Guest post: ‘A sustainable Wales . . . or not’

I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.

As it says in the title, this a guest post, and from someone who knows of what they speak. Read it carefully, for it contains valuable insights that you’re unlikely to get elsewhere.

Specifically, this post is about Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) legislation and the vote on March 3 that saw the ‘Welsh Government’ push through its draconian measures which are simply another attack on our farmers.

The fact that most of the pollution doesn’t even come from farms is not simply irrelevant to Labour politicians, it’s ignored completely.

To understand the bigger picture you must realise that the local branch of the British Labour Party is a statist outfit that wants to control everything and everybody, either directly, or else through its agencies in the third sector and elsewhere.

As the writer explains, Labour politicians don’t like farmers because farmers own land (kulaks, see), and they tend to be independently-minded, with a habit of standing up for themselves. What’s more, they’re adept at recognising bullshit.

So farmers have to go. This will be justified on environmental grounds. Freeing land for hippies, rewilders and foreign investors.

This control-freakery also explains why Wales is a basket-case economy. Labour does not want free-thinking indigenous entrepreneurs, even if they provide jobs and make Wales prosperous. Far better to keep Wales poor, blame somebody else, and keep getting elected.

The resultant poverty can also be justified with envirobollocks – ‘What ew mean ew got no job – look at all them wind turbines saving the planet. You selfish bugger!’

Well, of course, that’s not strictly true. Labour politicians and their third sector cronies will always have jobs. Enviroshysters – almost all of them from outside of Wales – will also have jobs. It’s ordinary Welsh people who lose out.

The message is simple. Don’t vote Labour in May’s Senedd elections. Don’t vote for Plaid Cymru either, because Labour will need a coalition with Plaid to stay in power.

Now read what our guest writer has to say . . .

So, in the last month or so, Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment has pushed on with legislation she said she would not push on with 11 times. This was on the basis that agricultural incidents had not decreased from the 3 a week figure that is regularly quoted. As of 3rd March, the regulations will now progress following the Senedd vote.

There are various figures banded around as to why this has been a trigger point and why such an aggressive move has been taken, in the middle (and it is the middle) of the COVID crisis and indeed the aftermath of the Brexit deal.

This is really a statement piece by the Minister to appeal to the environment lobby and her back benchers in the run up to an election. Facts, figures and advice on the regulation from her own regulator, NRW, have been ignored and politics has been front and centre of the decision. Where to go from here? We’ll come back to that a little later.

Jac adds: Not only has Lesley Griffiths been saying it, but her civil servants have also been saying it in responses to members of the public. Click to enlarge

When it comes to Welsh Government, it’s worth taking a look back to see how things have developed.

Firstly, getting rid of scrutiny and the various committees that have provided review and direction has been a key strategy. The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee has to cover such a broad portfolio that it cannot possibly scrutinise in depth. The simple fact is that scrutiny is now a manufactured process, by invitation if you like, with the environment lobby in the pocket of the Minister, who are anti-agri, anti-fisheries and any other private use of natural resources for economic gain, unless you’re a global investor making a land grab under the guise of rewilding, but we won’t mention that.

Secondly, Welsh Government has struggled for years to work out how they could get their policy objectives imprinted on rural Wales. We’re now in the drive to reverse climate change, de-carbonise and promote Wales to the world as a sustainable nation. Farmers own 70% of our private land. The difficulty with trying to get farmers to comply with change is that they own their land and are a broadly militant and belligerent old bunch who would rather sell a kidney than be told what to do. So, in combination with the agriculture white paper out at the moment consulting on the future farm payments system, Minister Griffiths has slapped an NVZ on the whole of Wales to boot.

When you look at some of the drivers of food industry growth, Minister Griffiths own Food and Drink Strategy 2014 – 2020 has targeted increasing sales by 30% to £7bn turnover. Much rejoicing took place last year when it was proclaimed that Welsh Government had ‘smashed its target’. Now a new strategy needs to be developed and it will be based on ‘sustainability’. It should be remembered that Welsh Government has encouraged and invested in the agri-food sectors rapid growth and the question must be asked as to whether it is now a victim of its own success?

I digress.

You see, if you want a snapshot example of what is in store for agriculture, you only need to look at what Welsh Government has done with another comparator sector over which they have devolved responsibility – fisheries.

A small sector in Wales, but nonetheless regularly rolled out by the Minister with unsubstantiated claims of sustainability for which she now strives. The vast majority of engagement mechanisms with the sector have been withdrawn, because, like farmers, fishermen are too difficult for Welsh Government to deal with.

Unlike agriculture, with land ownership in the hands of farmers, Welsh Government actually does have devolved responsibility for marine and fisheries and in layman’s terms, it owns the sea out to the median line. If there is an example of how not to sustainability management resources, this is it. Regulation, not management, is king, delivering boom and bust fisheries such as our main shellfish species by volume, Whelk, that is exploited largely by businesses outside of Wales. Now where have we heard this before…………oh yes, renewables.

Marine renewables is the Minister’s golden ticket to meeting green energy targets and no one will get in the way. While our many centuries old fishing industry and heritage fisheries such as Teifi Seine nets, coracles and the lave net fisheries on the Severn are regulated (for regulated read bullied) out, the push for action in the climate emergency continues. Fisheries is a shining example of how Welsh Government ‘manages’ its resources and should serve as a warning to what is to come for terrestrial Wales.

So the stage is set for the roll out of the NVZ agricultural pollution regulations that will sit alongside the consultation on the agriculture white paper and an announcement made with regard to the future strategy for the food and drink sector where sustainable food production will be at the core. All very nicely choreographed.

What is amazing in all of this is the almost pathological inability of the Minister to acknowledge the issues caused by sewage outfall and releases by water authorities. This has been documented by the BBC and most recent data provided by the Rivers Trust makes for dire reading. Her responses when questioned on this in Plenary have been evasive to say the least. She doesn’t want to talk about it. She has to get her way with the agri sector to line up the other policy objectives. A savage attack on the proposed regulations took place in the Senedd via a recent Conservative debate and again, while referring to a very recent incident and the ‘one too many’ quote, the reality is that statistically there could have well been another 82 sewage incidents going on the very same day!

I have no doubt that a number of MS’s who have voted on this will not have the foggiest what they are voting for, but will have been lobbied by the ‘bastard farmers’ environment crowd from their Cardiff and London bases. The perverse part of this is that in a drive for Wales to be perceived as one of the world’s most sustainable food producers, Minister Griffiths will designate the whole of the country an NVZ against the advice of her regulator and ignoring the main contributor to water quality issues. How does she think this looks from the outside looking in? We’re a laughing stock.

In sectors that have been under devolved regulation for many years such as fisheries, the Minister now talks about co-management out of regulation with a group they can’t engage with and then at the same time has rejected any suggestion of voluntary co-managed farmer-led approaches to agri pollution that were on the table to move to, yep, you’ve guessed it……..regulation. I would suggest her officials need a Zoom meeting to square the circle here.

L to R: Gary Haggaty, civil servant; Lesley Griffiths MS, Labour, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs; Caroline Hitt, writer for the ‘Western Mail’; Elin Jones MS, Plaid Cymru, Senedd Llywydd (Speaker). The cosiness of Corruption Bay made corporeal in a Dublin bar. Click to enlarge

This will be her modulation moment, akin to the decision made by Alun Davies to move 15% of the budget away from direct payments to Pillar 2 and just look at the success that has been, as highlighted by Wales Audit Office last year and further exposed by Craig Williams MP recently. I could also go into the uplands payments debacle but I won’t.

How the farming unions react to this will be key and a judicial review can be expected. However, there is a wider assault in the offing for rural Wales in the hot off the press Future Wales 2040 in the name of sustainability and climate change. It is a large document, but I would urge anyone who has an interest in the future of this country to read it and then decide how you will vote in May. Future Wales 2040 is the planning template for this country and where this blog has pointed out the follies of various ‘developers’ and ‘investors’, I’m certain we will see more of this to come, at scale.

Without wanting to overstate the position, we may be seeing the managed decline of industries in the same way the coal industry was portrayed – inefficient, dirty and unwanted by those who have never done a hard day’s work in their life. The Valleys have never recovered and now having failed to deliver on economic development, Welsh Government MUST deal with climate change, even if it means forcing through bad regulation to achieve it.

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Why I would vote to abolish the Senedd

I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.

For this, another of my infrequent, pre-retirement postings, I’ll explain why I would vote to abolish the Senedd in a referendum offering the straight choice of to keep or to abolish.

BACKGROUND

In a recent post, ‘Welsh independence: Why? for whom?’, I explained why, when a teenager, I became convinced that independence was the only answer for Wales. I wrote:

I wanted independence to improve the lives of the people I cared about: my family, my neighbours, my community, and my nation. I wanted independence to protect my country from neglect or exploitation, and to defend what made us Welsh.

Devolution is obviously not independence but still, judged against those criteria devolution has been an abysmal failure. For the only beneficiaries have been cliques, claques, and the assorted parasites of a vast and burdensome stratum smothering the nation.

LET ME GIVE SOME EXAMPLES

While the greater part of Wales, and the nation, has seen no benefits, this constitutional tinkering must have brought some benefits, to someone, somewhere, otherwise it would be universally damned and consequently unsustainable.

So let’s try and identify some beneficiaries. I’ll use examples of us losing out and others benefitting at our expense. (You’ll soon get the hang of it.)

THIRD SECTOR

The ‘stratum’ I referred to earlier is the third sector. Bigger than ever in Wales, and bigger in Wales than in any other country.

Wales is a rich country made poor by English rule, and the Labour Party has capitalised on our deprivation both for electoral gain – by blaming ‘London’ / Tories – and also by using that deprivation to create a whole new ‘poverty sector’ for its cronies.

Wales is now smothering under the weight of duplicating and competing third sector gangs, most of which seem to be staffed by strident memsahibs from over the border. Cohort after cohort of Common Purpose’ finest, goose-stepping from conference to workshop to those regular meetings in which they dictate policy and funding priorities to politicians.

This third sector is fundamentally and irredeemably parasitical. Preying on Wales’ deprivation in order to suck money from the public purse. A vast network of self-polishing turds who would not be missed if they ceased doing tomorrow whatever they claim to be doing today.

Both Labour and the third sector exploit and capitalise on Wales’ poverty and deprivation. If the money wasted on the third sector was spent in combatting that poverty and deprivation then Wales would be a much better place.

ENVIROSHYSTERS

Perhaps to make us feel guilty for wanting decent jobs, decent homes, an acceptable road and rail system, etc., our gaze is directed away from such crass materialism to the altruistic, the selfless, in the form of saving the planet.

This crusade – for it is nothing less! – is done without providing jobs or any other material benefits to us Welsh. This national insult takes many forms.

Here’s a recent re-working of the theme.

Click to enlarge

Is this supposed to be a consolation prize for the Circuit of Wales? Or for more false hopes raised over the TVR car plant? (Which is not coming, by the way.)

Blaenau Gwent is the poorest part of the country. What it needs is decent jobs, housing, NHS dentists, etc., not bullshit publicity stunts from Corruption Bay.

We are told that “50 residents will be selected to create the first Climate Assembly in Wales”. I hope Gwent Police have the riot gear ready for the trouble that will surely erupt in Ebbw Vale and Tredegar as people fight over those 50 places.

Here’s the latest in the ‘Save the planet’ offensive: “I think if political parties are not putting addressing the climate and nature emergencies right at the top of their manifesto agenda then they will be letting down both the current and future generations in Wales,” says Sophie Howe, Labour apparatchik being paid £100,000 a year in a non-job created specially for her.

The message from our leaders is: ‘Wales may be the poorest country in Europe and getting poorer, but fuck that, cos we – on £100,000 a year – are saving the planet’.

I want to see a healthier nation living in a greener land making its contribution to a cleaner planet. But Wales has more immediate priorities. And it’s positively insulting for overpaid Labour Party nobodies to lecture those worrying about feeding their kids and paying their rent.

UPDATE: As if on cue, Nation.Cymru published a piece by Neil Anderson, ‘How can we make the land of our fathers the land of our futures?’ In it we read: “Incoming farmers are likely to be more adventurous and innovative . . . “.

Yet more arrogant – almost racist – envirocolonialism. It seems Kiwi Anderson has been won over to Welsh independence. A reminder that the reason Greens and others are jumping on the indy bandwagon is because they want our land.

GRANNY FARMERS

Wales has the oldest population in Europe and it’s getting older. An unwanted accolade achieved by a number of factors combining. The lack of a decent economy being one. The other is the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ going out of its way to attract elderly people to Wales.

This is done because, due to the lack of a balanced economy in rural areas and the regular exodus of young people that results, population levels need to be maintained; for nothing says ‘area going to hell’ more clearly than a falling population. How better to maintain population levels than by attracting retirees? (Actually, I can think of many better alternatives, but bear with me.)

No only does the ‘Welsh Government’ see no problem with our ageing population, it even tries to present it as something to be celebrated, as I discovered a few years ago in a reply to a Freedom of Information request.

Click to enlarge

An influx encouraged by the ‘Welsh Government’ legislating so that people entering care homes can keep £50,000 before they start paying for their care. The figure for England is £22,500.

Yet the ‘Welsh Government’ would like to go further, doing away with care home charges altogether by introducing a tax so that we actually pay for wealthy English biddies who’ve been dumped in Welsh care homes by relatives safeguarding their inheritances.

How difficult would it be to introduce a rule insisting that a person must have lived in Wales for 20 years prior to entering a care home before they can benefit from the £50,000 allowance?

Do that and Welsh people won’t lose out and we curb the plague of granny dumping.

HOLIDAY HOMES

I recall, back in the 1980s, during the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign, politicians getting up on their hind legs to proclaim that they would not be influenced by ‘terrorists’. God! they sounded so brave and principled. It brought a tear to my eye.

Thirty years on from the end of that campaign, and after 22 years of devolution, nothing has been done beyond the ‘Welsh Government’ allowing councils to impose a 100% surcharge on holiday home council tax. But it has refused to close the loophole that sees holiday homes classed as businesses to escape council tax entirely.

Oh, I almost forgot, there is also a tiny and insignificant increase in Land Transaction Tax of one per cent per valuation band, introduced 22 December. Which is no deterrent at all to those who can buy a second, third, or fourth home.

In fact, the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ refuses to do anything that might save Welsh communities and allow Welsh people to buy a home in areas cursed with tourism. When pressed on the matter just yesterday by the impressive Delyth Jewell the woeful Julie James could only respond with a promise to . . . kick the issue into the long grass.

From BBC Wales’ ‘Senedd Live’ 03.02.2021 (Alun Jones). Click to enlarge

With the holiday homes problem at crisis levels due to Coronavirus, with Welsh communities being destroyed before our eyes, the fact that those useless bastards down Corruption Bay refuse to act should tell you all you need to know about devolution.

NATIONAL LIBRARY OF WALES

In the past few days we’ve seen the outcry as the ‘Welsh Government’ decided it couldn’t fund the National Library of Wales.

Wales has a ‘government’ that can find money for every lunatic outfit under the sun but cannot find money for the memory of the nation!

Eventually, those clowns did find something down the back of the settee but only after an online petition and a public outcry.

But you have to wonder who made the initial decision not to fund.

THE WAR ON FARMERS

Part of the problem lies in the fact that devolution is controlled by civil servants who may be based in Wales but take their orders from London. Civil servants such as Gary Haggaty, beau to Lesley Griffiths, the Labour MS for Wrecsam, and Minister for the Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs.

L to R: Gary Haggaty, civil servant; Lesley Griffiths MS, Labour, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs; Caroline Hitt, writer for the ‘Western Mail’; Elin Jones MS, Plaid Cymru, Senedd Llywydd (Speaker). The cosiness of Corruption Bay made corporeal in a Dublin bar. Click to enlarge

Last week, Gary and Lesley – despite promising to consult with farmers before doing anything – introduced legislation to deal with the localised problem of spillage (NVZ) into watercourses. Instead of tackling the guilty parties the lovebirds have imposed financial burdens on all farmers to ensure that they cannot in future do what they weren’t doing anyway.

I quote, again from yesterday’s ‘Senedd Live’:

“Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Gruffydd says the minister is on the record as saying that these Nitrate Vulnerable Zone regulations would not be introduced while the pandemic was in existence – no less than ten times.”

It was eleven times, and here’s the video evidence.

And many of these spillages have nothing to do with farmers. I am reliably informed that the testing done by Natural Resources Wales (yes, them!) cannot differentiate between farm slurry and raw sewerage from other sources.

And let’s remember that the biggest spillage ever occurred last year when a train transporting oil from Milford Haven derailed near Llanelli. No doubt, in a few years time, when people start forgetting about it, it will be blamed on farmers and used to introduce legislation even more burdensome.

This is just the latest assault in a war on Welsh farmers by the ‘Welsh Government’. Done because ‘Welsh’ Labour hates farmers, and also because there are others queuing up to take over Welsh land. Friends of Jane Davidson, ‘rewilders’, Tory MPs.

Significantly, in England, the NVZ legislation targets problem areas and culprits rather than penalising all farmers.

So, we see that under devolution Welsh farming is another area of our national life being targeted and damaged. And it could not have happened without devolution. Because if London had singled out Welsh farmers for such treatment there would have been rioting, and possibly worse.

I could give plenty more examples where devolution has failed us. Here are just a few snapshots:

  • There’s colonisation, resulting in the Welsh element in the population decreasing year on year. As a prominent citizen of a border town told me a few weeks back: “Some of the attitudes retired people come here have towards the locals are shocking, their sense of superiority is unbelievable.”
  • Then there’s a crass and exploitative form of tourism that is destroying Welsh communities, especially Welsh-speaking communities.
  • No other country on Earth has allowed One Planet Developments. Yet here in Wales hippies and enviroshysters are encouraged to take over land, flout planning and other regulations, bring up children in unsanitary and dangerous conditions, and then this colonisation is justified as part of OUR contribution to saving the planet.
  • Under devolution we have seen Cardiff grow and prosper, largely at the expense of the rest of Wales.
  • Wales produces twice as much electricity as we need and the rest goes to England free of charge, the same applies to our water resources, stolen by Severn Trent. 
  • The ‘Welsh Government’ pays some of our brightest young people to go to English universities and then makes no attempt to bring them home after graduation. While filling our universities with mediocrities from over the border who stay on to fill third sector and public sector jobs. 
  • Publicly-funded housing associations build ‘affordable’ homes that most locals can’t afford while neglecting the social rented sector for which there’s a local demand.
  • Let’s not forget the shysters – so many of whom have appeared on this blog – who get showered with funding after turning up with their ‘exciting’, ‘job-creating’ projects meticulously outlined on the back of a fag packet.
  • Then there’s the cess-pit that is Cardiff Bay, where those we elect to represent us rub shoulders daily with unregistered lobbyists and others trying to influence them – and almost always against the best interests of the nation.

FINALLY, A VERY TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY EXAMPLE

This pretence of devolved power is a very thin veil behind which England’s interests are served. A great example was supplied to me last week by someone involved in matters technological which went a bit over my head, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist of it.

This source wrote:

” . . . dotCYM had no hope when Plaid Cymru was useless, Labour and the civil servants were working against it, and then Nominet came in with their money and used it to destroy them. The money from .cymru and .wales domains are now going to Oxford instead of Wales.”

The source continued:

“The Welsh government is clever in creating schemes to develop Welsh language technology and software. They come out with a new scheme with millions to develop Welsh software but there’s a maximum of about 30k per project, which isn’t enough to get anywhere or develop anything of use. Also, the money they give for research into Welsh language technology comes with the proviso that the research is then open sourced. What happens then is that large companies from outside Wales can take it, add it to their software as token Welsh support that doesn’t work well, and then sell it back to the Welsh”.

My source then explained to me what’s happening in New Zealand, where those working on a similar project for the Maori language successfully fought against their work becoming open source. The Maoris defended their stance thus:

“By simply open sourcing our data and knowledge, we further allow ourselves to be colonised digitally in the modern world.”

THE TRUTH DAWNS

More and more people grasp that devolution is an unworkable nonsense, even if they don’t understand why. This explains the growing polarisation between those wanting to do away with the Senedd and those wanting independence.

When all devolution’s defenders can muster is, ‘But it’s recognition’, or ‘free bus passes’, then you know that even they have given up.

Successive ‘Welsh’ Assembly Governments and ‘Welsh Governments’ have not only failed to remedy the problems inherited in 1999 they have introduced new measures to work against the national interest.

This is not what I voted for in the September 1997 referendum. It’s no exaggeration to say that what we’ve experienced over the past 22 years is a form of anti-Welsh devolution.

Consequently, in a referendum offering the simple choice between keeping the Senedd or abolishing it I would vote to abolish, because abolition would be the best option for the greatest number of Welsh people.

But I still want independence.

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