Friday, 30 September 2011


In the game of trying to look good, win brownie points and in effort to appear like the Con Dem Government is actually doing something - the UK Westminster government says it will make £250m available to help English councils keep or restore weekly bin collections and is to launch a consultation on increasing the speed limit on England and Wales' motorways from 70mph to 80mph. Obviously its a question of priorities which may not go down so well with the 1,020 Royal Navy personnel who are set to hear whether or not they are to be made redundant as part of a first round of cuts.

Last years Strategic Defence and Security Review triggered a whole set of redundancies and cuts within the Defence sector. The next round of redundancies is due in March 2010 as the Ministry of Defence sheds some 25,000 civilian staff over the next four years. Hmmm that should help with the recovery (not) along with the other cuts to the public sector not to mention the firm hand that the Conservatives (sorry Com Dems) have taken with the banks (not).

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Wangari Muta Maathai

Wangari Muta Maathai (1940–2011)
Wangari Muta Maathai (1940–2011) has died, she was a Nobel Peace Laureate; environmentalist; scientist; parliamentarian; founder of the Green Belt Movement; advocate for social justice, human rights, and democracy; elder; and peacemaker.

She lived and worked in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1971 she received a Ph.D., the first woman in east and central Africa to do so. She became the first woman to chair a department at the University and the first to be appointed a professor.

Professor Maathai was active in a number of environmental and humanitarian organizations in Nairobi, including the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK). Through the NCWK, she spoke to rural women and learned from them about the deteriorating environmental and social conditions affecting poor, rural Kenyans (especially women).

The women told her that they lacked firewood for cooking and heating, that clean water was scarce, and nutritious food was limited. Professor Maathai suggested to them that planting trees might be an answer. The trees would provide wood for cooking, fodder for livestock, and material for fencing; they would protect watersheds and stabilize the soil, improving agriculture.

The Green Belt Movement (GBM), was formally established in 1977 and has since mobilized hundreds of thousands of women and men to plant more than 47 million trees, restoring degraded environments and improving the quality of life for people in poverty.

As GBM’s work expanded, Professor Maathai realized that behind poverty and environmental destruction were deeper issues of disempowerment, bad governance, and a loss of the values that had enabled communities to sustain their land and livelihoods, and what was best in their cultures.

The planting of trees became an entry-point for a larger social, economic, and environmental agenda.
Professor Maathai also co-founded the Nobel Women’s Initiative with five of her fellow women peace laureates to advocate for justice, equality, and peace worldwide.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


At the moment Scottish and UK government ministers are busy discussing proposed new financial powers for Scotland. Treasury Minister David Gauke and Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney have been taking part in the first meeting of the joint exchequer committee.

The Committee will look at the financial implications of the Scotland Bill, which is currently going through the Westminster parliament. The SNP have understandably said that answers are still needed over the planned tax changes.

The Scotland Bill will devolve £12 billion pounds of new tax and borrowing powers under plans which will see Scotland control a third of its budget. At the heart of this important piece of legislation is a recommendation that Scotland should take charge of half the standard income tax rate - 10p (with a corresponding cut in the block grant Scotland gets from the Treasury).

UK Con Dem ministers have said that the powers within the bill mean Scotland, with its annual £30bn budget, will have more accountability for the money it spends. The Scottish government, however, wants to cut the headline rate of corporation tax, paid through company profits, from 23% to 20% would create an extra 27,000 jobs over 20 years. UK ministers have said that any case to devolve corporation tax to Scotland would need to be strong. So the debate goes on...

Meanwhile in Wales...Carwyn‘s formerly New Labour lot have asked for nothing. Now if its offered, whatever it is (Corporation Tax variation, a better fairer financial settlement, control of criminal justice, etc) then they will take it, especially if it's offered to Northern Ireland and Scotland, but they won't ask for it?

Now I don’t believe for a moment that this stance is down to pride, its merely a lack of any real belief in the devolution project in Wales or any belief in Wales for that matter save for political expediency. They (Labour) may actually believe or at least pay lip service to the idea that Labour in power in Westminster will actually deliver for Wales.

Yet oddly enough they didn't manage to deliver when in power last time (between 1997 and 2010) nor have they previously so why should they in the future? So much for standing up for Wales...perhaps not?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


As Tesco begins a whole sale roll down of prices, to (they say) benefit consumers some serious concerns are being expressed about the consequences for our farmers and suppliers. Welsh farmers and food suppliers are concerned that the prices they receive for their produce are going to get driven down, as Tesco will make efforts to avoid cutting its profits.

With Tesco dropping some of its prices and effectively declaring a Price War on its commercial rivals and competitors, the question is whose going to pay for it? The £500 million pound 'Big Price Drop' is an attempt to maintain Tesco’s share of the market rather than grow it. The real question is will the Tesco shareholders or management be the ones who absorb the pain of the cuts? Or the farmers and suppliers?

The National Farmers Union (NFU) Cymru and the Farmers Union of Wales have serious concerns is about the prices farmers get paid for their produce. Their experience tells them that the larger food retailers often expect their suppliers to share the pain of any cut in retail pricing.

Tesco already has what could be described as a fraught relationship with some of the farmers it uses to source its products. The National Farmers Union has talked openly about a ‘Climate of fear’ in the (monopoly) world of modern food retail, where the small producers are too scared to speak out about the abuses that are impoverishing them because they may run the risk of reprisals and lose the only customers there are for their produce.

The Con Dem Government, just like it's New Labour predecessor, has been dragging its feet about the prospect of legislation to create a supermarket watchdog to investigate alleged breaches of the Grocery Suppliers Code of Practice. The code was introduced after the Competition Commission found large retailers were passing on excessive risks and unexpected costs to their suppliers.

Part of the problem may be that the Political parties may have readily got used to some of the perks of having a close relationship with the Supermarkets (or power companies, etc) with their glossy adverts in conference brochures, free food at funded functions, etc. One very old rule is that once you sell your virtue it stays sold, and once you sell your principles they stay bought and the end result is that the fabric of our democracy is damaged or tainted, and nothing in this life is free.

Perhaps a more pertinent question to ask would be what do they (the Supermarkets) get for their money? Or at least what are they seeking in lieu of their donations? Or even when do they get it? The answer may well be a weak and watered down Supermarket Ombudsman - which is the last thing any of us needs, whether as a customer, a supplier or a farmer.

Monday, 26 September 2011


Humans have now reached that point in our (and the planet's) history where we are shaping almost every aspect of the planet, and not always in a good way. We have done this before, but, never on an industrial scale, so we are in wholly new territory - an era that could be called the Anthropocene Epoch.  Will Steffen, who is the executive director of the Australian National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute. Prof Will Steffen, at the Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Transport forum (in March 2009), gave an interesting detailed overview of the multiple challenges we face if we are to continue to prosper on this planet, entitled Surviving the anthropocene, which is well worth listening too.

Saturday, 24 September 2011


The first quarter of the 21st Century may be written up by future Historians as the years when the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) rose to greatness and flexed its muscles on a global if not an imperial scale. Future historians may also note that these were the years when the PRC's influence in sub Saharan Africa grew at an exponential rate. There has been an almost imperial acquisition of resources in the sub-Sahara with one of the most sweeping, bare-knuckled, and bare faced acquisition of resource to feed the PRC's population and it's economy.

The USA (and the West) have been struggling economically and politically with the consequences of the War on Terror and the consequences of the World wide Banking crisis. In barely a few years, the PRC has become one of the more aggressive investor-states in Africa. This admittedly commercial invasion has been (and is) probably the most important economic and political development in the sub-Sahara since the Cold War ended, the economic map of the world has been quietly redrawn.

There are more Chinese citizens resident in Nigeria than there were Brits during the height of their empire. Chinese state-owned and state-linked corporations and small entrepreneurs have roll led across the continent in an almost unstoppable wave. It has been estimated that potentially around a million Chinese citizens are at work in sub-Saharan Africa. The PRC has created collateral economies and population monuments across the continent as it searches for and seeks to develop and control minerals and food resources.

No other world power has come close to showing the same interest (or muscle for that matter) or sought to cosy up to Africa's leaders. Now this is no War on Terror, democracy (flawed or not) is no being encouraged, nurtured or spread by the PRC - this is solely about finding what the PRC needs to feed China (figuratively and literally). Aside for having a political impact and snaffling up increasingly scare resources there has been an impact within the Sub Saharan African nations.

This has been manifested as trade unions begin to fight against some pretty grim (PRC imposed) working conditions (obviously and somewhat ironically the People's Republic of China (a notional communist and pretty repressive state) is obviously no great lover of any real trade union's and any political opposition for that matter. And as indigenous local farmers (and their families) find themselves pushed off their land as governments swayed by the PRC's largess sells  the land form underneath them. Pro and anti Chinese candidates fight elections in those Sub Saharan states where meaningful elections take place that is, and you can guess which ones get the benefits of PRC funding.

Friday, 23 September 2011


Hope for a better country, but not as part of the United Kingdom. There is a strong sense of national identity in Wales, which has helped fuel calls for it to achieve independence, following similar calls further north in Scotland.

And yet the debate continues to rage over whether Welsh ambitions are driven by economic sense or pure emotion.

Wales is a part of the UK and a proud nation, with its own language and customs. It is also the latest voice to call for independence. Plaid Cymru, which means the Party of Wales, has always argued the country would be better off without the UK, and it seems increasing numbers are starting to see their point of view.

“Our economy has been run from London, with the interests and priorities of the South East of England to the fore. An independent Wales would be able to chart a different course, based on our needs and our priorities,” says Adam Price, research fellow at Harvard University Center for International development.

Wales is a long way from declaring independence, but it is no longer just a pipedream. Its people voted overwhelmingly earlier this year in favor of handing the Welsh Assembly full law-making powers. That was considered a turning-point in Welsh nationhood. And Plaid Cymru have undoubtedly taken heart from the landslide victory of the Scottish National Party in May.

That victory gave the SNP an outright majority in the Scottish Parliament, which has many powers devolved from Westminster. The party has promised to hold a Scotland-wide referendum on whether or not to declare independence.

According to Plaid Cymru, that marks the turning of the tide of for a unified Great Britain.

“People now, I believe, are beginning to use the word independence in a Welsh context, which they wouldn’t have done a few years ago,” says Jill Evans, a member of the party. “And as that debate develops, I think the people in Wales are going to see that when Scotland becomes independent, the next logical step is for Wales to become independent too.”

Of course separatism is nothing new to the British Isles, and the thousands of victims of the troubles in Northern Ireland are testament to how high feelings can run, both present day and for centuries past. While national sentiment may not be a new phenomenon, the reasons for it have changed over the years. And in these current turbulent economic times money talks.

Scotland has oil and gas. But while Wales was once a proud coal-producing nation, its mines are now closed, and it has some of the highest unemployment levels in the UK. Because of that, the older generation is reserved when it comes to independence. But young people are filled with national fervor. For them, independence is less about money, and more about nationhood and identity.

“It does seem to be better here at the moment,” one Welsh woman tells RT. “We have free prescriptions, and education seems to be a bit better.”

“We have a lot of culture that we shouldn’t forget about,” says another.

Plaid Cymru says it is going to build on that support, providing not just emotional reasons why Wales should be independent, but concrete economic reasons too. It claims Wales does have resources, particularly land and sea for green energy. If the Scots vote for independence, Wales might not be far behind.

[SOURCE: Russia Today]

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Planning permission can be a touchy subject, especially when a development (whether for commercial, housing or energy development) is controversial or the final decision is made against the wishes of local people by a fairly distant and indifferent authority. It's pretty obvious that we lack a coherent national strategic development plan for Wales judging by the half-baked way local unitary development plans have been put together over the years, doing some pretty serious damage to our environment in the process.

News that the developers are set to appeal against a decision by Torfaen council to reject controversial plans for 1,200 homes in Sebastopol, should come as no surprise to most dispassionate observers. The original application was made by a consortium of developers (including Asbri Panning Ltd, Barratt Homes and the Welsh Development Agency) for the housing to be built on farm and woodland near Cwmbran Drive.

Torfaen County Council (wisely in my opinion) rejected the application on a number of different grounds including highways, transport, access and circulation and threat to surrounding green wedges of land. The development consortium has decided to skip negotiations with Torfaen County Council and go straight to an appeal against the planning decision. Back in July, Torfaen County Councillors refused the planning application, but, have until next week to formalise the exact wording of the reasons for refusal of planning consent.

You do have to ask yourself why the Welsh Development Agency, now an arm of the Welsh Government is working against the best interests of the people of Torfaen and seeking to develop the few surviving green wedges between Cwmbran and Pontypool. For the record, our county only has one notional green belt, and that lies between Cardiff and Newport, Scotland has 7 and Northern Ireland has 30 - each has its own policy guidance.

The idea of Green belt worked and worked well, as of 2007, Green belt covered something like 13% of England (around one-and-a-half million hectares) which despite the best efforts of previous Conservative and New Labour Governments it is still relatively well protected both by normal planning controls and against "inappropriate development" within its boundaries. It's worth noting that 'Green belt' is a useful planning tool, which was introduced for London in 1938 but then ended up being rolled out to England as a whole by a government circular in 1955.

We have seen in the south east, especially along the coastal belt and in and around Torfaen, over the last twenty years a spectacular growth in the amount of housing. The fact that a significant percentage of which was never aimed to fulfil pressing local housing needs may be of note, along with the fact that Newport City Council (and no doubt others) have encouraged a growth in housing to fill predicted anticipated gaps in demand for housing in and around a large city across the bridge.

As a result the infrastructure along the coastal belt between Chepstow, Caldicot, Rogiet and Magor is struggling to cope with existing developments and this is well before the projected expansion of housing on and around the former Llanwern site. The north of Newport has now been linked effectively to the south Cwmbran - something that has brought little material benefit or improved quality of life to either urban area.

We often seem to fail to note that once the Green belt or Green wedge is gone it's gone forever, we cannot restore it. The Con Dems in England (in Westminster) are seeking to free up green belt and agricultural land for housing (and other) development. There is a real need for a Welsh equivalent to Green belt, to fringe our urban areas, to help focus out of town and fringe of town developments, not to mention helping to protect rural green spaces between and within some of our urban areas for current and future generations.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


When it comes to one of the old imagined rules of the political game, never to promise what you have no intention of delivering save to try an gain votes, the three main London based parties stand guilty as charged. Particularly when it comes to energy, all three of them pledged to raise the MW threshold for planning control of energy projects in Wales to varying degrees, yet all have done next to nothing to try to deliver.

Back in April, much was promised, including:

Welsh Conservative Manifesto 2011:

“[Will] continue to make the case for devolving power over energy projects up to 100 MW.”

Welsh Labour Manifesto 2011:

“Continue to seek responsibility for renewable energy consents up to 100MW on both sea and land, enabling Wales to move quicker in providing clean energy solutions for all.”

Welsh Lib Dems Manifesto 2011:

“We will also examine whether new areas of responsibility, such as powers regarding policing or large-scale energy generation can deliver improved results for the people of Wales. Specifically, we will make the case for powers over larger energy projects and policing and justice.”

Promises are clearly one thing, clearly actions another, recently the Con Dem Government energy minister Greg Barker announced that the coalition government would reserve these powers in Westminster, so much for manifesto promises made by the UK coalition parties to the Welsh electorate. This means that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change will take control of energy powers currently held by the shortly to be disbanded Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), so much for democratic accountability.

In the last Welsh General election, the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems all made the case for further devolution of energy powers, yet these were mere empty promises. The local Welsh franchise of the London based Lib Dems and Tories from Wales have been shown to have zero influence on their masters in London, just like Labour in Wales during the Blair and Brown years.

At the moment the National Assembly has the power to control or give permission for new or increased electricity generating stations up to 50MW. This arbitrary limit has been imposed on Wales for no particular reason; oddly enough the Scottish people have complete control over the utilisation of their resources. At the moment there are two separate energy agendas operating in Wales. Why should an energy project with 49MW generating capacity be decided on by the Assembly one over 51MW by the Secretary of State in Westminster?

Now Plaid rightly opposed the creation of the IPC because it was undemocratic when was brought in as part of New Labour’s 2008 Planning Act. And Plaid also rightly welcomed the decision to pull the plug on it, but understandably not the lack of clarity as to where those powers should sit?

There is no justification for denying the Welsh people parity with Scotland when it comes to control of the planning process for energy developments. The bottom line is that control of natural resources and energy policy should be devolved to Wales for reasons of simple common sense and simple practicality, or perhaps as far as the London based parties are concerned Wales simply does not matter or count.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


The man from Admiral (chief operating officer and executive director, David Stevens) hit the nail on the head when talking to the Welsh Affairs Committee inquiry (last week) on inward investment about attracting and developing start-up businesses in Wales. Wales should chase and help to develop young businesses rather than spend time and money chasing big international firms. Start-up enterprises are more valuable to the Welsh economy and less likely to up sticks and pull out in times of economic austerity.

David Stevens from Admiral rightly pointed out that companies with their HQ's and senior management teams based in Wales were more valuable than "off-shoots of big companies based elsewhere". He also pointed out that "Businesses with only 'muscle' in Wales are more likely to withdraw in hard times or if cheaper location options emerge," and that targeting "glossy" adverts to attract "sexy sectors" of industry was not the best strategy for boosting investment. The importance of good infrastructure was highlighted, including railways, with the man from Admiral saying he supported the electrification of the Great Western rail line to Swansea. At present the UK Westminster government only plans to electrify the line as far as Cardiff.

There has been fat to much focus on attracting large scale single enterprises, which promise much but deliver significantly less than anticipated. The LG development near Newport, is a good example of an expensive disaster / fiasco [please take your pick] which promised the usual total of 6,000 jobs - accrued significant public funding - committed by the then Welsh Secretary, William Hague, yet never delivered anything like what was promised.

Anyone (even a Tory) with half a brain or even half an understanding of the state of the Korean and the Far Eastern economies at the time that might has hesitated, but not the then Tory Government. Anyone with a partial understanding of where technological developments in relation to PC monitor screens were going, would have put their hands up and said hang on a moment - but not obviously not in the the corridors of power in Cardiff.

A combination of what can best be described as fantasy island economic assessments, a fatally flawed business case and a forthcoming Westminster election led to one of the spectacularly duller decisions of recent years being made, something that ended up costing us millions of pounds worth of public money. The old WDA has in truth not really consistently delivered anything like long term economic stability and much needed long term job opportunities to our communities that it should have done considering the amounts poured into it.

How well any of this will go down with the dinosaurs making the decisions in WAG is another matter. In the last Government in Cardiff, Plaid's Ieuan Wyn Jones (AM) then Minister for Economic Development tried to change things and to focus on growing indigenous businesses. The Plaid driven One Wales Government made efforts to think and act differently when it came to economic development and support for small to medium sized enterprises, which are the only real thing that will put wealth into our communities, and develop and sustain longer term employment possibilities.

The lazy half-baked Brit Civil service / WDA continues to favour the option of attracting branch factory operations (some of which are only here for a relatively short time) which does little to develop our economy. We need to think differently and focus economic development priorities on attracting and developing start-up companies and smaller local businesses who will be rooted in our country and our communities and offer more flexible employment opportunities.

It's to early to tell whether Carwyn's Labour Government is capable of thought (let alone action) inside or outside of the box. One thing is true though, more of the same old twaddle from Whitehall and Cathays won't do at all, vastly expensive one egg, one basket schemes to generate the standard 6,000 jobs, just won't do.

The London based political parties, when they needed the votes talked the talk but have delivered little, rapidly abandoning any election promises that may have been made to Welsh voters. With a new government in Cardiff (even in times of austerity) we don't need talk, we need concrete steps to encourage growth, boost our manufacturing industry, support and grow our small to medium sized enterprises, otherwise it will just be a case of same old, same old combined with ill thought out out public sector cuts which will do nothing to boost our communities and our economy.

Friday, 16 September 2011


I have been looking forward to this years Abergavenny Food Festival (being held over this weekend) for a while once again (happily) it has once again not clashed with Plaid's annual conference, good for me, bad for my bank balance and (potentially) bad for my cholesterol.  Now well established, the food festival enriches the market town of Abergavenny (and the surrounding area) and adds to Abergavenny's well deserved reputation as the ‘Gateway to Wales’.

The Food Festival, is one of those well organised events that has put the town on the map, it manages successfully to attract visitors from far and wide and showcases exceptional local Welsh produce, local businesses and services and local talent (which we have plenty) within the former county of Gwent. This year's festival, will build on previous successes promises  and make a real difference to Abergavenny and add to the festivals well deserved and growing reputation which has given the traditional market town an international reputation and profile.

Thursday, 15 September 2011


Meanwhile Community Land Scotland, which represents Scotland's community landowners has in submissions to the UK Scottish Affairs Committee and Scottish Scotland Bill Committee, for radical reform of the way the Crown Estate operates in Scotland and for some of its roles should be taken over by community groups. MPs and MSPs are looking into the future of the Crown Estate's functions in Scotland at the moment.

The Crown Estate in rural Scotland owns 91,400 acres (37,000ha) of agricultural land, 12,300 acres (5,000ha) of forestry, residential and commercial property, salmon fishing rights, the Fochabers and Glenlivet estates in Moray, Whitehill Estate in Midlothian and land surrounding Stirling Castle. Not to mention 50% of the foreshore and beds of tidal rivers in Scotland and almost all the seabed out to 12 nautical miles.

For the record Community Land Scotland's members own some 500,000 acres (202,343ha). Recently a Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) report produced by researcher Dr Sarah Skerratt, suggests that community land ownership plays a successful role in encouraging people to live and work in remote and rural areas.

The SAC report noted that while many communities did not have the range of skills and capacity they needed for the task of purchasing and developing their land. People worked to overcome the challenges by bringing in training, guidance and support to help when they necessary. There is no reason why the Crown Estate's holdings in Wales should not also bring communal benefits to the Welsh people.

While not everything that works in Scotland will work in Wales the concept of local communities benefiting from ownership of local resources, be they land or energy or redevelopment schemes for that matter is something that we need to develop. There should be no barriers to this happening right across Wales basically wherever there are communities (urban or rural) willing to give it a go.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


There has been some press coverage of Plaid's endorsement of our (Plaid's) desire for Wales to be independent. There have been some well thought out articles on the blog sphere, one from the Plaid Wrecsam blog and one from the Independent Wales blog (the clue is in the name) caught my attention. Now what I have not seen or heard is anyone making the case as to why Wales should be dependent rather than independent. I won't hold my breath though as I am at a loss to see why anyone would say that Wales has done particularly well (in the last forty years or so) out of being dependent on the UK - over to Peter (the Pain) Hain perhaps? Peter Hain, no doubt will be more than happy to say how thick, stupid, uneducated and lacking in talent, skills and common sense that are necessary to run our own affairs? Perhaps not Peter?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


The Westminster government announced on Wednesday (8th September) that they would postpone the elections for Police Commissioners from May to November of 2012, something that will push up the costs of the implementation process by around £25m to a total of £75m. The Westminster Home Affairs Committee was told that the £25m additional cost of staging the elections in November would not come out of the existing police budgets and the Home Office was in discussions with the Treasury about where the money would come from.

The path towards elected Police Commissioners in England (and Wales) which are being brought in as part of the Police and Social Responsibility Bill, has not been smooth for the Con Dem Government. The plans have already been rejected once by the House of Lords (in May 2011), not to mention the refusal by the National Assembly (in Cardiff) to pass a Legislative Compliance Motion (LCM) and even the Association of Chief Police Officers have expressed their concerns.

Perhaps now is the time for the devolution of control of Policing and Justice, before we end up with a right old constitutional dogs breakfast. Interestingly enough the National Assembly, the Scottish Parliament or Northern Ireland Assembly had never previously refused to approve an LCM or its equivalent, at least until the National Assembly refused to approve it's LCM.

Now legally there is no reason why the Home Office cannot push on with the proposed legislation on Police and Crime Panels. The Westminster Parliament remains supreme in relation to areas of law-making which have been devolved. Yet, if the decision is made to push on regardless with legislation on a devolved field against the wishes of a devolved legislature will raise important issues relating to devolution and not just in relation to Wales but also in relation to both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Little appetite, interest or enthusiasm has been demonstrated one way or the other here in Wales for elected Police commissioners by the Welsh people or in truth their elected representatives. At a time when our police forces are preparing to deal with significant budget cuts, whatever the Welsh percentage of the £25 million pounds having to be spent, could be better spent on retain Police officers and civilian support staff and keeping more officers on the beat.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


We are all still far to close to the murderous events of September 11th 20001 to fully assess the long-term consequences that have flowed from the brutal attacks on America that day as a result of the terrorist attacks. Whilst my family lost no one that day, some of my family have seen active service in both Iraq and Afghanistan since, something we could never have envisaged prior to September 11th. Our thoughts today should be with those who lost family members in the attacks on New York and Washington and with the families of service personnel who have lost family members or had family members injured since 2001.

Saturday, 10 September 2011


It should be pretty clear by now that if Plaid does not stand up for Wales then no one will. The new Labour government in Cardiff appears to be more concerned with simply being there than doing anything of value (this could also be said for most Labour run councils as well). Rather quietly Labour have begun to drop those Plaid driven transport infrastructure projects that improved communications from south to north in favour of east to west infrastructure projects.

Now I used to think that this merely down to a lack of imagination, but, have changed my mind, aside from having a Welsh government almost entirely bereft of imagination, direction, etc. What we actually have is (ironically) a Welsh government that does not even believe in the nation. They will take extra powers it they are offered, but, will never ask for them, they are content to simply sit and wait for Labour to regain political control at Westminster, and even then they won't seek any additional powers or fair funding.

Rather than standing up for Wales, what we have we have a government that is literally sleepwalking for Wales, or almost certainly seeking to redefine inertia. Wales has a government that representing a party, rather than the people, that never wanted an assembly in the first place, and certainly did not want a referendum on more powers (let alone a successful one).

Labour in Wales has been pretty good at representing and protecting Westminster's interests in Wales, rather than representing Wales's interests in Westminster. It is a telling indictment on Labour in Wales that Carwyn's lot would rather decisions on economic development, the media and energy be made here in Wales by the Welsh people.

Friday, 2 September 2011


Some of people may think that it was only a matter of time before the Conservatives reverted to type. So news that an oil firm whose chief executive has bankrolled the Conservatives has won exclusive rights to trade with Libyan rebels during the conflict, after secret talks which involved the British Government should come as no real surprise. Neither should we be surprised that the deal may have been organised by a former oil trader turned junior conservative minister, who happens to have close business links to the oil firm and was previously a director of one of its subsidiaries. Also probably best not to mention what the Tories (Sorry Con Dems) are planning to do to the planning process in England then or the news that David (“Call me the bankers best mate”) Cameron plans to quietly drop any banking reforms until after 2019. Perhaps it's best not to tell Vince... 

Thursday, 1 September 2011


As a small child I sat for many hours listening to the stories from my great uncle, a naval veteran of the Arctic convoys to Russia and of much else. Some seventy years ago on August 31, 1941, less than two months after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, the first Allied Arctic Convoy (of the 78) arrived in Arkhangelsk in northern Russia.

From then on until the last convoy arrived at Murmansk on May 22, 1945, more than 1,400 merchant ships escorted by ships of the British, U.S. and Canadian Navies brought important military and other supplies to two northern (then Soviet) ports or Murmansk and Arkhangelsk (as part of the US lend-lease program).

The first small convoy, consisted of six merchant ships and several escorts, and brought rubber, tin and other raw materials not to mention 15 British Hurricane fighters complete with pilots and maintenance crews. Some 85 merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships were sunk by Nazi submarines and approximately 3,000 British servicemen were killed during the Arctic campaign.

The significance of lend-lease supplies for the Eastern front by Soviet-bound Arctic convoys and their role in defeating fascism is still emerging. The convoy veterans and the vital supplies they delivered were lost in the often hot rhetoric of the Cold War. Oleg Rzheshevsky, the Russian war historian, has noted that apart from everything else, the convoys were a powerful moral influence.

"The moral aspect of the Arctic Convoys meant a lot. This was an extremely important factor both for the army and for all our people as it signalled that we were not alone in that war but had strong allies such as Britain and the United States. This helped boost our troop morale on the battlefield and supported our people on the home front."

Many of the arctic convoy veterans are still alive, in May; they were all awarded special medals by Russia in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of Victory over fascism. The awards ceremony took place aboard the historic Belfast cruiser, the last surviving UK warship that served the Arctic Convoys, a fresh reminder that World War II was not just a Soviet war, or a British war, but a common war against fascist tyranny.

This week, a group of Arctic convoy veterans have travelled to Arkhangelsk for ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the first arctic convoy. Back in August 2009, a new memorial was dedicated on the Orkney Islands as a lasting tribute to all those who took part in the Arctic Convoys.

Yet here our veterans are still waiting for coalition government (in office for 18 months) to honour Prime Minister David Cameron’s election promise (which has been repeated) to create a special medal for veterans of the Arctic Convoys. While Whitehall may not have noticed, the Cold war has been over since 1989 yet the UK Government still refuses to acknowledge the significance of the Russian convoys and the bravery of the veterans.

Successive Westminster governments have promised to create a medal, yet have failed to keep their promise. The Russian Government has awarded our veterans three medals, the arctic convoys are now part of Russia’s school curriculum. The Russian Government and the Russian people understand the convoy’s importance, yet successive UK Governments really struggle with this.

Perhaps the National Assembly should explore whether or not we in Wales can honour our arctic convoy veterans. Our veterans should not be left out in the cold again, the medal needs to be created and awarded to the veterans and their families before it is too late.