own party, by making clear statements about where they stood on the matter. Their responses are interesting because they are so different.


Rhodri Glyn Thomas said:

"This is just totally irrelevant to the real politics of Wales. The economy is in crisis, unemployment is rising month by month and someone wants to talk about a concept no-one fully understands.

"Unfortunately, because the SNP are holding a referendum on Scottish independence, some people think we should be doing the same in Wales. I suggest they go to Scotland.

"Independence is a long-term aim of the party and I've no problem with that, but this is nothing to do with the here and now. If we don’t concentrate on the crisis facing Wales today, the electorate will treat us with the contempt we deserve."

Perhaps it's best to start by clarifying the timescale. The constitution of the party doesn't describe independence for Wales as either a long, short or medium term aim and, so far as I am aware, no-one in Plaid Cymru is calling for a referendum on independence now. As has happened in Scotland, we in Wales won't get a referendum on independence until Plaid has won enough seats in the National Assembly to get such a referendum bill through or until other parties come to realize that independence is in Wales' best interests. And nobody doubts that in order to form a government Plaid Cymru will need to present convincing arguments on a whole range of issues.

But for me, these other issues are in no way separate from the issue of independence, they are part and parcel of the argument for it. In short, the best way to improve things like the level of employment is for us in Wales to take more, and eventually all, responsibility for the economy into our own hands.


But if we look at his statement carefully, it's clear that Rhodri Glyn hasn't changed his position at all. He is talking about the party's position on independence (which all of us know about) but carefully skirting round the issue of whether he has changed his own position from what it was in this interview where he said:

Let me say it's not my view. It may be the party's view, but it's never been my view.

And in a way, that's fair enough. I'll give him due credit for sticking to his principles and refusing to change his mind on an issue he obviously feels strongly about. Providing he doesn't use his position within the party to put forward his personal views and undermine the aims of the party he will not put himself at risk of another disciplinary procedure. But I'm sure he now realizes that it will be all but impossible for him to get selected as a Plaid Cymru candidate in the next Assembly election, not least because the new candidate agreement will require every candidate to explicitly confirm that they support the aims of the party. In effect, he has just deselected himself.


In contrast, Dafydd Elis-Thomas went the other way. He has come out with an amazing statement saying that he is now an enthusiastic supporter of independence for Wales:

Lord Elis-Thomas said: "I voted enthusiastically for the motion [in favour of independence in Europe] at the Llandudno conference, and so far as I am concerned David Cameron has proved that we must have it."

Anybody who is even remotely aware of politics in Wales will have spluttered their cornflakes all over the Western Mail (or their computer screen) when they read this, for it represents a truly seismic shift in his thinking. Here is a short selection of articles showing the strength of his opposition to independence in the past:

     Western Mail, 17 September 2004
     Scotsman, 22 September 2004
     Western Mail, 12 November 2004
     Daily Post, 30 December 2010
     Daily Post, 8 September 2011

His U-turn is all the more remarkable because in the last of these articles he said, "I will not change my personal convictions." Yet he now wants us to believe that he completely reversed his position only two days later.

It will be up to him how he reconciles his previous views on independence with what he's just said in the Western Mail, but if he's looking for some ideas this explanation is probably going to be more credible than any other, and he's more than welcome to use it.


Now it's not impossible for him to have had a genuine change of opinion on the matter. After all, if our arguments in favour of independence are convincing, we should expect to win over many hundreds of thousands of voters in Wales in the next few years. Therefore why shouldn't he be one of them?

As a result of what happened in Brussels the week before last, Carwyn Jones came to realize for the first time that Wales' national interests are not always the same as the interests of the UK as a whole, and would be advanced better by the Welsh Government having direct representation in the EU:

For the first time, I am now seriously concerned about whether the interests of Wales can be advanced effectively in Europe by the UK Government. For those of us who are committed to the United Kingdom, and the place of the UK within the European Union, this is a deeply concerning position to be in.

Western Mail, 13 December 2011

It is a mark of maturity for someone to reconsider their position when circumstances change, so I for one am going to give Carwyn credit for it rather than criticize him for not having seen it before now. Why should I do any less if Dafydd El has genuinely changed his mind?

The only question is whether he has or whether he's just saying it, for he has been manoeuvred into a position where he has little choice but to say that he supports independence. Unlike Rhodri Glyn he cannot simply be quiet about the subject, for if he still harbours ambitions to lead Plaid Cymru he knows full well that he wouldn't be able to sidestep the issue of independence during the leadership contest. If he continued to say he was against it he would be subject to more disciplinary procedures in the party; and if he continued to be vague, cryptic or ambivalent about it he knows that questions about it would be at the forefront of every public meeting and media interview. So what other choice does he have?

And besides that, he must surely know that the overwhelming majority of Plaid Cymru members support independence for Wales, so it would be sheer stupidity for him not to come round if he wants to get votes in the leadership contest. He might not be as principled as Rhodri Glyn, but he's certainly no fool.

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Independence for Wales is a Mirage



   Dafydd Thomas-Elis is the AM for Mwyfor Deirionnydd
   and an enthusiastic supporter of independence for Wales

As I made clear in yesterday's edition of the Western Mail, I voted enthusiastically in favour of the recent change in Plaid Cymru's constitution to make it explicit that our first aim as a party is independence for Wales.

However questions are now being raised about how I could have done this only two days after giving this interview to the Daily Post, in which I was quoted as saying that independence for Wales was a "mirage" and something that I found ethically incompatible.

What I said was misunderstood by the Daily Post. I was definitely not saying that independence for Wales is something illusory: like an oasis that a thirsty man in the desert might hallucinate about and believe to be within reach, but that in fact isn't real or reachable at all.

What I actually meant was that independence for Wales is like a very powerful fighter aircraft, a potent and unstoppable force in Welsh politics.


I was totally unaware that the Daily Post had misinterpreted what I said and printed the word with a small m rather than a capital M.

And although I was quoted as saying that independence was something I found to be ethically incompatible, it should have been obvious that this was a reference to the international arms trade, and specifically to the fact that France has sold these powerful fighter aircraft to countries all over the world.

I was shocked to discover that the clear and obvious meaning of what I said has been so badly misconstrued by the media and by other members of Plaid Cymru, and have therefore issued this statement so that there can be no possible doubt about my sincerity and consistency on the matter of independence for Wales.

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Plaid Cymru fails to act

As I'm sure everyone reading this will know, the first aim of Plaid Cymru as a political party is for Wales to be independent.

For a period, the party was not quite sure whether it wanted to use the "i" word, and so decided to describe its first aim as "to promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining Full National Status for Wales within the European Union" instead. It was a compromise that was broadly acceptable, not least because we also stated that one of our aims was specifically "to attain membership of the United Nations". As only independent sovereign states can be members of the UN, it was a round about way of saying that we wanted Wales to have the same status as nearly all other nations in the world ... but without actually using the "i" word.

However at the party conference this year we unanimously passed a motion to change our constitution and make it explicit that our first aim was "to secure independence for Wales in Europe". This reflects the fact that in recent years we have regained some of our boldness, and are no longer afraid to talk about independence.

One person who should have spoken in the debate, but didn't, was Dafydd Elis-Thomas. Instead of arguing his position in the conference hall, he decided to ignore the party completely and go straight to the press. He gave an interview to the Daily Post in which he stated, incredibly, that independence had never been what Plaid Cymru stood for, that he was ethically opposed to it, and that it was a "mirage".

     Plaid Cymru leadership challenger says Welsh independence is a "mirage"

The only explanation for this behaviour was that he knew full well he wouldn't be able to change the minds of any of the delegates at conference; but being too vain to want to be seen on the losing side in the vote in the hall, he went public. He was making the clearest possible statement that whatever the party decided, he would not change his view.


Now everyone is fully entitled to their views, of course, but there is no place in any self-respecting political party for someone who is opposed to that party's fundamental aims ... and especially for someone who goes out of their way to speak against them. For Dafydd Elis-Thomas did not say this just once: in the days and weeks following that interview he went on to say in public that he wouldn't advocate any constitutional changes for Wales at all; and that he saw Wales' place as a region in Europe, with devolution and within the UK, rather than as an independent member of the EU in our own right.

At the same time another prominent member of the party, Rhodri Glyn Thomas, said in two television interviews that he did not and had never supported independence for Wales, even though he acknowledged that this put him at odds with the party.

Because these statements were clearly in conflict with Plaid Cymru's fundamental aims, I and other members of the party decided to make a formal complaint against these two men. I daresay that there will be some speculation or misinformation about what exactly we were trying to achieve, therefore I've decided to publish the complaint so that everyone can read it for themselves.

     Formal Complaint against Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Rhodri Glyn Thomas

We've now heard from the panel that was given responsibility for handling the matter that the complaint was not upheld, and that the party is not going to take any action against them. We think these are cowardly and shameful decisions which make the party look ridiculous. What is the point of us deciding to make it absolutely explicit in our constitution that our first aim as a party is independence, but then allow prominent members of the party to undermine that by making a series of public statements which are in direct conflict with that aim?

Put more bluntly, what on earth is the point of Plaid Cymru continuing as a political party if it refuses to take its first and most fundamental aim seriously?


Now I will be the first to admit that in detailing what has happened I am washing Plaid's dirty linen in public. Something in our party stinks, and I am making what has happened public only because those who could and should have dealt with it have refused to wash this dirty linen in private.

We did not ask the party to do anything that we thought would be problematic or difficult. Even though it is clear from our constitution that all members must agree to further the aims of the party, and that a member will be subject to disciplinary action for actions or statements in conflict with these aims, we did not ask for either man to be expelled from the party.

We stressed that we sought a conciliatory solution, and recommended that the party should formally instruct them to make public statements saying unequivocally that they support the aims of the party ... and specifically the aims of independence for Wales within Europe and Wales becoming a member of the United Nations. We only wanted to see a more severe sanction if they refused to make such a statement, and suggested that this should be removal from the party's national register of candidates so that they could not stand for Plaid Cymru in future elections.

If the party had done this, there would have one of two outcomes: either that these men would publicly declare their support for independence, leaving us as a party that was fully united behind its aims; or that they could have quietly stood down at the next election without losing face, because no-one outside the party would have needed to know exactly why they were standing down.

But perhaps it isn't surprising that neither of them was prepared to make such a statement. If we look at the Daily Post "mirage" interview, Dafydd Elis-Thomas said:

"The priority seems to be to drive forward with greater devolution within Europe and that's always been my position."


"I am part of the European, green, leftist post nationalist alternative. I am very strongly a European regionalist. I will not change my personal convictions."

Daily Post, 8 September 2011

And Rhodri Glyn Thomas said these things about independence in two separate TV interviews:

"Let me say it's not my view. It may be the party's view, but it's never been my view."

Sharp End, 27 October 2011


"It's not a term that I’ve used during my political career, and I’m not likely to use it."

Dragon's Eye, 3 November 2011

People would not say things like this unless it was their deliberate intention to show the public that they do not and will not support the party's first aim. Nevertheless we thought we should in the first instance (at least formally, for an informal approach had been ignored) give them the opportunity to reconsider their position. But more importantly we wanted to give the party as an organization the opportunity to insist that they did so or stand down at the next election. They failed to take it.


I want to stress that there are many good, sincere people in Plaid Cymru who are absolutely unequivocal in their belief that Wales should be independent. I and the others who made the complaint are not some small clique within the party. On the contrary, in wanting independence for Wales we are part of the overwhelming majority. Remember that the amendment to the constitution was passed unanimously. But we suffer from a small clique entrenched in senior positions in the party who have become arrogant enough to believe that party rules don't apply to them and to think that they can ignore the rest of the party with impunity.

If I thought I was in a minority, then I would leave the party. If all I wanted for Wales was greater devolution in maybe a federal UK, then I would join a party that has this as one of its aims. But I want Wales to be independent. So even though certain people in the party might wish it, I'm not going to leave Plaid Cymru in a huff or be forced out of the party. I'm simply going to stand up for what the party says it believes in. I know others will stand with me.


So what is the point of making what has happened public?

There are many people at all levels of the party who have said they welcomed a formal complaint as an opportunity for the party to show some backbone and stand up for what it believes in. I and others have had many, many phone calls and emails over the past few weeks from people supporting what we have done and saying they were glad that someone was at last making a stand.

So it's sad and shameful that the party hierarchy has chosen to put fudge and political expediency before our principles as a party, and this must now be changed. There are two things that can be done to change it.

What members of Plaid Cymru can do

Our strength as a party does not come down from the top of the party, but grows up from the bottom. The strength of the party is each and every individual member who is active in the party and slogs their guts out giving their time, effort and money to the party. No councillor, AM, MP or MEP would get elected if it wasn't for this hard work. Why on earth should any of us waste that time and effort getting someone elected who doesn't agree with the fundamental aims of the party?

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not asking anyone to stop working for the party. But I am asking you to exercise your rights as members to make sure that the candidates you work to elect are chosen only from those who support the party's aims. If you, at branch and constituency level, kick up enough fuss you will be able to force anti-Plaid AMs like Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Rhodri Glyn Thomas out and make sure that better candidates are selected in their place.

I would also appeal to those who support independence for Wales but who have avoided or left Plaid Cymru because of our previous ambivalence towards independence to consider joining or rejoining the party. Because of what is happening in Scotland, the issue of independence will be at the centre of political debate for the next few years, so there can be no better time to join us in working for our own country's independence. We are currently having a membership drive, but I don't want anyone who joins to be under any false illusion about what our aims are, so please read the constitution first. I would rather have another 500 people who are prepared to wholeheartedly commit themselves to what the party says it stands for than 1,000 who join without thinking it through.

Finally, use your influence and votes as party members wisely. Make sure you elect the right people as branch officers, conference delegates and representatives on National Council, and make sure that they in turn are answerable to you for the way they vote on your behalf. In this way, we can clear out the rotten wood.

Over the last few months we have been conducting a root and branch review, and in a matter of weeks Eurfyl ap Gwilym will publish a report on how the party should move forward. I fully expect that he will say in no uncertain terms that it is time for Plaid and its leadership team to articulate our vision for an independent Wales or move out of the way. To their credit some of them know that; but others will need to be pushed, and we as members will have to do the pushing. It goes without saying that those who have spoken out against independence, or those who think that arguing the case for independence is a confusing distraction from what really matters are completely unsuited to lead Plaid Cymru at what our new Chief Executive has rightly described as a critical juncture in the party's history.

What others can do

Those who are not in the party can do their part too. We need our journalists in Wales to put AMs like these on the spot; to not be afraid to ask probing questions about what our AMs stand for; to refuse to accept glib or evasive answers and weasel words. Those who put forward their own views rather than representing what the party stands for should be made to squirm. A few cringe-inducing interviews with DET or RhGT will be quite enough for the Plaid Cymru leadership to ensure they don't appear on air or in the press next time.

And the same goes for politicians from other parties. Taunt and make fun of those who were elected as Plaid Cymru candidates but hold views that are in conflict with the aims of the party. They are freeloaders; people who are using their elected position to further their own personal agenda rather than the aims of the party they stood for. They deserve all the embarrassment and ridicule they get.

And yes, while you do that you can (and I'm sure you will) taunt the rest of us in Plaid Cymru for allowing such a situation to develop and doing nothing to deal with it. We deserve it ... but if what I've written in this post achieves its purpose, you will not be able to do it for very much longer.

Michael Haggett

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Labour: absolutely wrong, absolutely immoral

Carwyn Jones came out with an amazing attack on the performance of his own party when they were in power at Westminster on Dragon's Eye last Thursday:


He was, if he'd stopped to think before openning his mouth, talking just as much about the fact that in 2007 the Labour government in Westminster had introduced regional pay scales in the Department for Constitutional Affairs before it became the Ministry of Justice. This is a taste of the outcry that greeted the proposal:

     Welsh civil servants pay crisis
     Union condemns court 'pay divide'

Yet despite all the protests, Labour went ahead and implemented the plan in August 2007. The quality isn't very good, but this is a map showing how it works.


It would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. I'm sure that Carwyn Jones had completely forgotten about what his own party had done less than five years ago, for it would be hard to imagine him making such a gaffe if he had been. He just gave the unthinking, standard knee-jerk reaction that any Labour politician gives to a proposal that comes from the Tories in Westminster, completely unaware of the double standards involved.

But he has got it half right: the actions of Westminster governments are the problem, it's just that the colour of the government is irrelevant; for either way—whether under Labour before or the Tories and LibDems now—Wales loses out. Standing up for Wales doesn't just mean standing up to what the Tories are now proposing, it must also mean standing up to what Labour not only proposed, but actually implemented.


So yes, let's welcome the fact that Carwyn is at last prepared to consider the Welsh Government taking responsibility for negotiating and setting the terms and conditions for the public sector in Wales:

Welsh government 'could take over' public sector pay

The Welsh government might look at whether it can take responsibility for the pay and conditions of public sector workers, says First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a review into regional pay adjustments for the public sector. Mr Jones said it could result in people in Wales being paid less to do the same work as people in south-east England.

"That's not acceptable," he said. "Ultimately we may have to look at taking over pay and conditions here in Wales. It's not as easy as it sounds. There are real issues in terms of how that's done. But if we're forced into that situation, better that than have people's pay cut by the UK government in London."

Regional pay was "code for cutting pay in Wales", he said.

BBC, 30 November 2011

But why leave it until "ultimately"? Isn't the writing on the wall clear enough? The Tories will do it, and will justify it by pointing to the fact that they are only doing what Labour did. Carwyn is just showing the same old passivity that has become his hallmark. Wake up, smell the coffee, and start pressing for public sector pay and conditions to be devolved to Wales now.

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Build for Scotland

To judge from what's quoted in the media, anyone would think that today's announcement of £1.4bn for the 21st Century Schools programme was something positive. In reality it's rather pathetic. What was to be £4bn of work has been more than halved in scope, and the money is now to be stretched over seven years instead of three. £200m a year isn't much, especially when only half of it is now going to come from the Welsh Government.

This, and indeed other essential infrastructure investment, could have been much greater if the Labour government was more ambitious and imaginative. To see what a more enterprising government can do we just need to look to Scotland, where the SNP are this week going to announce an infrastructure investment programme of £60bn.

SNP’s £60bn plan to boost the economy

Ministers will this week unveil plans to commit up to £60 billion to finance dozens of infrastructure projects to help prevent Scotland from tipping back into recession.

Amid fresh warnings that the UK is heading for its worst peacetime economic downturn since the end of the 19th century, the Scottish Government will announce plans to fund more than 80 building projects as part of a 15-year plan. Expected funding of up to £4bn a year will come from public funds, but also from a mix of new loans and investment from banks and private lenders.

Ministers are also planning to use new powers in the Scotland Bill going through the UK parliament to enable them to borrow up to £2bn from the UK Treasury’s coffers and have asked that the limit be increased so they can borrow up to £5.6bn. In the meantime, they plan to raise the rest for their capital projects programme through “innovative” financing methods.

Ministers insist the extra cash will not create a re-run of the costly high-interest loans created by old PFI deals in Scotland, which have left the taxpayer paying back far more than the capital cost for new public buildings.

The Scotsman, 4 December 2011

So what might these "innovative financing methods" be? At the bottom of the article we can see that this will be a "non-profit distributing model". Yes, it sounds exactly like the Build for Wales model that Plaid Cymru have been proposing. I'm only surprised they didn't put a bright yellow poppy on it and call it Build for Scotland.


It puts the Labour government in Wales to shame. I'm left with the feeling that any attempt at doing something positive has been put to one side simply in order for Labour to repeat, ad nauseam, that it's all the fault of the Tory cuts. Of course we've been kicked in the stomach by the Tory and LibDem cuts, but a bolder Welsh government would get up off the floor and find a way round the constraints ... just as they have in Scotland.

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Gemau Glew

Just for fun—well maybe not just for fun—here are a couple of games that have just been released by Academi Hywel Teifi. The second one is harder than the first.

Nice to see that the academic work-life balance hasn't changed much over the years.

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The Spanish General Election

The results of the Spanish general election are now clear, if not quite final, with the right wing Partido Popular winning 186 of the 350 seats in the lower house. This is bad news for those whose politics are generally to the left, and also bad news for those who don't support a centralized Spanish state. The 2011 result is on the left, the 2008 result on the right.


I'm sure there'll be plenty in the UK media on the implications of this for Spain, but not much on the particular implications for Catalunya and Euskadi. So let me try and put that right.

The Catalan Perspective

The big hope of the centre-right nationalist CiU in Catalunya was that Mariano Rajoy would not get an overall majority and would need to do a deal with them to form a government. That deal would have come at the price of greater fiscal autonomy for Catalunya, but because the PP have an overall majority, that isn't going to happen.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing for those who want to see Catalunya become independent, for it simply removes one of the options. For Catalunya, the situation is exactly the same as for Scotland: a big majority of the people want greater autonomy, and a good number of them would probably be satisfied with a substantially greater degree of autonomy as part of either Spain or the UK rather than independence. However, if that middle option is taken off the table, support for independence becomes greater. With a PP government in Madrid, the option of moving towards a federal Spain has been removed, for the PP are the archetypal Spanish nationalist party and if anything will move to re-centralize rather than federalize Spain. The current economic crisis will give them all the pretext they need.

These are the results for Catalunya:

CiU ... 29.35% (was 20.93%) 16 seats (was 10)
PSC-PSOE ... 26.64% (was 45.93%) 14 seats (was 25)
PP ... 20.72% (was 16.40%) 11 seats (was 8)
ICV-EUiA ... 8.09% (was 4.92%) 3 seats (was 1)
ERC (+ RCAT) ... 7.06% (was 7.83%) 3 seats (was 3)

Ara, 20 November 2011

The pattern here is a huge collapse in the Spanish Socialist vote, more marked in Catalunya that in the Spanish as a whole (where it fell from 43.87% to 28.73%). But although some of that vote went to the PP, a much larger part of the swing from left to right went to CiU. They have every reason to be very pleased with this result, for a gain of six seats was much larger than the gain of two that was being predicted when I wrote this post last weekend.

But this won't really get them anything they want from Madrid, and certainly not the same degree of fiscal autonomy as the four Basque provinces enjoy. So what is Artur Mas's plan B? He personally is in favour of independence, as is much of the CiU leadership, though perhaps more so on the C (Convergence) side than the U (Union) side. The majority of party supporters now want independence too. So, at least as I see it, the next few months could see the party's official policy shift from pro-autonomy within Spain to pro-independence. If he chose to, Artur Mas would be in a very strong position to push this through because of the gains made by CiU in this election, and the new wave of austerity measures and a clampdown on regional autonomy from the Madrid government will only serve to increase the alienation between Spain and Catalunya yet further. This opportunity is too good to miss, but will he and his party be up to it?

The Basque Perspective

A week ago, the polls were predicting an almost equal four way split between the two Spanish parties (the PP and PSE-PSOE), and the two Basque nationalist parties (the centre-right EAJ-PNV and the new pro-independence left coalition Amaiur). In terms of percentages, the polls were just about right. But in terms of seats won, Amaiur have come from nowhere to become the biggest party with 7 of the 23 seats. This is the graphic from Gara:


This shows the results for all four Basque provinces in Spain, rather than just the three in the Autonomous Community. The situation is complicated a little by the fact that in 2008 NaBai was a broad Basque nationalist coalition of both left and right; but in 2011 the EAJ-PNV fought as Geroa Bai in Nafarroa while the left stood as Amaiur in all four provinces.

EAJ-PNV (+ Geroa Bai) ... 24.23% (was 25.08%) 6 seats (was 7)
PP ... 22.27% (was 23.32%) 5 seats (was 5)
Amaiur ... 22.08% (EA and Aralar were 5.47%) 7 seats (was 0)
PSE-PSOE ... 21.65% (was 37.36%) 5 seats (was 11)

Gara, 20 November 2011

Again, there is a huge fall in the Spanish Socialist vote, but virtually all of it has gone to the pro-independence left. In contrast to what's happened in Spain, there has been no appreciable swing from left to right in Euskadi. The PP's vote has, amazingly, managed to go down; though the EAJ-PNV vote has probably increased slightly (because some of NaBai's vote in 2008 would have come from left leaning Basque nationalists). The numbers of seats won doesn't quite match the percentages because smaller provinces have proportionately more seats than larger provinces.

This is a stunning result for the pro-independence left in Euskadi, but what will it lead to?

7 seats won't make a blind bit of difference to a right wing Spanish government in Madrid ... nor will the combined Basque nationalist total of 13 out of 23 seats (or 11 out of 18 seats excluding Nafarroa). Instead, this is about the normalization of politics in the post-ETA era. The Spanish State has finally run out of excuses to ban the pro-independence left from standing in elections, so we are beginning to see just how strong that support is, and therefore how strong the combined support for independence is from both the left and right of the political spectrum.

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Only 19% in the UK call themselves British

There is an article in the Scotsman today about the decline in the number of people who describe themselves as British.

The British identity is in steep decline south of the border with the number of people who would describe themselves as English over British soaring, a poll has revealed. The study found that the number of people in England who would now describe themselves as English rather than British rose to 63 per cent, as opposed to 41 per cent in 2008.

The YouGov poll also discovered that just 20 per cent of the UK population preferred a British identity to any other, down from 42 per cent three years ago. The poll, taken last month, appears to show that English nationalism is on the rise at the same time as Scottish nationalism is the predominant force in politics north of the border. It prompted warnings of a shift that could threaten the Union.

The findings were last night seized on by campaigners for a separate English Parliament as further evidence that there was now a major social shift developing across the country.

And John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said that a weakening of “Britishness” in England could have massive repercussions for the future of the Union. He said: “Adherence to a common sense of ‘Britishness’ is often thought to be a vital part of the emotional glue that helps keep the Union together. That glue has long since lost much of its strength in Scotland. If it has now been eroded in England too, the long term prospects for the Union would seem rather bleak indeed.”

Scotsman, 20 November 2011

These are the figures from the YouGov poll:

If you had to choose one of the following, would you say you are mainly ...

English ... 63%
Scottish ... 8%
Welsh ... 5%
Irish ... 1%
British ... 19%
European ... 2%
Something else ... 2%

Attitudes to Europe, YouGov, 18 November 2011

So in fact the Scotsman got it wrong. The 63% is the overall figure for those who identify themselves as English in Britain. If we look at the full survey, we will see that the percentage of those in England who describe themselves as English is probably more than 70% (66% in London, 71% in the rest of southern England and 72% in northern England). The English Midlands and Wales are put together, so it's hard to work out the figure for Wales; but it would probably be at least that high on the basis that Wales is less than a quarter of their Midlands/Wales region.

But the real story is the marked increase in those who see themselves as English rather than British, and what this means for the future. If people in England prefer to describe themselves as English as opposed to British, it makes it very unlikely that they will want the remainder of the United Kingdom to be described as anything other than England if Scotland votes to become independent in a few years' time.

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Long Stay


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Devolving the Police

I think it's true to say that all four Chief Constables in Wales support the devolution of policing from Westminster to Cardiff Bay, but it's always nice to hear it from one of them directly.

For anyone who missed it, this is what Peter Vaughan of the South Wales force said about it on the Politics Show yesterday:


I couldn't agree more. This is something that's devolved to both Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it's high time for both policing and the justice system to be devolved to Wales as well.

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Looking forward to the Spanish election

Next weekend Spain will vote on a new government. There's very little doubt that the right wing Partido Popular (PP) led by Mariano Rajoy will be the largest party, and the only real question is whether they will gain an outright majority or need support from other parties to form a government.

For me, this is of particular interest because the parties they're most likely to seek such support from will be Convergència i Unió (CiU) in Catalunya and Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea - Partido Nacionalista Vasco (EAJ-PNV) in Euskadi. As both are on the centre-right of the political spectrum they will be natural allies, but both will want to press for greater autonomy for their respective countries, and each will support the other in that aim. For Catalunya, such an aliance will come at the price of a new fiscal arrangement similar to that already enjoyed by the four Basque provinces, which set and collect all their own taxes and only send Madrid a negotiated sum for services provided centrally and to support the poorer regions of Spain. It's probably the best model for how devo-max might work in Scotland.


Someone who left a comment on an earlier post about Catalunya pointed me to a poll which shows that CiU are likely to make a modest gain of two seats on their previous showing. This probably reflects a general swing from left to right within Catalan nationalism, with a similar swing between left and right within the Spanish nationalism of the PP and PSOE.

But what interested me more is what is happening in Euskadi, particularly now that Spain has allowed broad alliances representing the pro-independence left to participate. After Sortu was banned, they reformed as Bildu and made a major breakthrough in the municipal elections earlier this year. For this election, they have styled themselves as Amaiur. These are the results of the latest poll, with the percentages for the previous election in 2008 in brackets.


PP ... 30.3% (was 26.5%)
PSE-EE ... 24.7% (was 40.7%)
EAJ-PNV ... 19.0% (was 18.8%)
Amaiur ...18.0% (was 9%)


EAJ-PNV ... 29.4% (was 31.1%)
PSE-EE ... 22.0% (was 37.0%)
PP ... 21.0% (was 19.1%)
Amaiur ... 19.1% (was 8.9%)


Amaiur ... 36.3% (was 17.9%)
PSE-EE ... 21.8% (was 39.0%)
EAJ-PNV ... 19.0% (was 23.8%)
PP ... 15.0% (was 14.6%)


EAJ-PNV ... 24.6% (was 26.1%)
Amaiur ... 24.5% (was 10.8%)
PSE-EE ... 22.3% (was 38.2%)
PP ... 20.4% (was 18.7%)

Estudio Preelectoral, Noviembre 2011

Although there is a small swing from left to right—though not as big as would be expected given the general swing in Spain—what is remarkable is the swing away from the Spanish socialist PSE-EE to the Basque pro-independence left. Although the circumstances are different, it's akin to the slump of the Labour party in Scotland and the swing to the SNP. Perhaps this shows that it wasn't a one-off, and that the same could easily happen in Wales.

There is now a combined Basque nationalist vote of 49.1% (it was 36.8% in the equivalent election in 2008) over a combined Spanish vote of 42.7% (was 56.8%). What was a margin of 20% one way has now become a margin of 6.4% the other way. It's going to make the 2013 election to the Basque Parliament very interesting indeed.

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We know how it feels

The Argentinians have described the posting of William Windsor to a group of islands off their coast as a "provocative act", and said they couldn't ignore its "political content".

I can sympathize with them. How did we feel when he was posted to an island off the coast of Wales?

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It's nice to see that Rod Hull has lost none of his ability to look ridiculous ... even without Emu.


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An own goal

I was horrified to read in this report that sports minister Hugh Robertson has written to FIFA seeking permission for both the English and Welsh football teams to wear poppies in their respective international matches this weekend.

It might well be appropriate for him to write on behalf of the English Football Association, but he should certainly not be writing on behalf of the Football Association of Wales. Huw Lewis is the minister with responsibility for sport in the Welsh government, and football is administered by separate associations in Wales and England. Therefore any request from a politician on behalf of Wales should have been made by him ... or at the very least a request should have been made by him and Hugh Robertson jointly.

Is Huw Lewis on the ball? Was he approached by the FAW but refused to take it up? Or did the FAW not approach him and go straight to Hugh Robertson instead? Perhaps Robertson took it upon himself to include Wales ... but if so, why did he not include Scotland, who are also playing this weekend? Someone has scored an own goal, and we need to get to the bottom of what happened.

We are rightly concerned that Wales' status as a separate team in international football has been questioned by some members of FIFA. A letter from a minister in Westminster on behalf of both the English and Welsh football associations will only serve to reinforce their argument that we should also play together rather than separately.

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How well does England understand devolution?

In the Politics Show on Sunday, the BBC published the results of a poll they commissioned on the future governance of Scotland. It was a poll that presented three options, rather than a straight Yes-No choice to independence, and the headline figures were:

In Scotland

Scottish Parliament with existing powers ... 29%
SP with powers over tax and welfare, but not defence and foreign affairs ... 33%
Full independence for Scotland ... 28%

In England

Scottish Parliament with existing powers ... 40%
SP with powers over tax and welfare, but not defence and foreign affairs ... 14%
Full independence for Scotland ... 24%

TNS-BMRB, 6 November 2011

For obvious reasons, commentators have drawn attention to the relatively low support for "devolution max" outside Scotland; and have rightly made the point that although the Scots can decide for themselves whether they want to be independent or not, they cannot decide on a different form of governance for a Scotland that remains within the UK without the consent of the remainder of the UK.

The low degree of support for devolution max outside Scotland might seem to indicate that the rest of the UK would not be willing to give that consent. But I would like to suggest a different explanation. The full data includes this breakdown for Wales:

In Wales

Scottish Parliament with existing powers ... 33%
SP with powers over tax and welfare, but not defence and foreign affairs ... 26%
Full independence for Scotland ... 15%

The sample is small, but the figure for devolution max is much higher than anywhere in England, and the figure for independence is generally much lower.

I wonder to what extent this is because people in England think that the Scottish Parliament, and indeed our Assembly, have far more devolved powers than either of them actually do have. To me, it is clear from the standard of debate in the UK-wide media that people in England have very little grasp of these issues. Some of the questions asked and opinions expressed in political programmes are breathtakingly naïve and ill-informed.

We in Wales have a much better grasp of the issues, because we have direct experience of devolution ... and in particular we know that there is plenty of scope for more devolution of power from Westminster to both Scotland and Wales. This could explain the marked difference of opinion between Wales and England, and indicate that opinion is likely to change as people in England become better informed.

So I would not use the results of this poll to write off devolution max as something that would be unacceptable to the remainder of the UK. The debate still has some way to go.

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Devolving National Insurance and VAT to Wales

On Thursday, there was a lengthy debate in the Commons about the Silk Commission. While waiting for some paint to dry, I caught up with it on Democracy Live, and thought that people would like to see this short exchange from it:


Here we can see Huw Irranca-Davies and Peter Hain making a strong case for varying the rates of two different taxes because it would have a significant and positive impact on jobs in Wales.

But look at the context in which they are doing it. They have to ask the Tories and LibDems in the UK government to do it, because they are in opposition and therefore can't do it themselves. And the UK government will of course refuse, because they have their own ideas of what is good for the economy of the UK as a whole, and aren't going to change those ideas because people in Wales think differently.

Yet why should it be this way? If these tax changes are good for the economy and job prospects in Wales, why shouldn't the Welsh government have the power to do in Wales what the UK government refuses to do in the remainder of the UK?


Now of course it might just be that Labour are proposing this because they are in opposition, because it makes a good sound bite, and because they know full well that the UK government won't do it. That's the luxury of not being in power.

But let's assume that they are in fact being sincere, and genuinely believe that these tax changes would benefit the Welsh economy in these difficult times. We'd have to do the sums, of course: working out how much revenue will be lost because of these tax cuts; but balancing this against fewer people out of work, and fewer building firms with not enough work on their books to keep them going ... but if the calculation was positive, why shouldn't we be able to go ahead and do it?

That's what devolution of taxation powers to Wales would mean for Wales. Instead of pleading with the Tories in Westminster to do something for Wales, and then blaming them for not doing it, we would be taking some responsibility for ourselves.


It's ironic. Here was a debate in which Welsh Labour MPs queued up to say how much they were reticent about—or completely hostile to—the Silk Commission looking into taxation powers for Wales, suggesting that it was all a sinister Tory plot. But in it, they inadvertently gave us a perfect example of how useful these powers would be to provide more jobs and boost the Welsh economy.

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The Clown Prince of Comedy Maths

It was reassuring to read in this story in today's Western Mail that Peter Hain has lost none of his blind tribalism. If the Tories support anything it must be wrong, whatever Labour supports must be right ... and if anyone has any better ideas they must be ignored.

The idea in question is that the Welsh Government should become responsible not only for how much it spends, but also for how that money is raised. Mr Hain is against this because public expenditure in Wales is greater than the money collected in Wales through taxation. That's not in question. But the figures he uses to justify his position are. He says:

The Holtham commission calculated that approximately £17.1bn of tax revenue is raised in Wales every year. Total public spending in Wales is around £33.5bn – almost twice the amount raised.

This latest demonstration of the Peter Principle starts by saying something that is true, but then twists it into a barefaced lie. £17.1bn is the total of revenues raised in Wales by UK-wide taxes for 2007-08. This is broken down in Table 4.1 of the Holtham Commission's Final Report, on page 40.

However this figure doesn't include money raised from local taxes, in particular council tax and non-domestic rates. It's not easy to calculate these figures exactly because NDR are put into a common pot for "Englandandwales" and supplemented by the Treasury before being redistributed, but Alan Trench calculated it at just over £1.9bn in this post on Devolution Matters.

The Holtham Report didn't put a precise figure on this, but does put it at approximately that level, for the very next paragraph says this:

In aggregate, total identifiable expenditure in Wales in 2007-08 was £25 billion, around £6 billion more than tax receipts. This is commonplace given Wales’s relatively high needs. Out of the devolved countries and the nine English regions, only London and the East and South East of England have fiscal surpluses.

So where does Peter Hain get his figure of "around £33.5bn" from? He doesn't say. But I can say that, at the very least, he is not comparing like with like. If he relies on Holtham for the first of his figures, he must surely also rely on Holtham for the second. But not satisfied with a six billion difference, he expects us to believe his figure of more than sixteen billion. Any clown that can get his sums wrong by several billion pounds fully deserves all the laughter he gets.


I don't think Peter really intends us to take him seriously. He wants to get his name into the papers, and the more outrageous his claims the better. That's just his personal style, and it suits his personal agenda. He knows full well that a few die-hards will now quote this supposed £16.4bn fiscal deficit as if it were the gospel truth ... at least until someone comes up with an even more outrageous figure that they can latch onto.


But there's a much more fundamental point at stake. After claiming that we only raise about half the total amount spent on us, Peter says that:

We shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed by that. Wales' needs are greater than most other parts of UK.

No. We should be ashamed of it. We should rightly set out to address any fiscal deficit that we cannot support. The real question is how on earth we can be expected to do this without having our hands on the same enonomic levers that other governments have at their disposal.

Taxation is a tool by which we can take control of our own economy and steer it in the right direction. Every government adjusts the levels of a whole range of taxes to make their own economies more successful and to give them a competitive advantage over their neighbours. Each country has different strengths, different human and natural resources, and a different sense of what is important. Until we in Wales are able to use taxation as a tool to play to our own unique strengths, we will always be at a disadvantage.

Peter Hain and his Labour party clearly have no desire to see Wales fight for its own prosperity in this way. Put bluntly, their only solution is for us to resign ourselves to always being dependent on England; but to sugar it by saying that we shouldn't be "ashamed" or "embarrassed" enough to get off our backsides and do something about it. Nothing can or will change until we start taking responsibility for both the income and expenditure sides of the economic equation.

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Rhodri Glyn Thomas ... another anti-Plaid AM

I've just caught up with last week's Sharp End on ITVPlayer. The subject of discussion was Europe, and although it's worth watching the whole thing I want to highlight this exchange from about 33 minutes into the programme:


Adrian Masters:  Shouldn't [Wales] have more [influence in Europe]? I'm going to caricature your position, Rhodri Glyn Thomas. This is what Plaid would argue: that an independent Wales within Europe would have a bigger say, would be able to speak directly to Europe.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas:  Let me say it's not my view. It may be the party's view, but it's never been my view. I believe in interdependence of regions and countries within Europe.

This is another blatant example of a prominent member of the party saying something which directly contradicts Plaid Cymru's fundamental aims as set out in its constitution.

2. As the National Party of Wales, Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales's aims shall be:

2.1 To secure independence for Wales in Europe.

2.2 To ensure economic prosperity, social justice and the health of the natural environment, based on decentralist socialism.

2.3 To build a national community based on equal citizenship, respect for different traditions and cultures and the equal worth of all individuals, whatever their race, nationality, gender, colour, creed, sexuality, age, ability or social background.

2.4 To create a bilingual society by promoting the revival of the Welsh language.

2.5 To promote Wales’s contribution to the global community and to attain membership of the United Nations.

The constitution requires all members of the party "to further the aims of the party as described in this Constitution". Therefore there is no place in Plaid Cymru for those who do not agree with these aims, and there is certainly no place for elected representatives who publicly express views which directly contradict these aims.

Plaid Cymru is therefore in crisis. I would remind members of the party that the vote taken in conference to amend clause 2.1 of the constitution was unanimous. People like Rhodri Glyn Thomas and Dafydd Elis-Thomas had every opportunity to present arguments against the aim of independence for Wales in Europe, but they didn't. Instead, they seem to think they can ignore the democratic will of the party with impunity.

There are ways in which we as members can deal with this, but it is not appropriate to detail them here on a public forum. So if any member of the party feels strongly enough about this issue to do something about it, I would ask you to contact me, Michael Haggett, at this address.

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Wales takes the biggest hit

With a hat tip to Dewi at Slugger O'Toole, there was a nice graphic in the Guardian this week showing UK public expenditure for 2010/11 compared with 2009/10, adjusted for inflation. Click the image to open the article.


As a whole, UK public spending is virtually unchanged, going up by only 0.34%. There's a lot of interesting stuff to digest at leisure, but in the bottom right hand quarter are the devolved expenditures for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I've zoomed in on these and shown them at the same scale for comparison:



As we can see, Scotland has received a 2.95% increase in expenditure in real terms, getting a better deal than the UK as a whole; Northern Ireland has received 2.01% less in real terms; but Wales has suffered a reduction of 3.92% in real terms.

Of course the settlements reflect different devolved responsibilities in the three administrations, but we can make these two points: first, that these responsibilities have not changed between 2009/10 and 2010/11; and second, that because overall UK spending is almost exactly the same it means that the cost of things devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland but not devolved to Wales would have very little effect on the overall Welsh figure. And even if we focus on the most obvious difference, we can see that Westminster's spending on police and crime was reduced by 3.2%, which is only very slightly less than the Welsh reduction.

So from these figures it's clear that Wales has had to take a much more severe cut in public expenditure than any other part of the UK.

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20% margin in favour of Catalan independence

It is very encouraging to see the support for independence in these pictures from Catalunya on BlogMenai, and in particular this newspaper headline:


If anyone needs a translation, it says that 45.4% would vote for independence and 24.7% would vote no, a bigger margin than in the last poll.

The poll in question is the Baròmetre d’Opinió Política, an official poll conducted every three months based on a large sample of 2,500 people. It can be downloaded here, but this is a rough translation of what another Catalan paper said about it:

Support for Catalan independence grows by more than two points, according to CEO

45.4% of those surveyed said they would vote 'yes' in a referendum on independence, compared to 24.7% who would vote 'no' and 23.8% who would not vote. The same survey shows that support for the Economic Agreement remains at 75%.

Support for the independence of Catalunya has increased 2.5 points in three months, according to the third wave of the Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO) to be presented Wednesday. Thus, 45.4% of respondents say they would vote yes to becoming an independent state in a referendum on self-determination (the wave in June was 42.9%), while those rejecting independence fell by 3.5 points to 24.7% of respondents (28.2% in June). In a hypothetical referendum, discounting those who would abstain (23.8%), the percentage voting yes would be more than 60%. Similarly, in a three-way choice, independence is the preferred option of 28.2% of Catalans (a year ago it was at 25.2%), and is in a technical tie with those wanting Catalunya to be a state within a Federal Spain (30.4%) and an autonomous region (30.3%).

Those who would vote yes in a referendum, moreover, are highest in CiU (56.4% versus 18.3%), ICV-EUiA (48.1% versus 18.7%), ERC (94.5%) and SI (95.1%), with many in PSC (27.6% with 40.4% opposed) leaving PP (only 8%). The reasons given for independence are mainly pragmatic (32.2% want to obtain economic self-management and 13.7% to "improve Catalonia" while only 11.7% said "a feeling of identity"), while Spanish national identity was uppermost for those who oppose independence (35.5% said no to preserve the "unity of Spain", 13.9% for the "feeling of identity", while 13.2% simply said it was "impossible").

The same wave of CEO's barometer of opinion indicates that support for the Economic Agreement remains at 75%. Voters in the vast majority of the parties favour this, namely CiU (84.1% support), ICV-EUiA (82.8%), ERC (93.7%), SI (100%) and the PSC (69.8%) who prefer a "federal fiscal pact." 39.2% of the electors of the PP also wanted that, as did 15.1% of Ciutadans.

Diari Ara, 25 October 2011 | Google Translate

To explain some of that, CiU currently form the Catalan government. They are a centre-right party that has traditionally been nationalist but not in favour of independence; however that is now clearly changing with many of their leaders voting for independence in the unofficial referendums. However, rather than adopting an official position in favour of independence, they are pressing for an "Economic Agreement" with Spain which would give them the same status as the four Basque provinces: namely that they set and collect all their own taxes and only give Madrid an agreed percentage for those services provided centrally. This full fiscal autonomy is probably the best model for the DevoMax option in Scotland.

The next biggest party is the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya, who are—rather like Labour here—definitely a Unionist party. The surprise is that 27.6% of their voters want independence, with only 40.4% against. Their "federal fiscal pact" calls for greater fiscal autonomy, but not to the extent currently enjoyed in Euskadi.

The Partit Popular are equivalent to the Tories, and are about as popular in Catalunya as the Tories are in Scotland. So even though they're solidly opposed to independence it wouldn't really make a lot of difference in any referendum. However there is a general election due in Spain next month, and they look fairly certain to win it.

ICV-EUiA are best described a "ecosocialists" with about 7% support. ERC—who with Plaid Cymru and the SNP are part of the EFA group in the European Parliament—have always wanted independence, and SI was set up specifically to call for independence in the elections in 2010, so their 95% figures are to be expected.


What happens next in Catalunya will depend on the Spanish general election next month. If the PP fail to get an overall majority, the CiU will offer them support at the price of this new Economic Agreement. But if the PP don't need support (or can get it elsewhere) getting a similar arrangement to that enjoyed by the Basque provinces seems unlikely. Spain is in so much economic trouble that it needs all the money it can get from Catalunya ... and it is getting a great deal of money from them. The headline below says that the amount redistributed to poorer regions in Spain is €2,256 per person per year, a total of €16.43bn in 2009.


If Spain does nothing to redress this disproportionate outflow of tax from Catalunya the only option left for the Catalans will be independence. So it's a win-win situation. If CiU hold the balance of power in Madrid, Catalunya will get full fiscal autonomy. But if they don't get it, the margin in favour of independence will just keep growing.

With their own supporters in favour of independence by a margin of more than three to one, CiU should now be able to shift its policy without any risk of splitting the party (all politicians put their own power base first). So there is every likelihood that the next Catalan Parliament will have a majority elected on an pro-independence mandate after the 2014 election.

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