Sunday, 31 May 2015


Much as been made by some people about Norway’s relationship with the European Union and about how it could be the model for the UK’s relationship with the EU in the event of a ‘NO’ vote. It sounds reasonable save for the fact that the Norwegians have been fiscally responsible for the last 50 years, the same cannot be said the UK, where Westminster governments regardless of their political hue pursued (at least since 1979) short term policies with long term consequences.

Norway closely cooperates with its Scandinavian neighbours (potentially a model for cooperation for the nations within these isles), it was a founder member of EFTA, yet in 1973 end 1995 voted no to join the EEC/EU. Norway like the UK is a member of NATO and has contributed troops to NATO operations and has lead responsibility for NATO's air policing mission over the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The big difference, save for population size and energy policy is that Norway has a sovereign oil fund which currently stands at around or about £400 billion (around $640 billion); the UK has no sovereign oil fund. The UK rather than thinking in medium or long term, during the oil boom years, simply blew the North Sea cash on cutting national borrowing and keeping down taxes. Whatever revenue came in disappeared into the day-to-day budget.

In Norway for the last 18 years Norway, various governments saved the government's petroleum and gas revenue - arising from levies on oil and gas companies which operating in Norway and from its stake in national energy giant Statoil – into its national oil fund. The income from the fund actually cover 11% of Norway’s national spending. Even more ironically, the UK buys large quantities of Norwegian gas, adding to Norway’s nest egg, which happens to be one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world.

Norway’s global investment arm of the Government Pension Fund, as the oil fund is formally named, is one of the biggest investors in shares across Europe, even though its share holdings took a hammering during the financial crisis, the fund is now acquiring significant trophy properties across Europe. Around 4% of the fund (around £16 billion pounds) is diverted each year to subsidise Norwegian government spending.

This keeps Norwegian hospital beds open, helps pay for social benefits and has paid for significant infrastructure projects across Norway. Norway’s fund continues to grow as levies on oil and gas production and on oil companies bring in around £30 billion annually. As the oil and gas continue to flow and oil and gas prices remain high, then Norway’s fund continues to grow.

The UK, under Labour’s James Callaghan in the mid to late 1970s considered setting up an oil fund, but as economic crisis worsened it simply grabbed the money. In Norway they followed the British, but wisely had second thoughts after the oil price collapsed in the 1980s. So they decided to consciously bank the benefits from the oil bonanza for future generations of Norwegians.

Mrs Thatcher was many things to many people (some of them unprintable on this blog) but she was in no way an investment prime minister. David Cameron may credit Mrs T for having made Britain great again after the late 1970s but she spectacularly failed to invest in Britain’s post-Thatcherite future. Capital spending plummeted and the UK’s national infrastructure was left to rot and public services in particular were starved of resources. 

The Brits chose neither to save nor too invest and squandered a fortune on bailing out the economy and subsidised tax cuts. It did not have to be this way – in Shetland, the council set up an oil fund which contains around £185 million today, even after upgrading roads, ferry terminals and local swimming pools. In Scotland, the Scottish Government has advocated setting up a special fund supported by North Sea oil revenues.

While the North Sea oil is well past its peak, and although oil prices are currently low, the future prospects of West Coast oil fields could seriously deliver for Scotland. The prospect of future energy revenues being banked in Scotland rather than squandered by Westminster may concentrate the mind of the Westminster elite. This may go a long way to explain David Cameron and the leaderless Labour Party’s inherent nervousness about the renewed prospects of Scottish independence – especially in the event of a wrong result in any EU referendum.

As for Cymru / Wales - there is no reason why our country cannot be a self-reliant prosperous nation; the Welsh people are not predisposed by way of education, outlook or aspiration to be a poor people. Yet if you listen to Labour in Wales we will always be poor, we will always be dependent and we will have few economic prospects beyond handouts and independence is unaffordable, etc.  Like any simple untruth, keep it simple, repeat it often enough and people will start to believe it.

As pointed out by Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood during the televised Westminster debates, some parts of our country are still suffering from a prolonged downward economic spiral that predates Labour last period in power (in Westminster) and the financial collapse. What our communities are facing now are the consequences of decisions generations of unionist (mostly Labour) politicians have consistently failed to make on behalf of Wales, which are now impacting on our communities from one end of our country to the other.

Aside from the desire to make things better and the vision (something I believe that Labour in Wales is incapable of delivering) a Welsh government needs to have powers over our natural resources. We need to be able at a basic level to regulate, develop, control and own our sustainable energy (basically wind, water, wave and solar) resources. With the right leadership and some medium to long-term thinking there is no reason why Wales cannot play a leading role in the development of a global low-carbon economy.

As a nation, when it comes to natural resources Wales is rich by way of comparison with some developing countries, our natural resources sustainably used could underpin a first class economy. The current devolution prevents a Welsh government from doing this even if it wanted too. Not for nothing was Water excluded specifically by the Labour in Westminster Government from the National Assembly’s powers and only energy projects up to 50MW (on shore) and 1 MW off-shore come under the control of the National Assembly.

We need a Sovereign Wealth Fund for Wales (initially based around the assets of the Crown Estates in Wales - control of which needs to be transferred to the National Assembly) to make sure that the benefits of the green energy revolution stay here rather than feeding shareholder dividends in the city (and elsewhere) and are used to ensure that the people of Wales get their full share of the energy and wealth created. Such a fund could act as a guarantee for further borrowing and could build to be an impressive multi-million pound source of funding.

Some of which could be used to offer loans for small micro-generation projects. The way things work at the moment wind farm developments tend make token gestures towards feeding some of their subsidized profits towards local communities. At best this might be considered patronizing, especially as local communities (along with the Welsh Government) are effectively excluded from any meaningful participation in the planning process if the development is over 50MW in size.

One size does not fit all, our Communities should be able to develop and benefit from small-scale renewable energy projects and regeneration projects in their own areas. If we do this right then we can develop more community leadership, grow local ownership of renewable energy projects and develop more cooperative models of ownership. People living in communities close to renewable energy installations should also receive the benefits of discounted energy and local dividends for community projects.

If we do this right then our communities and our country can become less dependent and we can become more self-reliant socially and economically, ironically Labour in Wales, who are part of the problem rather than the solution, would no doubt come up with reasons to oppose any of this. We also need to ensure that democratic accountability and planning gain is built into the energy development process and that our communities are able benefit from community beneficial energy projects.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas have today confirmed that the three parties will work together as a progressive alliance in Westminster. 

Making the announcement ahead of the Queen’s speech the three parties said they would unite whenever possible to battle the Westminster parties’ obsession with austerity. 
First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said: 

“We are already well aware of what to expect from the Tory government in this Queen’s speech, with the continuation of the relentless assault on the poor and a further £12bn in cuts to social security. 

“At the General Election, people in Scotland gave the SNP an unprecedented democratic mandate to put an end to the cuts agenda which is hurting people across our communities – and we will use this mandate to work with Plaid and the Greens to lead the fight against Tory austerity and put forward a better plan to benefit people in Scotland and right across the UK. 

Plaid Cymru Leader, Leanne Wood, said: 

"Plaid Cymru’s team of MPs will be working with their SNP and Green colleagues in a progressive alliance to put forward the positive alternative to the Conservative government. As a group in the last parliament we worked together to hold the first ever debate on the bedroom tax and also held joint debates on inequality and Trident. 

“It is clear from the Labour leadership contest that that party is moving further to the right. The Plaid Cymru, SNP and Green will act as the only real opposition to the Conservative government and its agenda for further cuts and regressive policies such as the repeal of the Human Rights Act.” 

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: 

“With a Government wedded to further austerity and unwilling to take the action required on climate change it is vital to have a strong opposition voice in Parliament. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the Labour leadership has so often failed to offer the real alternative that’s so desperately required. 

"I’ll be working alongside MPs from Plaid Cymru and the SNP to put forward a real alternative to the tired business-as-usual politics that’s dominated Westminster for too long. On issues such as trident renewal and opposition to cuts it’s vital that progressive politicians work together to truly hold the Government to account.” 

Monday, 25 May 2015


The news that the £50 billion pound HS2 rail link will not be extended to Scotland, as the team behind the project has found there is “no business case” for the undertaking, does not surprise me. For sometime HS2 has been focused on reducing journey times from London to Birmingham to 49 minutes, before it splits into lines to Manchester and Leeds over two phases.

However, it was always hinted that HS2 would still ultimately reach Scotland, so commuters could travel from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London in three hours, against about four-and-a-half hours today. Back in 2009, when the then New Labour Transport secretary Lord Adonis launched, he claimed it would be “the union railway, uniting England and Scotland, north and south, richer and poorer parts of our country, sharing wealth and opportunity”.

Clearly these dreams and aspirations are no more. The announcement by the team behind the project means that HS2 will now not be extended to Scotland is of some importance, as it leaves leaves England as the only part of the UK set to benefit from the multi-billion pound development.

Any claim of a business case for HS2 that would benefit Wales have long been demolished by official KPMG figures which showed that the project would wipe millions from the Welsh economy each year. As HS2 is to be an England-only project then Welsh taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for a development set to be built entirely in England and to the detriment of the Welsh economy.

Plaid Cymru has led the campaign for Wales to receive a faire share of funding from HS2. Estimates show that this would bring in a vital £2-4bn that could be spent on revolutionising Welsh roads and railways, which are crying out for investment. HS2 must not be allowed to entrench inequality throughout the UK by concentrating investment on projects to benefit London and the South East while Scotland and Wales are ignored.

Thursday, 7 May 2015


Today we really do have a unique opportunity, for far too long Wales has been neglected by Westminster – that historic neglect can cease on May 9th. Our country has never been nor ever will be a priority for the big establishment Westminster based parties who will always put London and their own vested interests first before the needs of Wales. The only way to make Wales matter after the election is to vote for Plaid Cymru - the Party of Wales. Plaid will use its influence in the hung parliament to get the very best deal possible for Wales and for all our communities. A YouGov poll recently showed that 78% of people think that Wales should get the same funding deal as Scotland – Plaid is the only party that can deliver this. Fair funding for Wales would mean an extra £1.2 billion a year, to spend on our hospitals, our schools and strengthening our economy. For those who haven't voted for Plaid Cymru before, lend your vote to Plaid tomorrow. We won't let you down. Together, Plaid can make Wales' voice heard in Westminster. Together, Plaid can make Wales work.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015


On Europe Day (May 5th) Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood has warned that the controversial US-EU TTIP agreement risks opening up more areas of Wales’ public services to private competition. Leanne Wood said that the agreement could have a very detrimental impact on the good trade relationship between the EU and US.

The Party of Wales leader Leanne Wood said:

“The controversial TTIP agreement poses risks to us in Wales because it pledges to ‘future-proof’ the profits of corporations from government decisions. There is a particular threat to services where there is already non-government provision such as the care sector.

“Plaid Cymru wants to protect our public services, and opposing this TTIP clause that could cost millions of pounds for the Welsh Government in future is fundamental part of this. Unless we oppose these changes, the NHS and other key public services may find themselves at the mercy of greater interference from private multinationals.

“European trade agreements are important for Wales’ economy, and Plaid Cymru will work to boost trade and investment. But Plaid Cymru will always work to protect and invest in our public services.”

The Party of Wales’ Jill Evans MEP said:

“There are significant concerns in Wales that the trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the USA (TTIP) poses a real threat to public services. While European trade agreements are extremely important for Wales’ economy, Plaid Cymru will work to boost trade and investment, we have called for the talks to be suspended and for the impact on Wales to be assessed.

“The TTIP agreement poses a threat to the NHS and other key public services which may find themselves at the mercy of greater interference from private multinationals if the agreement remains as it is. Plaid Cymru will always work to protect and invest in our public services and we have therefore called for health services to be explicitly excluded from any trade agreement.”