Dec 082016
 

When the incoming Labour government offered us devolution in 1997 I didn’t get too excited, but still, if Kinnock and George Thomas are against it, I thought, then it might have something going for it. So I voted Yes, but only because I saw devolution as a step on the road to independence. Encouraged by Ron Davies calling devolution “a process, not an event”.

Once the Yes vote had been arranged everyone assumed that the new Assembly would sit in Cardiff City Hall, but a dispute over costs blew up that was never satisfactorily explained. I believe that this spat was contrived, dreamed up in London to compensate Associated British Ports for not getting the planned opera house designed by the late Zaha Hadid.

It was no coincidence that the driving force behind the opera house project – as head man at Welsh National Opera – was Nicholas Edwards (later Lord Crickhowell), Secretary of State for Wales under Margaret Thatcher, and chairman of Associated British Ports, the company that owned Cardiff docks.

With Cardiff City Hall ruled out we had a national ‘competition’ to find a replacement. The ‘winner’, in the sense that it was the only entrant to meet the requirements of price and immediate availability, was Swansea’s pre-war Guildhall designed by Percy Thomas. But in April 1998 Secretary of State Ron Davies announced that the Assembly would be sited in Cardiff after all.

Swansea Guildhall (picture from 1991)

Everyone in Swansea – and indeed people in Cardiff and the rest of Wales – then realised that the ‘competition’ had been a charade, and that the Assembly was going to Cardiff even though there was no site for it. As late as 2001 Swansea politicians were still claiming a conspiracy.

Further, I have always believed that Ron Davies, being vulnerable to pressure, was ‘leaned on’. His justification at the time for ripping up the ‘competition’ rules and awarding the prize to Cardiff was that to have located the Assembly in Swansea would have undermined Cardiff’s status as capital of Wales. So why have a ‘competition’?

Without a building for the Assembly it was decided to lease Crickhowell House down Cardiff docks, named after Lord Crickhowell. The ‘Welsh’ Government is still leasing Crickhowell House, now renamed Tŷ Hywel. You might be interested in the figures.

From 1999 to 2012 the public purse splurged £40,654,093 on leasing, maintaining and improving the building. The current lease runs until 2032 at an annual cost of £2.3m plus VAT. When I submitted my FoI in 2013 the building was owned by Crick Properties, but was bought in March 2014 for £40.5m by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The final bill for leasing and maintaining this building will be well over £100m, after which it will still belong to whoever owns it at the time. We could have had a new, purpose-built building for a tenth of that figure. But of course, that would not have suited Associated British Ports and those linked to the company.

The squalid saga of how the public purse was abused in order to transform Cardiff docks into Cardiff Bay for the benefit of Associated British Ports is explained in the Corruption Bay document I put together in 2000-2001.

It’s well over 18 years since Ron Davies announced that the Assembly would be located in Cardiff . . . somewhere. In that time Cardiff – which, incidentally, voted against devolution – has prospered greatly from hosting the Assembly, and gained from politicians and civil servants making decisions that talk of ‘Wales’ but benefit only Cardiff.

To the point where, today, it seems that all investment is focused on Cardiff while other urban areas are condemned to managed decline and our countryside and coasts serve as recreation and retirement areas for England. The north, certainly the north east, is, with the connivance of the ‘Welsh’ Government (acting on the recommendation of a Mrs Hain), being detached from Wales to become commuter territory for Merseyside and Greater Manchester. For some time now, dwellings around Wrecsam have been advertised by estate agents as being in ‘West Cheshire’!

The Mersey Dee Alliance is the plan for north west England to absorb north east Wales

This process of dismembering Wales is made easier by Cardiff’s distance from and indifference to the north east.

Few things illustrate the Cardiff-centricity of contemporary Wales – and more worryingly, how it has become accepted in official circles as the template for all development – than the Cardiff Capital Region project and its associated Metro system.

The City Region is nothing but a scheme for encouraging further investment in Cardiff but, by improving local transport links, it’s hoped that the Valleys and the M4 corridor from Bridgend to the border will feel part of this enterprise. In truth, it’s the formalisation of a city-commuter region arrangement. To dress it up as anything else is dishonest.

That this project has progressed so far with so few objections from those communities being reduced to dormitory status can be attributed to the malign influence of a Labour Party that may be losing its grip but still deals ruthlessly with dissent. Plus the fact that opposition parties seem to share the ‘Everything in Cardiff’ mindset.

To ensure that the focus remains on Cardiff major developments elsewhere in the region may be sabotaged, and this explains the recent attacks on the Circuit of Wales project at Ebbw Vale. These attacks came from the traditional mouthpiece of the Cardiff business community, the Western Mail, and BBC Wales which, as I remarked in Circuit of Wales Revisited“has as much claim to being our national broadcaster as the Mule has to being our national newspaper”.

Despite my criticisms, what I’ve dealt with thus far is understandable, even excusable, in that it’s the duty of the politicians and the business community of a city to promote the interests of that city.

Of course my absolution does not extend to Assembly Members from other areas who simply nod through every project to promote and enrich Cardiff. Nor does it extend to those who pose as our ‘national media’, or other institutions and bodies claiming to represent the whole country.

Cities, even capital cities, looking out for themselves is one thing, but we have now reached the stage in Wales where Cardiff serving its own interests, and being encouraged to do so by the media and the ‘Welsh’ Government, is working against the interests of the country as a whole.

Worse, we are now seeing the corruption that is almost inevitable when the public life of a country is concentrated in a relatively small city, and when this concentration sees those with the power of patronage and control of the public purse rubbing shoulders on a regular basis – and too regularly in social environments – with those wishing to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. Two examples will help explain what I’m talking about.

First, a case that attracted much attention was the deal to sell off land on the outskirts of Cardiff to a very well-connected group of Cardiff businessmen at a knock-down, agricultural-use price, despite the fact that everybody knew the land had been earmarked for housing. I dealt with this in Pies, Planes & Property Development and Pies, Planes & Property Development 2. Let’s not beat about the bush, this was corruption, pure and simple.

Next, have you ever wondered why Wales – unlike Ireland and Scotland – does not have a national cricket team? The answer is that we are represented by England. No, honestly, and to be precise, by the England and Wales Cricket Board (though the ‘Wales’ bit is never used).

Swalec Stadium, home to England Test matches and the reason Wales has no national cricket team

In 2015 Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said it was an honour to welcome the Test match between Australia and England to Cardiff, adding: “Attracting major events not only boosts our international profile, but has clear benefits for our economy”. 

Two points: First, a national team would boost our ‘international profile’ far more, because many people around the world now believe that Cardiff is in England; second, how much of the money generated by the Test match did other parts of Wales see?

Of course, at one time, we did have a national cricket team, but that was before Glamorgan County Cricket Club and others surrendered to England in order that Cardiff could enjoy the publicity, the prestige, and the revenue, from hosting England ‘home’ matches. Another example of the counter-devolution strategy at work and another step towards Englandandwales.

Another way Wales loses out to Cardiff is in the exodus of too many of the brightest and best from other parts of the country. ‘Ah, but the same thing happens in Ireland’ shout Cardiff’s defenders. Not really. The fastest growing cities there are Cork and Galway, and perhaps more importantly, Donegal and Kerry, Sligo and Roscommon are not being overrun by tens of thousands of retirees, problem families, good-lifers, hippies, paedophiles, white flighters and tourist trappers.

The economic imbalance in Wales that makes Cardiff so attractive to our young people deprives many rural communities of their future leaders, their opinion-formers, those who might challenge the invasion taking place. Coincidence, no doubt.

We have reached the stage now where that economic imbalance is so severe, and being exacerbated year on year, that those who direct things in Cardiff – including those who not so long ago would readily display their contempt for ‘Welshies’ – are quite open about their long-term strategy of positioning the city as a medium-sized provincial English city, in competition with Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle and others. Slowly but inexorably Cardiff is turning its back on Wales.

For Cardiff has the advantage that, as capital of Wales, it can always argue that projects in the city are ‘national’ in importance, and being done for the benefit of 3.2 million people. Which makes it odd that Plaid Cymru politicians get exercised over Crossrail 2 and HS2 being described as ‘national’, yet seem oblivious to the same thing happening under their noses in Cardiff.

Though sometimes the brew gets really heady and ambition stretches beyond competing with Sheffield, proven by an article this week by Siôn Barry, Business Editor of the Wasting Mule, whose brother Mark is the brains behind the Metro system. Barry quotes some estate agent – a profession renowned for its scrupulous avoidance of exaggeration and misrepresentation – who believes that Cardiff can become a “global capital”.

click to enlarge

Think about that. We are asked to believe that a city of less than 400,000 people can compete with Tokyo and Paris, Buenos Aires and Beijing. It’s laughable; with the laughter ratcheted up to hysterical level by the fact that Cardiff’s just a provincial centre, and the full idiocy is realised by remembering that those pushing this bollocks, at the Wasting Mule and elsewhere, oppose Welsh independence, without which Cardiff is not, and never can be, a real capital.

This kind of stuff gets hyperbole a bad name; it borders on the delusional. Young Matt Phillips of Knight Frank clearly needs help, but rather than waste money on some expensive treatment I suggest that he be slapped around the head with a freshly-caught halibut until he recants. (It never fails.) As for those who repeat such nonsense, well, they want to believe it, but worse, they also want you to believe it.

Welcome to the never-never world of devolution. An estate agent tells a journalist that Cardiff is about to go head-to-head with Paris, this is repeated as gospel by our ‘national newspaper’, yet it takes place to the backdrop of Wales being colonised and by other means having its identity eroded as the prelude to complete assimilation into England.

While it yet lasts, this fantasy I’ve described bears some resemblance to a corrupt Third World country where all the goodies are concentrated in the capital and the provinces are allowed to rot; what’s missing is the dictator and his extended family and friends ripping off the state finances, but standing in we have ‘Papa’ Jones and his Labour Party, plus Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector and gangs of well-connected businessmen.

As I said at the start; when I voted Yes in 1997 it was only because I saw devolution as the first step on the road to independence. Devolution has been a complete failure in that regard, and it has even failed as a devolved system – apart from the growth of Cardiff. And this week we were told that even the devolution some thought we had is worthless because Westminster can overrule the ‘Welsh’ Government any time it chooses.

To remedy the situation in which we find ourselves Wales needs to be ‘re-balanced’. I believe that the quickest and surest way of achieving that necessary objective is by moving the Assembly out of Cardiff. Which is why I have launched a petition urging that the Assembly be moved to Aberystwyth. Click here to sign that petition.

end ♦

UPDATE 20.12.2016: Well, bless my soul – Plaid Cymru agrees with me!

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89 Comments on "Welsh Assembly, Time to Move"

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Tim Saunders
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Disagree about the halibut. My Mum always recommended a wet kipper.

Y Ddraig Las
Guest

Mum? Welsh citizenship denied. We ‘ave Mams by yuh/yur/’ma yng Ngymru fach t’wel ‘chan (trilingual see butt). Get with the linguo, cast off the colonial shackles brawd.

JE Lloyd
Guest

The perennial tactics of the British State are divide and rule. North against South. Cardiff against Swansea. Welsh speaking areas against areas that have lost the language. It is in this context that they encourage our national institutions to be concentrated in Cardiff. Wales is a country of rich and diverse regional identities. Our institutions and symbols of nationhood should of course be spread throughout our country.

We also have many fine buildings that would serve admirably as homes for our national legislature. All these were rejected in favour of commissioning an architect to create a building modelled on a vapid airport terminal in one of the more obscure destinations served by Ryanair. The brief to the architect must surely have been this: under no circumstances should Wales’s legislature be allowed to assume the dignity as a prime symbol of our nationhood.

Mabon
Guest

Agree 100%. It would also encourage the Welsh government to improve links between Aberystwyth and South Wales such as reopening the line between Aber and Carmarthen. The new Tesco superstore and all the supermarkets could benefit from the extra trade of the 60 AMs (isn’t it about to be enlarged to more as well) plus the civil servants. What’s not to like?

di-enw
Guest

I’d like to see that line opened it would be symbolic of a more integrated and singular Cymru. However I can’t see it having much of an economic benefit apart from tourism and we know who benefits most there.

dafis
Guest

I tend to share di-enw’s view on the Aber – Carms line. I’m not particularly enamoured with the idea of rail as any kind of solution for rural West Wales anyway as people need a more flexible mode of transport to get to a whole host of out of the way places. So get those roads upgraded. No great amounts of dualling needed but straightened with regular passing zones, upgrade to 4 lane where there is an evident volume. People think it’s hard on road users along the M4 well they should try some of those A roads down west !

Cloy
Guest

Ron the badger Davies being leant on – surely not you must be Mistaken!!

di-enw
Guest

“Which way to Aberystwyth?”
“Well I wouldn’t start from here.”

Personally I can’t see a benefit in opening up another argument.
The aim for Welsh nationalists should be to produce a Cardiff that is undeniably Welsh rather than leave it to develop to be part of some Severnside city region. I don’t make light of the massive effort and vigilance which that needs but moving the seat of government west to Abertawe or north to Aberystwyth would surely result in Caerdydd becoming the Nantes of Cymru.
It seems to me to be a reckless even to consider a strategy that when it unwinds basically hand over the destiny of the country’s capital and largest city by far to those who as you point out are singing from a very different hymn sheet.

dafis
Guest

Way back in the immediate post 1999 period there was a degree of optimism and enthusiasm for the Cynulliad project although not many people in Cardiff could pronounce let alone say the word ! With clear hindsight ABP may have worked a scam but you have to remember that there was a Welsh Office regime in place who were supposedly organising the resources required for the new Cynulliad.

It is reasonable to expect that those senior civil servants and their teams were responsible for preparing all sorts of option appraisals leading up to selection of location, and then the detailed planning and budgeting for the actual site. What level of incompetence had to exist for ABP to perpetrate a scam of the order of magnitude that you suggest ?

I tend to the view that it was all done in the open insofar as Rhodri, or whoever was steering the whole thing at the time, was so taken by the £1 offer that he paid little or no attention to the deal struck for Ty Hywel. And therein lies the weakness. Our so called elite civil servants, who should have been closely acquainted with the detail are collectively as thick as 2 short planks. They can only manage 1 serious thought at a time. More recently someone told them to get rid of assorted packages of land. How they dealt with that is now, partially, a matter of public record. Had I or any of us had the financial clout and seen that bundle going at that price we too would have waded in and grabbed it. True those civil servants disposed of the land, give them a tick, but their failure to get good advice and a more serious failure to apply a touch of basic common sense earns them sufficient demerits to deserve dismissal. But no-one left the service as far as I know. They are all covered in teflon.

As for events post 2000, Cardiff has been on a rolling programme of property developments, steadily weeding out any kind of manufacturing or traditional service and replacing everything with medium rise curtain walled glazing full of solicitors, accountants, financial services, call centres etc all paying silly rents for space when so many of these businesses can now be run from a lower cost site using better modern comms technology. It remains small in comparison with many English provincial centres but its civic leadership is fixated with competing with those centres rather than discharging a more sophisticated mature mandate that being a capital requires.

As for relocation I don’t honestly know, but one thing for certain Cardiff is leading us nowhere fast. Indeed we run a serious risk of becoming the impoverished hinterland of a city state reserved for recreational activities, a spot of food production and any residual industrial activity deemed too dirty to be allowed within the city .

Mabon
Guest

I’m interested by the types of people you say are overrunning Wales. How do you define a ‘Good lifer’? Also, what’s so bad about hippies?

Big Gee
Admin

Mabon – PLEASE don’t try to ‘troll’ on this blog. You know damn well what the score is, and I doubt if you’re too thick to see or understand things as they stand.

Jac works very hard, along with others on here, to try and present valid, truthful, revealing and important grown-up material for the less informed. Don’t try to undermine the work of genuine people – just to provide a bit of entertainment for yourself – or to try and show-off to others with a thinly veiled disguise that you are ‘confused’ or genuinely ‘interested’ in subject material you pretend not to understand.

JE Lloyd
Guest

The South African model is particularly well-suited to a nation with strong and diverse regional identities.

Pretoria, located in the northeastern part of the country, is home to the executive and administrative branches of government. Bloemfontein, which is more centrally located, is the capital of the judicial branch of the government. Cape Town, which is on the west coast, is home to the legislative branch of the government. Interestingly, the largest and most populous city in South Africa, Johannesburg, is only the capital of the province in which it is located. Johannesburg might, however, be described as the business capital.

It would make perfect sense to distribute the principal branches and institutions of government across Cardiff, Swansea, Aberystwyth and Bangor, for example.

MR O-DZIN TRIDRAL
Guest

I think many interesting useful and perhaps unexpected things would happen if the Assembly moved to Aberystwyth. There would at least be suddenly more interest in transport links around the country. As mentioned above, a distributed model could work well with different places in Wales being given responsibility for different branches of government.

Big Gee
Admin

I wholeheartedly agree MR O-DZIN TRIDRAL and with you Jac. NOT because I’m a Cardi who lives in Aberaeron. From a purely selfish and personal viewpoint I wouldn’t particularly welcome turning this part of Cymru into an urban hub. However, from the viewpoint of our country on the whole – it makes total and perfect sense.

I’ve banged on for years about the north/ south divide, which has been exasperated by purposely linking west to east (England) by our imperial master, thereby effectively dividing us as a nation and encouraging west east connections with Gwlad Y Sais.

Since devolution the problem has been amplified with Kerdiff becoming a ‘mini-me’ of London. The rest of the country being left to feel totally isolated and ignored.

It would be a fillip in the arm for our nation if Y Senedd was moved to Aberystwyth. It’s not a new idea Owain Glyndŵr had the same idea nearly 800 years ago when he established his Senedd at Machynlleth. It makes total geographic and demographic sense.

Fancy yet another referendum?

di-enw
Guest

“It’s not a new idea Owain Glyndŵr had the same idea nearly 800 years ago when he established his Senedd at Machynlleth. It makes total geographic and demographic sense.”

The physical geography hasn’t changed since Owain Glyndwr’s day however demographically the change is huge. 8oo years ago the population of Cymru was overwhelmingly rural and distributed fairly evenly. Today about 600 000 people live north of Machynlleth and 2.4 million south of it and the vast majority of that 2.4 million live south of the Brecon Beacons.

Do give an indication of what sort of task you’ve set yourself in moving the capital ro Aberystwyth. One of the first things that would need to undertaken would be to show the majority of people who live in the south east where Aber is on a map.

Ian Perryman
Guest

I seem to remember reading some years back that about 50% of the Assembly staff were based in offices outside Cardiff.
I think it was in some article about the opening of the offices in Llandudno Junction (about 2011 I believe) , and, if I remember correctly they also had cabinet meetings there at some point.
A little bit of research seems to show that these offices are widely spread across Wales, some large, some small.

This isn’t the same as moving the Assembly itself of course but it is an improvement on the old Welsh Office idea of putting everything in Cardiff.

I don’t think you will ever prise the Assembly itself out of The Bay, because now it’s established, it would cause tremendous disruption to the lives of the people who work both in the building itself and in the supply chain.

Also trying to move thousands of qualified and experienced workers, mainly monolingual English, into a town like Aberystwyth would be a cultural disaster and probably distort the local housing market, to the detriment of the local population, for decades.

I think the best model is to try to expand on the existing model and gradually move jobs out of Cardiff. You could perhaps enhance this idea by making certain of the larger offices into ‘ministerial headquarters’, where ministers and their immediate staff would be based, rather than just administrative blocks.

dafis
Guest

the dispersal of “back office functions” across Wales is no more than a bit of tokenism. Given the access to technology today Cynulliad could instruct BT to deliver on some of those millions it’s already filched from the public purse and install a robust network between 4, 5 or 6 locations. If they can’t do it there plenty of talented blokes ( and ladies !) out there who could set it up for them. Just hand over the budget and specifications.

By doing that they would take the Welsh civil service out into the country. Cardiff’s grand design of creating a hub for UK Civil Service functions would be a separate matter and could end in tears anyway as other major UK cities won’t let go of thousands of jobs just like that. As for the Cynulliad building we should have plans for some kind of relocation as the whole thing is already riddled with minor defects and may indicate poor supervision of the original build quality ( surprise, surprise ! ).

And my last word, maybe, just maybe a shift down the road to Bridgend would be sufficient to break the unhealthy “magnetic field” around Cardiff as most Cardiffians are still subconsciously flat earthers who think they’ll disappear off the edge if they pass beyond the Tumble hill above Culverhouse Cross !

Big Gee
Admin

It IS tokenism Dafis. I’d go further and suggest that the offices are a white elephant. In Aber. The building cost £20.8m to build, excluding VAT. Furniture, “space planning” and installation cost a further £2.3m, also excluding VAT. The result? The building is under occupied, they now share portions of it with Ceredigion County Council (who themselves appear to have taken on the offices to help the ’cause’). CCC did not – I believe – have an overflow problem. Now they have empty spaces at other past used locations of theirs as a result. Other spaces in the Government building are empty, because they will not rent them out at a subsidised rate – to keep the cost in line with other office accommodation in the town.

A report for the Welsh Government’s cabinet says ““The opportunity cost of underused accommodation in Aberystwyth and Llandudno Junction is in the region of £1.25m per annum. . . . ”. Speaks for itself really.

The whole project, and the money wasted on it, is just a ‘dust in the eyes’ exercise to relieve a bit of pressure from those who have been complaining about the centralization of the government in Kerdiff, and it’s associated economic advantages and isolation from the rest of our country. Solution? Spend a few tens of millions on white elephants in Aber & Llandudno to shut up the troublesome natives. “Easy come easy go” that thing called ‘money’ in the wrong hands!

A lock stock & barrel move of the whole Senedd to central Cymru would be a different solution. The bottom line is Caerdydd does not deserve it. From a geographic, demographic (an Anglo-centric, mostly monoglot population – appart from the ones sucked into there from other parts of Cymru) with artificial capital status foisted upon it in 1955. FFS it wasn’t even a city until 1905! It earned it’s ‘right’ to be considered purely on the size of it’s coal exporting business, coal produced by mines owned by others on the other side of Clawdd Offa. Sod all to do with it’s association with, or influence on our country. I lived there for three years during my uni. days in the early seventies. It was a cultural shock at the time, because, without much exception, most ‘native’ Kerdiffians viewed themselves as just that ‘Kerdiffians’ not Welsh – or anything to do with Cymru. That honour was perceived to be the realm of the natives outside the city walls! I was naive enough to assume that I was moving in among fellow countrymen in the capital of my country. That myth in my mind was soon exploded.

Nothing much has changed since – apart from it’s now bloated (parasitic) economic status. It’s now further up it’s own arse than it ever was. Finally, to add salt to the wound, it actually rejected devolution in the referendum, and then promptly got rewarded with Y Senedd. It stinks.

dafis
Guest

Gee – written with feeling. I can almost hear you speaking those words as you struck the keys !

Cardiff is a sick joke in so many ways. Even many of the Cymry that inhabit that place have identity issues. Far too often I’ve been greeted with a semi- estuary accent –
“Up for the day are you ?” –
“No I’ve been here over 20 years” I reply tersely.
“You still sound very ….Welsh ” says he/she,
I reply ” course I do, English my 2nd language, I’m a ( fuckin’ ) native , West Wales boy”
“Oh chi’n siarad Cymraeg, oh dyna neis” says the patronising twat before turning on his/her heel to schmooze with another member of the well connected city clique.
Parody, but too often true.

Y Ddraig Las
Guest

Too right, sadly I know dozens of young Welsh families who’ve moved from RCT, Llynfi, Neath, Swansea, and the Aman/Gwendraeth Valleys to work for the British state in Cardiff. They think that they’re patriots but in reality they’re raising rootless English-accented children and contributing nothing to the Welsh nation. Even if every school in Caerdydd were a Welsh speaking school, the kids would have no hope of developing a Welsh mindset. The offspring of UKIP voting Bonymaen/Merthyr/Newbridge natives will be more Welsh than their Anglo kids. Congrats on on being complicit in demographic suicide you thick tossers.

Mabon
Guest

Sorry for my question on ‘Good-lifers’ earlier, Mr Gee. I agree with you 100%; the capital needs to be moved and the fact that they voted against devolution in 1997 only to be rewarded with the Senedd was a discrace. Aberystwyth wins hand down as it is central and already has two national institutions; the Assembly and the Library. Indeed didn’t Welsh devolutionist Tom Ellis favour Aberystwyth as a capital in the 1880s and 1890s?
Also, north-south links will inevitably be improved and Aberystwyth railway station, with 5 platforms pre-1960s will become a railway hub of note again.

Big Gee
Admin

That’s OK Mabon, I also apologise for being a little harsh in my response – it comes with age (that’s my excuse) hence the saying “grumpy old git”!

I don’t think I’ve advocated making Aberystwyth the capital of Cymru – just the administrative centre (or seat of government) of Y Senedd. It’s a slightly different proposition. I notice others have responded on here by jumping to the conclusion that what is being advanced here is making Aberystwyth the official capital of Cymru.

Geographically it’s perfect as the seat of government – more so before the Dr. Beeching experiment – which can be reversed. The mid to south Wales railway link is the present weakness. It would certainly go a long way to alleviating the general feeling of disconnect by our citizens. As for anyone in the south that needs a map to know where Aber is, well I fear that’s a clear indicator of the standard of education in the south! Hardly a valid point, in the days of a railway link to the south tens of thousands found their way up here during the ‘miners fortnight’ of old. As for Kerdiffians, well most of them need a map to get to Pontypridd – I rest my case!

Having an administrative capital outside of a country’s official capital city is not a new concept. MANY countries have multiple capitals. In some cases, one city is the capital for some purposes, and one or more others are capital for other purposes, without any being considered an official capital in preference to the others.

There are also cases where there is a single legally defined capital, but one or more other cities operate as the seat of some or all parts of government; while such cases are arguably not technically multiple capitals, the situation is similar.

In fact there are many towns other than cities who fulfil this function – so Aberystwyth would not of necessity have to have capital status; although I believe it was Siôn Jobbins who put forward a proposal to get Aber designated with city status a few years ago when he was the mayor. Having an administrative capital there, along with the current national institutions that you quite rightly mention in your post Mabon, certainly adds credence to the argument.

The seat of government is (as defined by Brewer’s Politics) “the building, complex of buildings or the city from which a government exercises its authority”.

The national government is usually located in the capital. In most countries, the capital and the seat of government are the same city; for example, Ankara is both the capital and seat of government of Turkey. The terms are not completely synonymous, as some countries’ seat of government differs from the capital. The Netherlands, for example, has Amsterdam as its capital but The Hague is the seat of government. Local and regional authorities usually have a seat (administrative centre) as well.

So, in my humble opinion Abertawe (the best qualified and by a long shot the most favoured by those outside the Cardiff ‘ring’) would be the natural capital, Aberystwyth the ‘seat of government’ and Cardiff? Well it’s quite happy to be an odd entity of it’s own anyway – just like London. It doesn’t need the rest of Cymru and the Cymry certainly don’t need it. It’s only enjoying it’s status by default and not by the people’s choice.

Di-enw: I think you’ll find that as I said above, I’ve never advocated making Aber the capital of Cymru. Regarding your comment on population density – I fail to follow the logic. We’re talking here of encouraging economic development in vast areas of the country that are currently running down and being blatantly side-lined, whilst at the same time the denser populated areas are getting economically fatter at the expense of the rest. There needs to be a spreading out.

Dafis: your example is eerily reminiscent of the Kerdiffians that I would encounter over 45 years ago – only it’s possible that some may respond with a smidgen of Welsh these days – it’s a fashion statement to send your children to a good grade bi-lingual school these days, so that they can put on their CVs that they are bilingual when applying for a job later on. Whether that extends to anything wider than a greeting or a comment or two in Welsh on the weather is another thing! Same stock, same culture, same responses to ‘Welshies’ like you and me.

Ian Perryman
Guest
dafis
Guest

Noticed your tweet regarding Castell Aberteifi which is encouraging. Coincides with some other event at Aberteifi last week which had coverage on Welsh ( S4C) news or Heno. It seems that the local culture crew is striking back with good support from the community so taking back the castle will be a further step in the right direction to consolidate the general understanding that site was developed by Arglwydd Rhys not some Anglo Norman twat. Putting the usurpers in stocks and having a cystadleuaeth “towli dom da” would be a nice event to celebrate !

di-enw
Guest

The moving of the seat of government away from the biggest cities is an idea but it is a 20th century idea. It predates the information and communications revolution that has happened in the last couple of decades and continues to move forward.
A fixed seat of government is essential when you have to accommodate the administration that serves it. Today it’s not, with some laptops and broadband connections you could hold a parliament in a town hall or events centre anywhere in Cymru.

Aberystwyth has the oldest university in Cymru. If it hasn’t been able to produce a thriving economy for itself and environs on that opportunity I’d suggest that is down to the those that live there and those that govern there rather than the Cynulliad being in Caerdydd.

dafis
Guest

In the abstract, your criticism may have some validity. However the economic drivers that have influenced Wales are mostly based outside of Wales, such as :

– central Government’s annual expenditures across a broad mix of social and economic activity, including higher education. This distribution mechanism has been modified by the presence since 1999 of the Cynulliad, but nothing radical has changed.

– most of the significant private sector, especially multi sited multi national corporates are located away from Wales, with subsidiary units located here capitalising on factors access to markets, skills, labour costs, but primarily dependent on the merry go round of grants and handouts which stimulus seems necessary to get CEO’s out of bed in the morning !

You are correct to point out that Aber Uni is the oldest in Cymru. However it has sheltered for most of its life under the umbrella of public funding with modest attempts at supporting venturing, through spin outs etc. That said it does not differ dramatically from the situation found at the other “old” colleges of the old University of Wales and evidence of rampant commercialism will not be found at any of the newer Uni’s either. Cardiff & Swansea Unis are probably the best performers but that doesn’t surprise me given their locations !

The heavy torrent of spin generated over recent decades about Unis being drivers of economic development remains just that – spin. There are occasional flashes of genius for which we should be grateful although the trickle down theory of broader community benefit remains little more than just the odd drip yielded from time to time.

So my stance is that much more needs doing about intervention into localised manufacturing and service provision so that supply chains get shortened through to the point of “finished goods”. Automotive components and sub systems ( where components have been aggregated into a bigger unit ) have been quite successful and are generally seen as environments where people, male and female, can earn better that the Nat Min/ Living Wage and bright people can actually build careers with attendant rewards. Our Cynulliad seems to have a problem understanding what goes on in manufacturing, despite the decades of experience vested in the Welsh Office and WDA. Accordingly they get giddy at the prospect of an inward investment by a foreign company yet very reluctant to assertively back a native Welsh proposition.

As for Cardiff itself, well I’ve said it before and further up on this page somewhere ( 09/12 at 10.51 ). It’s turned itself into a curtain walled citadel for professional services, financial institutions and related services. Nothing wrong with those sectors as part of a balanced solution but in its present state there is acute disequilibrium. Sadly the Cynulliad is wedded to the view that this is “good”, which might be tolerable as a stance for Cardiff City Council but not good when it’s sucking in a disproportionate share of Welsh investment.

Big Gee
Admin

Di-enw: “. . . . with some laptops and broadband connections you could hold a parliament in a town hall or events centre anywhere in Cymru“.

That’s partially true, however, the reality does not correspond to the theory. Hence the reason why I can’t think of any country who runs it’s ‘seat of power’ in that fashion, and for very good reasons.

Whilst it is possible to have a government just about function, with every member of it’s debating chamber working from home, with networked conferencing systems software – it doesn’t work. Regardless of the advances in technology, as humans we have a need to congregate, a need to associate and a further need to have the back office systems networked within a practical area. With modern technology, you could have your local MP living in Sydney Australia, communication can be as quick and practical as if he lived a mile away, and all his back-up civil servants could be scattered across Europe. However there’s a psychological disconnect, and the whole thing falls apart at the seams in a very short time. Taking your view to it’s logical conclusion, there is no need for any minister ever again to step foot on an aeroplane to go to any meetings or conferences in other parts of the world.

It has nothing to do with either 20th or 21st century ideas and different means of communication. It is simply not practical and does not work. At this point in time we still require physical buildings and the human resources (although all connected through LANs & WANs) within practical distance of each other. Maybe in the future we’ll evolve into something different – for now we haven’t. There again in the future we’ll probably all be in a ‘Hunger Games’ scenario with most of our work done by AI. It’s the pursuit of singularity (posh term for it). I’m an electronics engineer, and I’ve been involved with that technology throughout my working life – you would think I would embrace the scenario you suggest, however the very thought of that nightmare makes me shiver down to my toes! It is just that – a nightmare. If you want a glimpse of it go and watch the Hunger Games film, if you haven’t already seen it.

For now there are other very practical and necessary advantages to locating our ‘government’ and it’s employees in a central area of our country, and not at the far end of the country within an artificial capital city that has no need – at any level – to have the country’s seat of government within it.

dafis
Guest

Jac and Gee – thank you for a detailed eloquent exposition of the bigger picture surrounding what I was trying to say earlier in my piece. You hit on a valid point Gwilym about those human factors although in a smallish country like ours routine back office processes could and should be dispersed without delay as the technology is already up and running so cells of people could be operational in any number of places. Emphasis here on “cells” enabling team working and social cohesion.

Jac – As for rebalancing the economy, that should be the primary goal but most of our leadership clique seem to think that rolling out sheds full of call centre jobs does the trick as it serves to diminish unemployed stats. However, without being a social sciences bore I would suggest that they reacquaint themselves with McGregor’s Theory X and Y and later related studies as these all reaffirm the need for quality of jobs to enrich the life experience of the poor suckers engaged to undertake tasks within any business.
Your point regarding Cambridge is relevant but our Uni’s are leagues below that and need to set a number of short, medium and long term goals to get anywhere near that level of success. Bit like the Swans bouncing off the bottom of the old 4th Division and having the sheer motivation combined with a vision and talent planning that saw them move successfully and quickly through those intermediate levels. Things may be rough this year but, without wishing to blight them, they are starting to shape up.

Finally, Mrs Hain’s vision is a re hash of the old Marcher Barons’ relationship with adjacent Welsh territory, where our land was reduced to a subservient hinterland handy for sourcing produce and raising odd levies but certainly not treated as equals.

Keith Parry
Guest

Dont like to disagree with Mr Oh North but as a Cardiffian I am bond to defend my city. It is a Welsh city and should be the seat of the Senedd of this country.
The problem is not the city or the Senedd as such, It is government of Wales and of Cardiff Council by the chaotic, self serving Labour Party. They have been in power since 1999 in the Senedd and five very long years in Cardiff. The Labour Party exists to serve the Labour Party. It exists to send Labour MPs to Westminster. Welsh government and Cardiff city government are also rans that exist to provide jobs for the boys and business and third sector.
The only way of solving the problems of Wales is the removal of Labour from power both at Senedd and local government levels and a real campaign for independence. We must do what has been done in Scotland as a united country throwing out Labour and other unionist parties.

Big Gee
Admin

I pretty much agree with all that you say Keith (with the exception of the location of Y senedd). And of course, if you’re a Kerdiffian it would ne wrong of you to run down your home city – and I wouldn’t expect you to.

What you say about ‘Welsh’ Labour since 1999 just about sums it up – on that we can agree wholeheartedly!

Big Gee
Admin

Spot-on dafis & Jac. I’m with you 100% of the way. That west to east connectivity is a blood sucker and always has been, no one can tell me that it exists accidentally, when the north – south connections have been deliberately disconnected/ avoided for centuries. If you view a country as ‘normal’ what is always attempted is connectivity within it’s borders. As a colonised ‘abnormal’ country our connections are deliberately targeted for free access to and from our imperialist neighbour. Go figure!

Not only is this set-up designed to suck money FROM our local economies, it’s designed to allow colonial access the other way. However, as usual, the ones who should be saying this in Y Senedd are always afraid to do so, choosing instead to tip toe around the big elephant in the room, whilst trying to twiddle things at the edges – like the lunatic Ieuan Air project. Did anyone SERIOUSLY think it was a viable idea?

It needs a total infrastructure rethink, along with a joined up thinking process when it comes to where Y Senedd should be located. Sod spending millions on M4 corridor by-passes and expansions of the so-called A5 corridor. they are not in our long term interest – connecting our country from north to south is. Isolating sections of our nation has not only encouraged poverty through stifled economic growth, but of more serious concern, it has fragmented our nation. That’s evident by the quips among some on here about needing a map to know where Aberystwyth is.

Jeremy
Guest

The position of Cardiff is in many ways eccentric as historically Wales, until the late 19th Century had no dominate urban place, and even now the dominance of Cardiff is only partial, eg the limited political powers devolved, because it is only slightly larger than Swansea. Even where for historical reasons a capital place is unargued they still are regarded with disdain for taking more than their fair share of economic capital and investment – Paris, London and Edinburgh suffer many of the same complaints.In addition few countries have evenly spread economic development.
The problem Wales has had with any urban centre is London, always had and still does, in fact the rest of the UK has the same problem. London hoovers up all the capital investment to enrich its self, Crossrail, HS2, M25 etc etc and gives itself all the tax reliefs, pension reliefs, capital allowances, lower corporate taxes that multiply its advantages. The road and rail network historically has been centred on London, communications, media, business, the arts etc etc.
I would argue that you need the economic levers, the political levers, the law system, based here in Wales.Then argue Aberystwyth for capital, which by the way is the most likely place to be accepted by every other area of Wales. Spread the institutions of state by all means but the biggest problem economic problem is the current globalised economic system combined with technology is concentrating advantage in fewer places. ie Cardiff was once a port of major importance, now the UK manages with two ports for most containerised trade. A Chinese city can make all the worlds socks and so on.

Big Gee
Admin

A lot of sense from balanced comments by the recent contributors above.

Take away the emotional arguments (for and against Caerdydd) and we are still left with the core logical arguments. It’s hard to argue against the moving of the seat of government to a centralised location that makes it resonate with the citizens of the whole of the country. It makes for unity, no one would feel isolated, aggrieved or ignored. It would boost infrastructure connectivity, it would also promote economic stimulus and help spread the wealth of the nation over a larger area. The location of national institutions also plays a big role in the psyche of the nation. Stuffing everything into one little corner does the opposite and invites resentment and apathy.

Your comment regarding the efficiency of a present South Wales Metro plan is also very valid sibrydionmawr. It seems that efficiency is overlooked in preference to big spending and big fanfare for limited results. Nowhere is that more grotesquely illustrated than in the current London crossrail project. At a cost of £14.8bn – that’s right – 14.8 BILLION (14.8 thousand million pounds). And the resultant advantage? It clips off about 20 minutes on a trip of under 1 hour from Heathrow airport! We are aping the same mentality in the south east of Cymru. Madness. Imagine what better use could be made of such huge amounts of money if used with a bit of constructive thought.

And therein lies the problem, habitual narrow minded and blinkered thinking, based on historical (elitist) kinked thinking that is never challenged. Now compare that ‘conventional’ thinking, with the way the Swiss do things – they always have had the knack of thinking outside the box in a very practical and common sense way.The truth is that the UK and Switzerland represent the two extremes of transport provision and with our level of deregulation and privatisation, there is little scope for adopting the best Swiss practices but nevertheless a visit to Switzerland should be mandatory for all transport practioners, if nothing else just to ensure they know that there are different ways of doing things other than relying on competition and private sector funding, which is ultimately financed from the pockets of the people in the street.

The same sensibility is reflected in the way they do their politics. Switzerland has a bicameral parliament called the Federal Assembly, which is composed by: the Council of States (46 seats, 2 seats per canton, except for six cantons which only have 1), also known as the upper chamber and the National Council (200 seats, split between the cantons based on population), also known as the lower chamber. It has a tradition of direct democracy. For any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory; for any change in a law, a referendum can be requested (optional referendum). In addition, the people may present a constitutional popular initiative to introduce amendments to the federal constitution. The people also assumes a role similar to the constitutional court, which does not exist, and thus acts as the guardian of the rule of law.

The Federal Assembly convenes to elect the members of the Federal Council. The two chambers are equal (perfect bicameralism). This power-sharing system serves to avoid monopolization of federal politics by more populated cantons to the detriment of smaller and rural cantons.

It has a population of around 8 million (roughly the present population of London alone). It is small as a country – just like the Celtic fringe countries of the British Isles. The Swiss voted in December 1992 NOT to join the European Economic Area (a far sighted decision for a quarter of a century ago). At that time, joining the EEA would have been a first step towards full EU membership – they foresaw the dangers of subscribing to a future dictatorial regional set-up that would be run by a non elected bureaucracy and which would be a stepping stone to an eventual global governing world order. Instead, Switzerland, which sells over 50% of its exports to the EU, agreed more than 120 bilateral agreements with Brussels designed to secure Swiss access to Europe’s markets.

Lessons for us there somewhere? In the words of the old song “It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it . . . “

di-enw
Guest

“Instead, Switzerland, which sells over 50% of its exports to the EU, agreed more than 120 bilateral agreements with Brussels designed to secure Swiss access to Europe’s markets.”

Those bilateral agreements include the requirement of Switzerland to adopt the bulk of EU legislation. So it’s dancing to the tune of that “non elected bureaucracy” most of the time. Also it has next to no say in how that “unelected bureaucracy” formulates the legislation but clearly that’s part of the cost Switzerland is willing to pay.
Most likely pretty much the same outcome the UK will end up with.
Lessons will be learnt.

John Young
Guest

To reiterate what others have said, i’ve used the description in many letters and posts on various website threads that Wales is like a mini version of the UK, run for the benefit of the South East to the detriment of the rest of the country.

And on a similar vein to Jac’s proposal about spreading the government/governmental depts around the country I recently emailed Dai Lloyd about the idea of Swansea being the ‘Judicial Capital’ if/when Welsh judicial powers are devolved.

To be fair to him this wasn’t my idea, although I think it would be a great idea, but it was his suggestion a number of years ago. I just reminded him of it.

Brychan
Guest

Of course, the Labour Party on Cardiff City Council have handed over Llanishen leisure centre, Eastern leisure centre, Fairwater leisure centre, Western leisure centre, and Pentwyn and Maindy leisure centres, and the Star Centre in Splott with Penylan Library and Community Centre to the Third Sector, specifically to, England.

It’s all been privatised to Greenwich Leisure Limited of London. It’s governing partners is England Athlectics, The Lawn Tennis Association, Sport England and Badminton England.

http://www.gll.org/b2b/pages/local-authority-trust-partners

The staff formally employed by Cardiff City Council at the leisure centres, many which will also be active in amateur sports in our capital city have had their contracts ‘maintained’ to be able to transfer anywhere within the new organisation, in other words, if you’re good at what you do, go to England.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/plans-hand-over-control-cardiffs-11672530

The Labour leader of Cardiff Council has, just this week, invited their union rep, the GMB Cardiff branch secretary to mince pies and mulled wine at County Hall. The reply – “Fuck Off”!!

dafis
Guest

classic example of hiving off the services to the communities within the city – traditional services – before asking for more money so they can engage in more juicy vanity projects that do sweet F.A for the ordinary man or woman, be they council tax payers or dependent claimants. Bale and his kind are just full of bullshit.

John Young
Guest

I’ve just sent this email to Dai Lloyd (Plaid AM in case someone isn’t aware).

Dear Mr Lloyd,

I don’t know if you’re aware of this blog but it would be well worth reading.

As you know i’ve been very critical of the investment disparity between Cardiff and the Rest of Wales. There are two articles that Jac has done which are withering in their disdain for everything to do with the Assembly’s investment ‘strategy’. The latest is titled ‘Welsh Assembly, Time to Move’ and the previous one titled ‘Cardiff Bay, Corruption Bay’ can be found in the right hand column of the blog three pages down.

I find it amazing that it should take a ‘normal’ person like Jac to try to highlight this. I don’t understand why, at a Swansea level for example, our Council are not shouting about this unfairness from the rooftops. They have the largest selling newspaper in Wales on their doorstep and they should be creating headlines on a weekly basis telling the WAG what we think. But they don’t. Is it because they are part and parcel of the same party and they don’t want to rock the boat maybe ? Perhaps they can see future jobs as AM’s ? Career politicians ?

And why doesn’t Plaid do it ? They/you could be using the EP also. And I don’t mean the careful, mealy mouthed words used by most people when they comment. Lawrence Bailey was critical on this subject in the EP this week but it was so ‘careful’ it almost wasn’t worth saying. Things should be said the way Jac says it. Straight for the jugular. As he says, when you have ALL the political and business powers that be rubbing shoulders with each other on a daily basis it promotes what we have ended up with. When you add to the mix ALL the so called National media based in the same small area all with their own Cardiff centric agenda that’s when you get the unfairness we have now. It’s sickening and i’m just waiting for someone to tell it like it is.

Plaid describes itself as the Party for all of Wales. If they really are the party for all of Wales why isn’t Plaid doing this ?

treborc
Guest

No wonder so many in Wales do not bother voting, I did my last vote in 2015 , not bother again.

Big Gee
Admin

Once the voting level drops below 50%, technically the establishment don’t have a majority mandate from the people – that’s when they start to panic. Now if everyone stopped voting altogether the established political system could be done away with overnight. However to get enough people to wake up to that concept is a different kettle of fish.

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