Bon Nadal

Following Thursday's election victory, I thought it would be good to wish everybody a happy Christmas in Catalan.


Nadolig llawen i chi i gyd.

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Perhaps still a moment too soon

Back in June, when the Tories did a deal with the DUP in order to remain in power, I wrote a post explaining how it meant that the only likely outcome would be that the whole of UK would remain in the EU single market and customs union. This is a extract from it:

The DUP save our bacon

There is only one thing that the DUP really want from this deal, which is that the Six Counties are not treated in any way differently from the rest of the UK. If the DUP were not in such a pivotal position, I would have put money on the eventual solution to the problem of the border between the Six Counties and the Twenty-six being that the effective border between the EU and UK post-Brexit would be the Irish Sea, and that customs and immigration checks would have been carried out at the ports and airports rather than at the land border. Logistically, that is by far the best way of handling things because the tickets of any people or goods would have to be checked anyway when they boarded the ferries or planes to cross the Irish Sea, so discretely checking their customs/immigration documents at the same time as their tickets would result in no additional inconvenience.

However this arrangement is the one thing that the DUP will absolutely oppose, because in the event of a hard Brexit it will make the Six Counties—in practice if not in name—part of the EU single market and customs union and therefore economically, as opposed to politically, part of a united Ireland.

The only alternative to this is for the UK as a whole to remain part of the EU single market and customs union. And for me this now looks to be the most likely outcome. Essentially, the UK will have a similar relationship with the EU as Norway, and the border between the Six and Twenty-six counties will become as irrelevant for day-to-day purposes as the border between Norway and Sweden. Such an arrangement will also solve the problem of the border between Gibraltar and Spain, allowing Gibraltar to remain British without taking a massive financial hit from the loss of thousands of workers who make the daily commute from Spain.

Syniadau – 9 June 2017

Well, after six months of a Tory government trying its best to avoid reality, we are about to see if this prediction is going to prove accurate. The Independent seems to think it will:

Simply, the only way to obey the Irish and EU demand of no hard border on the island of Ireland is for Northern Ireland to remain in the EU customs union. The only way for May to keep her majority in Parliament is to make sure Northern Ireland (NI) does not leave the EU on different terms than the rest of the UK. So therefore the only way to progress to EU trade talks, and not simultaneously collapse her Government, is for the entire UK to stay in the customs union. It is that simple, and there are no other options.

Independent – 4 December 2017

The only real thing that might have changed is that hard-line Brexiteers within the ranks of Tory MPs might not accept the UK remaining in the customs union and single market (CU and SM), not least because months and months of prevarication by a directionless Tory government have encouraged them to believe that they might get their way. For Theresa May, it might not actually matter what the DUP think, if her government is going to be brought down anyway by these hard-liners refusing to accept anything but a hard Brexit.

Either way, there is a real possibility that a vote of no confidence will bring down the government, and that Labour will win the general election that follows. The $64,000 question is what platform Labour will campaign on. I have no doubt that public opinion will eventually come round to the UK remaining part of the SM and CU, if not remaining as a full member of the EU. But I'm not sure that we have reached that point yet. I thought we'd have to wait to see that it was impossible to get a good deal before public opinion swung significantly enough to encourage Labour to stand, and win, on that platform.

It's all just a little bit too soon. So perhaps the best outcome is for the EU and UK to fail, yet again, to make sufficient progress before the upcoming summit and for everything to be put back until next year. If the squabble is seen to be between the Tories and the DUP or the Tories and Ireland, that won't weaken the Tories one bit. But if the squabble shifts to being a bloody battle between two factions in the Tory party, then Labour will easily win an election next year either on a platform of remaining in the SM and CU (more or less on the same terms as Norway, but with a few tweaks) or halting Brexit entirely.

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Trashing the planet for commercial advantage

Carwyn Jones has today said that he would scrap long-haul Air Passenger Duty if it were to be devolved to Wales.

I agree that control of this tax (and, for me, all other taxes) should be devolved to Wales, but I certainly don't agree with the idea that it should be scrapped. APD was introduced to reflect the fact that aviation fuel isn't (and probably can't be) taxed in the same way as other fossil fuels, so it is designed to provide a similar "disincentive" to unnecessary fossil fuel use, because the emissions have an adverse affect on climate change.

Of course there would be a commercial advantage for Wales if (to use the most quoted example) flights from Cardiff were cheaper than flights from Bristol. But that's rather like saying that there would be a commercial advantage for Wales if companies in Wales were able to dump toxic waste directly into rivers, or didn't need to recycle. Taking care of the environment costs money, but it's something that we need to do for the sake of the planet.


That said, I think that there are more subtle ways of using the devolved tax that could better achieve the aim of reducing unnecessary flights, while still giving Wales a competitive advantage. For example, the tax could be applied on an individual basis so that, say, the first two flights a person makes in any year were charged at a low rate, but the tax would then rise progressively with each additional flight so that a person flying six times a year would end up paying much very more than they do now.

As well as the environmental benefits, such a tax would also be progressive in that it would target richer people who are more able to afford it, rather than those who are just flying off for a couple of weeks' holiday once a year.

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Support for an independent Catalunya increases

It seems that the most of the media are reporting some sort of backlash against independence from people in Catalunya. So it is worth pointing to the latest round of opinion polling from CEO, published today.


From the graph at the bottom, we can see that support for independence has risen by 7.6 percentage points to 48.7%, the highest figure ever recorded. The margin between Yes and No is clearly in positive territory, at 5.1%, which is the best indication of whether another referendum would be won.

This is the equivalent graphic from the previous round of polling.


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I recognize the Catalan Republic

Yes, it's now completely unambiguous. The Catalan Parliament has today voted to lift their previous suspension of the implementation of their declaration of independence. The Catalan Republic is born.

I expect a few countries to recognize Catalunya's independence immediately. But many more will hide behind the sofa waiting to see what happens next. A lot depends on how repressive the Spanish State chooses to be; but more depends on whether the people and institutions of Catalunya are cowed into submission or whether they stand tall.

I couldn't put it better than Vicent Partal, the editor of Vilaweb, did a few days ago:

Later this week, as the rules of the game change in Madrid and Barcelona simultaneously, absolutely everything that we have known so far will formally cease to be the law and, therefore, it will all boil down to a factual struggle. So it will be the people, organized in the streets, who will determine who comes out the winner and who the loser.

In a few days the Catalan Republic and the new ancient Spain without autonomous regions will face off in every playing field and on every decision. The winner will be the one who proves on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that it is the real, effective government of the Principality of Catalonia. It will only be a matter of time. If our police obey the Generalitat’s orders, we will win. But if Rajoy controls them, we will lose. If banks abide by the law, we will win; but if they seize our money on PP’s orders, we will lose. If local councils take orders from Spanish ministers, we will lose. And if they ignore them, we will win. If our schools stay the course, we will win. Otherwise, we will not. If Catalonia’s MPs can enter the chamber and take their seats, we will win; if not, we will lose. If the Spanish police manages to break into the Palau de la Generalitat to arrest Puigdemont, we will lose. And, if all of us prevent it, then we will win.

That is what has happened in every independence process across the world: there comes a time when a particular article of some law no longer matters; only what the people say does. And, above all, what people do.

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Don't be afraid of another vote, Catalunya

One of the attitudes that characterizes those who voted for Brexit in June 2016 is that we should stick to the decision to leave come what may. I have always thought that the UK should reverse Brexit if and when it ever becomes clear that public opinion has changed ... that opinion being expressed either in another referendum or in a general election if the winning party specifically included staying in the EU as part of its manifesto.

In short, we should always respect a democratic decision; but it would be wrong to maintain that a democratic decision, once made, is unchangeable in the future. We should never be afraid to ask people to vote as many times as is necessary to properly reflect their opinions. That is why, for example, I have never been afraid of "little and often" referendums on our National Assembly gaining more powers.


But this isn't really a post about Brexit or Wales. There are more pressing things to concentrate on right now, and the situation in Catalunya is one of them. By now it should be clear to anyone in the world who has taken any interest in the subject that the Spanish Government does not want any discussion or dialogue about Catalan independence. They are determined only to force the Catalans to submit to their will, and independence is something they completely refuse to countenance. This really should come as a no surprise to anyone who has been following events over the last few years; but we need to remember that most of the world hadn't been following events and therefore, probably quite reasonably, had taken the position that the obvious thing for the Spanish and Catalan governments was talk, negotiate and try and reach an agreement.

It has taken these past three weeks for this to become clear to the world, but negotiations can't happen unless both sides are willing to negotiate. One side has shown that it doesn't want this, so each side now has no choice except to continue on their respective paths. But this isn't a disaster for, as it happens, both paths lead to the same place ... at least in the short term.


The Catalan plan was to declare independence—which I expect them to do formally and unambiguously this week—and then hold new elections in Catalunya to establish a constitution for the new republic. It appears that the Spanish plan, agreed by the three biggest Spanish political parties (the PP, PSOE and Cs) is to dissolve the present Catalan Parliament with a view to holding new elections in Catalunya. It doesn't take a Baldrick to realize that this cunning plan to thwart Catalan independence might not be as cunning as the Spanish think it is.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. It really doesn't matter if one side calls this election a constitutory election for the new republic and the other side calls it an ordinary election to elect a replacement autonomous community government. Whether it turns out to be one, the other, or something else, will entirely depend on which way the people of Catalunya vote. If a majority of voters vote for parties that will establish a constitution for the new Catalan state, then those they elect will have enough seats to go ahead and do exactly that. But if the majority vote for parties who intend to carry on as if no declaration of independence had been made, then those they elect will have enough seats to run Catalunya as an autonomous community in Spain and the independence project will be over ... which is exactly what should happen in a democracy. No democrat should want independence for their country unless it is supported at the ballot box.


In other words, I don't think those who want to establish Catalunya as an independent state should have anything to fear from free and fair elections later this year or early next year. It might turn out that pro-independence parties do not get a majority this time. That would neither validate nor invalidate the election on 1 October (no matter what people might claim) it would merely demonstrate that people had changed their minds and no longer wanted what they voted for earlier. It would be just like a vote to reverse Brexit.

But, on the other hand, if the pro-independence candidates again win a majority, the Spanish Government will then have exhausted its democratic options to prevent Catalan independence. They will either have to accept defeat with as much grace as they can muster, or will have to impose direct rule through the use of more physical force. After the way the Spanish State behaved on 1 October, I am sure that support for independence can only have increased.


There is only one problem. I specifically said that those who want an independent Catalunya have nothing to fear from free and fair elections. But most of the world is probably not aware that the Spanish State has a far from unblemished record for holding free and fair elections. The most relevant example is the Basque election of 1 March 2009. Two left-leaning pro-independence parties, Demokrazia 3,000,000 and Askatasuna were banned right in the middle of the election campaign. Left with no opportunity to regroup, this meant that for the first time in some 30 years, Basque nationalists were unable to form a governing coalition, and a Spanish nationalist government was formed instead.

If left to their own devices, I am sure the Spanish State would try something similar in Catalunya now. They would probably argue that any political party or group that wanted something contrary to the Spanish Constitution was seditious in nature and therefore had no right to stand in elections. Spain has shown that it is quite prepared to pervert the law to serve its own purposes with the current imprisonment of the leaders of the ANC and Òmnium. So it is a cast-iron certainty that they would try and do more of the same if they thought they could get away with it.


So what, practically, can be done to stop them getting away with it in the same way as they did in 2009? One thing would be to try get international mediation for any new elections, even though the international community has been reticent to get involved and will probably continue to be. So the best thing would be for pro-independence candidates to form one, and only one, united group. If the group is split into smaller groups, the Spanish State will find it that much easier to pick off one of them. The present Catalan Parliament is includes a cross-party pro-independence group, Junts pel Sí, and then CUP, who refused to join that list even though they also support independence. Imagine a situation where Spain only banned CUP. If the vote were the same as in 2015 the loss of the 10 CUP seats would mean that pro-independence candidates would not have a majority. Put bluntly, the world probably won't bat an eyelid at the suppression of a small party, because their focus will naturally be on the bigger one. But if there is only one pro-independence group, and Spain bans it, the world will no longer be able to maintain the pretence that Spain is behaving as a Western democracy.

Personally, I have no doubt that in a free and fair election, the those wanting independence for Catalunya would again win a clear majority and if so, this time round, neither Spain nor any other country would be able to deny it or cast a shadow of doubt over the result. Bring it on.

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Slovenia will recognize an independent Catalunya

In view of the fact that Catalunya specifically looked to Slovenia as a model of how to become independent in the face of strong initial opposition from most Western countries and the EU, I think there's some poetic justice in the government of that country being one of the first to indicate that it will recognize an independent Catalunya.

More on the story at VilaWeb.


Also, Spain is none too pleased that Venezuela has criticized them for holding political prisoners. They've just summoned the Ambassador. I'm quite sure the Ambassador will explain things to Spain in no uncertain terms.

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Help Catalunya Save Europe

Far from engaging in dialogue and discussion, the Spanish State has decided to aggravate the situation by imprisoning (not after any sort of trial, but by arresting them on suspicion of sedition and then denying them bail) Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, leaders of the main civic movements behind the mass demonstations in support of independence over the past five years, Òmnium and the ANC.

Òmnium have produced this video in English, which I think needs to be shared as widely as possible.


People can also sign the Help Catalonia Save Europe manifesto here.

Despite the picture painted by most media outlets, things are far from hopeless. At present I think the main priority is to show the rest of the world that Spain has absolutely no intention of resolving the matter by dialogue. It clearly thinks that increasingly draconian measures like these imprisonments will force Catalans back into the box in which Spain would like to keep them.


Another thing we can do is show support for Catalunya at this rally in Cardiff on Saturday 28 October, organized by Yes Cymru.


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Will the Greens go for independence?

This weekend I was forwarded an interesting document from the Green Party in Wales. As most people reading this will know, Britain has had two separate Green Parties since the UK party split in 1990, one in England and Wales and one in Scotland. There has been talk over the last few years of the Welsh Greens forming a separate party, and things now appear to be coming to a head, with the leadership in Wales seeing it as a positive development. They have produced a paper for discussion, and I don't think they would mind me quoting the opening part of it.


The Green Party of England and Wales was created in 1990 when the former Green Party covering the United Kingdom split into separate parties. The Scottish Greens and Green Party of Northern Ireland formed separate parties. The Wales Green Party (WGP) has Autonomous Regional status within the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) the details of which are laid out in Appendix B of the Constitution of the Green Party. Whilst the constitution of the GPEW says there is a federal structure in place the reality is that Wales has very limited autonomy under the current arrangements. Currently, the Leader of WGP sits on the Green Party Executive (the body in charge of day-to-day running of the party), and Wales has 2 representatives out of 20 on the Green Party Regional Council (the body in charge of strategy, party well-being and other longer-term issues).

Constitutional change within the United Kingdom has witnessed the creation of the National Assembly for Wales in 1998. The law-making abilities of the NAfW have increased since 1998 and are likely to further increase as a result of the Wales Act 2017.

Problems with the current arrangements

The Scottish Greens made a breakthrough into the Scottish Parliament many years ago, and have become an accepted part of the political mainstream in Scotland. We have had no such success in Wales. While the reasons for this are complex, there is no doubt that the predominantly London-based Green Party media operation has never put any effort into trying to cover Welsh issues; and GPEW generally is very English-centred in its thinking.

What is the point of this paper?

Wales Green Party Council (WGPC) has been discussing the future status of the Wales Green Party for the last two years. The view of WGPC is that breaking away from GPEW in the same way that Scotland and Northern Ireland have already done offers the best chance of a successful Green political party in Wales ...

I won't quote more than this because the paper goes into details about party finances and membership. However, a separate Welsh Green Party would be financially better off than it currently is as an autonomous region of the GPEW. And, just in case anyone sees obvious parallels with what is happening in Catalunya, the English Greens would certainly not respond by accusing the Welsh leadership of sedition or by threatening to suspend the Welsh party's autonomy.


I'm not a member of the Green Party, but their politics probably align more closely with mine than those of any other party in Wales, and I wish them well.

To put it bluntly, the Greens in Wales have virtually no chance of winning seats in Westminster, but they do have a very real chance of winning regional seats in the National Assembly. To do this, they need to be able to devote resources to developing, and more critically presenting, specific policies in areas that are devolved to Wales. Becoming independent would raise their profile in Wales.

What you are perceived to be is important. I know from numerous political discussions that one of the biggest obstacles the Green Party has faced at elections in Wales has been the perception that it is an "English" party. Becoming independent would change that perception. Additionally, I'm sure that a separate Green party in Wales would draw considerable support from people who currently vote for Plaid Cymru because they paint themselves as a green party, even though Plaid's green credentials don't really stand up to much scrutiny.

My advice to Green Party members in Wales is to take this opportunity and become independent.

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Military Rule in Catalunya?

Along with many others, I've been following events in Catalunya closely, in particular looking to see the reaction from other countries. By far the most disturbing report I've read recently is this from Global Resaech, an organization based in Montréal. They were re-posting this article from These are some quotes from it.

Spain moves toward military rule in Catalonia

With the Spanish media discussing the invocation of Article 116 to impose a state of emergency or state of siege, it is clear that Rajoy is moving rapidly to establish military rule not only in Catalonia, but across all of Spain.

Army sources told El País Wednesday morning that they are preparing to move into Catalonia and crush any opposition from sections of the 17,000-strong Catalan regional police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, or civilians loyal to the Catalan nationalist parties. Under the attack plan, code-named Cota de Malla (Chain Mail), the army will back police and Guardia Civil operations in Catalonia. It will march significant forces into the region to support two units already there—a motorized infantry battalion in Barcelona and an armored battalion in Sant Climent Sescebes.

This plan has been in preparation for a considerable period of time, according to El País. It was nearly invoked by Rajoy after the August 17 terror attack in Barcelona.

Rajoy is acting with the full support of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and on the basis of clear signals from the Podemos party that it will not oppose moves towards military dictatorship.

PSOE General Secretary Pedro Sánchez, a self-styled “left” within the party, hailed Rajoy’s initial statement. “We agree with the premier’s request for clarification, to clear up the swamp in which Premier Puigdemont has placed Catalan politics”, Sánchez said.

Asked whether this meant that Madrid was activating Article 155, he replied, “Of course, it is obvious that we are activating it.”

Amid rumors of plans for a PP-PSOE government of national unity, Sánchez indicated that the PSOE would work with the PP on plans to rewrite the Spanish Constitution.

I'm not exactly sure how seriously to take this, as the World Socialist Web Site clearly looks at the world from a particular perspective. But I thought I'd post it because it paints perhaps the most frightening picture of what could happen.

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Declaring Independence

I originally expected the Catalan Government to declare independence this time last week, within 48 hours of the result being announced on Sunday evening; but I suppose that they reasonably argue that it would take a little longer for the postal votes from abroad to be counted, which is why the declaration is expected to come today.

I think we should expect a formal document, with appropriate lofty rhetoric similar to that of the American declaration of independence from the United Kingdom. But I also expect that, once made, the implementation of independence will be suspended to allow for negotiations.

From what I can gather, the "model" that the Catalans are likely to follow is that of Slovenia. This is from the Australian:

Ramon Tremosa, an MEP for the Catalan European Democratic Party [PDeCAT] which Mr Puigdemont leads, said the region should follow Slovenia’s example: it declared independence then suspended it while it conducted negotiations with what was then the Yugoslav federation. It finally became a fully independent state in 1991 as the rest of Yugoslavia plunged into civil war.

“Nobody can recognise internationally an independence that has not been achieved. We know from the experience of Slovenia and other countries that this experience may take weeks or months,” said Mr Tremosa.

The Australian - 10 October 2017

This prompted me to remind myself of exactly what did happen in Slovenia in 1991. I thought that this quote from the Wiki article on the Ten-Day War was particularly appropriate:

On the diplomatic front, neither the European Community nor the United States were willing to recognize the independence of Slovenia and strongly advocated the continuation of a unified Yugoslavia. The Slovenian government sought international assistance in negotiating a peaceful breakup of Yugoslavia but was rebuffed by Western countries that said they preferred to deal with a single federation rather than numerous small states. However, the Slovenes contended that they had no choice in pushing for independence, given a perceived lack of commitment to democratic values on the part of the Belgrade authorities.

Wikipedia, Ten-Day War

Within a matter of weeks, these same Western Countries had changed their minds. I think what was true in the case of the break up of Yugoslavia sixteen years ago will prove to be equally true in the case of the break up of Spain now.

At the moment, the governments of Western countries have been monolithic in their support for a united Spain. They are, quite understandably, afraid of uncertainty. The one thing that will make them change their minds is, as a more inclusive Harold Macmillan would now say, "Events, dear boys and girls. Events."

Hopefully, the Spanish State won't react to today's expected declaration of independence with more violence, so that there won't be any need for a new Brijuni Agreement to stop the fighting. But a three-month suspension of independence to allow a new Catalan constitution to be written and formal independence recognized by a majority of Western countries on, say, 1 January 2018, looks to me to be the most likely outcome.

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Support for Catalunya

I went to two rallies in support of Catalunya yesterday, the first was in Llanelli at lunchtime, and the second in Carmarthen in the evening. Here's a video of the first from Llanelli Online.


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A more decisive vote than Brexit

First, I want to express my admiration for those in Catalunya who had the courage to vote in yesterday's referendum, and I particularly want to salute those who were injured by the Guardia Civil and the police forces sent in from outside Catalunya. It was a great shame that the Spanish State acted in the way it did, but thankfully no-one was killed. A small mercy.

In terms of the vote itself, I have no reason to doubt the official figures announced last night and published this morning.

Of votes counted:

Yes ... 2,020,114 ... 90.1%
No ... 176,566 ... 7.8%
Blank ... 45,586 ... 2.0%
Void ... 20,129 ... 0.9%

Electorate ... 5,343,358
Turnout ... 42.3%
Yes as percentage of total electorate ... 37.8%


It is worth noting that the Leave side won the UK's referendum on EU membership with the votes of 37.4% of the total electorate (17,410,742 out of 46,500,001). So if we accept the UK's vote as decisive, we must accept Catalunya's vote as equally decisive, if not more so. In fact the EU, and every one of its member states, has accepted the UK's decision, so it would be inconsistent for them not to accept this democratic decision as well.


But of course the number voting for Catalan independence is in fact somewhat higher that the official figures show, because they only represent the votes that could be counted. The Catalan government estimates that 770,000 intended votes were not counted either because people were physically prevented from voting, or because the votes that had actually been cast were then stolen by the Spanish authorities. Clearly this is a more contentious figure, not least because those who were prevented from voting in one location might well have voted elsewhere; but I think it's reasonable to assume that the stolen ballot boxes would have roughly the same mix of votes as the ones that weren't stolen.

So at the high end, 90% of 770,000 would be another another 693,000 Yes votes, or more than 2.7m in total representing some 50.5% of the total electorate. At the low end, if the figure only represents those who could have voted, then 38% of 770,000 would be another 293,000 Yes votes, or about 2.3m in total representing some 43.0% of the total electorate. The real number of missing Yes votes would be somewhere between the two.


One of the things I've heard and read repeatedly in the media is the claim that support for Catalan independence has fallen over the last few years. These voting figures don't bear this out. In the consultatory referendum of 2014, the Yes/Yes vote (in favour of Catalunya becoming a state, and for it to be an independent state) was 1,861,753.


I have no doubt that when the Catalan Parliament next meets, in the next day or two, it will declare Catalunya to be an independent state.

Update - 23:00, 8 October 2017

With the postal votes now counted, the final referendum result is:

Of votes counted:

Yes ... 2,044,038 ... 92.0%
No ... 177,547 ... 8.0%
Blank ... 44,913 ... 2.0%
Void ... 19,719 ... 0.9%

Electorate ... 5,313,564
Turnout ... 43.0%
Yes as percentage of total electorate ... 38.5%


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Yes it's bright, but don't be dazzled

Quite a lot was made in the news yesterday of what was reported to be the first solar farm to be built without requiring any public subsidy.

Obviously the companies concerned reveled in all the publicity they could get. And the UK Government were there too. Fairly obviously, the subliminal message they wanted to get across was that if this solar farm didn't need any subsidy, neither would any other.

But if that were true, we would expect hundreds, if not thousands, of new applications for subsidy-free solar farms to be in the pipeline.


I had to read through quite a number of reports before I found what made this solar farm special. This is from the Financial Times:

The Clayhill farm has been built near the town of Flitwick next to an existing solar project which did, however, benefit from a subsidy under the renewables obligation mechanism. Analysts said basing new projects next to existing schemes was crucial to drive down costs.

“That makes a big difference because obviously a lot of the common infrastructure you need is already in place,” said Peter Atherton, a consultant for Cornwall Energy, a consultancy, said.

Financial Times - 26 September 2017

What this means is that subsidies are still needed for solar PV farms, but that the costs are coming down, at least to the extent that subsidy for the original solar farm can now be stretched to cover both it and this second adjacent development.

We should also remember that all new power generation requires subsidy in some form, including gas. But what's happening with renewables is that the cost of solar PV is coming down in a similar way to the way that the cost of wind power is coming down, see here.

The future of our generating needs is clearly in renewables. We just need the UK government not to cut off the subsidies that renewables still need in order to be constructed ... and certainly not while they are still saying they want to pour far larger subsidies into non-renewables like nuclear power.

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A Catalogue of Repression in Catalunya

For any who are interested, this article by Dick Nichols provides a fairly comprehensive report of what the Spanish government is trying to do to prevent the independence referendum in Catalunya on 1 October, now less than a week away.

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What action and by whom?

I was disappointed by Leanne Wood's reaction to today's announcement that the Welsh Government is setting up a commission under John Thomas, the retiring Lord Chief Justice, to look at justice in Wales, and in particular the need for Wales to be a separate or distinct legal jurisdiction. She said the Welsh Government was

"... in danger of talking Wales to sleep with endless commissions".

"Plaid Cymru has argued for many years that Wales should be granted control over its own legal system. The case in favour of devolving policing, probation and justice is already overwhelming. The support of the legal profession for these changes is also growing and their expertise should be heeded. We need action, not another talking shop."

BBC - 18 September 2017

That's all very well, but who does she expect to take what action?

I'm sure she intends to imply that Welsh Labour don't have a policy position on this, but they do. In March 2016, when the Tories were busy pushing through the Wales Bill, Labour published an alternative version which included the commitment to a distinct Welsh legal jurisdiction to be brought in by 2026.

So, if it were up to the National Assembly, Plaid and Labour could have voted this through last year. But of course it's not up to our Assembly, it's up to the UK Parliament in Westminster.

Carwyn Jones then managed to win a considerable internal victory by getting the UK Labour party to include this commitment in their manifesto for the general election in June this year, as I noted here. But, unfortunately, Labour didn't win that election.

So what action does Leanne expect? Clearly, the only ones at the moment who can give Wales what Plaid Cymru and Labour both want are the Tories, so all we can do prior to another Westminster election is put pressure on the Tories to change their mind.

The simple political reality is that the Tories in Westminster won't listen to either Labour or Plaid Cymru. So I find it hard to think of a better way of applying pressure than to get an undoubted legal heavyweight like John Thomas to chair a commission. It's a smart move. And for him personally, it will neatly fill in the gap between his retirement as Lord Chief Justice and becoming Chancellor of Aberystwyth University next year.

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Wylfa is completely dead

I have a big smile on my face today. I knew the auction figures for the next round of offshore wind farms would be low, but I didn't expect them to be as low as £57.50/MWh.


A lot of the reports today compare this with strike price of £92.50/MWh agreed for nuclear energy from Hinkley Point C ... apparently forgetting that this price was agreed some time time ago, and increases with inflation, so that the nuclear subsidy is, even now, closer to £100/MWh.

In short, anybody who still thinks nuclear is a good option needs their head examined. But I have no doubt that there'll still be some that do, especially those who have previously set out their stalls in favour of it. Of course those who work in the nuclear industry will claim that nuclear is still necessary. I agree with them completely when they say that we need to generate electricity from a range of sources because of the intermittency of wind, but why that range needs to include nuclear when there are so many better alternatives to include in any mix is beyond me.

The other group that will find it hard to change their minds are politicians. For those in Wales who wanted or expected Wylfa B to go ahead, my advice would be to let those expectations quietly fade. Politicians are stubborn creatures, and I think that it might be possible that Hinkley C progresses, simply to save face because contracts have been signed. However I think it will be subject to inevitable delays and increased costs, so I have doubts about whether it would ever be completed.

After that, we need to remind ourselves that the finance agreement with the Chinese put Sizewell and Bradwell next in the queue. So, at best, Wylfa B was only ever in fourth place, as I noted in this post a year ago. It would only ever have been built if the others had gone smoothly and, if our previous experience of nuclear projects has taught us anything, we know they won't.

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Five Things to Remember

I've been following the independence movement in Catalunya since 2009. My first post is here, and somehow I've managed to write another 60 posts on the subject since then.

Of course I'd be very flattered if anyone were to read them all, but there's a much more succinct way of understanding the situation. I've taken the liberty of reproducing this post by Vicent Partal, editor of VilaWeb, in full, because I think it gives a very good overview of the situation from the perspective of someone who supports independence for Catalunya.

Five Things to Remember


Given the transcendent nature of this moment, we thought it would be a good time to summarize how we arrived at this point and to explain the special nature of the decision that Catalan Parliament took yesterday.

1. Spain broke its own rules when the Constitutional Court nullified the 2006 statute of Autonomy

The origins of all that that we have experienced over the last several years can be found in the Spanish Constitutional Court’s decision to strike down key elements of the 2006 Catalan statute of autonomy. Today it is widely recognized that this amounted to a de facto coup against the constitution that broke the judicial balance established at the end of the Francoist era. The relation of power between Spanish centralism and the Catalan Autnomist Government was based on the so-called “two keys”. Should a Catalan desire to alter its regime of autonomy arise, Madrid held the “first key” of being able to demand that the new law pass through Madrid’s legal filters where it would be subject to alteration. Catalonia’s “second key” was the right, should changes be made in Madrid, to reject the altered statute through a referendum. The process was clear, transparent and balanced. One key furnished guarantees to Spain, the other to Catalonia. Each side had a voice in the process. However, the forced entry into the process of a “third key” that had never existed and that was invented by the Popular Party destroyed this constitutional balance and broke the existing conditions of coexistence. The responsibility for bringing us to where we are today lies squarely with the Spanish state which, through its unilateral actions, abolished the pact forged in the transition to democracy.

2. Spain has refused to engage in dialogue with Catalonia about independence or, for that matter, anything else

Catalonia does not have the right to impose secession upon Spain. Nor does Spain have the right to impose unity upon Catalonia. Should a conflict such as the one that is now being played out in the Principality of Catalonia arise, the only solution is negotiation, as the Supreme Court of Canada made clear in its opinion on the now widely celebrated referendum on the question of independence for Quebec.

Such a negotiation could have taken many forms and could have centered on many different aspects of the impasse. After the first September 11th (Catalan National Day) protests in 2012, the Catalan government proposed that the two sides engage in a renewed dialogue about fiscal matters and cultural rights. This proposal was not only rejected, but treated with open disdain. Catalan political forces have appealed on nearly twenty occasions for a negotiated solution to the celebration a referendum designed to clarify the true political will of the Catalan people. As is the case today, the party that has always refused to negotiate in the recent past has been Madrid. The Spanish state has consistently disdained the core democratic principle that disagreements should be resolved through good faith negotiations that respect the democratic expression of all political projects. This consistent pattern of disdain delegitimates the arguments of the Spanish government.

3. The people of Catalonia gave the Parliament of Catalonia a clear democratic mandate for a Proclamation of Independence

In elections held on the 27th of September 2015, the citizens of Catalonia awarded the proponents of a program to pursue a proclamation of independence an absolute majority of the seats in the Catalan Parliament. The fact that this result fell just short of 50% of the popular vote has led the members of the winning coalition to the conclusion that they should seek validate their program through that most democratic of methods: a referendum. It has always been hoped that this referendum would be sanctioned through negotiations with the Spanish state. However, this has been impossible to do. It is precisely this refusal on the part of the Spanish Government to negotiate anything that justifies, and imbues with legal force, the unilateral vote that the Catalan Parliament will hold tomorrow. There is currently no other way that the representatives in Parliament can give voice to the political desires the people of Catalonia.

4. International law provides a legal basis for both self-determination and unilateral secession

The right to self-determination of all peoples is an essential element of international legal doctrine. It is an absolute right that trumps national legislation, as is spelled out in the two 1966 UN conventions on human rights which the Spanish constitution recognizes as the supreme law of the land. The Parliament of Catalonia is thus able to legitimately invoke this general principle as the basis for the referendum. In addition, there is the decision of the International Court of Justice regarding Kosovo that definitively resolved two important matters. The first is that there is no provision in international law that invalidates the unilateral proclamation of independence of a territory. The second is that the principle of the inviolability of borders only applies to conflicts between states and thus cannot in any way be used to impede the secession of a part of a state.

5. Recent international practice has given explicit support to processes of national self-determination thus creating a norm characterized by the acceptance of new states within the international community

A few figures are worth bearing in mind. Since 1991, 53 sub-state entities, like Catalonia, have held referendums on self-determination. Of this total, 27 referendums were carried out in agreement with the states of which the entity seeking self-determination was then part. The other 26 were convened unilaterally. The Spanish state has recognized 26 of the 27 new states constituted in the world since 1991, the majority of which were proclaimed unilaterally. In fact, 7 states that today are part of the European Union were, in 1991, parts of other states and thus in situations quite similar to that of Catalonia today. These 7 European Union member states that were not independent in 1991 (Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic) were all created through unilateral mobilizations, and in 5 of those cases, through the specific modality of a unilateral referendum. All of them are recognized by Spain and are part of the European Union.

While the European Union has no provision spelling out what is to be done in the case of the secession of a part of a member state, there is a consistent practice when it comes to recognizing the results of referendums on self-determination. For example the EU took important decisions in response to the referendums of the Saar (1955), Greenland (1982) and Brexit (2016), and did not block the referendum in Scotland (2014). All of these referendums were held within the territory of the Union. And as we have seen, it accepted as member 7 states born of unilateral processes while also giving support to the practice of self-determination in cases such as that of Kosovo. This, in clear contradiction to Spain’s current posture in regard to Catalonia.

Summing up

If we have come to this point it is basically because of the legitimacy that the Catalan people bestowed on the Parliament of Catalonia in the September 27th, 2015 elections, and also, the legitimacy that the international community has bestowed upon the right of self-determination. But we have also arrived at this point as the result of the persistent delegitmation of the Spanish position, which flies in the face of international rules and practices as well as the provisions of its own constitution.

Now is the moment to take the next step, conscious both of the civic strength built up over the last decade, and the fact that the international community will react as it always has: by resolving a political problem that cannot be wished away through the deployment of legalistic maneuvering.

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Unstoppable Democracy

Here are two pictures from the Catalan Parliament yesterday. The first shows one side of the chamber rising to its feet to applaud the vote to hold a binding referendum on independence on 1 October.


From a different angle, the second shows what three of the opposition parties thought about it. They left just before the vote took place.


Walk outs aren't uncommon in politics. And even if the PP, PSC and Cs had all stayed and voted against, it wouldn't have made the slightest difference to the outcome of the vote.


This is the ballot paper, which asks "Do you want Catalunya to be an independent state in the form of a republic?"


So what happens next? The ball is in the Spanish Government's court. Of course they will denounce the vote, call it illegal, and get the Constitutional Court in Madrid to confirm their opinion. That's what they do every time ... and, just as every time before, the Catalan Government will take no notice and go ahead anyway. They have their own mandate from the 2015 election.

The real question is what the Spanish Government will do after that. If they try and arrest any politicians or public officials, they risk inflaming public opinion, resulting in more people being more determined to vote in the referendum. So I doubt that they'll do any more than issue warrants. They dare not attempt to enforce them.

Catalunya's National Day is on 11 September, only a few days away, so we can expect a couple of million people on the streets of Barcelona, most of whom will be carrying flags and banners supporting independence – just as has happened every year for the past five years or more. The only thing that might spoil the party is the very real threat of another terrorist attack.

So my guess is that the Spanish Government will leave it until the day of the vote. A lot will depend on the anticipated turnout. If it looks like being low, they will probably decide it is best to do nothing, and claim that the result is invalid because most people in Catalunya didn't vote. But if it is clear that a majority will vote, they will then either try and stop people voting, or try and seize the ballot boxes after people have voted. A few isolated incidents of disruption are almost certain to happen somewhere, though probably not by people in uniform.

If the disruption is organized and systematic, implemented either by the military or by the Spanish Guardia Civil (the police force in Catalonia, the Mossos d'Esquadra, is answerable to the Catalan authorities) then the Catalan government will declare independence anyway on the basis of their majority in Parliament. I think the Spanish authorities would be well advised not to try this. They are currently telling the media that this referendum is undemocratic, so they will look pretty stupid on the international stage if they are seen to either prevent people from voting or prevent their votes from being counted. Their best bet is to ignore the vote, and hope that the rest of the world ignores it too.


From the perspective of the Catalan Government, therefore, the only thing that will prevent them making a unilateral declaration of independence is if the result of the referendum is No. I don't think there is any political commentator who believes the vote will be anything other than a Yes. There's room for disagreement over the margin of victory and the turnout, but—provided the vote is not systematically disrupted by Spain—the result will be a Yes.

We must therefore prepare ourselves for an inevitable declaration of independence in the first week of October. The EU and the rest of the world will not be able to sit on the fence any longer.

But it really won't matter too much what the rest of the world thinks. The only question is whether Catalunya can operate as an independent state. The most critical institution for Catalunya to function as a independent state is now in place. After a few years of preparation, the new Catalan Tax Agency was set up only last week, so they are now able to collect taxes for themselves. Madrid will not be able to fiscally strangle an independent Catalunya by depriving it of the funds necessary for it to pay its police, teachers and the whole host of other public sector employees necessary for a state to operate.

Spain might try and close its border with Catalunya, but Catalunya will still have a land border with France, and it has its ports and airports. I have no doubt that things will be tough for a while ... but I doubt that it will be any tougher than life will be for people in the UK if and when it leaves the EU.

So what's left for Spain to do? Use their army to invade with troops and tanks? Use their navy to blockade the ports? Use their air force to bomb the airport runways? I'm sure Franco wouldn't have hesitated for a moment, but that was forty years ago, and western Europe is a completely different place today.

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"A natural right of any group of people"

I've just come across a very interesting statement from the US Defense Secretary, James Mattis, who was in Erbil yesterday for talks with Masoud Barzani.

Discussing the planned independence referendum for 25th September, Barzani reiterated that the plan is “a solution and not an obstacle”.

“He then briefed Secretary Mattis on the old and modern issues that the people of Kurdistan have had with Baghdad and that no real partnership has ever been accepted by the latter. The President then reassured Secretary Mattis and the accompanying delegation that the referendum would not create any problems for the operations against the terrorists of the Islamic State and that the courage of the Peshmerga forces shall remain unwavering against this brutal common enemy which poses a threat to all of humankind and not only to Iraq and Kurdistan,” reads the press release.

Secretary Mattis stated that he understands the grievances of the people of the Kurdistan Region and also added that such step is a natural right of any group of people.

However, he said the announcement of independence vote last June was unexpected for the government of United States, especially due to the military operations against the terrorists of the Islamic State."

Basnews - 22 August 2017

With the proviso that this is taken from a press release by President Barzani's office, this is a remarkable statement with far-reaching consequences.


Those of us who believe that President Trump is an embarrassment to the world probably have good reason to wonder how seriously we should take any statement from the current American administration; but not every aspect of their foreign policy is bad.

One of the positive changes after Trump came to power, an improvement on Obama's position, was a marked increase in military support—both in terms of equipment and troops—for Kurds in both Iraq and Syria, despite these two groups having very different political ideologies. In simple terms, I think the American administration believed that the Kurds offered the best hope of defeating ISIS, and that this mattered more to them than anything else. They probably didn't think much about the political solutions that would need to be developed after ISIS are defeated. Perhaps it wouldn't be too cynical to point out that the Americans have always been more eager to take military action than work out what to do afterwards.

That explains why Mattis said that the US was taken by surprise by Barzani's announcement in June this year. But the Trump administration have now had a good couple of months to think about it, and I think they have to be commended for standing behind the principle of democracy and self-determination. That's exactly what the world has a right to expect from America.

The big question is whether the US will be consistent. To say that holding a democratic referendum on whether you want to remain part of an existing state is "a natural right of any group of people" means that the US Administration must also respect the result of the Catalan referendum a week later. We should remember that both the Kurdish and Catalan referendums are unilateral referendums which are being held without the consent of the governments of their respective currently-recognized states, Iraq and Spain.

Also, if the US are consistent towards both the Kurds and the Catalans, then it is quite likely that the UK Government will feel obliged to follow suite, as it usually does. The critical thing in the formation of a new state is not the declaration of independence, but whether other countries then recognize you as an independent state. Having the US on your side is a tremendous advantage because of the considerable influence they have over so many other countries.

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Will Catalunya vote for independence?

In my opinion the two most significant political events this year are going to be the independence referendums in southern Kurdistan on 25 September and Catalunya on 1 October.

The reason I'm writing this post is because what I've seen in the media about Catalunya is only a part of the truth, and isn't providing us with an accurate picture of the way Catalans are likely to vote. For example, this is what was reported by the BBC yesterday:

How strong is the appetite for secession?

"It is hard to say," says the political scientist [Professor Arias-Maldonado] from Málaga University. "According to polls, secessionists are now around 41% of Catalans - numbers have been going down for some time. Around 49% are against it.

"These data come from the Catalan public polling body. How will the terrorist attack affect this situation? Who knows? But my bet is - not very much and if it does, it will reinforce the unionist side."

BBC - 20 August 2017

To get a more accurate picture, I think it's worth showing a few graphics from the CEO poll itself, which can be downloaded from here:


The first graphic does indeed show 41.1% support independence and 49.4% don't. The graph at the bottom shows that the figures were just about equal a year ago, but in fact the figures haven't really changed all that much in the last three years, fluctuating in the range between 40 and 50%.


The second graphic shows the breakdown by party. Junts pel Sí and CUP supporters almost entirely in favour; the PSC, PP and Cs supporters almost entirely against; and CSQP supporters split (their preferred option is a federal Spain, but that isn't on offer, which explains why they are more evenly divided).


But, as we should all know, even though people will express an opinion in an opinion poll, this doesn't always translate into actual votes at the ballot box. Even with the unusually high turnout in the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014, only 84.6% of the electorate actually voted. So it would have been possible to win that vote if only 42.4% of the total electorate had voted Yes.

According to the CEO poll, the turnout in the Catalan referendum would be a still-respectable 67.5% (roughly equivalent to recent Westminster general elections: 65.1% in 2010, 66.4% in 2015 and 68.8% in 2017) and that Yes would win a very substantial victory by a margin of nearly 25%, as shown in the graphic below:


I should perhaps explain that a "blank vote" is a valid vote for "none of the above" (a number of countries have long had this option, and in my opinion it should be available here too) and a "null vote" is the equivalent of a spoilt ballot paper here.

The reason for the apparent discrepancy is that those who want independence are very much more determined to get out and vote for it that those who don't. Of the supporters of the two parties in favour of independence, only a tiny percentage will abstain (3.1% and 1.9%) but the abstention figures for supporters of the three unionist parties are 39%, 28.8% and 28.3%, as shown in this final graphic:


Now of course, opinions could change between now and the referendum. But it's now less than six weeks away, and I don't think things will change much.

This means that after the referendum things will get very messy, with different people claiming different things. We can be sure that the leaders of the Catalan Government will point to the substantial margin of victory as justification for declaring independence.

We can be equally sure that the Spanish Government will say (as they have said all along) that the vote is illegal and unconstitutional. But I have no doubt that they will also claim that the reason Yes won was because those who abstained did so not because of the level of political apathy common to almost all western democracies, but because of a principled refusal to take part in an illegal and unconstitutional vote. That will be true, but only to a small extent, and we need to understand why that argument is a fallacy.

True, the unionist parties may not recognize the legitimacy of the vote; but the insurmountable problem they face is that a majority of their supporters clearly do recognize the legitimacy of the vote. As things stand at present, they are caught between a rock and a hard place. If a majority of their supporters were to boycott the election, they might well be able to claim that Yes only won because of the low turnout. But if 64.2% of PSC supporters, 55.9% of Cuitadens supporters and 66.1% of PP supporters defy their party leaders and go out to vote in the referendum (even if most of them vote No) then Mariano Rajoy—Prime minister of Spain and leader of the PP—is going to look pretty silly if he claims that the result is not democratic ... two-thirds of his own party supporters in Catalunya will not have agreed with him.

I've no doubt that he'll try it anyway, because the official referendum results won't be broken down by party allegiance. So he'll think that he'll be able to get away with it because people won't understand the underlying maths, and he'll hope that influential world leaders will commit themselves to rejecting the result on the basis of a specious argument before their research assistants get round to doing that maths.


Forewarned is forearmed. Those of us who want to see Catalunya become independent need to make the case that democracy, the will of the people expressed at the ballot box, is more important than the niceties of the Spanish constitution or any political inconvenience that a vote for independence might cause for other countries.

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Squabbling over scraps

So the Tories eventually managed to negotiate a confidence and supply deal with the DUP to keep Theresa May in power. The headline is that it will result in £1bn of additional spending over two years in the Six Counties. People in Wales have been kicking up a fuss about it.


It doesn't surprise me at all that Carwyn Jones should do so. As Welsh Labour see things, the whole point of being in this political union is that, through it, Wales can be subsidized by countries that are richer than we are. Therefore the size of the handout we get, and how it compares to the handouts that other parts of the UK get, is important ... in fact it's probably the most important thing on their agenda.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't worry too much about it. There is almost certain to be legal challenge from the Welsh and Scottish governments, which might well result in Wales, Scotland and perhaps even England getting more public spending. But even if some legal process eventually determines that a few billion pounds more has be made available to be spent elsewhere, it is only small change in comparison with total UK public expenditure of more than £750bn a year. From the Tories' point of view, it's a very cheap way of giving them a comfort zone in terms of votes in the House of Commons. And even if there is some legal challenge, it will take years, so the Tories will have bought themselves time ... which in itself is a very precious commodity.


What concerns me more is that many of those who want independence for Wales have been complaining in exactly the same way, and that some—for example in this post have said that if only we were a little more unruly, then we in Wales could get bigger handouts from Westminster. I find this disturbing, because the whole point of independence for us to stand on our own two feet as a nation, not relying on handouts from others at all, and certainly not arguing about whether we should now get £1.7bn more to spend in Wales just because the Six Counties are in line to get £1bn.

If we do this, we are missing the point entirely. Our mentality is completely wrong. I do not want a Wales on its knees squabbling over a few billion pounds, I want a Wales on its feet, producing that few billion—and much more—by our own efforts.


Let's look more closely at Ireland. Before independence Ireland was poor. Since independence (and particularly since joining the EU) the Republic has become much, much richer. This wealth might be concentrated in the south east (just as it is in both Wales and England) but even the poorer Border, Midlands and Western region of Ireland is considerably more wealthy than the Six Counties.

Southern and Eastern Ireland ... €39,900 (£28,950) per head
Border, Midlands and Western Ireland ... €23,700 (£17,200) per head
Six Counties ... €21,000 (£15,200) per head


Let's now put this additional £1bn into perspective. It equates to £500m per year, or £280 (€390) per head, since the Six Counties have a population of about 1.8m. At best, all this additional spending only scratches the surface of the underlying inequality of wealth between the Six and Twenty-six Counties. And in fact the current inequality is much bigger now than these figures show, because the pound has fallen so much in value since the Brexit vote.

Of course, nobody can say for certain that if the whole of Ireland had become independent, without partition, the Six Counties would now be as rich as the Twenty-Six. But I would be astounded if they weren't.

To slightly modify the proverb: is it better to give someone an extra £280 of fish a year, or allow them to catch fish for themselves and become a few thousand pounds richer each year as a result?


I have no doubt that the DUP will spin this deal as a victory, and will say at the next election, "Vote for us, because only we are able to deliver all this extra fish pork."

Fish-barrel politics is as grubby as pork-barrel politics, it's a reflection of our obsession with the small picture at the expense of the big picture. We need to be asking why Wales, Scotland or the Six Counties should live as beggars, squabbling with each other over how many billion pounds the UK government will give us on the rare occasions when one of our political parties is in a position to twist their arm. With independence, we can each arrange our economies to suit our own strengths and in time, like Ireland, become much richer than we will ever be as part of the UK.

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Bad reporting from the Guardian

Yes, from the headline, I guess most of you will have thought that I was referring to this article yesterday on Ysgol Llangennech and Welsh-medium education generally.

However what I had in mind was this report on a poll commissioned by Chatham House on what position the EU should take in Brexit negotiations. The Guardian's headline reads:

Two-thirds of Europeans believe EU should take hard line on Brexit – poll

But look more closely at this graphic from the article:


Yes, it is technically true that two-thirds of those outside the UK said that the EU should not compromise its core principles ... but what about the additional 20% who said that the EU should not compromise at all?

Do the maths. The truth is that more than 80% of those questioned think that the EU should not compromise over its core principles. In fact, even a majority in the UK think that the EU should not compromise its core principles. If we needed proof that the UK government is not going to get the outcome it says it wants, this survey should add to it. Twenty-seven democratically elected governments are not going to ignore such overwhelming strength of opinion in their respective countries.

So what are we to make of such reporting? Is it sloppiness? Maybe. Or is it that the Guardian, like every other media outlet, is inclined to write stories that support its own agenda, or (being more charitable) has an inbuilt, unconscious bias that it simply isn't aware of?

I don't share the general anger that I can see in many of the pro-Welsh-language comments on the Guardian's Llangennech article. I think it would be better to accept that every news outlet operates this way, and to filter what any article says accordingly. I'm glad the Guardian wrote what it did, simply because exposing such bias (whether intended or unconscious) is the best way of dealing with it.

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Eleven points

As so much of what is currently happening to shape the new UK government is in flux, I thought I would make a list of the points I see as important.

1. The Tories will not call another election anytime soon

This is because they'd lose it. Their previous pitch was that Corbyn was unelectable, he clearly isn't. Labour have the momentum. They'll comfortably win any election held in the next couple of years.

2. The DUP don't want another election either

They will do everything they can to make the Tory/PUP agreement last as long as possible. All their wishes have come true. Every day is Christmas for them from now until the next election.

3. Theresa May will not lead the Tories into another election

She simply isn't cut out for elections, and every Tory now knows it.

4. But the Tories won't get rid of her yet

The very earliest she would go is at the party conference this autumn. But I doubt she will go that quickly for two reasons: First, the electorate won't tolerate a second unelected leader. Whoever becomes leader will have to face a general election within a year or so. Second, the Brexit negotiations are going to be a humiliation for the UK, so no ambitious Tory is going to want to be leader until the negotiations are over. The next Tory leader will let May take all the humiliation, then emerge as a fresh new face who has learnt from her mistakes.

5. Labour want an early election

They will do everything possible to destabilize the Tory/DUP agreement ... but that will just make them more determined to hold on. Labour will only get in by attrition, if the number of by-elections in the next few years is higher than usual.

6. The UK will end up with a soft Brexit

The UK will be part of the EU single market and customs union, and the will continue to pay a fair price for it. Maintaining an even playing field costs money. However the payments will be disguised in all sorts of ways to save Tory blushes.

7. Immigration will not be a big issue

It never was. Having "control" of immigration sounds fine, but was never going to equate to having less immigration. Despite promising they would, the Tories didn't do anything to curb immigration from outside the EU even though it alone accounted for more than the limit the Tories said they were aiming for. They realize that the UK economy relies on immigration. For example, it's cheaper to hire a doctor who has been trained at someone else's expense in another country than to train a doctor here.

The Tory media will not make an issue out of immigration, because criticizing the government for conceding on the principle of free movement to the point of destabilizing it will only bring about an election that will bring Labour into power ... something they're much more afraid of than immigration. Hardline Tory MPs will not make an issue of it for the same reason ... they cannot afford to cause trouble because their seats will be at stake. And any criticism from UKIP will be ineffective because this election killed them off as a political force.

8. The Tories are still a right wing party

Irrespective of what happens in negotiations with the EU, domestic economic policy is decided by each member state individually. A Tory government propped up by the DUP might be a little gentler than a Tory majority government (triple lock pensions, winter fuel allowance, etc) but the overall thrust of their economic policy will still be to give tax cuts to the rich and restrict spending on public services. Teresa May will try to implement as many parts of her manifesto as she can, regardless of having fewer Tory MPs. In fact she'll probably be more doggedly determined to do it because she won't be around as leader to answer for the consequences at the next election.

9. Scottish independence

The SNP won the general election in Scotland handsomely, winning 34 of the 58 seats. That's a much higher percentage of seats than the Tories gained in Britain. The SNP already had a mandate for a second independence referendum following the 2016 Scottish election and the SNP/Green vote in the Scottish Parliament. So they didn't need another mandate from this election, but they got it anyway.

However EU membership is not, in itself, going to hold all that much sway in deciding the outcome of the vote for independence. What will make a difference is that Scotland is a left-leaning country in which most of the economic levers of power are held by a right wing UK government. This has always been and will always be the main reason why the Scots will eventually vote for independence. Incidentally, this is true for Wales too.

The problem the SNP have is that they must hold this referendum while pro-independence parties command a majority at Holyrood. There's no guarantee that this will still be the case after 2021. But they need a to justify a second referendum, and the EU is a far more black-and-white reason (it was specifically mentioned in the 2016 manifesto) than the differing political make-up of Holyrood and Westminster, which is no different now from what it was in 2014. It's a tricky balancing act because if, as I now expect, the UK as a whole ends up with a soft Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon will have got what she said she wanted following the EU referendum.

10. Irish reunification

The only way that a soft border could be achieved in Ireland is if the Six and Twenty-six Counties were both in the EU single market and customs union. If the Tories still held majority at Westminster, they would have ensured Britain was out of both, but would probably have made an exception for the Six Counties, because it wouldn't matter very much to voters in Britain. This would effectively have moved the economic border between the UK and EU to the Irish Sea.

     (Actually, that's not strictly true. The other alternative would have
     been for the border to be at ports and airports in the Republic, and for
     Ireland to operate the UK's border policies ... but this would effectively
     put Ireland outside the EU in economic terms and make it part of the UK,
     and there's no way the Irish would accept that. However that didn't stop
     some Tories floating the idea, and I wouldn't be surprised if
     they try it again.)

If the border had been at the Irish Sea, it would have been a huge step towards the economic integration of the Six and Twenty-six Counties, and brought formal reunification closer. But with the Tories now reliant on the DUP to stay in power in Westminster this won't happen.

Much has been made of the idea that the UK government cannot act as an "impartial intermediary" to implement the Good Friday Agreement if it depends on the support of the DUP. That's a fair comment, but the other side of the equation is that it's quite likely that Sinn Féin will be in government in the Republic some time soon - perhaps after the next Irish general election in coalition with Fianna Fáil. If that happened, then the Irish government wouldn't be an "impartial intermediary" either. In truth, the UK government has always favoured the Unionists and the only difference is that the pretence of impartiality can no longer be maintained.

As I see it, the most significant result of the agreement between the Tories and the DUP will be that the both parties will find out just how little they have in common ... which I think will come as a bigger shock to the DUP than to the Tories. Much has been made of how socially conservative the DUP are in terms of issues like abortion and equal marriage, and the DUP are painted as dinosaurs from a bygone age. While I don't support the DUP, I would say in their defence that they represent the views of a large part of the population of the Six Counties. It isn't so much that the DUP are out of step with mainstream social views—if they were, they wouldn't have won 10 out of 18 seats—it's that there's a significant gulf between Irish social attitudes and British social attitudes. To their horror, the DUP will realize that when the Tories talk of "the United Kingdom" what they mean by it is very different from what the DUP want it to be. It hardly needs to be said that religion plays a bigger part in society in the Six Counties than in Britain. Britain is a much more secular society. I think the Protestant community in the Six Counties will come to realize that they have more in common with the social and religious conservatism of the Twenty-six Counties than they do with the liberal secularism of Britain. A generation or two ago, when more people held Christian views than they do now, which version of Christianity you adhered to was important, so much so that Protestants like Ian Paisley—who founded the DUP—saw Catholics as their polar opposites. But in a Europe which has become much more secular than it was, Protestants and Catholics in Ireland are finding that they have much more in common with each other as Christians in the face of a growing secularization that threatens to make practising Christians of all denominations a minority. In short, I think Protestants in the Six Counties will gradually come to see the reunification of Ireland as a more attractive option for helping to maintain their way of life than remaining part of the UK.

Make no mistake, public opinion in Britain might have been tolerant of the socially conservative views of the DUP while it was safely kept on the other side of the Irish Sea, but it will not be tolerant of people holding those views having a direct influence over UK government policy. The Unionist community as a whole will be made to feel, both through mainstream and social media, even less part of Britain than they think they are now. It will be a rude awakening.

I'd also mention two other factors. The first is just how far the Unionist vote has fallen, as shown in this post. It is now less than 50% for the first time. The second is the ground-breaking statement from the EU that there will be no obstacle to the Six Counties becoming part of a united Ireland in the EU.

If anything, I am more confident of a united Ireland happening in the next decade than an independent Scotland. The event that will trigger it is the death of Elizabeth Windsor.

11. Wales

We in Wales will be bystanders in most of this. However I think we will gain a few crumbs from the deal to form a new UK government. Apart from the DUP's constitutional red lines, they will of course extract a hefty amount of extra "pork" for the Six Counties. But it will be difficult to give one devolved (even if suspended) administration more money without the other devolved administrations getting more too. The Six Counties have greater public spending per head, and getting significantly more again would have to be justified on the principle of need. So we might finally see the Barnett Formula (even with a floor) replaced by a needs-based formula. This would benefit Wales, as our needs are greater than the UK average too.

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The DUP save our bacon

The result of yesterday's election wasn't too far away from what I expected. I had put the Tories on 310 and Labour on 275. So I'm disappointed to some extent, but I can see a bright side.

In the Six Counties, two things coincided to produce a perfect storm. The first was that the DUP did well in the Unionist community, gaining two seats, but the second was that Sinn Féin did even better in the Republican community, gaining three seats and wiping out the SDLP. Because Sinn Féin do not take their seats in Westminster, the result is a solid block of MPs who are prepared to support the Tories, and who have just come to a deal to keep Theresa May in a weak and wobbly position of power. The SDLP would, of course, have opposed the Tories.

There is only one thing that the DUP really want from this deal, which is that the Six Counties are not treated in any way differently from the rest of the UK. If the DUP were not in such a pivotal position, I would have put money on the eventual solution to the problem of the border between the Six Counties and the Twenty-six being that the effective border between the EU and UK post-Brexit would be the Irish Sea, and that customs and immigration checks would have been carried out at the ports and airports rather than at the land border. Logistically, that is by far the best way of handling things because the tickets of any people or goods would have to be checked anyway when they boarded the ferries or planes to cross the Irish Sea, so discretely checking their customs/immigration documents at the same time as their tickets would result in no additional inconvenience.

However this arrangement is the one thing that the DUP will absolutely oppose, because in the event of a hard Brexit it will make the Six Counties—in practice if not in name—part of the EU single market and customs union and therefore economically, as opposed to politically, part of a united Ireland.

The only alternative to this is for the UK as a whole to remain part of the EU single market and customs union. And for me this now looks to be the most likely outcome. Essentially, the UK will have a similar relationship with the EU as Norway, and the border between the Six and Twenty-six counties will become as irrelevant for day-to-day purposes as the border between Norway and Sweden. Such an arrangement will also solve the problem of the border between Gibraltar and Spain, allowing Gibraltar to remain British without taking a massive financial hit from the loss of thousands of workers who make the daily commute from Spain.

Those who wanted a hard Brexit (UKIP and the Tory hardliners) were well and truly defeated in yesterday's election, so the UK having a Norway-style relationship with the EU can now be politically justified. And the Tories, if they have any sense, will grasp the fig leaf of spinning this compromise as the only practical way of ensuring that their precious UK stays together and that Gibraltar remains British.

The huge benefit for people in the UK is that we will remain part of the EU for economic purposes, and will only have opted out politically. It means that when Wales and Scotland become independent, we only need make the political decision whether we want to be part of the EU, because there will be hardly any economic consequences either way.

If I'm right in this analysis, the DUP have saved our bacon.

Now for those of you who will argue that this means that the UK will have to continue paying money to the EU, my answer is that we would always have had to do this if we wanted seamless access to the EU single market. We were fooling ourselves if we thought the EU27 would allow us any other deal.

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Two upcoming independence referendums

I want to briefly highlight two pieces of political news which will have a very significant influence on independence for Wales and Scotland, because they'll almost certainly be drowned-out by current political events on these islands.

The first is the announcement on Wednesday that there will be a referendum on independence in south Kurdistan on 25 September this year. By south, I mean that part of Kurdistan which is currently part of Iraq, to distinguish it from the western part of Kurdistan currently in Syria, north Kurdistan in Turkey and east Kurdistan in Iran. They will vote Yes.

The second is today's announcement that 1 October this year has been set as the date for the independence referendum in Catalunya. As a parallel, I suppose I could say that by Catalunya I mean the current Spanish Autonomous Community, sometimes called the Principality, as distinguished from the other Catalan countries of Valencia and the Balearic islands which are also in Spain and North Catalunya in France.

The Catalan election in particular will be enormously important as the EU's reaction to the inevitable Yes vote in Catalunya will set a precedent for how the EU will react to similar situations in Europe such as Scotland.

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I'm voting Labour tomorrow

It probably won't surprise anyone that I would never vote for the Tories or for UKIP, but I have seriously considered the others. Under a preferential voting system, my first preference would go to the Greens; Plaid and Labour would vie for second and third depending on the particular circumstances of the election and the quality of the local candidates; and the LibDems would come fourth, although at present their policy of holding a second referendum on Europe (even if for the wrong reason) makes them a rather more attractive proposition than they would usually be.


At present, Wales is part of the UK. At a UK level Plaid Cymru are all but irrelevant. Even if Wales elected 40 Plaid Cymru MPs it would probably not make any difference in a House of Commons that has 650 members.

Plaid Cymru have developed two particular conceits which annoy the hell out of me: that they are the only party that speaks for Wales and that they are the only party that represents Welsh interests. Plaid Cymru will only ever be able to claim that it "speaks for Wales" when more people in Wales vote for them than for any other party. If you want to use that sort of language, the party that "speaks for Wales" is, and has been for generations, Labour. Plaid needs to do the hard work of winning more votes before it can make that claim. Additionally, no party can claim that it uniquely represents Welsh interests. What is in our national interest is a matter of political opinion, and election campaigns are all about presenting different political positions and persuading voters about the merits of each. Even parties like UKIP and the Tories stand in Wales because they believe that their policies are in the best interests of Wales and, even though we might not like it, a good number of our fellow countrymen and women vote for them ... and are no less Welsh because of it. For me, Plaid Cymru's current leadership has given up on trying to persuade people about the merits of their policies, and instead started to go down the very dangerous road of suggesting that some parties (and by implication the people who vote for them) are anti-Welsh.

My advice to Plaid is to give up on this approach and concentrate instead on how and why their vision of what they want Wales to become, and their particular policies for getting there, are better for Wales than those of other parties in Wales.

Plaid's manifesto for this election was cringeworthy. Time and time again they promised to deliver on things which they couldn't possibly deliver .... even if Plaid were to win every single seat in Wales.

In contrast, Labour are a far more realistic choice at a UK level. For the first time in several decades, Labour have put forward a manifesto which will move the UK more to the left. Under Jeremy Corbyn, there is a glimmer of hope that the UK might become a significantly better place in which to live. That's good while we're part of the UK and good if the UK breaks up, because the people of England will always be our neighbours.


I want Wales to be independent for two reasons. The first is that Wales is a nation, and we deserve to stand on our own two feet as a nation, side by side with all the other nations of the world. However I realize that this is a sentimental view, perhaps more a matter of the heart than the head.

But the second reason I want Wales to be independent is that I do not like the political direction that the UK seems determined to travel in. The UK, and specifically the welfare state and public ownership of key sectors of the economy, that our parents and grandparents built after the second world war was something to be proud of. I benefited from it enormously. But over the past few decades it has been, and still is being, systematically dismantled. A Labour-led government under Corbyn, McDonnell and their colleagues offers the hope that this will be stopped, and perhaps even reversed. In my opinion that is worth voting for, although I half fear that it's already too late.

Will Labour deliver if elected? Who knows? I don't think any government achieves everything it sets out to achieve, but it might succeed in changing some things for the better and pointing the UK in a different direction of travel. Perhaps I'm being sentimental in this too.


Being more hard-headed, it is still unlikely that Labour will win tomorrow. To form a government they will probably need a supply and confidence arrangement with the SNP. Perhaps all that voting Labour will achieve is to give the Tories a couple of dozen fewer seats, which hopefully will force the Tories to take their foot off the accelerator so that the car crash which is Brexit will be a little softer.

However, I'm sure of this: if the Tories do form the next Westminster government, it will be a catalyst that helps bring about a united Ireland and an independent Scotland more quickly than would otherwise be the case. If I were more Machiavellian, I might encourage people to vote Tory for that very reason. But it would be like voting to leave the EU knowing that Brexit would make a united Ireland and an independent Scotland more likely. I can't in all conscience do something bad in order to bring about something good. No, I want to be able to argue for an independent Wales as the only way left for us to be part of a society which values public ownership and control of key sectors, rather than ever-increasing privatization and marketization of things that should be held by us all for the common good.

This election might well be the last chance the UK has to reverse its ever-rightward direction of travel and the inevitable self-destruction it will bring. For that reason I will be voting Labour tomorrow. I want to be able to say that I tried.

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