Misdirecting EU funds away from Wales

Last week, WalesOnline carried a story in which Jill Evans drew attention to Wales being omitted from a map of critical EU transport routes. She also wrote about it on her blog, here.


The map in question shows the main connexion between Britain and Ireland as being between Liverpool and Dublin. At first I wondered whether this was just a graphical error, so I decided to look at the actual document itself, which is here.

The document identifies nine critical Core Network Corridors, and Britain and Ireland form the northern part of the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor. This map from the document shows things in more detail:


From this more detailed map, it should be obvious that the main link between England and the Irish Republic is across north Wales and from the port of Holyhead. Yet, incredibly, Holyhead is not even marked as a port, even though Liverpool is. To demonstrate how ridiculous this is, these are the latest figures for sea passenger traffic between Britain and the Republic of Ireland:

Sea Passenger Traffic, 2012

Holyhead-Dublin ... 1,709,000
Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire ... 189,000
Fishguard-Rosslare ... 364,000
Pembroke-Rosslare ... 329,000
Liverpool-Dublin ... 121,000

Sea Passenger Statistics, 2012 – Data Table spas0102.csv

The combined total for Holyhead is 1,898,000 ... this means that it is more than 15 times more significant than Liverpool as a port for traffic to and from Ireland.


The reason for the EU's TEN-T project is outlined in the foreword to the document I linked to:

... experience shows that planning and budgets from a national perspective do not give a sufficiently high priority to multi-national cross-border investments to equip the single market with the infrastructure it needs. This is one more example of the added value of the EU budget. With the Connecting Europe Facility, it can secure funding for the pan-European projects that connect the centre and the periphery, to the benefit of all.

Parts of these corridors already exist, building on the success stories of the past TEN-T policy. But essential missing links, especially cross-border links, East-West connections, still need to be joined up.

In other words, this EU funding is meant to be specifically allocated to facilitate those projects which a member state's government does not consider to be in its immediate national interest to develop, but which are of significance in terms of linking member states. It is therefore of very great concern that the UK Government identifies these as the specific, pre-identified, projects to receive this EU funding:

Belfast ... Port, multimodal connections

Glasgow-Edinburgh ... Rail

Manchester-Liverpool ... Rail
Upgrading and electrification, including Northern Hub

Birmingham-Reading-Southampton ... Rail
Upgrading of the freight line

Dublin, Cork, Southampton ... Ports, Rail
Studies and works on port capacity, MoS and interconnections

Felixstowe-Midlands ... Rail, port, multimodal platforms
Rail upgrading, interconnections, port and multimodal platforms

The only one of these projects in the immediate area is upgrading and electrifying the Liverpool-Manchester rail link and creating a Northern Hub. This is, of course, a worthy project in and of itself ... but it is already budgeted for and set to go ahead, and has very little (if anything at all) to do with improving the transport links between two EU member states. It therefore seems clear to me that the UKG is attempting to divert EU funds specifically designed for another purpose towards an internal project that it has already allocated funds for.

This new EU funding would be far better directed at upgrading and electrifying the line between Crewe and Holyhead as part of the essential rail corridor to Ireland, a project that is still very much in the balance. In fact this EU funding could make all the difference to whether it happens any time soon or not.

So what is now required is concerted action to make sure this new EU money is used for the purpose for which it is intended, rather than diverted to subsidize a project which has already been budgeted for. The Welsh Government needs to make this point, and so does the Secretary of State for Wales. After all, David Jones is on record as wanting to make the case for electrification of the north Wales main line. A fair share of the €26bn of EU funds on offer will probably make all the difference to the business case for it.

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We got it

The news that Wales has secured a Barnett consequential for Treasury expenditure on HS2 is a huge victory for Plaid Cymru.


I'll write more on it later.

Update - 19:15, 23 October 2013

Owen has just provided a link to David Cornock's article. It appears to be Jane Hutt's gaffe, but I don't want to do recriminations. I'm just glad that at least three parties, Plaid, Labour and the LibDems all agree that we should get a Barnett consequential.

In fact, now that the LibDems have said this in such an explicit way, Danny Alexander as Chief Secretary to the Treasury might now be honour-bound to pull his finger out and make sure we get it. Or he might just say, "Peter ... who?" The battle goes on.

There's an interesting take on the non-story here. And the Six Counties obviously want the consequential too. It's quite impossible for anybody to argue that HS2 benefits the north of Ireland.

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Conspicuous by their absence

Paul Flynn is one Welshman who has been consistent in his opposition to nuclear power. As I've just discovered from this post on his blog, he has tabled an early day motion at Westminster which reads:


That this House recalls the Coalition Agreement said that new nuclear power stations would be permitted 'provided that they receive no public subsidy'; believes that the present proposed deals guarantee a fixed subsidy for 40 years at double the current cost of electricity; further notes that any future cost escalation will be paid for from the public purse as a subsidy; further notes that the current nuclear waste clean-up costs being met by taxpayers add up to over £75 billion; further believes that any deal done with Chinese financiers to support the building of nuclear power plants will inevitably result in massive future liabilities to British taxpayers; and calls on the Coalition to honour its own agreement and cancel all subsidies.

Early day motion 568

This is a motion that Plaid Cymru MPs should be able to support with absolutely no difficulty. After all, our policy is one of total opposition to any new nuclear power stations; something that we overwhelmingly reaffirmed at our conference just over a week ago.

But look again at the list of supporters:

Campbell, Ronnie ... Labour Party, Blyth Valley
Caton, Martin ... Labour Party, Gower
Corbyn, Jeremy ... Labour Party, Islington North
Durkan, Mark ... Social Democratic and Labour Party, Foyle
Flynn, Paul ... Labour Party, Newport West
Hancock, Mike ... Liberal Democrats, Portsmouth South
Hopkins, Kelvin ... Labour Party, Luton North
Ritchie, Margaret ... Social Democratic and Labour Party, South Down
Sharma, Virendra ... Labour Party, Ealing Southall
Simpson, David ... Democratic Unionist Party, Upper Bann
Skinner, Dennis ... Labour Party, Bolsover

To our shame, all three Plaid Cymru MPs are conspicuous by their absence. How can we possibly expect voters to take us seriously if we don't stand up for what we say we believe in?

Joni, Hywel, Elfyn, the ball is in your court. If you have any respect for the membership who voted to adopt and then reaffirm our anti-nuclear policy, sign.

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Fined heavily

Today's news that the Ministry of Justice has been fined £140,000 because the details of 1,000 inmates in Cardiff prison were inadvertently sent out in emails will have sent cold shivers down the spine of many members of Plaid Cymru.

Less than a fortnight ago, as reported here, we inadvertently sent out an extensive list of members' email addresses and other details. In one respect what we did was more serious than what the Ministry of Justice has been fined for. They sent these details to just three families who probably wouldn't have done anything with the information anyway. We sent the information to a number of journalists who would most definitely be able, and perhaps willing, to make use of the information.

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A brief moment of sunshine

When I checked the WalesOnline website at about 5pm this afternoon, I was amazed to see this page.


For a brief moment, the clouds parted to let the sun shine through. But as I looked for more on the story elsewhere, it quickly became obvious that it wasn't true, and the gloom returned.

Then I thought about whether it would make any difference to anything if he did resign. Who would replace him? George Osborne? Theresa May? Michael Gove? It didn't bear thinking about.

And if the alternative is to hope that Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister in 2015 ... well, that didn't bear thinking about either. The only place on this island where the sun is likely to shine any time soon is in Scotland, next September.

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Overwhelming support for Plaid's nuclear policy

I'm sure most readers of Syniadau will remember the events surrounding the by-election campaign in Ynys Môn a few months ago. For me, one of the key issues in the campaign was Plaid Cymru's policy on nuclear power, and in particular whether Rhun ap Iorwerth was telling the truth about our policy, or whether he misrepresented it by saying that our policy was to develop nuclear power stations on the sites where there are or have been nuclear power stations before.

To be clear, Plaid's policy is one of total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations, including Wylfa B. Our policy makes no distinction between new nuclear power stations on new sites and new nuclear power stations on existing sites. [Click to display/hide].


Although I have always made it clear that people in Plaid Cymru are free to disagree with party policy, it is completely unacceptable for prominent members of the party to misrepresent what party policy is. Rhun ap Iorwerth was telling a blatant lie, but in criticizing him I did not treat him in any way differently from the way I had treated others when they told essentially similar lies about our policy before him. 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. Nor was I alone in my criticism, for in the video I included in the third post both Leanne Wood and Elin Jones confirmed that what Dafydd Elis-Thomas said about what had been decided by Plaid Cymru at our conference simply wasn't true. Dafydd was telling a blatant lie.

I think it is important that the decisions we make about party policy are upheld. We have a good policy on nuclear power, and we should be proud of it rather than afraid to tell people what it is. This is all the more important when we remember that every single Labour AM in the current Assembly was elected on a manifesto that said nuclear power was unnecessary, but that Labour then ripped-up that manifesto after they had been elected; and that the LibDems have also U-turned on their previous opposition to nuclear power ... although, with rather more integrity than Labour, they at least did it democratically.

This leaves Plaid Cymru as the only party in the Assembly that is unequivocally opposed to nuclear power, therefore we should vigorously defend our position whenever those who oppose our policies seek to misrepresent what they are.


In the debate at the time of the Ynys Môn by-election, some people expressed the view that Plaid's policy of being totally opposed to building any new nuclear power station in Wales, including Wylfa B, was a nominal policy that might exist on paper but didn't exist in reality. This is perfectly understandable, for most people outside the party are bound to take more notice of what prominent politicians say in the media than look at what was actually decided in a democratic way by the party as a whole. Another allegation was that Plaid's policy on nuclear power only represented what a handful of delegates had decided, but didn't represent the opinion of the party as a whole.

I would only repeat the points I made at the time:

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 Cymru 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.

Repairing the Damage – Syniadau, 3 August 2013

This makes what happened at our conference last weekend particularly important. Those who disagree with Plaid's total opposition to new nuclear power stations had every opportunity to present their case and persuade us to adopt a different policy. And those who believe that our current policy only represents what a handful of delegates had decided, but not the view of the membership as a whole, could now put their case directly to the membership, since every member of the party is now entitled to come to conference and vote on the motions.

But those who oppose our policy didn't do this. In fact what happened was precisely the opposite. Conference voted—and the vote was overwhelming—in favour of a motion on energy that included this paragraph:

Conference hereby reaffirms its motion passed in 2011 in respect of nuclear energy and renewable energy.

Minutes of Conference, October 2013

This overwhelming vote of support in confirmation of our anti-nuclear policy was very heartening. Once again, Plaid Cymru members have spoken in clear and unambiguous terms.

There is no better way to answer the small handful of recalcitrants within the party who refuse to accept the clear decision of the party membership, and instead tell lies in an attempt to convince people that we decided something different. These liars have, once again, been firmly put in their place.

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Deep Green

I've just come across a wonderfully innovative idea for generating electricity from tidal flow. It is a turbine attached to an underwater kite, and the idea is that by moving through the water ten times faster than the linear speed of the current, it produces many times more energy than an similarly sized static turbine would generate. However I think it is proportional to the square rather than the cube of the velocity. This is the video:


Wales has an abundance of tidal flow energy resources, as shown on this map:


As it happens, as well as high speed currents, Wales also has particularly good resources in current speeds of 1.5 to 2.5m/s, which are too low for commercially viable static turbines but are apparently perfect for this device. So if it works, it would double the tidal flow electricity we could produce.

Minesto's press release is here. I hope they get whatever permissions and assistance they need to be able to test and develop it at full scale.

This would be helped greatly if we had permission to set our own renewable incentives, such as ROCs. Scotland and the Six Counties are able to do this, which is one reason why tidal energy is more advanced in both those places than it is in Wales. But not having these powers shouldn't stop us from supporting this project; we can't let such a clever idea go to waste.

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Only one Dafydd supports independence

It's always good to have a speaker from the SNP at our party conference, for they share the same aims for their country as we do for ours, and the lessons we learn from them will only help us when it is our turn to hold a referendum.

This year the SNP guest speaker was Pete Wishart. On the subject of those who support independence at Westminster, this small snippet from his speech made me smile ... though perhaps not quite as much as it made Dafydd Wigley smile.


There's something like 1,500 parliamentarians in all of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. 1,490 of those 1,500 parliamentarians are opposed to independence. There's ten that support independence: there's the six of us in the SNP, there's our three colleagues in Plaid Cymru ... and we've got Dafydd Wigley in the House of Lords.

Conference, I think that's quite good odds. They may have the quanity, but with our ten we most definitely have the quality ...

Pete Wishart is as aware as all the rest of us that there are in fact two Dafydds in the House of Lords who are members of Plaid Cymru. But even though Dafydd El Cid has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of some in Plaid Cymru's leadership about his support for independence (see here) he hasn't fooled anyone in the SNP.

This is Pete's speech in full.


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Will a sugary drink levy pay for 1,000 doctors?

One thing that I welcome about Plaid Cymru's approach to this year's conference has been an increased emphasis on policy. However I'm not sure we have quite worked out how to present it.

A perfect example of this is the announcement of a 20p/litre sugary drinks levy to fund 1,000 doctors.

It's a very clever idea, and on the face of it the sums appear to add up; but what is lacking is an actual set of figures to show how they add up. It isn't sufficient for Adam Price to say, as he does here, that the levy will raise between £50m and £60m.

What is needed is a simple, one-page calculation showing what is to be taxed, how much is consumed, and how much will be raised ... balanced against the cost of employing more doctors. This should be sent out in a press release on the day of the policy announcement, and downloadable from the Plaid website.

Hopefully this oversight will be corrected first thing Monday morning.


I can do some of the calculations here. The British Soft Drinks Association report for 2011 is here. On average, each person in the UK consumes 235 litres of soft drinks a year.

The question is how much of this can be described as sugary. Their breakdown is that 62% are "low calorie" or "no added sugar". But it should be noted that drinks such as pure fruit juices are naturally sugary, and that consumption of too much of what we tend to think of as "healthy drinks" also poses health risks in the form of obesity and diabetes. There are reports about it here and here.

Therefore I think it is reasonable to take the 38% of "regular" sugary drinks (89.3 litres per person per year) but add to it the figure for fruit juices and smoothies (19.0 litres per person per year) to give a minimum sugary drink consumption of 108.3 litres per person per year, or 330m litres total for Wales. At 20p a litre, this would raise £66m a year. The actual figure may well be higher than this, because we consume 23.4 litres per person per year of nectars and juice drinks, and a proportion of these will be naturally sugary.

In other words, it looks as if Adam Price was underestimating rather than overestimating the money that would be raised. I think it's safe to say that the policy would raise over £70m, based on current levels of consumption. My guess is that Adam was taking reduced consumption into account.


The second part of the question is how much it costs to employ a doctor. There's a brief report on doctor's salaries here. More specifically, the Welsh figures are here. Without doing an exact breakdown, it would appear that an "average salary" is less than £40,000.

Of course there are additional employment costs in addition to salary, such as employer's NI and pensions contributions. It might well be that the figure of £83,000 quoted here is right, but it seems high and would therefore appear to cover other fixed costs which are probably already being paid for, even though the positions are vacant.

We should also remember that some of the current shortages in permanent doctors are being made up by expensive temporary and agency staff, and that there are significant costs in cancelling or postponing treatment because of lack of available staff. Both these costs would be saved, and these savings would therefore be added to the amount raised by the levy to fund the additional doctors.


All in all, the figures stack up according to the rough calculations I have just done. All that is necessary now is for Plaid to officially publish a similar document. Quickly.

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Complete Fear

I'm sure quite a few of us will have been watching the The Fear Factor from Rough Justice Films piece by piece, but here is the complete version:



We need to learn from this, for the same tactics will be used against us when it's our turn to vote for independence.

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A small sign

The governors of Ysgol Teilo Sant in Cardiff were worried that pupils wouldn't be able to find the new school building, so they decided to put up a small sign.


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There is no problem of viability

My previous post about HMRC tax receipts from Wales inevitably raised the old question about whether Wales can "afford to be independent". In one of the comments I made the point that one plank of the argument for independence in Scotland and Catalunya is that they can afford to be independent; but for us in Wales the argument is that we cannot afford not to be independent. In fact I would go so far as to say that Scotland's current prosperity—if that were the only thing that mattered, which it isn't—would in fact be an argument for it remaining part of the UK. On purely economic grounds, Wales needs independence much more than Scotland does.

As this runs contrary to much of the way the debate on Scottish independence has been framed, I thought it might be good to quote what E F Schumacher said about why a smaller country like Wales would want to be independent from a larger and comparatively richer state. This is from a lecture entitled A Question of Size given in 1968 and included as one of the chapters of his seminal book, Small is Beautiful.

Imagine that in 1864 Bismarck had annexed the whole of Denmark instead of only a small part of it, and that nothing had happened since. The Danes would be an ethnic minority in Germany, perhaps struggling to maintain their language by becoming bilingual, the official language of course being German. Only by thoroughly Germanizing themselves could they avoid becoming second-class citizens. There would be an irresistible drift of the most ambitious and enterprising Danes, thoroughly Germanized, to the mainland in the south, and what then would be the status of Copenhagen? That of a remote provincial city. Or imagine Belgium as part of France. What would be the status of Brussels? Again, that of an unimportant provincial city. I don't have to enlarge on it. Imagine now that Denmark a part of Germany, and Belgium a part of France, suddenly turned what is now charmingly called "nats" wanting independence. There would be endless, heated arguments that these "non-countries" could not be economically viable, that their desire for independence was, to quote a famous political commentator, "adolescent emotionalism, political naïvety, phoney economics, and sheer bare-faced opportunism".

How can one talk about the economics of small independent countries? How can one discuss a problem that is a non-problem? There is no such thing as the viability of states or of nations, there is only a problem of viability of people: people, actual persons like you and me, are viable when they can stand on their own feet and earn their keep. You do not make non-viable people viable by putting large numbers of them into one huge community, and you do not make viable people non-viable by splitting a large community into a number of smaller, more intimate, more coherent and more manageable groups. All this is perfectly obvious and there is absolutely nothing to argue about.

Some people ask: "What happens when a country, composed of one rich province and several poor ones, falls apart because the rich province secedes?" Most probably the answer is: "Nothing very much happens." The rich will continue to be rich and the poor will continue to be poor. "But if, before secession, the rich province had subsidized the poor, what happens then?" Well then, of course, the subsidy might stop. But the rich rarely subsidize the poor; more often they exploit them. They may not do so directly so much as through the terms of trade. They may obscure the situation a little by a certain redistribution of tax revenue or small-scale charity, but the last thing they want to do is secede from the poor.

The normal case is quite different, namely that the poor provinces wish to separate from the rich, and that the rich want to hold on because they know that exploitation of the poor within one's own frontiers is infinitely easier than exploitation of the poor beyond them. Now if a poor province wishes to secede at the risk of losing some subsidies, what attitude should one take? Not that we have to decide this, but what should we think about it? Is it not a wish to be applauded and respected? Do we not want people to stand on their own feet, as free and self-reliant men? So again this is a 'non-problem'. I would assert therefore that there is no problem of viability, as all experience shows. If a country wishes to export all over the world, and import from all over the world, it has never been held that it had to annex the whole world in order to do so.

E F Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, 1973 – Part 1, Chapter 5

I would expect Small is Beautiful to be on the bookshelves of most people who read Syniadau. But if it isn't—or if you believe that small bookshelves are beautiful—there is a pdf version here.

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Disaggregated tax receipts for Wales

While reading this story about the proposed Scottish Oil Fund that will be established when Scotland becomes independent, I noticed that HM Revenue and Customs had only yesterday published, for the first time, a set of "experimental" figures which estimate the tax take from the four nations/regions of the UK. The links to the documents are on this page.


For Wales this is a major first, and its importance cannot be overestimated. This information has been produced for some time for Scotland in the form of GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) and for the Six Counties in the form of NINFBR (Northern Ireland Net Fiscal Balance Reports) but the Welsh Government has never asked for or itself produced an official equivalent for Wales ... although estimates have been produced by Oxford Economics and by the Holtham Commission.

I know Gerry Holtham has urged the Welsh Government to follow the example of both Scotland and the Six Counties, and he believes they have not done so because the situation is so serious in Wales that they think it would be better not to tell the patient exactly how bad things are. That's one way of looking at it. The less charitable explanation for their refusal to do so is that no government would want to draw attention to how bad things are because it would only increase public pressure on them to do something about it.

For me, it is only by finding out exactly how bad the economic situation is in Wales that we will be able to properly direct our efforts to improve it. And indeed this is reflected in Plaid Cymru's renewed emphasis on our economic performance in launching Offa's Gap last year. Owen Donovan did a comprehensive analysis of the situation here.


This is what HMRC say about the information they've now published:

This publication apportions total UK tax receipts, tax credits and benefit payments administered by HM Revenue and Customs to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It attempts to measure the true economic incidence of taxation, based on the underlying activity, which can often differ from how or where the tax receipts are collected. Actual administrative data is available for capital gains tax, inheritance tax, stamp duty land tax, child and working tax credits and child benefit; for the others, the estimates are arrived at using best available data and statistical techniques, including assumptions and adjustments where necessary. The numbers in this publication do not represent an estimate of the tax revenue that would be raised if each tax was set at the devolved level.

All statistical methodologies have an inherent degree of uncertainty and, for this publication, a variety of alternate methodologies could justifiably be applied, each leading to a different estimate.

The full data are available on the page I linked to above, but I have extracted the cash and percentage figures for Wales for 2012-13. Wales has 4.8% of the UK population.

Based on actual administrative data

Capital Gains Tax ... £64m ... 1.6%
Inheritance Tax ... £83m ... 2.7%
Stamp Duty Land Tax ... £139m ... 2.0%
Child and Working Tax Credits ... £1,545m ... 5.2%
Child Benefit ... £573m ... 4.7%

Based on estimates

Total Income Tax (Gross of Negative Tax Credits) ... £4,763m ... 3.1%
National Insurance Contributions ... £3,689m ... 3.6%
VAT ... £4,170 ... 4.1%
Corporation Tax (onshore) ... £830m ... 2.4%
Bank Levy ... £30m ... 1.9%
Bank Payroll Tax ... £0m ... 1.9%
Fuel Duties ... £1,311m ... 4.9%
Stamp Tax on Shares ... £4m ... 0.2%
Tobacco Duties ... £451m ... 4.7%
Spirits Duty ... £143m ... 4.9%
Beer Duty ... £183m ... 5.4%
Wine Duties ... £139m ... 3.9%
Cider Duties ... £27m ... 8.4%
Betting and Gaming ... £68m ... 4.1%
Air Passenger Duty ... £8m ... 0.3%
Insurance Premium Tax ... £124m ... 4.1%
Landfill Tax ... £50m ... 4.5%
Climate Change Levy ... £35m ... 5.5%
Aggregates Levy ... £22m ... 8.2%
Customs Duties ... £103m ... 3.6%
Other Taxes ... £17m ... 4.8%

Total receipts

Total ... £16,337m ... 3.5%

It's not a pretty picture. We have 4.8% of the UK population, but generate only 3.5% of the UK's tax receipts. In terms of the big taxes, we generate only 3.1% of income tax, 3.6% of NI contributions, 4.1% of VAT and 2.4% of corporation tax.

However it must be emphasized that many of these figures are based on estimates, that these estimates are each based on a particular methodology, and that different methodologies might result in different figures. This why, for example, the Scottish Government produces GERS instead of relying entirely on UK Government figures. It is now open to the Welsh Government to do the same thing if it believes that using different methodologies will present our fiscal situation in a better light.

In terms of political reality, the publication of these figures is almost guaranteed to spur the Welsh Government into producing a GERW because they no longer have the option to hide how bad the situation is from the Welsh people, and will now have to spend effort trying to make the situation appear less bleak in order to lessen the pressure on them to improve things. Some of it will be justified (for the UK Government has no incentive to make things look good for Wales, and may well have made wrong assumptions that need to be corrected) but some of it will be spin. We will have to decide which is which, in just the same way as people in Scotland have to decide between differing interpretations of Scotland's overall fiscal situation. That's politics.

However the importance of the publication of this data by the UK Government (and the intention is to publish them every year) is that official figures are now in the public domain to be analysed, discussed and argued over. It is only by facing up to how bad things are—and what, in particular, is bad—that we can target our efforts towards making things better.

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Horns Rev

As someone who likes wind turbines, I think this image of the Horns Rev windfarm in Denmark is particularly beautiful.


Moisture in the air is condensing in the vortices from the turbines. There's a more complete explanation here.

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Getting an hourly service on the Cambrian Line

One of the better things that Ieuan Wyn Jones did as the minister responsible for transport in the One Wales Government was to produce a National Transport Plan, which put a much greater emphasis on public transport and non-car solutions than before.

Chapter 6 of the NTP focused on the east-west corridor in mid-Wales. In parallel with improvements to roads, the Welsh Government committed itself to introduce an hourly rail service between Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury by 2011.

Even after the 2011 Assembly elections, the new WG reaffirmed that this remained a priority in its Prioritized National Transport Plan of December 2011, although the implementation date had now slipped. But nothing was actually delivered, and in July this year the current Minister responsible for transport, Edwina Hart, issued a Written Statement saying that:

In terms of the Cambrian Main Line hourly service, the way is clear for an operator to introduce additional services though it is important to be mindful of the tough financial settlement we are facing. I have asked the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Railway Liaison Committee to co-ordinate work with the other rail interest groups to investigate the demand for rail services ...

I have been clear that this should complement the work of the Local Growth Zones and be consistent with the tourism strategy. Accordingly, initially for the Cambrian Line and the Heart of Wales Line, my tourism sector panel will provide a view on the feasibility of proposals for summer tourist trains on a trial basis. I will make an announcement for summer 2014 in due course.

Written Statement, 18 July 2013

This was a shameful and disappointing announcement. What had been a firm commitment under the One Wales Government, and then reaffirmed as a commitment by the new Labour Government, had now slipped off its list of priorities altogether; and Edwina Hart was in fact questioning whether to go ahead with hourly services on the line at all. In referring the matter back for public consultation she was acting in almost exactly the same way as the Tories have reacted to devolving Stamp Duty to Wales. It was a breathtaking display of double standards.

The tragedy of the situation is that the infrastructure work to allow trains to run hourly has already been completed, at a cost of some £13m. This expendure is currently going to waste. It is a perfect illustration of the lack of joined-up thinking.


The news today is that a survey to assess the demand for an hourly rail service has now been launched by the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Liaison Committee. As well as questionnaires handed out on trains and at stations, the survey can also be completed online at midwalesrailsurvey.co.uk, or click the image below:


Yes, it's disappointing that we have to go through the process of demonstrating that there is a demand for an hourly rail service all over again. But it will only take a few minutes to complete the survey, and I'd urge everyone with an interest in using the line to do so, even if you might only use it occasionally.

For some reason, the current Welsh Government seems to have got it into its head that additional tourist trains might be some sort of half-way option. Of course tourists will be one of the groups that will benefit from an improved service in summer, but everyone will benefit from a year-round improvement in services. Commuters, business users, social users, students, young people and everyone without a car (either permanently or temporarily) will benefit ... and, as always, the more disadvantaged will benefit more than the better-off. It's a complete no-brainer. Alongside the hourly service, longer trains and more earlier and later trains should be considered, as well as on-board services such as wi-fi. Just say so in the boxes at the bottom of the survey.

Let's leave the Welsh Government in no doubt whatsoever that there is an across-the-board demand for an improved, hourly service on this line.

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