Rhun ap Iorwerth and Nuclear Power

Now that he has been selected as Plaid Cymru's candidate for the Ynys Môn by-election, Rhun ap Iorwerth has made a public statement about where he stands on Wylfa B.

I have long held my own opinion on Wylfa and its potential for Anglesey and there was nothing lukewarm about the potential that Wylfa B offers Anglesey in the selection meeting last night or among members of Plaid Cymru on Anglesey.

We are very comfortable with the position taken by many members of the party throughout Wales in their principled stand on nuclear. Even though Labour tries to say we are split we will work to make the Wylfa development if it happens work for the people of Anglesey.

In Plaid Cymru in Anglesey we need to make sure that this happens in the interests of Anglesey, our young people and communities.

Daily Post, 28 June 2013

The first paragraph is tortuously ambiguous. He says he has his "own opinion" of Wylfa, but won't actually say what his position is. He owes it to us to make his position clear: does he support it, or is he opposed to it?

Nor do I know who else is included in the "we" in his second paragraph; but if he means Plaid Cymru members on Môn, he is presenting the same false picture that others have done before him. Bob Parry recently told Taro'r Post that the whole Plaid group on Môn supported Wylfa B. They don't. In 2011 he criticized Jill Evans for speaking at an anti-nuclear conference in Caernarfon saying that her presence would be "misleading". But it was he who was doing the misleading.

Rhun is on the brink of going down the same path. It is worth repeating—and I will repeat it as many times as others in the party say misleading things about it—that Plaid Cymru's opposition nuclear power is not a position taken by just "many" of its members, but by most of its members. It is party policy, decided by our members at our party conference.

The full text of the party's position on nuclear power is here, and it clearly states our:

total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations

And in case anybody tries Elfyn Llwyd's trick of saying that Wylfa B isn't "new", but an extension of what is already there, the very same motion specifically states that Wylfa B would be a "new nuclear power station".


Up until now I have not known where Rhun stood on this issue. My objection to him being allowed to stand or being selected was based on the fact that we could not properly assess his suitability to stand as a Plaid Cymru candidate in such a short time. I had hoped that his first statement would be something much more positive:

I had hoped Rhun would say that he is totally opposed to Wylfa B and will fight to stop it happening.

I had hoped Rhun would say that it is being forced on us by a Westminster government that will not let Wales decide our own energy policy for ourselves.

I had hoped Rhun would say that we in Wales can produce more electricity than we consume from renewable sources, a major part of which are around the coast of Ynys Môn, and that we will create better jobs on the island by developing these than by building a new nuclear power station.

I had hoped Rhun would say to those already working in the nuclear industry who are concerned about their jobs that there will be plenty jobs for decades to come in decommissioning Wylfa A, making it safe and cleaning up its toxic legacy.

I had hoped Rhun would say that the cost of dealing with new and very much more toxic nuclear waste—which would have to be kept on the island indefinitely rather than moved to Sellafield as happens now—will be a millstone round the neck of future generations that Wales as a nation will struggle to afford.

... and I had hoped Rhun would also say that if, and only if, a Westminster government forces Wylfa B onto us despite all our objections, it had damn well better ensure that we at least get something out of it in terms of construction jobs, supply chain opportunities and the skills necessary for the operation of the station once completed.

If he has any political sense at all, Rhun will say all of these things. It is not too late for him to do so. What is wrong with Rhun's statement to the Daily Post is that he makes the last point without making all the other points. He cannot hope to get away with that. He needs to unequivocally express his opposition to nuclear power before he gets to the "if".


Even if Rhun is hesitant to do this for personal reasons, he needs to do it for electoral reasons. Apart from any argument based on principle (and by that I mean both being opposed to nuclear power on principle and the principle of having a Plaid Cymru candidate who supports Plaid Cymru's policy) it is stupid to support a new nuclear power station at Wylfa B when most local people think there are better ways of generating electricity and creating jobs.

A survey carried out by Bangor University in 2010 showed that:

91% thought renewable energy was a good or very good idea. Only 2% didn't.

People put solar power, wave machines and windfarms ahead of nuclear power as a way of producing electricity. Only a minority wanted to see nuclear power developed.

74% wanted energy jobs on the island to be created in the alternative/renewable energy sector. Only 35% wanted them created in the nuclear sector.

Bangor University School of Social Sciences, July/August 2010

Of course there is a need for more high-quality jobs on Môn. No-one disagrees with that. But only an idiot would try to attract votes from a small percentage of people when, by speaking out clearly against nuclear power and in favour of the alternatives to it, he would attract votes from the much larger percentage of people who don't want Wylfa B. Do the maths.


If he fails to oppose nuclear energy Rhun will be in grave danger of throwing this by-election away. This would be bad enough, but there would be much more serious consequences for Plaid Cymru than the loss of one seat, and those consequences will be just as real if we fail to express our opposition yet somehow manage to hold on to it.

We need to face up to the fact that our party has been a laughing stock for years by allowing political commentators and opponents to say that we are opposed to new nuclear power stations everywhere in Wales ... except in Môn! That now needs to change.

If we're afraid to look at our own face in the mirror, then we should look and learn from what has just happened to Leighton Andrews. We have rightly criticized him for trying to make his local patch an exception to the policies of his own party. Do we think that the same won't apply every bit as much to us if Rhun tries to do the same in Ynys Môn? Mae'n cymryd aderyn glan i ganu.

What is at stake here is Plaid Cymru as a credible and electable national party. We need to be consistent. We cannot say one thing to one small part of Wales while saying something else to the rest of the nation. The rest of the nation will laugh at us; people who laugh at us will not vote for us; and unless we can win votes all across Wales we will never move our nation forward.

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Rhun ap Iorwerth and Angharad Mair

When Adam Price announced that he was going to stand down as an MP at the 2010 Westminster election, up stepped Angharad Mair to ask that Plaid Cymru waive the rules in her favour so that she could be selected to fight the seat, even though she had only just become a member. Of course I was delighted to find out that she shared our values and welcomed her support for the party ... but I thought it was presumptous—and perhaps even manipulative—for her to think she could be a candidate straight away, and I was very pleased that Jonathan Edwards was selected instead of her.

It now appears that Rhun ap Iorwerth is trying to do exactly the same thing in Ynys Môn, and my reaction is exactly the same as it was before. I'm delighted to hear that Rhun is, according to his new blog, "wholeheartedly committed to the values and ambitions of Plaid Cymru for our nation". But that's pretty much what I'd expect of any member of the party. In itself it certainly isn't something that would immediately qualify him to be a candidate in a seat that Plaid are hot favourites to retain.


Several aspects of what is happening cause me concern. The first is the idea that the National Executive of Plaid Cymru might be open to waive the rules. Fairly clearly, some senior people in Plaid Cymru think that Rhun would be ideal. In fact I'd guess it would be appropriate to take the very same words that were used in the Western Mail article four years ago and say that, "Powerful backers of Angharad Rhun in the cultural wing of the national executive are backing her his case ... "

But what does that say about the way Plaid Cymru operates as a party? Do we want to be seen as a party in which vested interests can chop and change the rules as they see fit? I'm sure that the wave of new members that joined the party in the hope that it things would become more transparent and open when we elected Leanne as our new leader last year won't be impressed by this. It bears all the hallmarks of what Labour are already calling a "stitch-up".

Second, do we really want to be seen as a party that thinks "media personality" is a more important quality in a candidate than proven political capability? Rhun might be good at asking questions, but that's no indication of how well he will answer them. And, even more critically, we don't even know what his answers will be because he has never been called upon to put his political beliefs on the line. He is an unknown quantity. Nor has he ever put in the sheer hard graft that everyone else who might expect to be considered as a candidate will have committed themselves to, often over many years.


I hesitate to say who I think the best Plaid candidate for Ynys Môn would be because I don't live there. Provided that a candidate meets the criteria laid out by the party as a whole, I think it should be a local choice. However I can and will say that Heledd Fychan seems to me to be an ideal candidate. We know where she stands on individual issues because she has spoken about them at conference, on her blog and on the campaign trail. She has proved that she has the energy, stamina and commitment to fight elections both in her excellent preformance in Montgomeryshire for the Westminster election in 2010 and as a list candidate for north Wales in the Assembly election in 2011. She has cut her teeth on an electoral battlefield in which Rhun is still wet behind the ears.

That is not to say that Rhun doesn't have what it takes; I am only saying that he doesn't have it yet. I welcome the fact that he wants to join Plaid Cymru; I welcome his ambition for Wales and his ambition to stand as a candidate for the party; but for his sake and ours he needs to prove himself before he can do that. This by-election for the Assembly will be held in only a few weeks, but in May 2015 there will be an election for Westminster, and by then—if he puts in the spadework and shows where he stands on the issues—he might well be the ideal candidate to win back Ynys Môn for Plaid.

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Not Foreigners, Not a Foreign Country

Although most of Ireland became an independent state in 1922, it was as a dominion of the British Empire known as the Irish Free State. This came to an end in 1937 following a referendum on a new constitution, but some powers were still reserved to the United Kingdom. The final vestiges of constitutional attachment to the United Kingdom were only brought to an end when the Irish passed the Republic of Ireland Act, 1948.

In response to this, the United Kingdom Government passed the Ireland Act, 1949. Section 2(1) of this Act is particularly interesting:


It clearly states that the United Kingdom does not regard the Republic of Ireland as a foreign country for the purpose of any law or act that had either been passed before or might be passed in future; and that citizens of the Republic of Ireland would not be classed as foreigners or aliens. Section 2(1) has not been repealed or amended (check this page) and remains in force to this day.


That makes the repeated assertions by several unionist politicians about the Scots suddenly becoming "foreigners" if Scotland becomes independent—including this by David Cameron and these by Ed Miliband and other prominent Labour and LibDem politicians—not only hollow and ridiculous, but dreadfully misinformed.

There is absolutely no reason why the remainder of the UK should treat an independent Scotland and its people any differently from the way the (somewhat larger) remainder of the UK treated the Republic of Ireland and its people in 1949.

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Road to Referendum - the complete set

The final part of Road to Referendum by Iain Macwhirter was broadcast on STV last night. So here is the complete set, starting with the first:




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More important than God

The Girl Guides and Brownies have decided to revise their oath, omitting any reference to God but including a promise "to serve the Queen".

According to the Telegraph:

One young girl wrote that she felt like she was "lying to the Brownies" by making a promise to a God in whom she did not believe.

Telegraph, 18 June 2013

But how many people are lying to the Guides, the Brownies, the police, the armed forces and quite a few other organizations by making a promise to a monarch in whom they do not believe?

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The Olympic Effect

Sebastian Coe came to see what effects last year's London Olympics have had on Wales.

It was a short visit.

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As a dog returns to his vomit ...

As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.

Proverbs 26:11

It looks like Dafydd Elis-Thomas has decided he's had enough of pretending that he supports independence for Wales.

As many readers of Syniadau will remember, up until the Plaid Cymru Party Conference in September 2011 Dafydd had been firmly against independence for Wales. But at that conference we decided to change our constitution to make it explicit that our first aim as a party is to secure independence for Wales in Europe. This was already an implicit aim of the party, for another of the fundamental aims of the party is for Wales to attain membership of the United Nations, and a country cannot attain membership of the United Nations unless it is an independent state.

After I and other members of the party brought disciplinary action against him for making statements which were in direct contradiction to these aims, Dafydd told Martin Shipton of the Western Mail that he had "voted enthusiastically" in favour of that change. The details are here. That was quite a U-turn, and I can well understand why he might want to invent such a fig leaf. But it served well enough, for if Dafydd could change his mind and come out in favour of independence, so could anyone else. Since then he has trodden a fine line and has not, at least to my knowledge, said anything to indicate that he does not support independence for Wales ... though he was happy to let his stooges convey those sentiments for him in his failed bid to become leader.


That has now changed. As has just been reported in Wales Online, he has delivered the June Speaker's Lecture in Westminster, in which he said:

I'm an out-and-out UK federalist ... There was never a project for Welsh independence, anyway.

Wales Online, 12 June 2013

If this statement has been reported accurately (for these words might perhaps have been taken out of context) it means Dafydd has either flip-flopped back to the anti-independence position he espoused before September 2011, or that he was being deliberately deceitful when he said that he was now enthusiastically in favour of independence for Wales. I think the second is more likely; but it doesn't particularly matter which one it is, for the first is every bit as bad as the second.

However it is perfectly clear that he can no longer remain a member of Plaid Cymru, or be part of the Plaid Cymru Group in the National Assembly, if he does not support independence for Wales. Not only is he undermining the primary aim of Plaid Cymru as a political party but, by claiming that "there was never a project for Welsh independence", he is gratuitously insulting everyone (both in the party and outside it) who has worked, and continues to work, for independence for Wales.

Unless firm action is taken quickly Plaid Cymru will be dragged back into the same disrepute it faced when previous leaders were less than straightforward about independence. I expect better from Leanne Wood. She must now call him to account for what he has said, and must not be afraid to suspend him from the Assembly Group until this matter has been resolved.

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Road to Referendum - Part 2

This is the second of three programmes by Iain Macwhirter looking at the events leading up to the independence referendum in Scotland next year, as broadcast last night on STV.


For those who missed it, this was last week's programme:


One more to come next week.

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The Collapse of the Centralist Left

Before it becomes old news, I'd like to draw attention to the latest political opinion poll in Catalunya, as published in El Periódico last week.

The most notable thing about it is the remarkable surge of support for ERC, the Catalan Republican Left, the only party in Catalunya to have consistently supported independence. They are Plaid Cymru's sister party in the EFA Group in the European Parliament.


•  ERC - Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya ... left, Catalan
•  CiU - Convergència i Unió ... centre-right, Catalan
•  PSC - Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya ... centre-left, Spanish
•  ICV - Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds ... eco-socialist, Catalan
•  PP - Partido Popular ... right, Spanish
•  Cs - Ciutadans ... left, Spanish
•  CUP - Candidatura d'Unitat Popular ... left, Catalan

The result of the election in November 2012 is shown in the inner ring, and my thoughts on that result are here. In the negotiations after the election, CiU had wanted to form a coalition with ERC, but in the end formed a minority government without support from any other party. They were able to do this because there is no way that a right wing, anti-independence party like the PP would ever see eye-to-eye with left wing, pro-independence parties like ERC and CUP, and would never vote the same way on any issue. Therefore the PP's 19 votes are effectively cancelled by 19 of the votes from ERC and CUP deputies, and with 38 votes effectively "paired" CiU can just about govern on their own.

ERC did, however, commit themselves to not vote against CiU on no-confidence issues that could bring down the government and force an early election, provided that sufficient progress was made on moving towards independence. This seems to be happening, and there will almost certainly be a referendum on independence in 2014.


In one sense, the swing away from CiU shown in this poll is only to be expected. Having to preside over a programme of austerity (forced in the sense that the Spanish government has required the Autonomous Communities cut their deficit much more stringently than central government has had to do, but not forced in the sense that CiU are a right-of-centre party that would make those sorts of cuts anyway) is hardly likely to make any government popular. So the swing from right to left is no great surprise.

What is interesting is that the swing has not benefited the pro-Spanish PSC, which had always been the largest party of the left until last year's election. The swing has instead gone primarily to ERC who have all but doubled their support and are now the largest party, but with ICV and the Cs also making gains. In other words, it has gone to parties which have unequivocal views on the matter of self-determination. The lion's share has gone to the pro-independence and pro-right-to-decide parties, ERC and ICV, but some has gone to the unequivocally pro-Spanish, anti-independence Cs. The PSC has been squeezed out because it has tried to sit on the fence. It has tried to be pro-Spanish to the Spanish and pro-Catalan to the Catalans, but it can't have it both ways.


I think there are lessons to be learned from this, and from what happened in the election in Euskadi. In both countries support for the major Spanish left-of-centre party (PSC in Catalunya and PSE-EE in Euskadi, but both are no more than local branches of the centralist PSOE) has collapsed, with the majority of their support switching to nationalist left-of-centre parties instead.

What is happening in Spain is also happening in the UK. The Labour Party, even though it tries to market itself as having Welsh and Scottish versions, is essentially monolithic. It will always gear itself to policies tailored to win support in the UK as a whole ... and this, of course, means England, because about 85% of the UK's population lives in England. By definition, this means that the Labour Party cannot stand up for the interests of Wales and Scotland on matters where our national interests differ from those of England. It can't have it both ways, and once this simple fact becomes clear to the electorate, voting patterns that have been ingrained for decades will suddenly shift from the centralist left to the nationalist left.

It has happened in Scotland with the SNP. It has happened in Euskadi with EH Bildu. It has now happened in Catalunya with ERC ... and exactly the same will happen in Wales with Plaid Cymru.

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The Darling of the Tory Party

Labour MP Alistair Darling was given a standing ovation at the Scottish Tory Party conference in Stirling today. Both parties are welcome to each other, of course.

I'll confine my laughter to this particular piece of idiocy from his speech, as reported in the Scotsman:

A shared currency would also render the SNP's plan to undercut UK corporation tax by 3% impossible, he said.

Scotsman, 8 June 2013

I've touched on this subject before, but it clearly needs repeating. A shared currency does not mean having to set identical or near-identical rates of tax. If poor Alistair thinks that a 3% differential in the rate of corporation tax is "impossible" he needs to take a look at what is happening beyond the boundaries of his narrow little world.

These are the rates of corporate tax in the countries that use the euro:

Montenegro ... 9.0%
Cyprus ... 10.0%
Ireland ... 12.5%
Portugal ... 12.5% to 27.5% (mean 15%)
Slovenia ... 17.0% (reducing to 15% in 2015)
Estonia ... 21.0%
Slovakia ... 23.0%
Finland ... 24.5% (reducing to 20.0% in 2014)
Austria ... 25.0%
Greece ... 25.0%
Netherlands ... 25.0%
Luxembourg ... 28.6% on commercial activity (5.7% on IP and royalties)
Spain ... 30.0% (but 28% in the four Basque provinces)
Italy ... 31.4%
Germany ... 30.2% to 33.3% (15.8% federal plus 14.4% to 17.5% regional)
France ... 33.3% (15% for small businesses)
Belgium ... 34.0%
Malta ... 35.0%


The largest differential is 26%, which is nearly nine times greater than the 3% difference proposed by the SNP. And there are considerable variations between geographical neighbours: the difference between Portugal's 15.0% and Spain's 30.0%, or Slovenia's 17.0% and Italy's 31.4%, is about five times greater than the 3% difference proposed by the SNP.

But if a red mist of insanity descends at the mere mention of the euro, look at the other currency unions in the world. Does Togo need to have the same tax regime as Benin? Does Grenada need to have the same tax regime as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines? Does Panama need to have the same tax regime as the USA?


In fact, there can be differences in the rate corporate taxation within states. In Germany the local rates of corporate tax vary by 3.1%, and the four Basque provinces have a rate that is 2% lower than in Spain. Every state in the USA sets its own corporate taxes in addition to federal corporate taxes.

Closer to home, the six counties are still looking to set a rate of corporate tax that is lower than in the remainder of the current UK.


As Alistair Darling used to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, it's rather more likely that he was telling barefaced lies rather than speaking out of ignorance ... and that no doubt explains why the Tories were so pleased with what he said.

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Martin Shipton of the Western Mail is apparently "shocked" at Adam Price's decision to put himself forward for selection as Plaid Cymru's candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr in 2016.

     Adam Price announces shock bid to return to frontline politics

Let's think about that one. It's his home patch. He tried to get selected before, but Rhodri Glyn Thomas refused to stand down. Rhodri then confirms that he is going to stand down in 2016 ...

Yes, I suppose nobody could have guessed what would happen next. I can only imagine how much more of a shock it will be if he is selected ... or even goes on to win the seat.

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Road to Referendum

This is the first of three programmes by Iain Macwhirter looking at the events leading up to the independence referendum in Scotland next year, as broadcast last night on STV.


Two more to follow in the next couple of weeks. There's some background information here.

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Push, Push

As someone who believes in universal benefits paid for by progressive taxation—even when parties that used to know better are turning their backs on the principle—I was impressed to learn that Finland gives every expectant mother, rich or poor, a free box filled with essentials for their new-born baby.


And it doubles as a cot. Handy.


But that's not the best bit. The Finnish government also publishes a helpful booklet called Having Children in Finland


As we can see from the cover, it is pushed out by the Ministry of Labour. How very appropriate.

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A separate Basque Regional Authority in France

As I'm sure most people who read Syniadau will know, the Euskal Herria comprises seven provinces split between Spain and France. The four provinces under Spanish sovereignty enjoy a significant degree of autonomy. Three of them—Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba—form the Basque Autonomous Community, and the fourth—Nafarroa—is an Autonomous Community in its own right. But France is a much more centralized state, and the three Basque provinces under French sovereignty—Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Nafarroa Beherea—were subsumed into the larger Basses-Pyrénées Départment (now Pyrénées-Atlantiques) immediately after the French revolution and have had no specific political identity for the past two hundred years.


Needless to say, the Basques have been pressing for change for some time, but things now seem to have come to a head. The reason for this is that François Hollande had made the promise of a further (a third) Act of Decentralization one of the main planks of his election campaign.

There's a good explanatory article here. The aim is effectively to create a new regional authority with responsibility for housing, public transport, agriculture, tourism, economy, culture, the Basque language Euskara, and cross-border cooperation. A large rally is being held today in Bayonne in support of this, including:

Political parties of all colours (including representatives of the Socialist Party and UMP), unions, and hundreds of social and business leaders, among others. In addition, 103 of the 158 mayors have supported the Northern Basque Country's territorial claim.

The Territorial Coordinator stressed that the agreement reached in Iparralde Euskal Herria is historical: "There has never been such widespread agreement about the territorial collectivity. This initiative has been pondered and worked for a long time and reflects the political sensitivities and the diversity of the different sectors of society."

EITB, 31 May 2013

But even with such widespread support, there is going to be some resistance from within the French Government. The Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, said this on Thursday:

"I can tell you with the utmost clarity that neither a Basque department or a local authority are on the agenda of the government," said Mr. Valls in response to a question on this point at a press conference in Salles (Gironde), where he participated in a meeting on forest fires in the Landes.

"There may be proposals, events, forums, but these proposals have meaning only if they are within the laws of the Republic and under the constitution," he added.

Le Parisien, 30 May 2013

Well, that's the whole point of mass movements and political lobbying, isn't it? It will happen if there is enough political support to get it through the National Assembly, and the fact that people from both the Parti Socialiste and UMP support it is surely a hopeful sign. There is absolutely no constitutional reason why there shouldn't be a referendum on the issue. In April this year there was a referendum on the proposed merger of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin to create a similar Alsace Regional Authority ... though it was defeated, as reported here.

This map is from the Greens' (EELV) website, showing how they would like to see regional reorganization in France. As well as the split of Pyrénées-Atlantiques into Pays Basques and Béarn, Loire-Atlantique would be reunited with the other four Breton départments (another long-standing demand which has been given renewed momentum by Acte III de la décentralisation, as reported here) and Normandy would also be reunited.


Devolution in what has until now been one of the most highly centralized states in Europe might well turn out to be François Hollande's greatest legacy.

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