As reported in Wales Online today, Carwyn Jones has come up with the same old-knee jerk reaction to an independent Wales by saying,

Plaid Cymru would argue for independence. My view is that it would leave a 15% difference between what we raise and what we spend. Now that gap is not easy to make up, and for me that's why independence makes no financial sense.

Wales Online, 29 December 2012

Now it may well be true that there is a 15% difference between the two, and that it is a big difference. But that assessment has, to a large extent, to be based on assumptions because the Welsh Government steadfastly refuses to collect the figures in the same way as the Scottish Government does for Scotland in GERS.


However it is silly to use any difference between income and expenditure as a reason for not wanting Wales to be independent. In fact the difference between what the UK raises and what it spends is much greater than 15%, and the UK only manages to survive because it keeps borrowing money each year to make up the shortfall.


The figures for the UK's deficit are here, and the figures for UK public spending are here. By subtracting the first from the second, we can see how much the UK raises in taxes, duties and other charges. For the last three years, the figures are:

2009 ... income £465.2bn, spending £621.4bn, difference £156.2bn or 33.6%
2010 ... income £511.6bn, spending £660.8bn, difference £149.2bn or 29.2%
2011 ... income £559.4bn, spending £681.3bn, difference £121.9bn or 21.8%

So don't be taken in by a glib answer from a glib politician, even if he is the First Minister of Wales.

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Nadolig Llawen

I'd like to wish everyone who reads Syniadau a peaceful and happy Christmas.


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Another of Pembrokeshire's shortcomings

Two reports on Pembrokeshire Council's education services were published yesterday and were the lead item on the news last night.

The main cause of concern—and rightly so—has been the county's failure to adequately respond to the child safeguarding issues that had been raised previously. However the Estyn report found that there were more widespread failings and recommended that the education department be put under special measures. The BBC listed the shortcomings as:

• Performance in primary schools does not compare well to that of similar schools in other councils across Wales

• Although attendance has improved, too many primaries are in the lower half in comparison with others on free school meals benchmarks

• Arrangements for supporting and challenging schools are not robust enough and have not had enough impact on improving outcomes

• It has not made enough progress in the management and governance of safeguarding children "by embedding the changes" made to practices

• It is responding too slowly to the increasing level of surplus places in the secondary sector

BBC, 17 December 2012

But reading through the report itself, I noticed that one other important shortcoming had not been reported by the BBC:

The authority continues to forecast pupil numbers accurately for both primary and secondary schools. However, as it does not measure demand for Welsh-medium education or have alternative methods to gather that information, the authority does not know the true level of need. Without that knowledge, it cannot plan effectively to ensure sufficient capacity. This is an important shortcoming.

Estyn Report, pp 9 & 10

It wasn't mentioned in the BBC's Welsh version of the story either. I certainly wouldn't claim that this is the most important of the local authority's shortcomings, but it is surely important enough to have been included in the BBC's list.

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Refuting the idea of Britain as a nation

I very much liked Stuart's post on Welsh Not British on Tuesday, and it's worth showing his graphic again:


But I was interested to find out to what extent opinion in Wales is matched by opinion in England. As it happens, it's not all that different.

In Wales:

Welsh only ... 57.5%
Welsh and British only ... 7.1%
Welsh and any other(s) ... 1.2%
Welsh in any form ... 65.9%
Not Welsh ... 34.1%

British only ... 16.9%
British and any other(s) ... 9.4%
British in any form ... 26.3%
Not British ... 73.7%

English only ... 11.2%
English and British only ... 1.5%
English and any other(s) ... 1.1%
English in any form ... 13.8%
Not English ... 86.2%

In England:

English only ... 60.4%
English and British only ... 9.1%
English and any other(s) ... 0.7%
English in any form ... 70.1%
Not English ... 29.9%

British only ... 19.2%
British and any other(s) ... 10.1%
British in any form ... 29.3%
Not British ... 70.7%

Welsh only ... 0.6%
Welsh and British only ... 0.1%
Welsh and any other(s) ... 0.1%
Welsh in any form ... 0.8%
Not Welsh ... 99.2%

Census 2011, Table KS202EW

What are we to make of this? The first and most important point is to look at the precise wording of the census question, which was:

How would you describe your national identity?
Tick all that apply ...

As I've noted before, for example in this post, many surveys and opinion polls are not so specific. In the YouGov poll for British Future the wording of the questions was:

Would you say you see yourself as ...
... English/Scottish/Welsh/None of these?


And which, if any, of the following best describes how you see yourself?
... Welsh not British/More Welsh than British/Equally Welsh and ... etc, etc.

When asked that general question, the answers were:

In Wales:

Welsh, not British ... 21%
More Welsh than British ... 22%
Equally Welsh and British ... 37%
More British than Welsh ... 9%
British, not Welsh ... 6%
Other ... 5%

In England:

English, not British ... 19%
More English than British ... 18%
Equally English and British ... 43%
More British than English ... 8%
British, not English ... 6%
Other ... 5%

YouGov, April 2012

On the face of it, the census and the YouGov poll appear to say exactly the opposite. From the YouGov poll, it would be possible for someone to say that 74% of people in Wales see themselves as British to some degree. But the census shows that 74% of people in Wales do not see their national identity as British to any degree.

However these percentages are in fact answers to completely different questions. The problem is that politicians and others, notably in the media, either unintentionally or deliberately misinterpret the results. The broadcast media in particular invariably think of "British" as a description of nationality. YouGov described their poll as "Nationality Perceptions". The Western Mail headlined their story:

     England and Scotland "could learn" from Wales about national identity

The truth is that each one of us has a wide range of stacked identities. To use an example I gave before: someone could identify themselves as living on the Gurnos, in Merthyr, in the Valleys, in south Wales, in Wales, in Britain, in the UK, in the EU, in Europe and in the northern hemisphere. All of these are equally valid identities, but someone's national identity is much more specific. It is perfectly possible, in fact highly likely, that someone in Denmark would identify themselves as "equally Danish and Scandinavian" ... but they would not consider their nationality to be Scandinavian. Similarly, someone in the Netherlands would be more than likely to identify themselves as "equally Dutch and European" ... but they would not consider their nationality to be European.


These results from the census are too obvious to ignore: although many people identify themselves as British, very few people in either Wales or England consider Britain to be a nation. Instead, by a huge margin, we consider Britain to be a group of nations. Of course we share closer geographical, historical, cultural and family ties with each other than we do with the other nations in the world. But there's nothing unique or unusual about this, for exactly the same is true of the nations which make up Scandinavia, Arabia, Iberia or the Caribbean.

Why, then, do we have to put up with an incessant stream of what can only be described as spin, hype and blatant propaganda from politicians and the media describing Britain as a nation? We, along with our friends in England and Scotland, must expose and challenge them when they do so.


I wrote most of this post yesterday, before today's news about Ed Miliband rehashing his speech on Britain being "One Nation". Although it's not unique to Labour, for when he said it before the Tories were quick to point out that he was stealing their clothes.

But I'd ask people to think about why he is saying it again right now. It can only really be in response to this week's census figures. If not thinking of one's nationality as British in any way, shape or form was mainly confined to Wales and Scotland, harping on about "One Nation" could perhaps be excused as ignorance on his part. But as a similar percentage of people in England think the same, it can only be a deliberate attempt to sell the idea of Britain being a nation to an electorate that has comprehensively rejected it.

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Crunching the census data

There's a good summary of the Welsh language census data for 2001 and 2011 here.

But for anyone who wants it, I've produced a more detailed breakdown and comparison between the two sets of data on an age band and county-by-county basis. My spreadsheet can be downloaded from here or (as my server is being a little tempramental) here.

No comment at this stage, just raw data.

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Census figures for Welsh

Here is a quick table I've produced comparing the 2001 and 2011 census percentages for Welsh. The 2011 data is from here.


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In praise of the European Union

Today is the day on which the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for the part it, in its evolving forms, has played in creating the conditions for peace in Europe over the past 60 years.

I think it's well deserved. Mutual trade and prosperity are much better guarantees of long-term peace and security than military strength or being able to repel invasions.



But, as it happens, today also gave us another reason to be grateful that we are part of the EU, which is what I want to focus on in this post.

It appears that the EU Commission is so concerned about the way that the new Pembroke Power Station operates that it has taken the unprecedented step of issuing notices of infringement against the UK government for the damage it is causing to the local marine environment.



It's a sad tale. The problem is that any fuel-based power station is inefficient, producing large quantities of waste heat. Originally, the intention was for the surplus heat to be used for industrial or other processes nearby. But this was always fanciful. It is difficult enough to find a suitable user for surplus heat at the best of times, but with a power station of this size it is for all practical purposes impossible. The rule of thumb for CHP (combined heat and power) generation is to locate small power stations close to where the heat can be used (an industrial estate, for example) because electricity can be transmitted over great distances, but heat can only be piped a few kilometres.

That basic, fundamental rule was simply ignored when this plant was designed. In fact the whole process by which this plant was built would be a farce if it wasn't for the fact that it will cause very severe environmental damage. The planning authority, the UK Department of Energy in this case, and the operators of the plant, RWE nPower, should have known that this plant was far too big for its location. So the first part of the blame rests squarely with them.

However RWE nPower seem to be hiding behind the fact that they were given approval to operate the plant from the Environment Agency.

"We've worked with all of the relevant authorities and the competent authority being the Environment Agency.

"It's not us that determine whether we can do this, it's those guys that do that.

"They've looked at all of our processes, our method statements, worked with the contractors, worked with the actual process designers that build power plants and the complex systems that are within them and they have been completely satisfied, and if they weren't satisfied they would not have issued the permit."

BBC, 10 December 2012

That's true enough, but the EA have proved themselves to be very far from "competant" as an authority. As I noted a couple of years ago in this post, the EA relaxed (by a factor of six in one instance) the emission standards they had previously considered safe in relation to the wood-burning power station proposed for Port Talbot. I think it is obvious that even if there had been an objective, scientific basis for their first decision, they later revised it for the sole reason that it suited the commercial interests of the potential operators. Scientific objectivity came a very poor second to commercial expediency.

It is clear to me that exactly the same thing happened in this case. Instead of refusing RWE nPower an operating permit, the EA simply threw away any semblance of scientific objectivity in order to allow them to get away with whatever suited them ... and what suited them was the financially cheap but environmentally expensive solution of simply pumping the warmed water straight into the Cleddau, a largely enclosed body of water where the heat cannot be dissipated in the same way as it would be if the warm water was pumped out into the open sea. The consequences to marine life in the estuary are disasterous.


Everybody will point the finger at someone else. But the real fault is that the UK government allowed all this to happen. By letting an "arm's length" body make the decision, they clearly hoped to absolve themselves of any blame for the consequences.

In such circumstances the European Union is just about the only body that can hold the UK government to account and insist that either a less damaging cooling system be installed, or limit the production capacity or time that the plant can operate to reduce the overall amount of heat produced. It's one of many reasons why we in Wales should be glad we are part of it.

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Chris Bryant is not letting up on his crusade against Rupert Murdoch, but perhaps the real reason why he is so angry is beginning to come to light.

A few years ago the Sun put this picture and headline on its front page:


Apparently they were expected to put this picture on the front page under the headline, "BRYANT'S IN HIS PANTS."


Chris was appalled that they not only managed to spell his name incorrectly, but that they allegedly spent a large amount of money on an unflattering photograph rather than use the one he had put on the web.

I'm not sure I share his judgement about it being unflattering, though. It looks unposed and natural, whereas the one he sent out looks flashy and exhibitionist.

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