Wind power, a historical perspective

For those who think of wind turbines as an unwelcome modern addition to the landscape, I thought it would be a good idea to share a few paragraphs from an interesting account of their history I've just found, and reproduce some of the drawings from it.

Wind powered factories:
the history (and future) of industrial windmills

More than 900 years ago, medieval Europe became the first large civilization not to be run by human muscle power. Thousands and thousands of windmills and waterwheels, backed up by animal power, transformed industry and society radically. It was an industrial revolution entirely powered by renewable energy – something that we can (and do) only dream of today. Wind and water powered mills were in essence the first real factories in human history.

The amount of windmills in early medieval times remains unknown, because the few inventories that could be studied do not distinguish between water and wind powered mills. For instance, we know that there were between 10,000 and 12,000 mills in the UK in 1300, but we do not know how many of them were wind powered (it must have been a minority). All we have are data on individual windmills, which start to appear at the end of the 1200s. Only in the 1700s and 1800s, when windmill technology really caught on, more accurate inventories appear.

In 1750, there were 6,000 to 8,000 windmills in the Netherlands, in 1850 there were 9,000 of them. For comparison, this is almost 5 times as much as there are wind turbines in the Netherlands today (1,974 turbines as of September 2009). In the UK there were 5,000 to 10,000 windmills in 1820. France had 8,700 windmills (and 37,000 watermills) in 1847.

Germany had 18,242 windmills in 1895 (compared to around 18,000 wind turbines today) and Finland had 20,000 windmills in 1900. Portugal, Spain, several Mediterranean islands and many Eastern European and Scandinavian countries had many windmills, too. The total amount of wind powered mills in Europe was estimated to be around 200,000 (at its peak), compared to some 500,000 waterwheels. Windmills were built in the countryside and in cities, and even on the walls of castles and fortifications in order to catch more wind.



Resilience, 21 October 2009

So the number of windmills in the past was far greater than the number of wind turbines proposed now. Perhaps the most dense concentration of windmills was in Zaanstat, just north of Amsterdam. The following account, contemporary map and painting by Laurens Oomhein in 1756 are from Canon van de Zaanstreek.

In 1729, a new tax register for wind lease was set up, in which 635 mills were recorded: 245 sawmills, 160 oil mills, 61 hulling mills, 38 paper mills and many other mills, which all produced what could be manufactured with millstones and pistils. The mill and shipbuilding industries started all sorts of ancillary businesses such as huge mill factories, forges, rope-makers, compass makers, while the thriving whaling contributed much to the prosperity of the region. All this in turn led to an even stronger growth of the population.



To put things into a modern perspective, the largest windfarm in Wales, Gwynt y Môr, will have only 160 turbines. And even the huge Rhiannon windfarm proposed just north of Ynys Môn is likely to have between 145 and 440 turbines, depending on how big they are.

The only real difference (apart from wind turbines looking rather more elegant, although that is a matter of opinion, of course) is that modern wind turbines produce electricity rather than direct mechanical power ... but they do produce rather a lot of it. At 2.2GW, and even allowing for a pessimistic capacity factor of 25%, the Rhiannon windfarm alone (which is only the first of three windfarms in the zone) will produce more electricity in an average year than Wylfa A did.

Wylfa A

Installed capacity ... 980 MW
Capacity factor ... 56% (ref)
Average production = 0.98 GW x 24 hours x 365 days x 56% = 4,807 GWh/yr


Installed capacity ... 2.2 GW
Capacity factor ... 25%
Average production = 2.2 GW x 24 hours x 365 days x 25% = 4,818 GWh/yr

Capacity factor ... 35%
Average production = 2.2 GW x 24 hours x 365 days x 35% = 6,745 GWh/yr

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The shift from print to web readership

The latest regional newspaper circulation figures have just been published. There's a full list at Hold the Front Page, but these are the figures for the Welsh newspapers:

Daily Circulation

The Leader, Wrexham ... 14,322 ... 100% paid for... down 6.5%
The Western Mail ... 23,723 ... 94.6% paid for ... down 6.7%
North Wales Daily Post ... 28,331 ... 100% paid for ... down 7.4%
South Wales Argus ... 19,748 ... 100% paid for ... down 7.9%
South Wales Echo ... 27,700 ... 100% paid for ... down 8.2%
South Wales Evening Post ... 33,479 ... 98.2% paid for ... down 8.6%
Wales on Sunday ... 23,416 ... 100% paid for ... down 12.4%

Hold the Front Page, 28 August 2013

The figures are for the first half of 2013, compared with the same period last year. More detail is available from ABC by entering the name of the paper in the Certificate Finder search box.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about any of these figures. They simply show a continuation of the same general decline in printed newspaper circulation that has been apparent for some years. Only one newspaper in the whole of the UK has managed to buck the trend.


But it isn't all doom and gloom. The real question is whether people are getting the same news from the web editions of these newspapers instead and, thankfully, that information is also available. These are the Welsh figures:

Daily Unique Browsers ... 24,362 ... up 46.0% ... 63,972 ... up 16.7% ... 17,973 ... up 14.6%

Hold the Front Page, 28 August 2013

Again, the figures are for the first half of 2013, compared with the same period last year. Across the UK, all but four of the newspaper websites showed an increase.

These figures aren't directly comparable with the print figures – for example the WalesOnline figure will include content from the Western Mail, the South Wales Echo and Wales on Sunday – but, all in all, the increase in online readership more than compensates for the loss of print readership, which is encouraging and healthy from the point of view of informing the public about news and current affairs.


South Wales Evening Post
Print loss ... 2,835
Online gain ... 7,676
Difference ... 4,841

Western Mail / South Wales Echo / Wales on Sunday
Print loss ... 1,704 + 2,474 + 3,315 = 7,493
Online gain ... 9,155
Difference ... 1,662

North Wales Daily Post
Print loss ... 2,264
Online gain ... 2,289
Difference ... 25

But there are still questions to be asked. For example I think that people who buy a printed paper are likely to read all or most of its content, but that online readership will tend to be more focused on fewer pages. And of course there is also the question of how to make money from online editions ... especially when people (like me) block the advertisements.

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Reading ability in Welsh and English

The results of the first National Reading and Numeracy Tests were published last week and, even though these first results don't say too much because there is nothing to compare them with, there are still a few interesting things to be gleaned from them. The results can be downloaded from here.

With regard to reading, two main points have already been made in the media reports on the BBC, Wales Online and Golwg360. The first is that girls generally tend to do better than boys; and the second is that there is a marked dip in achievement between the last year of primary school (Year 6) and the first year of secondary school (Year 7).

However one of the things not picked up in the mainstream media is the difference between reading ability in Welsh and reading ability in English, with reading ability in Welsh being markedly higher. I've put together this graphic to illustrate the extent of the difference, click it to open a larger version.


In Year Groups 2 and 3 pupils took either the Welsh or the English reading test, according to the language in which they were being taught (some of the pupils being taught in Welsh in Year Group 3 were also tested in English, but those scores haven't been included). In the older Year Groups, all pupils took the English reading test, but only those being taught in Welsh took the Welsh reading test.

The scores for reading in Welsh are shown in red, with scores for reading in English shown in blue. Scores of between 85 and 115 are considered average and are centred on the axis, scores of less than 85 (shown darker on the left) are more than one standard deviation below the mean, and scores of above 115 (shown lighter on the right) are more than one standard deviation above the mean. Each bar is the same length (excluding only the very small percentages who were disapplied or absent) therefore the more the bar is shifted to the right of the axis, the better the overall score.

The Welsh bar is shifted more to the right in every year group tested, and in each of them a greater proportion of children achieved scores in the higher band in Welsh than in English. At the other end of the scale, there was only one instance (Year 8) where there was a larger percentage in the Welsh lower band than the English lower band. In total, the Welsh reading scores were 5.4% higher than the English reading scores.


As to the reason for this, I think it probably reflects the fact that Welsh is a much easier language to read than English, mainly because Welsh spelling is much more consistent than English spelling. As we'd expect, the difference is particularly evident in the early years. Nineteen times out of twenty (at a guess) a child will be able to understand a Welsh word they are unfamiliar with by pronouncing it as it is spelt, but English has so many irregular spellings that you can never be sure how to pronounce a word from the spelling alone. You need to work out what the word means from its context before knowing how to pronounce it correctly. This inherent advantage is reflected in the very low percentages of children that score below 85 in Welsh in Year 2 (0.8%) and Year 3 (2.7%). After that, English reading ability narrows the gap, but Welsh still remains comfortably ahead.

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Welsh Language GCSE Results, 2013

Continuing the trend set in previous years, I want to look at today's GCSE results to see what they can tell us about how Welsh is being taught in our schools.

There are three different types of Welsh GCSE: Welsh First Language, Welsh Second Language (full course) and Welsh Second Language (short course). However a substantial number of Year 11 students, even though they study Welsh, still do not take any Welsh GCSE. The number of entries for each can therefore be used as one indicator of the state of Welsh teaching in our schools.


This year the figures are quite encouraging. Although the size of the cohort has increased by about 1,500 compared with last year, the number taking Welsh GCSEs has increased even more. So in both numerical and percentage terms Welsh First Language entries this year are higher than ever before, Welsh GCSE entries at all levels are higher than ever before, and those students not taking any form of Welsh GCSE has now fallen to its lowest level ever.

Total number of students aged 15 at start of year
36,782 (was 35,207) ... up 1,575

Welsh First Language
5,636 entries (15.32% of year) ... was 5,224 (14.84%) ... up 412 (up 0.48%p)

Welsh Second Language (full course)
10,183 entries (27.68% of year) ... was 9,728 (27.63%) ... up 455 (up 0.05%p)

Welsh Second Language (short course)
14,744 entries (40.17% of year) ... was 13,685 (38.87%) ... up 1,059 (up 1.30%p)

Total Welsh Entries
30,593 entries (83.17% of year) ... was 28,637 (81.34%) ... up 1,956 (up 1.83%p)

Number who did not take any Welsh GCSE
6,189 (16.83% of year) ... was 6,570 (18.66%) ... down 381 (down 1.83%p)

Source for GCSE results
Source for Cohort Size

The tables below show how the numbers and percentages have changed over the last 15 years, and a spreadsheet with all the details is available here:

For me, the most important numbers are those taking a Welsh First Language GCSE. There has been a steady increase over the last 15 years from 10.94% in 1998 to 15.32% this year. In percentage terms (as opposed to percentage points) that is a 40% increase.

More disappointing is the fact that the percentage taking the Welsh Second Language full GCSE has remained relatively static. It has been at about 27% for the last five years, and is still lower than it was ten years ago when it stood at around 31%. To me this represents a failure at school level. I would have expected more schools to offer (and timetable for) the full course rather than the short course, but the evidence clearly shows that there has been no real overall change for the past eight years. This is something that the Welsh Government should have addressed before, and certainly needs to address now.

The big increase has been in the numbers and percentages taking the Welsh Second Language short course GCSE. The number taking it has increased from 6,910 in 2001 to 14,774 this year, and the percentage has increased from 18.68% to 40.17% over the same period. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the short course WSL GCSE is not really a very good measure of a student's competence in Welsh. But on the other hand many students will not have a choice about whether to take the full or short WSL course if their school only teaches the short course; and it is therefore a very positive sign that more students are themselves opting to take the only Welsh GCSE that is available to them rather than thinking so little of the language that they don't bother to sit the GCSE at all.


In overall terms it is remarkable that fifteen years ago, when those taking their GCSEs this year were born, two-thirds of the cohort (66.28%) did not take any Welsh GCSE at all. Now the figure not taking any Welsh GCSE has fallen to only 16.83%. But in numerical terms that is more than 6,000 children who have been taught Welsh for the whole of their time at school, yet come out with nothing to show for it. So although things are moving in the right direction, there is still some way to go.

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The Agricultural Wages (Wales) Bill

I was impressed by Manon George's account on ClickonWales of the Agricultural Wages (Wales) Bill and the legal issues that will now need to be considered by the UK's Supreme Court as a result of the Attorney General referring it to them. Emyr Lewis's comment was very informative, and this Research Note should also be helpful for those who want more background information.

However, although the Supreme Court will primarily consider the legal aspects of this case there are also political aspects, and it is these that I would like to focus on here.


It has been apparent since December last year that the UK Government wished to abolish Agricultural Wages Board for Englandandwales, therefore one question to be asked is why the Welsh Government left it for a full six months before introducing a bill to retain (and indeed to enhance and modernize) its functions for Wales only. The major criticism levelled at the WG by the opposition parties in the Assembly is that it should surely have been possible to attempt to reach a satisfactory conclusion during this period rather than only introduce it at the last moment by means of emergency legislation.

This criticism isn't entirely fair, for the WG did at least try to take up the matter by means of a Legislative Consent Motion in January this year, but opposition AMs blocked it in the Assembly. However the opportunity of trying to resolve the issue at inter-governmental level did at one time appear to have been open, for the UK minister involved had said:

"There are constitutional issues which I'm not going to go into. This is not a devolved matter at the moment – agriculture is, but wages control is not.

"That doesn't stop us having a perfectly sensible dialogue with Welsh colleagues to see if we can find a way forward."

BBC, 16 October 2012

"At the moment", "sensible dialogue" and "to see if we can find a way forward" are strong hints that the UKG would have considered devolving the functions of the AWB to Wales ... although whether this was ever intended as a sincere offer is another question entirely, and one that it's probably better not to address. What we can say is that, for whatever reason or reasons, devolution of responsibility for the specific functions of the AWB to Wales did not happen.

By not reaching an agreement on the specific matter of whether the functions of the AWB should be devolved to Wales, the case must now be decided on the general matter of whether aspects of control over, say, wages and conditions within a devolved subject area are, to use the words of the previous Supreme Court judgment on bylaws, "incidental to and consequential on" the exercise of legislating in that devolved subject area. I think the Supreme Court is highly unlikely to make a specific ruling on whether the functions of the AWB should be devolved to Wales, for that would be to usurp a political decision. It is only likely to rule on the general principle of legality, and what applies to one devolved area must then equally apply to other devolved areas.

It remains to be seen what arguments will be adopted by both sides when the matter comes before the Supreme Court, but it seems clear to me that, in general terms, control of wages and conditions in a devolved subject area is likely to be thought of as incidental. The situation in both Scotland and the Six Counties is the same as it is in Wales in these two respects: agriculture is devolved to all three legislatures, but employment is not devolved to any of the three legislatures. Nevertheless, Scotland and the Six Counties have their own Agricultural Wages Boards, and can therefore control aspects of wages and employment conditions for agricultural workers, even though employment is not devolved to them. Therefore in terms of general principle, Wales must also be able to control aspects of wages and employment conditions for agricultural workers without it compromising or contradicting the fact that employment is not devolved to Wales.


This is where things get interesting, for if this general principle is upheld by the Supreme Court it opens the way for what Emyr Lewis calls "a Pandora's box of legislative possibilities". I don't think it is at all likely that the Assembly will want to make laws on the armed forces or immigration (the subjects Emyr mentions) but I think that the Assembly would look very seriously at legislating to control aspects of wages and employment conditions in, for example, education.

Education is unquestionably devolved to Wales, but teachers' pay and conditions are not. At present the School Teachers' Review Body makes recommendations regarding employment terms and conditions for teachers in Englandandwales, and can therefore be said to perform a roughly similar function to the old Agricultural Wages Board for Englandandwales. Scotland has its own separate body, the SNCT. One obvious question is why, if the current UKG was determined to abolish the AWB for Englandandwales, it didn't also act to abolish the STRB at the same time. The answer is that it doesn't need to, because the STRB only makes recommendations for teachers in local authority controlled schools, and these schools are rapidly becoming a thing of the past in England as a range of central government sticks and carrots either force or entice schools out of local authority control. These schools are then able to determine the pay and conditions of the teachers they employ without reference to STRB recommendations. Why abolish something that is already withering away?

In Wales the situation is different. We have very few schools that are not under local authority control, and the current WG is determined to make sure that things stay this way. Another factor in Wales is the increased importance of teaching assistants, particularly because of the higher adult to child ratio required to deliver the Foundation Phase. Only a few weeks ago the lack of nationally agreed rates for teaching assistants was highlighted by Unison, but the WG is quoted as saying:

"We do not have the power to act with regards to pay and conditions of support staff."

BBC, 24 July 2013

Therefore if the Supreme Court upholds the general principle that control of certain aspects of the terms and conditions of workers in a devolved subject area are "incidental to and consequential on" the Assembly's right to legislate in that area, it would be possible, entirely reasonable, and (from my point of view) desirable to establish an "Educational Wages Board" that would set down minimum terms and conditions for all those involved in education in Wales, covering all grades of qualified teachers, non-qualified teachers, teaching assistants and support staff ... and not just in the maintained sector, but extending to the independent sector as well. We in Plaid Cymru would certainly welcome it. This is from the same article:

Simon Thomas, education spokesman for Plaid Cymru, said teaching assistants had become "essential" and suggested devolving pay of teachers to Wales to enable a national package to be put together to manage the terms of all education workers.


So although the Supreme Court will primarily concern itself with whether the National Assembly has the legal competence to enact the Agricultural Wages (Wales) Bill 2013, the consequence of a decision to uphold it will be to extend a general principle to other devolved areas.

In political terms, the current UKG might well have shot itself in the foot by not reaching a specific agreement with the WG to devolve the functions of the AWB to Wales (which it could easily have done by amending the scope of Schedule 7 under the provisions of Section 109 of the GoWA 2006) and intransigently refusing to accept that this was a matter that concerned the National Assembly in any way at all.

Or, from a different perspective, one might say that by passing this legislation without reference to the UKG (the WG tried, but failed, to get an LCM through the Assembly) the WG have now managed to engineer a situation where a general principle of devolution law can be tested in the Supreme Court, with the consequence of extending the devolution settlement beyond what it would have been if a specific agreement on devolving the functions of the AWB had been reached. Clever design, or happy accident? I'll go for serendipity, I don't think anyone in the Welsh Government is that clever.

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Carl Clowes on Wylfa B

This letter from Dr Carl Clowes in Wednesday's Western Mail provides a very welcome perspective on how unlikely it is that Wylfa B will ever be constructed.

Nuclear power is not worth the risks


SIR – Despite numerous attempts by pro-nuclear politicians to push the propaganda that Wylfa B will go ahead, there is little chance it will ever be built – we have been here before!

Does the following sound familiar?

In the early 1980s Mrs Thatcher had a plan to build 10 nuclear power stations in the UK. The Central Electricity Generating Board built the first one, Sizewell B, over about 13 years, from planning to starting generation.

The second of the 10 reactors was scheduled to be Hinkley C in Somerset, a copy of the Sizewell reactor. But even though Mrs. Thatcher had the authority to build Hinkley C following a lengthy public inquiry, and with all the taxpayer money available via the CEGB, Hinkley C was never built.

Why not? It was a combination of two key factors.

The first factor was the rising costs of nuclear energy. During an extensive public inquiry the true escalating costs of nuclear compared with other forms of generation were exposed to the public and the government.

Post-Fukushima, the costs of building untried EPR reactors have risen dramatically to £14bn and are still rising. In fact so much so that initial claims by the government, that in today’s free market, the mature nuclear technology would be built without subsidies from the taxpayer no longer have any credibility.

The present Westminster government is trying to rig the market to force electricity consumers to pay prices for electricity well over the odds for the next 35-40 years. This will enable the French government, 90% shareholders in EDF, scheduled to build Hinkley C, to make huge profits at our expense.

Westminster also wants taxpayers to guarantee the building costs of these reactors by providing a £10bn government loan if construction costs overrun as they are doing everywhere else.

Both electricity consumers and taxpayers will pay through the nose for any new nuclear reactors and our children, for generations to come, will be paying the unknown and ever rising costs of dealing with the very hot radioactive waste produced by the reactors for thousands of years to come.

In this context the government faces a judicial review and challenge from Greenpeace which questions the validity of the government progressing with new reactors when there is no known way of dealing with the long-term disposal of nuclear waste.

The second factor was that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred in Ukraine but the environmental problems spread on the wind to many countries, including our own.

Today, in Japan, 2½ years after the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there is a never-ending crisis. Three nuclear reactors are in meltdown and need to be constantly cooled.

As a result, 400 tons of radioactive water is being produced everyday with an ever-growing problem of storing hundreds of thousands of tons of contaminated water. Space is limited and many of the tanks and reservoirs are leaking into the ground water and now into the sea, contaminating important stocks of fish.

The costs of the Fukushima disaster, both financially and environmentally, are being dismissed by the nuclear industry, Thankfully, however, the financial investors of the world are at last realizing the disastrous costs that can arise from investing in nuclear.

Mrs Thatcher could not fulfil her nuclear dream and there is little chance of David Cameron doing so. The main difference in the interim, as Germany and other countries have seen, is the increasing emphasis on energy conservation and the rapid development of alternative energies.

Developed sensitively, these resources, some of the best of which are found on and around Ynys Môn, have the capacity to more than meet the energy requirements of Wales and meet our own particular employment requirements on the island.

Why are we even contemplating the risk?

Let’s get on and do today what is practical within our own resources, both human and financial.

Dr Carl Iwan Clowes
Rhoscefnhir, Ynys Môn

Western Mail, 14 August 2013

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Rhun ap Iorwerth and Rod Richards

Rhun ap Iorwerth and Rod Richards have more in common than either would be likely to admit. Both were media personalities and both recently joined political parties in the expectation of immediately being selected as candidates.

So we can perhaps imagine Rod's surprise to find out that he had to go through a rigorous selection procedure, and his disappointment to find out that he didn't perform very well in it. UKIP's chairman described it like this:

The assessment process is immensely detailed and multi-faceted and has been devised to be as objective as possible.

We had 140 would-be candidates and had to whittle them down to 70. Rod hasn't been a member for very long and was at a slight disadvantage because he was not so au fait with our ways as others might be.

Wales Online, 15 August 2013

Isn't it strange that one party regards not being a member for very long as a disadvantage, yet the other party regards not knowing about a new member's political views as something that can be overlooked ... only to later find out that the new member actually opposes one of his party's key policies, tells blatant lies about it, and admits that he will vote against his party colleagues if he gets the chance to do so?

It's a sorry day for Plaid Cymru when even UKIP can teach us a lesson on how to select candidates in an objective and professional way.

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Even after the National Assembly has passed a Bill, it cannot come into force for at least four weeks. This is technically known as the Period of Intimidation* (National Assembly Guidance, Sections 9 and 10).

During this period, the Counsel General or the Attorney General can threaten to refer the legality of the Bill, or any provision of the Bill, to the Supreme Court. Or the Secretary of State for Wales may make an order prohibiting the Clerk of the Assembly from submitting the Bill for Royal Assent.

The UK Attorney General has now gone through with this threat over the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill which was passed last month. How dare the National Assembly pass bills that the UK Government doesn't like.

* Strangely, when I re-checked the references I found that it is called the Period of Intimation, not Intimidation. However the definition of what it's for is exactly the same.

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Satisfaction, Trust and Performance

There's a wealth of information in the public opinion survey that has just been published by the Silk Commission, which can be downloaded in either Welsh or English.

However before looking in detail at the powers and responsibilities that should be devolved to Wales, I thought it might be good to look at what the survey says about how well our National Assembly compares with the UK Parliament in Westminster.


People were asked to rate how well the National Assembly and UK Parliament were doing their job on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being extremely satisfied.


In general terms, if we take ratings of 7 and above as positive, a rating of 5 or 6 as neutral, and ratings of 4 and below as negative, we get:

National Assembly ... 38% positive ... 38% neutral ... 25% negative
UK Parliament ... 15% positive ... 38% neutral ... 47% negative

This speaks volumes, but perhaps the most damning fact is that the percentage of people who think Westminster does a bad job is more than three times larger than the percentage who think it does a good job. In contrast, more people are satisfied with the National Assembly than are dissatisfied with it.


People were asked the extent to which they trusted the National Assembly and UK Parliament to act in the best interests of Wales.


This finding is absolutely astounding. The percentage that trusts the National Assembly a great deal is nearly ten times greater than the percentage that trusts Westminster a great deal.

In general terms, if we take "trust a great deal" and "trust to some extent" as an indication of trust, and "don't trust that much" and "don't trust at all" as an indication of lack of trust, we get:

National Assembly ... 79% trust it ... 20% don't trust it
UK Parliament ... 37% trust it ... 62% don't trust it


People were asked whether the National Assembly has done a better or worse job for Wales than the UK Parliament.


Again, I find these figures astounding. Six times as many people think devolution to the National Assembly has made things better for Wales than think it has made things worse.

National Assembly has made things better ... 48%
National Assembly has made things worse ... 8%

There are slight variations across Wales; but by gender, age, socio-economic group, identity and region, many more people think that the National Assembly has done better for Wales compared with Westminster


The decisions that are made about what further powers and responsibilities should be devolved from Westminster to Wales need to be seen in this context. When it comes to satisfaction, trust and performance, people in Wales think the National Assembly has done better than Westminster by some very considerable margins.

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Cumhachd niuclach? Cha ghabh idir

There's a timely post on Bella Caledonia today about the worsening situation at Fukushima.

     Right Now, We Have an Emergency at Fukushima …

As I'm sure most people in Wales will know, the SNP is completely opposed to nuclear power, in spite of the employment opportunities building new nuclear power stations would undoubtedly bring on sites like Hunterston and Torness, or the already closed Chapelcross nuclear power station.


One difference between Scotland and Wales is that Scotland can determine their energy policy for themselves, and not have decisions imposed on them by a government in Westminster.

One difference between the SNP and Plaid Cymru is that the SNP do not allow mavericks within their party to get away with telling lies about their energy policy and, in so doing, undermine their credibility as a party. As a result of this hard-earned credibility (not just on energy, but on other matters) the SNP are now the majority party in Scotland.

If Plaid Cymru ever wants to be a party of government for the whole of Wales, we would do well to take some lessons from the SNP about principle and consistency.

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Better viewed from a distance

Because it is so fundamental to the British establishment's sense of British identity, the BBC can hardly be expected to offer impartial coverage of the Scottish independence referendum, although their coverage of events in Russia would probably be quite fair and balanced because they have no axe to grind.

And the same is true in reverse. Russia Today exists to portray a favourable picture of Russia to the world, and what it says about Russia has to be seen in that light. But its coverage of events outside Russia seems quite fair and balanced. Watch this Sophie Shevardnadze interview with Alex Salmond and judge for yourselves. It's one of the better ones I've seen.


Hat-tip to Tris at Munguin's Republic. And, thanks to Frankly, I've found out there's a transcript of the interview here.

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More than a million

I don't often draw attention to the number of hits Syniadau receives, although there is a link to my StatCounter statistics at the bottom of the column on the right which I try to update every month or so.

However I've just reached a milestone that I'd like to celebrate with everybody who has taken an interest in this blog over the years. Syniadau has now had more than a million page loads since it started in April 2009.

Having reached seven figures, I looked back at what I said when my visitor count reached six figures, and can only repeat what I said then, though with even more gratitude than before:

More than anything, I owe a big thank you to everybody who reads this blog: to those who come every day, and to those who only come once in a while ... to those who've made comments, and to those who've just read what I and those who have written guest posts have to say ... to those who want to see an independent Wales as much as I do, and to those who aren't yet convinced.

I hope Syniadau has been able to stimulate our thinking about what sort of country Wales can and should be, for it is entirely in our hands to make our country what we want it to be.

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Repairing the damage

Now is the time to look back at the Ynys Môn by-election and take a hard look at what went wrong for Plaid Cymru. Went wrong? Of course there will be some people who think nothing went wrong: that it was a spectacular victory for the party with a huge winning margin. But when the euphoria dies down and the empty bottles of champagne get put into the recycling bin, I think people will realize that this victory is one that will cause the party problems for years into the future.

We might think we can get away with throwing away our principles for a single by-election in a seat that was always going to be safe at Assembly level, but we won't be able to do that in a general election, either for the Assembly or for Westminster. To do well across Wales we will need to find our principles again and stick to a coherent set of policies for the whole of Wales.


A flawed selection process

I've already addressed this in previous posts, particularly this one. In a nutshell, the first problem was the decision to allow Rhun to put himself forward for selection, even though nobody apart from those in his immediate circle could have any idea about his opinion on political issues or his qualities as a candidate. It was a needless gamble, and we've paid the price for our lack of due diligence. Someone who looked plausible has in fact turned out to be a conman who has shafted us.

Of course there were some people in the party who knew exactly what Rhun was going to do, but I suspect there were only a few. The rest were duped. They took things on trust that they should have taken the time to test. In our party constitution there is a rule that no one can stand as a candidate at national level unless they have been a member for a year. That rule is there for a good reason, it gives us time to see what that person is made of; what their political beliefs are and how they will behave in different situations. The National Executive, though by no means everyone on it, decided to waive that rule. They were wrong to do so.

But that bad decision was immediately made worse by Ieuan Wyn Jones reneging on what he had said he would do. I'm sure the original statement he made would have been discussed and agreed with other members of the Plaid Group in the Assembly, namely that he would continue to do both jobs for a while and step down as a AM at some time before 2016. That breathing space could have been a factor in the decision to allow Rhun to be a candidate. Those on the National Executive who were unsure about Rhun might have felt that an election some time between now and 2016 would have provided enough opportunity for people to assess whether Rhun would be a suitable Plaid Cymru candidate. But Ieuan's immediate U-turn meant that there was no time for anyone in the party to properly scrutinize potential candidates for the seat. Local members were forced into making an instant decision at one hustings meeting.

However, as I made clear in this comment, my criticism at that point in time was aimed at the National Executive of the party and at Ieuan Wyn Jones. Some people assumed I was attacking Rhun and trying to undermine him, but the only criticism I made of Rhun at the time was that he was being presumptuous and that he was not doing enough to tell us where he stood on the issues. Presumptuousness is not an especially bad thing for an ambitious man who wants a career in politics. But I also said it would be very different if it ever came to light that Rhun was involved in arranging what happened.

Immediately after Rhun's selection

As I was not at the hustings, I cannot know for sure what Rhun said. However I was told by someone who I have every reason to trust that what Rhun said about Wylfa B was "more or less identical" to what Ann Griffiths and Heledd Fychan said about it. As Heledd said she was opposed to nuclear power, it seems clear that Rhun did not say that he supported it in the hustings. But I don't need to rely on that alone. It was confirmed in two public statements Rhun made immediately after he had been selected: first in the Daily Post, then on his own blog.

In this post I described what he said in the Daily Post as "tortuously ambiguous". He had accurately expressed half of Plaid Cymru's position on nuclear power, but had not mentioned the other half. Yet the approach I took was not to condemn him for it, but to explain why it would be much better if he took the trouble to present a more balanced picture of party policy.

Fair play to him, Rhun responded by making a more detailed statement in his blog a couple of days later, which I wrote about in this post. I warmly welcomed the things that Rhun added, but I also noted that he had still not given a straight answer to the fundamental question of whether he supported or opposed Wylfa B.

He said he would "listen to the people", and I told him exactly where he could find a survey of what local people thought about it. I was content to leave it at that. It seemed clear to me that he was trying to take the same line as Ieuan Wyn Jones had taken before him. It was painful to listen to and cringingly embarrassing but, as I said later, it is better for Ynys Môn to have a Plaid AM who is ambiguous about whether he supports or opposes nuclear energy than a Labour AM who unambiguously supports it.

At that time Rhun had my support and I was completely confident he would win. Any candidate we had selected would win, not because of their media profile, but because of the hard work done by members of the party over many years. That's why we had done so well in the local elections in May. It was so obvious that we would win that I make jokes about the rather corny graphics that had just appeared on Plaid T-shirts. Yet some people, Cai Larsen in particular, had already got it into their heads that I was trying to undermine Rhun and engineer a Labour victory ... just read the comments that he wrote.

What then changed

On 20 July, I found out from Ifan Morgan Jones' blog that Rhun had tweeted this message:

As I said in this post, Rhun had suddenly shifted from his previous position of not saying whether he supported Wylfa B to a position of actively supporting it. He had moved from a position of supporting some aspects of Plaid's policy on nuclear power to a position where he was now openly and actively opposing Plaid's policy. Rhun had only been a potential liability before then; now he had become a real liability.

With hindsight I think Rhun might have done this for one of two reasons, but both of them are bad. One explanation is that he was being goaded by Labour, who were making all sorts of silly accusations to try and catch him off balance. At one time they were saying that his ambivalence about whether or not he supported Wylfa B was a sign that he secretly supported it; but when another Labour goon suggested that it was a sign that he was secretly against Wylfa B it proved so offensive to him that he felt he had to say he supported it. If this is what happened it was a result of his political immaturity and lack of experience in fighting election campaigns. I can imagine Ieuan putting his head in his hands in despair, muttering, "I managed to be ambiguous for thirty years, but the boy can't even manage thirty days."

The other explanation is that Rhun had now realized that he was so far in front in the election campaign that he could afford to say what he really thought about nuclear power. He'd already been selected; he'd already got endorsements from party leaders; so he could now dispense with the carefully prepared ambiguity he had used to get selected and say whatever he liked.


It doesn't really matter which of these explanations is true. All that actually matters is the fact that he had now moved from a position that was compromised but at least reflected some parts of Plaid's policy to one that openly opposed Plaid's policy. He was now undermining the party he was meant to be standing for.

If it had been a careless slip there was a chance that he could at least try to get back on the fence again. He could perhaps say that the tweet had been sent in the heat of the moment during a hectic campaign and that what he really meant, if he had had more than 140 characters in which to say it, was ...

Or he could have come clean and said, "Sorry I misled you before, but I don't in fact agree with Plaid Cymru's policy on this issue." That would at least have been honest. But instead of doing that he decided to try and justify himself by resorting to blatant lies. Instead of acknowledging that Plaid's policy is to be totally opposed to the construction of any new nuclear power station, including Wylfa B, he started repeating the cock and bull story that Plaid's policy was only to be opposed to power stations on new sites, not existing ones. When he said it on Sunday Supplement, Vaughan Roderick—who, like any journalist, can't be expected to know every detail of Plaid Cymru's policy—was only able to say that it was having our cake in Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Ynys Môn and eating it elsewhere, details here. But Rhun then went on to repeat the same lie on Pawb a'i Farn on Monday. This time Dewi Llwyd—probably because he had read Syniadau—was able to take him to task and point out in no uncertain terms that Rhun was lying. Rhun's reaction was to start throwing mud at every other party, but doing that can neither hide nor justify Rhun's dishonesty.

On Sunday Supplement he also said that he would vote against Plaid Cymru if the matter of nuclear power ever came up at the Assembly. Odd, isn't it, that Rhun's supporters accuse me of being disloyal to the party, when it was Rhun who was now openly admitting that he would be disloyal to the party.


Plaid Cymru's policy

At this point I think it is worth taking a detour to look in more detail at what Plaid Cymru's policies are and how we formulate them. Plaid Cymru is actually quite bad at making policy. I have lost count of the number of times I have asked what Plaid's policy on this or that subject is, expecting to be directed to a definitive policy paper that had been written this year, last year or five years ago ... often to be told there wasn't one. Making policy and explaining to members what our policies are was one of the weaknesses addressed in Eurfyl ap Gwilym's review, and we had responded by appointing a very good Director of Policy and Education to coordinate it. It's a shame that this has now gone to waste.

However, because nuclear power had been such a contentious issue, we had already spent a lot of time and trouble (and perhaps shed a few drops of blood along the way) to define exactly what our policy on nuclear power is. We voted on every aspect of it at conference so that our policy reflected the views of the majority of the party. There are some clauses in it that I would prefer not to be in it; some clauses were excluded that I would have wanted to be included; but in the end we reached agreement. There is therefore no room for any doubt at all about what our policy is, and I have on many occasions referred to it in full, being careful not only to focus on the parts I fully agree with, but also on the parts that I didn't fully agree with [click to display].

As I see it, accepting the decisions reached by a majority in a democratic process is the mark of political maturity, and it is the collective responsibility of every member of the party to accept what we as a party decide. That's what party discipline is about, and without it we will never be an effective party. Yet we have some recalcitrant party members who point-blank refuse to accept decisions we make that they don't like. John Dixon, who knew much more than me about the petty factions and infighting that takes behind the scenes when he was Chairman of the party, explained that very well in this post on Wednesday.

Some things therefore need to be said very clearly, because it is obvious that quite a few people need to be firmly reminded about them:

First, that the majority of people in Plaid are totally opposed to building any new nuclear power stations in Wales, including Wylfa B.

Second, that even though there is a minority in the party who support Wylfa B, most of them are mature enough to acknowledge that our anti-nuclear policy has been put together in a democratic way, and accept it for that reason. Only a small core of recalcitrants have resorted to telling lies about it and misrepresenting it, but as a result of them doing it others have unwittingly repeated those lies.

Third, that anyone in the party who is pro-nuclear is free to try and change party policy, providing they realize that the only way to change the decision is to bring the matter before conference again and make their case there. If their arguments convince a majority, our policy will change. But until or unless that happens, party policy is going to remain firmly anti-nuclear.

Back to Rhun

Having shown what Plaid Cymru policy on nuclear power actually is, and having explained that there is no way of changing it except by raising the matter again at conference, it is time to return to Rhun's character and behaviour.

Rhun told blatant lies about Plaid's policy and he fully deserves to be criticized for it. The double standards of those who have criticized me for undermining the party are breathtaking. I have consistently stood up for Plaid Cymru and our policies. It is Rhun who has undermined the party and brought it into disrepute by using deceit.

John Dixon is wrong about only one thing: I have not singled-out Rhun for criticism. I have treated Rhun in exactly the same way as I have treated others who have tried to mislead the public about Plaid's nuclear policy. When Elfyn Llwyd did it on Question Time in June 2011, I criticized him for it here. When Bob Parry, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Ynys Môn, did it in Golwg in October 2011, I criticized him for it here. When Dafydd Elis-Thomas did it in the campaign to be leader of Plaid Cymru on Sharp End in February last year, I criticized him for it here. They were telling barefaced lies, and I was not afraid to tell anyone who reads Syniadau that this is what they were doing.

My motive throughout is that I care about Plaid Cymru and am not prepared to see our party being misrepresented though their lies. I have been completely consistent in criticizing those in the party who are clearly too afraid to try and change Plaid's policy by arguing their position in an open and democratic way, but instead try to do it by subterfuge and manipulation. I had my suspicions about Rhun from the start, but I only turned my fire on him when he proved that my suspicions about him were justified. Rhun has shown himself to be another member of that narrow-interest clique, and he has received exactly the same treatment from me as the others did. He has only himself to blame for that.


What Plaid Cymru should do now

The spinelessness of people in the party who should have spoken out and reaffirmed Plaid Cymru's total opposition to Wylfa B is very disappointing. Senior figures who have in the past not been afraid to say that Plaid is opposed to Wylfa B now need to make their voices heard again. If you don't—for I am now talking to you directly—public perception that we are a party that will throw away any of our principles for short-term gain will only grow stronger. We will be thought of as nothing more than a bunch of cynical hypocrites who would sell our own mothers if we thought it would give us an electoral advantage.

Rhun, by suddenly shifting his position half way through the campaign, after he had been allowed to stand, after he had been selected, and only when it was clear to him that he would win the seat, went off like a loose cannon and has done immense damage to the reputation of our party. Don't kid yourselves about the scale of the victory. It was a safe seat and our main opposition had all but crumbled. We would have won it just as easily if we had selected a better candidate with the strength of character not to use deceit. Winning seats across Wales will be much harder. We won't be able to get away with having 40 different, contradictory sets of policies for 40 seats. We will need one coherent policy package that works for all parts of Wales.

So don't bury your heads and imagine this will all blow over. The grass-roots majority that has consistently reaffirmed our opposition to nuclear power will not let you get away with it. Trech gwlad nag arglwydd. The people of the land are more important than its leaders.

This damage needs to be repaired rather than ignored. It will be an uphill task. You need to go back and find your principles, give voice to them, and learn not to throw them away so easily next time. It is the only way to stop the party being a laughing stock outside our heartlands. It is the only way we will break the perception that we care about pork-barrel politics for a few Welsh-speaking areas rather than policies for the whole of Wales. And it is the only way we will make enough electoral headway to have any hope of leading a future Welsh Government.

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