Welsh Language Society

Mar 242014
 

I had intended writing something similar to this post a while back, when I heard that Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) was launching a new campaign. For those who’ve missed it; the ‘campaign’ has started, but seems to consist of nothing more than small groups chaining themselves to the gates of out-of-the-way governmCyIGent buildings where the chainees are ignored, by the media and just about everyone else. As campaigns go, this exercise in futility is going nowhere.

Having originally decided that CyI and the non-campaign wasn’t worth the effort of a post, I have changed my mind over the past few days for reasons alluded to in the title. The bigotry is that exhibited by the sad git working in some Cardiff shop, who said on Facebook, “I love wales and it’s beauty, but the welsh language gets right on my fucking nerves. Two girls in the shop at the moment speaking to each other in welsh. I’ve had to turn bobby womack up to 8”. As the piece in Daily Wales, and the comments it attracted show, there were attempts to explain or laugh off the outburst. One comment even tried to justify the bigotry by claiming that Welsh is not a “mellifluous” language. In which case, neither is German, or Russian, or countless other languages. While on the other hand, French is very ‘mellifluous’, but that never stops those who share Shop Boy’s anglo-insular views from detesting Johnny Frog and everything about him and his culture.

So, we start with a clear and indefensible case of bigotry, which should have been followed by apologies all round, apologies accepted, end of story. But, no; for this morning, the radio station misrepresenting itself as BBC Wales put out a phone-in programme asking why so many people are upset by the sound of the Welsh language. (AvailaOliver Hidesble here.) Note that the ground of the debate has now shifted significantly. In less than forty-eight hours it has become an established fact that the sound of the Welsh language is irritating; and this elevates Shop Boy to the status of martyr, standing up to tyranny on behalf of the silent majority!

Proving yet again that whatever independence the BBC once had is long gone. What’s more worrying is that the Beeb isn’t even being run by Tory central office, it’s being run by the intelligence services. Alex Salmond has a lot to answer for. Keep it up, Eck!

I wasn’t able to hear the whole show but one woman I did hear made cogent points about expenditure on the Welsh language. Which I think is where language campaigners have got it very badly wrong. It boils down to psychology. Put yourself in the position of someone who does not speak Welsh, is not hostile towards the language, but one day – maybe low on funds – has a revelatory moment when he receives his bilingual council tax demand or electricity bill, and says to himself, ‘How much am I paying to have my bill translated and printed into a language I don’t understand?’ At that point he switches from ambivalence towards the Welsh language to hostility. And there are hundreds of thousands like him. And it’s all so unnecessary.

It happens because CyI has, for decades, pursued the strategy of recognition and visibility. In essence, this demands – in addition to pointless tokenism – that the Welsh language must have equal legal status with English, and must be seen and heard, everywhere in Wales on a par with English. Which is fine . . . up to a point. That point being that Gwynedd is not Gwent, Maenchlochog is not Manorbier. While the most virulent bigot living in Gwynedd cannot reasonably object to expenditure on a language he hears spoken all around him, no one should be surprised when an otherwise proudly Welsh anglophone in Abergavenny questions similar spending in his area. Without I hope sounding like an Adferwr I think we have to accept these differences.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg’s refusal to accept them has had two consequences. First, comprehensive bilingualism, across the country, in every aspect of life, does not establish a bilingual country – it just pisses off too many people unnecessarily, few of them bigots. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, by quixotically pursuing this policy of national bilingualism Cymdeithas has left Y Fro Gymraeg undefended, and seriously damaged the language’s chances of survival.

For where was Cymdeithas yr Iaith a few years ago when Tesco opened its new store in Porthmadog and shipped in an English workforce of over 100? And what of the other retail chains and businesses doing the same thing in Gwynedd and other Welsh-speaking areas? Are we to believe that this doesn’t affect people’s ability to use their mother tongue in their everyday lives? That this doesn’t deprive Welsh speakers of jobs in their own communities? How can anyone argue that the survival of the language is better ensured by demanding ‘Talu Yma’ signs in Cardiff stores, or insisting that the proceedings of Merthyr council’s sub-committee on rat infestation are published bilingually? This begins to sound less like a strategy to save one of Europe’s oldest languages and more like job creation for those CyIG members and former members with translation businesses.

And don’t answer me with the old nonsense about ‘dividing’ Wales along language lines. Wales was already divided, and enforced bilingualism across the board is only exacerbating the problem. Worse, by turning people against the language you risk turning them against all things Welsh and losing them entirely. (Plaid Cymru being a good example.) To the point where a cynic – no, not me – could argue that Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg has, over the past thirty-odd years, failed miserably at what it claimed to be doing, yet has successfully queered the pitch for many others.

What is needed is a strategy to, firstly, defend what remains of Y Fro Gymraeg. Then take the fight outside of the heartland to those who want it. For example, by getting involved in any struggle for Welsh language education; or any fight against the overdevelopment of a community where the language is still relevant. Finally, reach ouCyIG 2t beyond these areas and groups to those who identify with Wales and are proud to be Welsh, make them see the language, not as a threat, or a waste of their money, but as a vital and desirable part of our shared heritage.

From now on, campaigners for the language need to be more realistic in their ambitions, they need to understand contemporary Wales better (perhaps by moving outside their own circles a bit more), and they need to be a lot more hard edged in their approach. Forget the idiots on radio phone-ins, they are not the real enemy, they are just ammunition for the enemy. The real enemy is those you hope to persuade with the reasonableness of your demands, the virtue of your case. Those who smile and sound sympathetic but are not the reasonable and fair-minded people you want (and they want you) to believe they are.

That is because every survey ever conducted has shown that Welsh speakers are more likely to want greater devolution and independence than English speakers. That being so, only a simpleton would believe that the UK government (or its civil servants who run Wales) will allow – let alone welcome – an increase in the numbers and percentages of Welsh speakers; or think that an anti-Welsh Labour Party down Cardiff docks – knowing that Welsh speakers are less likely to vote Labour – harbours anything but ill-will towards the language and those who speak it.

Understand that the UK Government, the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party, and many, many others have a vested interest in seeing the Welsh language dead. With a nice headstone erected . . . in Welsh, of course. (Translation available from the nice English lady at the desk, her with the CADW badge.)

Mar 132014
 

I had intended putting this out on Twitter or Facebook, just to inform people that the deadline for representations on the planned 1,700 new homes at Bodelwyddan in Denbighshire has been extended to March 21st. In view of the new figures available for both population predictions and household size it is well worth challenged this plan because it is clearly no longer needed. (In fact, these 1,700 new homes were never needed.) I have chosen to develop the subject into a post after reading the planning inspectors’ report on Denbighshire’s Local Development Plan. (Click on image to enlarge.)Denbighshire blog map

I want to pick out certain comments made by the inspectors because they are worthy of a wider audience. I say that because although we may be talking here of Bodelwyddan, or Denbighshire, the attitudes displayed by the inspectors have national implications. Because this is how they operate all over Wales.

Let’s start by identifying the inspectors, Anthony Thickett and Gwynedd Thomas. We can safely assume that the report is the work of Thickett and that Gwynedd Thomas is there to lend a little local colour. I Googled ‘Anthony Thickett’ and found his name linked to planning matters all over England and Cornwall in recent years. Though he seems to be based in Cardiff, which provides further proof that the Planning Inspectorate is an Englandandwales body, and answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London. So what did Mr Thickett have to say last year in response to Denbighshire County Council’s revision of their Local Development Plan? As you might imagine, I was specifically interested in those recommendations that related to housing.

Starting with 4.1 (page 16) we learn that, “The 2008 Welsh Government* projections indicate the need (my italics) for around 8,500 new units in Denbighshire between 2008 and 2023.” The council argued for a lower figure on the grounds that more recent statistics showed a reduced need. The inspectors would have none of it, and their response was a gem of officialese that can be found in the panel (click to enlarge). In essence, it says, ‘Yes, the council is quite right; but we shall still insist on thousands of unnecessary new housing units anyway’. So what are “the objectives and aspirations” that justify the Planning4.8 Inspectorate ignoring the council’s plea? We are told that Denbighshire has an ageing population – or “aging” according to the inspectors – with more deaths than births, which would result in a declining population unless young people moved in to the county. Let us examine this claim.

Denbighshire, like many other parts of Wales, has an ageing population due to the lack of a healthy and balanced economy. Worsened by tourism creating few worthwhile jobs for locals while attracting retirees and elderly people. This can be remedied, according to the inspectors, with a building programme to attract a younger population from outside of the county. But wait! if the lack of jobs forces many young people to move away, where are the jobs for this younger population moving in? Well, most of the jobs will remain where they are now, in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire. For what the inspectors are really talking about is attracting a commuter population. (Apart from the riff-raff being dumped in the coastal ghettoes.) This explains why the bulk of the planned new housing is close to the A55. Moving on, what do messrs Thickett and Thomas have to say on the Welsh language?

You may not have noticed – few have – that Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) has started a campaign demanding that the Welsh language be a material consideration in planning matters. The inspectors address the very same issue, and produce another little gem of officialese (click panel to enlarge). What this says (again, in essence) is, ‘We shall always find a reason to ignore the Welsh language’. But there is sugar on the pill with the following assurance (yup, in essence), ‘Even though we are doing our best to kill off your language, and your very identity, we shallLDP Welsh Language 2 disguise this atrocity with Welsh street names in the new developments’. The kind of cheap and meaningless cosmeticism that has satisfied language (non-)campaigners in recent decades.

The answer to Denbighshire’s “aging” population is not an unending programme of house building but a healthy and balanced local economy to stabilise and grow the indigenous population. Coupled with a presumption against those housing developments designed to attract elderly buyers from outside Wales. These are hardly radical demands when Welsh identity is under threat in a way it never has been before. An assault that if it showed itself with the ugly visage of overt oppression would be resisted; but when it sidles up behind the mask of ‘development’ and ‘economic activity’, then too many are fooled. We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled any more. There are too many areas where we Welsh are already in a minority. It’s time to say, ‘Thus far and no further’. Speak out and don’t allow the colonisation of our homeland to be brushed under the carpet any longer.

Now is the time to do it. I say that because for years the Planning Inspectorate has had everything its own way, It has browbeaten our local authorities with questionable statistics produced by in-house statisticians demanding thousands upon thousands of new homes Wales doesn’t need. Demands then mouthed obediently for them by those traitorous buffoons down Cardiff docks. The game is up. No one can persist in arguing that Denbighshire needs 8,500 new homes to meet a population increase of 4,134, and a household size of 2.31, without admitting to a colonisation strategy.

Make a start by writing to Denbighshire County Council arguing against the plan for a new town of 1,700 homes next to Bodelwyddan. (Many councillors and council employees will be glad to hear from you.) Send an e-mail to planning@denbighshire.gov.uk or write to the Planning Department, Caledfryn, Smithfield Road, Denbigh LL16 3RJ. Why not also contact the Planning Inspectorate at their Welsh outpost: either e-mail wales@pins.gsi.gov.uk, or write to, The Planning Inspectorate, Crown Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ. Tell them you know what their game is, and from now on their ethnocidal strategy will be opposed.

* Talking here of “the Welsh Government projections” is rather naughty. The figures were produced by the Knowledge and Analytical Services which, like the Planning Inspectorate, has a few staff based in Cardiff, pretends it answers to the ‘Welsh’ Government, but is in reality part of the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.