In a recent post, Welsh Independence Referendum, I looked at the call for a second Scottish independence referendum and a referendum on Irish reunification, before considering an independence referendum in Wales and concluding that such a referendum could not be won.
In this post I’m going to give the possibility of a Welsh independence referendum a bit more of an airing, partly because I may not have made my views clear in that earlier post and partly because I think a few other things need to be clarified. For example . . .
A few days ago I tweeted about the mother of the man who killed people outside Westminster last Wednesday, linking to a BBC report that she lives in Carmarthenshire. I received a response from ‘Cymroewrop’ accusing me of making assumptions about the man’s cushion-making, good-lifer mother. Whoever Cymroewrop is he or she had missed the point.
The point I was making was about English colonisation. And yet, I can imagine the conditioning that resulted in that response – ‘the killer was a person of colour . . . known to be a convert to Islam . . . therefore this man making the comment must be a racist and an Islamophobe’.
Naturally, I wondered who Cymroewrop is, so I checked. In addition to being obviously pro EU this person’s hash tags – #indyrefcymru #indywales @yescymru – tell us that he or she supports Welsh independence. And if we check the profile further then the header photo suggests that Cymroewrop is one of those who believes that only stupid people voted for Brexit. The analogy would appear to be lemmings.
Cymroewrop’s Twitter timeline is full of retweets of those still fighting the Brexit battle. Predictably, Cymroewrop is also opposed to President Trump. Which brings us to the fundamental problem, and explains my reluctance to get involved in the campaign for an independence referendum.
I suspect that this campaign is attracting too many who see Welsh independence as a route back into the EU. An approach that might – and I stress might – work in Scotland but is more likely to alienate potential support in a country where a majority voted for Brexit. Consequently, promoting EU membership could damage the chances of success in a Welsh independence referendum.
As for Cymroewrop, I don’t know who you are, but it seems obvious to me that while we seem to agree on the need for Welsh independence, we would almost certainly disagree on why we need it.
The reason I feel so strongly about this link with Brexit is because after the EU referendum last year I received some rather unpleasant messages from people who had obviously voted Remain. Here’s a selection of those I’m prepared to make public, with identification obscured.
The point I was trying to make with the reference to Leanne Wood was that if Brexit is so disastrous for Wales then the day after it was announced I would have expected the leader of Plaid Cymru to be somewhere other than at a Brit feminist conference. This, for me, summed up all that’s wrong with Plaid Cymru.
These tweets betray the usual precious intolerance of the right-on left. For whom I am an “incomer”, I have blighted the lives of children, I am an utter bastard for exercising my democratic right to disagree with these people who are – remember! – all nationalists in favour of independence.
Perhaps they think that as a child of the Sixties I should now be a mellow old dude; well, I’m not. Yes, I was there, long hair and flares, even the granny glasses; I loved the music, still play my Tom Paxton albums, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins . . . I just didn’t buy into the politics. Or rather, I saw the need for change, but not the change offered by the Soviet Union, or campus ‘radicals’ going through a phase before joining father in the oak-panelled offices of Shyster Shyster & Shyster. For fuck’s sake! I supported the US in Vietnam.* I am a reactionary beyond redemption! Get used to it.
Comments such as those contained in the tweets are water off a duck’s back to me, but they do make me pause, and wonder if I could ever co-operate with such people in an independence campaign. So you may begin to understand my concerns that a movement for independence could be subverted by those still grieving their referendum defeat last June.
*Though let me make clear that I no longer subscribe to the Domino Theory.
All my life I have wanted Wales to be independent. The earliest manifestation might have been when, as a ten-year-old in Brynhyfryd school, I submitted as my contribution to the St David’s Day eisteddfod a picture I’d drawn of Llywelyn rejecting the terms offered him by Edward I.
I’d copied it from the Odhams Press volume British History in Strip Pictures, a book I still I have. (Sentimental old bugger that I am!) What possessed a ten-year-old in Swansea, after five years of an essentially English education, hearing almost daily the horrors and heroism of WWII, to select that picture from a volume extolling the greatness of England?
For that’s the kind of book it was. The next page was devoted to ‘The Model Parliament’ and that was followed by two whole pages glorying in ‘The Hammering of the Scots’. The inside covers were given over to a parade of kings and queens of England beginning with William of Normandy.
So you see, independence is not something I’ve come around to because of Brexit. It’s not even a position I’ve adopted because of the sheer fucking awfulness of the quisling Labour Party, or the smackinthegobability of Alun Cairns, Guto Bebb and the Fat Farmer. It’s a multiplicity of things: it’s the slimeball civil servants running Wales for their London masters; it’s the locusts of the Third Sector who have descended upon us to take what little we have; it’s the lying bastards at the BBC, the Wasting Mule and elsewhere; it’s the fact that someone as obnoxious as Mark James can be left to run one of our councils as if it was his private fiefdom; it’s the realisation that I now belong to the Welsh minority in the area I live.
These combine to tell me that Wales is a corrupt, inefficient, poor, fucked up Third World colony . . . yet it could be so much better.
But maybe things are getting better – look what I picked up in Porthmadog today! Bear Grylls has come to live among us . . . well, he’s come to live in Wales, anyway; I don’t suppose he’ll be mixing much with Welsh people seeing as he’s involved in tourism.
‘Forage For Wild Foods’, it says! (Let Jac recommend those nice white mushrooms.) Or ‘Learn How To Protect Yourself in the Wild From Attack’. Yes, the grizzlies near Pwllheli are particularly aggressive. ‘Will You ESCAPE from Cabin Wood?’ With any luck, no; you’ll all die; Grylls will then be exposed as a self-promoting, money-grabbing bastard, and the world will be spared his puerile exhibitionism for a long, long time.
A Chorus not a Drone
Wales needs independence, to save us from all the above-mentioned ills and, more importantly, to ensure our survival as a nation.
There are those who agree with me on independence but believe socialism and the EU must be added to the mix. A country in the state Wales is in needs socialism like a dog needs more fleas, and I say that because socialism is a system for distributing wealth, not for creating it.
Which is why I could never join an organisation made up in the main of the sort of persons I introduced you to earlier. But if there were other voices, from other political standpoints, then the call for independence might garner more support, and as a result be more difficult to dismiss.
It could be that the more diverse and diffuse the call for independence the better, for different voices can make a choir, and that’s always preferable to the monotonous whine of the smug and the self-righteous.
Of course, too many different voices can also be discordant, so to avoid this let me suggest that those of us working towards the same objective of independence treat each other with a little more respect in future. We may not like each other, but let’s not give gifts to our enemies and waste time fighting amongst ourselves.
Finally, to put your minds at rest, I’m not planning to start any organisation, but I have no objection to this blog serving as a focus for those who want independence but might not feel comfortable with people who regard them as lemmings, and blighters of their children’s futures.
Oh, the joy! the euphoria! Didn’t you feel the surge of national pride, the collective Cymric breast heaving, positively heaving, at the joyous news? – Lonely Planet declares ‘North’ Wales to be the bestest al fresco fun fair around.
So what exactly has ‘North’ Wales won? Well, it seems that northern Wales came fourth in the Top Regions category of the best destinations to visit in 2017. (The other categories being countries and cities.)
Northern Wales came fourth in the section subtitled “offbeat destinations demanding our attention”. Mmm, anyone who’s visited Betws y Coed or Caernarfon, Llangollen or Beddgelert, will find the use of that word ‘offbeat’ rather bizarre (and I haven’t mentioned the coastal resorts!). But, anyway, read the Lonely Planet piece for yourself.
So what are the other “offbeat destinations” with which north Wales was competing? In first place came Chocquequirao, “hidden across the deep Apurimac Valley . . . the last Inca refuge from the conquistadors”. Which makes this Andean location sound fascinating, and a worthy winner.
Second was Taranaki in New Zealand, which is certainly off the beaten track, confirmed with Lonely Planet‘s description it being a “remote location”. I shall return to the matter of tourism in New Zealand in a minute.
Then, one place ahead of ‘North’ Wales, we find the Azores. Described by Lonely Planet as the “next Iceland” and as a result we are warned, ” . . . the secret won’t last: the Azores have seen a 31% increase in tourism over the last 12 months, so visit in the 2017 sweet spot before things really take off.”
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Now I don’t know much about the Lonely Planet publication other than that it gets a lot of publicity – certainly here in Wales, for every time we get a mention it seems to merit a big news splash – but who pays it any real attention? Maybe its target audience, which I’d guess is the English middle class and its gap year offspring. (I belong to neither category.)
And that’s because, I suspect, Lonely Planet sees its role in identifying ‘offbeat destinations’ before – as seems to be the fear with the Azores – these idyllic locales are discovered by hoi polloi demanding ‘El fish and chips, Pedro – and pronto!’. Without, I hope, sounding snobbish, this is perfectly understandable.
In September, Mrs J and I took one of our regular trips to Scotland, and no matter where we went, from the Robert Burns Museum to Sweetheart Abbey to Threave (origin, tref) Castle, we met tourists from all over the world, but nowhere we went was overwhelmed in the way that parts of Wales so often are.
Of course Edinburgh can feel a bit ‘crowded’, but it’s bustling and cosmopolitan, it’s energising . . . and a hell of an improvement on being surrounded by miserable Brummies on a wet Sunday in Barmouth. These people milling around Princes Street and the Royal Mile are also spending lots of money (helped by the fact they’re not slumming it in ‘a caravan down the beach’), and when they go home they’ll tell their friends how wonderful Scotland is.
Scotland gets a better class of tourist, and certainly more overseas tourists. These even spend more per head (heid?) than overseas tourists to Wales. The figures for 2015 bear this out, for we see that while Scotland saw 2.6 million visits from overseas Wales welcomed just 970,000. In Scotland, the average spend per head was £651, compared with £422 in Wales. Giving a total overseas spend in Scotland of £1,695m against our £410m, less than a quarter of Scotland’s income.
There is of course a historic explanation for this. When railways became capable of transporting large numbers of working class people in relative comfort, and for prices they could afford, this advance placed Wales, unlike Scotland, within reach of many of England’s cities and industrial regions. Though that does not explain why we should still be providing holidays on the cheap, going for quantity rather than quality, 150 years later.
There are other, perhaps equally prosaic, explanations for Scotland attracting more overseas tourists and fewer English day-trippers than Wales. Distance being a pretty obvious one. Also, Scotland is much larger than Wales, with a greater variety of scenery. Scotland has airports with regular long haul flights to destinations around the world. Finally, Scotland has a beautiful and historic capital city.
But none of these explain the lack of ambition in the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry. Nor should they be accepted as excuses.
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After my Caledonian digression let me return to what I hinted at earlier when mentioning Taranaki, second among the ‘Top Regions’. A friend of mine has visited New Zealand a few times; it’s not cheap, but then, he’s a wealthy bachelor. I remember him telling me about one particular trip to the Southern Alps. He had to book in advance, prove he was healthy and insured, and as they liked the cut of his jib he was taken on a trek through the mountains lasting a few days.
The Southern Alps are protected by various National Parks and other forms of legislation to the point where the chances of a coachload of drunks turning up and making nuisances of themselves is close to zero . . . unlike on Snowdon, for example.
Returning to the Lonely Planet review of ‘North’ Wales we see that what got us noticed was zip wires, wave machines and subterranean trampolines. It seems logical to conclude that if we have more of these, and maybe a water chute running from the top of Cader Idris down to Dolgellau, or Talyllyn, we might achieve the coveted third place next year. Dare we dream of second place!
Grouped with the last refuge of the Incas, the as yet unspoilt Azores, and the majesty of the Southern Alps, a few big boys’ toys scattered about the north seem laughably incongruous, and unworthy. Especially when you read under the ‘Responsible Travel’ heading, “At Lonely Planet sustainable and responsible have always been parts of our vocabulary.” ‘Sustainable’ and ‘responsible’ are words that have never tarnished the lexicon of ‘Welsh’ tourism.
Which I suppose exposes the central contradiction of tourism – ‘Come see this awe-inspiring place . . . and by so doing, help despoil it’. Which explains why I admire the New Zealand approach that realises beautiful and irreplaceable environments and landscapes such as we find in the Southern Alps need to be protected from tourism.
If the Southern Alps had been in Wales they would by now have been extensively and thoroughly ‘developed’, suffering regular visits by twat-like politicos spouting bollocks so vacuous and inane as to make Vacuity and Inanity rise up in indignation. But on the bright side, there would be local employment – collecting garbage.
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When you look around Wales at the ugliness tourism has inflicted, the anglicisation it has brought, the environmental degradation, the social disruption, you have to ask what sort of people are we to have allowed this.
The answer is that we remain what we’ve been for maybe 800 years – a people with no real control over our country. Tourism is a perfect example, not only does it serve England’s interests, but ‘Welsh’ tourism is largely run by, and therefore profits, English people. Why should they give a toss about wrecking our homeland?
What’s best for England will always prevail over the best interests of us Welsh, and devolution has entrenched this system of exploitation even more firmly. I recently coined a term for this phenomenon, devocolonialism. In a future post I shall expand on what I put out recently in a tweet.
I feel this needs to be done because anyone believing that devolution has achieved anything positive for Wales needs a cold shower of facts.
I’m off to Swansea this weekend, treating myself and the wife to a wee break. (Well, actually, the wife’s paying for the hotel.) I shall visit relatives and friends and go watch the Swans playing Norwich (son’s treating me!). So it will be at least a week until I put up my next post.
In the meantime, enjoy these tit-bits from hither and yon and have a good St. David’s Day. I might pop over to Wrecsam for the parade there, or maybe down to Aber’.
DAWN BOWDEN AM?
Some of you will know by now that Dawn Bowden has been selected as the Labour Party candidate for Merthyr and Rhymni in May’s Assembly elections. If you haven’t heard – and even if you have – you’re probably wondering who the hell she is.
Around this time last year I also got to wondering, because I was told that she’d been promised a place in the Assembly, and although the seats suggested were Islwyn and Caerffili, my source was adamant that her elevation would be stitched up with a women-only shortlist. This prompted me to make enquires, resulting in a mention for Ms Bowden in my post ‘Welsh’ Labour And A Milking System Unknown To Farmers. And lo! it came to pass . . .
On the right you’ll see two screen-captured Twitter profiles for Ms Bowden, the ‘Before’ image taken at around 19:30 on Saturday, the ‘After’ around 00:30 on Sunday. (Thanks to ‘S’ for tipping me off.) There are significant changes in the second profile.
First, the reference to loving the unions is gone. Second, she has changed out of the Brizzle City shirt – a dead giveaway for her origins. Third, she is no longer a socialist. (Rhodri Morgan’s ‘clear red water’ seems to be flowing the other way at the moment.) Fourth, she has removed the reference to @Carrageryr, aka Martin Eaglestone, her current beau and another Labour insider. Gone with the reference to Eaglestone is the mention of being step-mother to his children by an earlier wife in Gwynedd. (Or at least I assumed they were his.)
The new profile was obviously put up in a hurry; such a hurry that she couldn’t tell us the full title of her job with UNISON or even get the spelling right for the party she represents. Maybe the champagne had gone to her head. No doubt everything has been put right by now.
Dawn Bowden is obviously a Labour loyalist first and foremost, knowing little about Wales, and even less about Merthyr. Just another Labourite on the make who’s come through the system of Unions and Third Sector, the kind of woman who’s always banging on about ‘the people’ but rarely gets to meet them because she lives in a Labour cocoon where she only mixes with her own kind.
Her success in Merthyr came about because the sitting AM, Huw Lewis, surprised quite a few people last month by suddenly announcing he was standing down. I won’t go into the reasons for this decision, suffice to say that they are of a delicate and intimate nature, the kind of messy personal relationships of which Ms Bowden and Martin Eaglestone have experience.
The other two women on the Merthyr and Rhymni shortlist were Carol Estebanez, who is also from that magic land, ‘Away’, and also helps prop up a ‘Welsh’ Labour Party having serious problems finding Welsh candidates of any quality; and then there was Anna McMorrin, who worked as an advisor to the dickheads down Cardiff docks and who is / was having an affair with Alun Davies AM former Natural Resources Minister.
The decision to impose an all-women shortlist in order to guarantee Ms Bowden her promised seat did not go down well with the bruvvers in Merthyr. Misogynists almost to a man who see La Bowden as the beginning of the end, for not only do the long shadows of council merger creep ever closer, but in the distance can be heard the heavy tread of the Westminster executioner coming to take an axe to the Merthyr constituency.
There’s nothing here to surprise anyone who knows how the Labour Party operates in Wales, but I still have three questions:
1/ Is ‘Welsh’ Labour now an official branch of UNISON?
2/ How much of the donkey vote will turn out for this latest parachutist?
3/ Will the Merthyr bruvvers – and, indeed, the disgruntled local sissters – canvass for Dawn Bowden?
OXBRIDGE AND THE WELSH CRINGE
The aforementioned Huw Lewis is still the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Education Minister, and something (else) that causes him sleepless nights is the fact that so few of us aspire to Oxford and Cambridge universities. To listen to him and others who talk through their back heads the Welsh education system should be geared to getting as many as possible of our young people to Oxbridge.
So I was intrigued to see this item on the BBC website by Gareth Jones, a producer with BBC Wales, talking about the Oxbridge ‘success’ rate of his old school in Swansea, Olchfa Comprehensive. Though what I found most interesting, and disturbing, was that hardly any of those who went from Olchfa to Oxford and Cambridge returned to Wales.
And yet, this is how it must be in a colonial relationship. Wealth gravitates to the centre, where power and influence is also concentrated. The peripheries provide raw materials and manpower, holiday destinations and other benefits for the centre. This is how it was in Rome and every empire since.
Which means that Huw Lewis and all the other cringers, all those desperate to show ‘our English friends’ that we’re (almost) as good as them, want us to pay for our brightest and best to leave Wales and never return – and we are expected to be ever so grateful! This, remember, is ‘the Welsh Government’.
Here’s a better suggestion, Lewis . . . Why don’t you and your half-wit, forelock-tugging colleagues try to shake off your inferiority complex and start putting Welsh interests first. And to give you a clue where to start, subsidising a brain drain does not serve the Welsh national interest.
And if you aren’t serving the Welsh national interest then you really have no right to call yourselves ‘the Welsh Government’.
TOURISM PAYING ITS WAY
Regular readers will know that I have firm views on tourism in Wales. Basically, I believe that it is a colonialist activity from which few Welsh people benefit, and that it is also destroying Welsh identity. In fact, from a patriotic perspective, I see nothing to be said in favour of the tourism Wales suffers today.
This unregulated and destructive ‘industry’ is doing irreparable harm to our homeland. Just look at the photograph below showing hordes of tourists swarming up to the summit of Snowdon, having been brought up almost all the way by the vile little train. Shouldn’t we be treating our beauty spots and our iconic mountains with more respect? Perhaps we would, but of course we Welsh have no control over the tourism ravaging our country.
In Italy they do things better. With tourism taxes in various locations that suffer from too many gawpers and clickers. The latest moves are to limit the numbers of visitors to the Cinque Terre area. And as the article I’ve linked to tells us, big cruise liners are now banned from the Venice lagoon.
Elsewhere, in Italy and other countries, tourists are expected to put money into the public purse, not just the pockets of those taking the tourists’ money, who may be foreign companies or individuals from outside the country. The article I used tells us that such economic pragmatism is not limited to Italy, for “Bhutan doesn’t limit its number of tourists, but it does force them – through package tours – to spend $250 a day in high season ($200 in low), which apparently funds education, healthcare and so on.”
Wales has a problem with tourism. We have too much of it causing too much damage and bringing too few benefits to Welsh people and Welsh communities. So let’s tax tourism, thereby reducing the unmanageable numbers, and invest the money raised in those areas suffering the worst.
One way of using this income would be to help young locals buy homes in areas where tourism, and the resultant irruption of good-lifers and retirees, has priced them out of the property market. But it would be insane to ‘invest’ the money raised from tourism to encourage more tourism!
Of course the argument usually employed against a tourism tax is the same one used against raising council tax on holiday homes, which is that such measures would reduce the numbers of tourists coming from England.
I have given this argument a great deal of thought. It has caused me many a sleepless night. But for the life of me, I don’t get it. Because from where I’m sitting, Welsh people and Welsh communities seeing financial and other benefits from fewer tourists is a win-win situation.
IS ‘WELLNESS’ A SYNONYM FOR PRIVATE HEALTH CARE?
Those of you lucky enough to live in James-shire, the entertainment capital of Wales, may already be aware of the goodies coming your way in the very vague form of the Wellness village, or the Wellness centre, planned for Delta Lakes in Llanelli. I say ‘very vague’ because even if you are aware of it, I guarantee you don’t know who’s involved and what it’s all about.
There are so many interlinking and overlapping organisations involved with this project that I shall not attempt to list them, let alone guess at how they might be connected. Instead, I refer you to a piece that appeared on the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board website in December 2015, and this article from last week’s Llanelli Herald which quotes the one and only Meryl Gravell, Mark James’ plenipotentiary extraordinary to us mere mortals.
If I was cynical (and I thank God I’m not!) I might suggest that what’s happening is this: The leisure centre is being demolished and a new one built; but to get as much lolly as possible bells and whistles are being added in order to promote the project as a ‘Wellness Centre’ incorporating a health centre, a hotel and conference centre, facilities for various ‘therapies’, etc.
Which could result in some poor bugger struggling down there with a bad back, going through the wrong door and finding himself confronted by a Siberian shaman; or perhaps getting legless with a bunch of middle managers down for a conference.
And if I wanted to be really, really cynical I might wonder who is involved in this project that isn’t among the many bodies named. For even the most trusting soul might have his or her suspicions raised by this document on South Llanelli, adopted by Carmarthenshire County Council in December 2014, which has this to say of Delta Lakes (on page 25): “Other related uses (eg healthcare /service sector – social and/or private health care) may also be considered appropriate”.
“Private health care”! Can we hypothesise that the undisclosed ‘partners’ in this project might be private health care providers? Though let me say that I have no objection in principle to private health care. Who can possibly object as long as such companies build hospitals and other health facilities using money provided by investors, banks, and those subscribing to private health care schemes?
But this is Wales and, more importantly, Carmarthenshire, so there must be a possibility that a company providing private health care has been wooed to Delta Lakes with the promise of spanking new facilities funded with public money, sixty million pounds of it.
And this being Wales it will also be trumpeted as a great coup that BUPA or Spire has chosen to ‘invest’ in Llanelli and Carmarthenshire. The massive investment from the public purse that underpins and explains this ‘coup’ will of course be downplayed if not excised entirely from the hyperbolic narrative.
So I suggest that instead of trying to confuse the public, those behind this project explain it better, and give us the names of all the ‘partners’. If only to allay the suspicions many hold.
Because Carmarthenshire in recent years has seen too many projects pushed through in secret. Loans have been made (and lost), and planning permission has been granted, on a nod and a wink. Small wonder that some ask if backhanders might explain this curious methodology.
And seeing as this Delta Lakes project – whatever it is – has the enthusiastic support of Mark James and Meryl Gravell we’re also entitled to ask if the council’s favourite business adviser, Robin Cammish, is involved.
A LITTLE HOME IN THE WEST – RENTED FROM AN ‘INVESTOR’?
I like a man who can’t be fobbed of with flim-flam and bullshit, and one such man is regular correspondent Wynne Jones down in Cardigan. Not only is Wynne alert to flim-flam but he’s also very well organised, knowing what questions to ask and to whom they should be directed.
To briefly explain, Pembrokeshire Housing is a publicly-funded – £27m since 2008 in Social Housing Grant alone – housing association or Registered Social Landlord (RSL). Mill Bay Homes, a ‘subsidiary’ of Pembrokeshire Housing builds and sells properties on the open market, with the money made from this activity going to the parent company for it to invest in more units of social housing . . . or at least, that’s the theory.
But as Wynne found out in a recent reply from Helga Warren, Head of Housing Funding for the ‘Welsh’ Government, Pembrokeshire Housing has yet to see a penny of the money Mill Bay Homes has made from five private developments! Admitted in the extract below, taken from a larger document (click to enlarge).
As I mentioned in my earlier posts, Mill Bay Homes advertises its properties as ideal investments for Buy-to-let landlords. Some reading this might think it odd for the subsidiary of a publicly-funded RSL to be encouraging such activity, I certainly think there’s something not right here.
Especially when we realise that Mill Bay Homes also administers the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Help to Buy – Cymru scheme, intended to help people, presumably young people, buy their first new home. Inevitably, Wynne and I wondered if ‘investors’ had been allowed to avail themselves of the Help to Buy scheme.
Ms Warren came to the rescue with this assurance: “Help to Buy is operated by Help to Buy (Wales) Ltd. They carry out extensive checks on behalf of Welsh Government as part of the affordability calculations for any potential buyer. As part of this assessment customers are advised that buy-to-let investments are strictly prohibited under the scheme. Scheme documentation clearly indicates that any fraudulent application for Help to Buy (Wales) assistance could be liable to criminal prosecution. Any fraudulent claims uncovered as part of our monitoring and governance arrangements, will always require immediate repayment of the shared equity loan assistance”.
Read it carefully. There is ‘advice’, there is ‘documentation’, but there seem to be no real checks. As things stand, someone from outside of Wales could buy a new property from Mill Bay Homes, taking advantage of the Help to Buy – Wales scheme, and use it as a holiday home – because nobody is checking. It is a system yelling to be abused.
But even this is only part of the much wider problem we have with housing associations, which in Wales have received, since 2008, close on £800m in Social Housing Grant alone. Then there’s Dowry Gap funding projected to cost £1.3bn and Welsh Quality Housing Standard funding of an estimated £1.7bn. Finally, there’s the Housing Finance Grant totalling £120m.
These are huge amounts of money in a poor country like Wales, so surely the ‘Welsh’ Government insists on every penny being accounted for . . . umm, no. The ‘Welsh’ Government dishes out the cash and seems to say something along the lines of, ‘If you get a chance, you might want to send in a report telling us how you’ve spent the money. No need for any nonsense like differentiating capital from revenue, or explaining where the money’s actually gone, all we need is good news to use as propaganda and to justify us giving you the money in the first place’.
There is no official oversight or monitoring. Housing associations regulate themselves. No one in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems to give a damn as to whether or not billions of pounds of public funding are being properly spent.
And as in neighbouring Carmarthenshire, openness and telling the public what you’re doing in their name comes very low down on the list of priorities, with things being stitched up at private meetings.
Though this report from the ‘Nazis’ Cambrian News is able to tell us that by late January the council had already paid PwC £963,630. If my maths is up to it, this must mean savings already of over £6m. (And this must be delicate or even dangerous work, because it looks as if the reporters need to use pseudonyms.)
When you come to think about it, it’s a bloody strange system. This company is paid by cuts it identifies. So let’s say Ceredigion spends £100m a year on education, PwC could argue that, ‘The little buggers have all got iPads and smart phones nowadays – let them get their education from Google and Wikipedia‘, and make themselves a quick £16m! I could do that!
Then again, maybe there’s a simple explanation for it all.
Cuts have been forced on our local authorities by the Labour regime in Cardiff docks, and every time cuts are announced rural – i.e. non-Labour – councils take the hit, with Labour-voting councils being protected from the worst.
Now it just so happens that PwC is a major donor to the Labour Party. This article from the Guardian (12.11.2014) explains that Labour received £600,000 of advice from PwC on forming its tax policies – from a company that specialises in tax avoidance schemes. This article from the New Statesman (19.02.2015) tells us that, apart from trade unions, PwC is Labour’s biggest donor.
As we all know, few individuals and no companies give large sums of money to a political party without expecting something in return. I guarantee that PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP is no exception.
Can’t you just imagine the phone call from London to Cardiff: ‘Listen now, Carwell, PwC have been very generous to the party, so we’d like you to put some business their way, some out-of-way place where nobody’ll ask too many question. Got that?‘
Though that still might not explain why a non-Labour authority would agree to go along with this lunacy, so maybe the responsibility lies within Ceredigion. Can you help?
Of course, none of our local authorities would need to cut services if the ‘Welsh’ Government wasn’t so profligate with it’s meagre resources; especially with the funding it showers on housing associations and the Third Sector, money that the ‘Welsh Government loses all interest in once it’s been handed over.
In my post of November 24th, Wales, Colony of England, I mentioned multi-millionaire businessman Clive Hughes and his tribulations with Carmarthenshire County Council, due to that authority’s hostility towards his project for a biomass combined heat and power plant near Kidwelly.
In my follow-up post on December 1st, Meryl Gravell & Robin Cammish, Only in Carmarthenshire, I named Robin Cammish as Clive Hughes’ ‘nemesis’, and looked into Cammish’s business background, also his relationship with former council leader, Meryl Gravell, which seemed to explain him being appointed to the board of the Scarlets rugby region and then Pro Rugby Wales. Though his time at the latter body was short, he was forced to resign just before Christmas.
Since writing those pieces I have met with Clive Hughes, spoken with other people, done a little research, and I now understand even better that it wasn’t the council per se that caused Mr Hughes’ problems. The biomass plan was doomed because Clive Hughes fell foul of certain powerful individuals in Carmarthenshire County Council.
To understand what I’m referring to you must know something of the circumstances surrounding the local rugby club / region moving from its traditional home of Stradey Park to the new stadium, Parc y Scarlets, right next to the Parc Pemberton retail park. (And if you want to know why Llanelli town centre looks like an apocalyptic, post-nuclear wasteland, just look at the huge retail parks the county council has encouraged at Pemberton and Trostre.)
Council chief executive Mark James and sometime council leader Meryl Gravell enthusiastically supported the move from Stradey Park to Parc y Scarlets and used the clout and funding of the local authority to ensure it happened. To the extent that the Scarlets have been kept afloat financially ever since by very generous treatment from the council. (For further details on this generosity I suggest you go to the blogs named here and search under ‘Scarlets’, ‘Stradey Park’ or ‘Parc y Scarlets’, Y Cneifiwr and Carmarthenshire Planning Problems and more.)
So how does all this link with Clive Hughes? In a nutshell, Clive Hughes, a Carmarthenshire man, born and raised in Bethlehem, had supported Llanelli RFC all his life, he was a vice-president of the club . . . but he vociferously opposed the move away from Stradey Park. He became something of a fly in the ointment, an obstacle to county hall’s grand vision for the county’s premier sporting organisation and its largest town. By taking that position he made powerful enemies.
(This also explains how I met with Clive Hughes on New Year’s Day at the Liberty Stadium, for the Ospreys v Dragons game – he has now transferred his loyalty across the Loughor river.)
BACKGROUND & SUMMARY
When ‘regionalisation’ was introduced by the Welsh Rugby Union, through its then chief executive David Moffett, his original plan was for four regions, putatively and unimaginatively named North, South, East and West. (See panel below.)
Basing the West region at Stradey Park was an odd decision which may have been an attempt to win over unenthusiastic Turks, but this arrangement was quickly overtaken by Swansea council’s decision to build a new 21,000 all-seater stadium at Morfa, for rugby and soccer. This, added to the proposed region’s geography, the outdated facilities at Stradey, and rumblings from Neath, meant that the new Swansea stadium would inevitably become home for the West region.
The news of the new stadium in Swansea, and its implications, served to evaporate further what little enthusiasm there was for the WRU’s grand vision among the power-brokers both at Stradey Park and on Jail Hill. It was bad enough that the town was losing the one name that took it to a wider world, but without the compensation of being home to the new entity there was little to recommend the region to those west of the Loughor.
And so Llanelli RFC decided – as did Cardiff – to reject the suggested amalgamation and become one of the so-called ‘stand-alone’ regions . . . which of course were not regions at all, just re-branded clubs. To its eternal shame the Welsh Rugby Union accepted this deception. Newport did something similar by unconvincingly re-naming itself the Newport-Gwent Dragons.
Having burnt their bridges with the proposed region the club and the council came up with the plan for a new stadium, partly to promote the ‘Llanelli-is-a-region’ message and partly to thwart any future attempts at merger. The people of Carmarthenshire have been paying the price ever since for this panicky rush into a project that was never economically viable and, ironically, only ever sees a full house when the Ospreys visit.
And so it came to pass that Parc y Scarlets held its first game on November 15, 2008, when Llanelli (the club, not the region) fittingly played Cardiff (ditto). Over three years after the opening of the Liberty Stadium.
Earlier that same year, in June, Carmarthenshire Planning Committee saw Clive Hughes’ planning application for a biomass-powered CHP plant at the old Coedbach coal washery near Kidwelly.
Everything seemed to be proceeding just fine, there were no objections from the Environment Agency or the Countryside Council for Wales. The planning officers of Carmarthenshire council recommended approval . . . but then, in March 2009, and in what WalesOnline described as an “extraordinary U-turn” planning officers changed their minds, using the flimsiest of excuses. On March 19 the planning committee refused planning permission by 9 votes to 8.
Everyone I have spoken to believes that planning officials and councillors were ‘leaned on’, and that the ‘leaning’ was done by . . . Meryl Gravell had certainly opposed the plan and we can be fairly sure that she orchestrated the local opposition through Robin Cammish and the Coedbach Action Team. (Enquiries are ongoing into who paid the legal costs for the CAT.)
There is no doubt in my mind that the wrecking of the biomass project was ‘pay-back’ for Clive Hughes opposing the move to Parc y Scarlets (and associated retail ventures).
In the ITV Wales report above, uploaded to YouTube in September 2008, the reporter even says that Cammish formed CAT. It also establishes a) the linkage between Cammish and Gravell and b) the antipathy existing between Hughes and Gravell, who declined to appear in person. (But then, it’s usually best for the organ-grinder to stand back when the monkey has the crowd’s attention.)
If I’m right – and I’m not alone in suspecting this – then ensuring that Clive Hughes’ Coedbach project failed was an exercise in pure vindictiveness. Those pursuing this vendetta were quite happy to see the area denied the jobs and other benefits the project would have brought so that they could experience the very personal pleasure of getting the better of a man who had dared challenge them.
Perhaps realising that the “rabble” might guess the truth about Coedbach Meryl Gravell tried to cover it up by putting forward her vision for the area, her alternative strategy for jobs.
By challenging Carmarthenshire Council Clive Hughes guaranteed that there would be a price to pay. That price was the scuppering of his biomass plant at Coedbach.
To further pursue the vendetta against Clive Hughes hit-man Cammish also opposed Clive Hughes’ biomass plant planned for Swansea docks. Then, in the hope of pretending that he had become a campaigner against biomass rather than the tool of James and Gravell, we saw the farce of Cammish opposing a biomass scheme in Bristol! The judge at the judicial review into this project quite rightly told him it was no concern of a group based in west Wales.
In return for his loyalty Cammish was said to have had “the run of County Hall”, and was putting himself about as an ‘advisor’ to the council – as the video below from 2011 clearly suggests he was (go to 22:06) – though Mark James was forced to publicly deny this relationship.
As a reward for services rendered Cammish was placed by the council on the board of the Scarlets in September 2013. Mutual back-scratching of the kind with which we are all too familiar.
If the first video suggested a link between Gravell and Cammish then the second video should leave no one in any doubt that the link blossomed into a strong working relationship.
At 3 minutes into the first video Meryl Gravell is quoted as saying that the economic future of the area lies with “leisure and tourism”. I have written about tourism many times, this post from October last year should give you an idea of where I stand.
Tourism is not an economic strategy, it is the absence of an economic strategy, or even the antithesis of an economic strategy. It is the ‘industry’ of last resort. It is what politicians pretend to believe in when they have run out of ideas on how to provide real jobs.
Which means that Meryl Gravell is offering the people of Carmarthenshire jobs that are low skill, low pay, and often seasonal – because she and others have no greater vision for the area than tourism, or else throwing grants at yet another retail development in Cross Hands promoted by a company so opaque as to be almost invisible, or maybe granting planning permission for untraceable shell companies to build unneeded homes on flood plains.
But then, when you conspire, for personal, vindictive reasons to deny genuine employment to the people you claim to represent, you must come up with an alternative, no matter how implausible. And nothing is more implausible, or insulting, than the suggestion that tourism is the economic salvation of Wales.
What a way to run a council! What a way to run a country!
Let me start by establishing what I mean by a colony. A colony is a territory or country run in the interests of another country, and for the benefit of the elite or the population in general of that other country. The colony does not need to be far away, nor do its indigenes need to be of a different pigmentation or religion, what matters is the economic and other relationships between the two countries. By which criteria Wales is most definitely a colony of England.
Historically, we Welsh had to be conquered and brought under English rule a) because we resisted Anglo-Saxon / Anglo-Norman / English attempts to control the whole island of Britain and b) because we, as the original inhabitants of Britain, served to remind these invaders of our prior claim to their land as well as our own.
For centuries we suffered under a discriminatory legal system then, with the Industrial Revolution, we started to see Wales and the Welsh exploited in a more organised fashion, with the motive this time being profit rather than imperialist aggrandisement. In a modified form this system persists today, and although discrimination may no longer be on the statute book it still exists in myriad subtle forms.
Something I was reminded of recently with the re-surfacing of a story I’d been vaguely aware of before. A Welsh businessman named Clive Hughes had planned to build two biomass plants employing hundreds of people, one near Kidwelly, the other on Swansea docks, reported in the panel on the right (click to enlarge). It seems that Mr Hughes had no help in his endeavours from either Mark James Carmarthenshire council or the ‘Welsh’ Government. In fact, he received no reply after writing to First Minister Carwyn Jones.
The reason this story has re-surfaced is because Clive Hughes was understandably peeved to learn that while his projects were either ignored or refused planning permission, civil servants and councils are now falling over themselves to help Chinese investors build two biomass plants, one on Ynys Môn, the other in Port Talbot, just a few miles from his planned Swansea docks site.
Something Clive Hughes was quoted as saying hints at where I’m going with this example. He said, “I have been fortunate to have enjoyed successful multi-million-pound businesses all over the world – however, I have never been treated so badly as in my home county”.
How do we explain this curious tale of Welsh agencies refusing to support indigenous enterprise while generously supporting foreign investment – to do exactly the same thing! In a word, colonialism. (Yes, I know the report mentions nimbyism and “opposition from residents”, but believe me, it goes way beyond that.)
Clive Hughes was wasting his time appealing to Carwyn Jones, who is just a figurehead for a form of sham devolution. Wales – as I have said time and time gain – is run by civil servants, invariably masquerading as ‘advisors’ to Carwyn and his gang of deadbeats, and these civil servants take their orders from London. The wisdom for some years in London has been that it is a good thing to ‘open up’ the UK to foreign investment, particularly from China. Once you know that, then it’s easy to understand why no Welsh businessman will be allowed to queer the pitch for Chinese and other foreign investors.
A further example of the colonial economy at work is often articulated as the question, ‘Isn’t it strange how Welsh people (insert here, Terry Matthews, Chris Evanset al, or Clive Hughes) have to leave Wales to be successful?’ Er, no, there’s nothing strange about it, for two very good reasons. First, too many successful Welsh businesspeople might give us natives silly ideas about our ability to do things for ourselves. Second, any successful Welsh business is almost bound to come into competition with English companies. Both are undesirable in a colonial set up.
Of course after making his money in Canada Matthews returned to Wales and built the very successful Celtic Manor resort outside Newport. But the Celtic Manor poses no threat to the colonial arrangement. To begin with, it does not really compete with English rivals in the way that a company chasing consumers in a competitive market would. In addition, with its NATO conferences and Ryder Cup golf tournaments, the Celtic Manor helps integrate Wales with England.
Note that in the piece I’ve linked to about Matthews, Michael Moritz is described as “the richest person in Wales”, which is stretching it a bit. He was certainly born in Cardiff, but left for the USA in his early twenties, made his fortune in Silicon Valley, and never returned. He still lives in San Francisco with his family. Perhaps the most successful business based in Wales, and the only one quoted in the FTSE 100, is Admiral Insurance, started up and still owned by Henry Engelhardt . . . from Chicago. Which is fine, because it confirms that the Welsh must have outsiders to provide them with work.
Let’s end with another feature of the colonial economy, and again, something that draws bewildered comment from people who refuse to see the system controlling the economic life of Wales. I’m referring now to the phenomenon of successful Welsh companies being taken over by larger companies before they can grow too big, with this often resulting in redundancies or even closure of the now subsidiary Welsh operation. If you don’t understand why this happens then you haven’t been paying attention.
The Roman system of coloniae settled army veterans and their families in conquered territories and border regions, and was employed for two main reasons. First, to keep an eye on the natives and, if necessary, confront any insurgency until the army arrived. Second, coloniae spread the use of the Latin language and Roman ways of doing things.
This example of settling people from, or loyal to, the ruling country in recently conquered territories and colonies is one that has been imitated globally down to the present day. The British have done it across the world, even to Christian European populations. There was the Irish Plantation, the ‘repopulating’ of eastern Canada after the expulsion of the Acadians (Cajuns), and the flooding of the independent republic of Transvaal with British settlers once it was realised that the land beneath the Boers’ feet contained gold and diamonds.
In more recent times, France sees a steady exodus of loyal French people to Tahiti, New Caledonia, Guadeloupe, Martinique and other specks in the ocean in the hope that these emigres will help the natives see the benefit of maintaining ties with France. While on a bigger scale, and in a much more brutal fashion, China has created all sorts of incentives for Han Chinese to settle in, with the intention of dominating, Tibet and Xinjiang.
So why be surprised that Wales has been undergoing a process of colonisation since the 1960s? A process that has taken many forms, some so bleeding obvious you wonder how they got away with it.
Take the Development Board for Rural Wales, an agency set up – so we were told – to stem the depopulation of the five central counties of Montgomeryshire, Cardiganshire, Merionethshire, Breconshire and Radnorshire. It operated by paying English companies to relocate to central Wales, with their workforces (all paid for), while spending many more millions building thousands of new houses for this influx. And while all this cash was being showered on English companies local firms could not apply for a penny of DBRW funding. As blatant a colonisation strategy as Mother England has ever deployed. But Welsh politicians, media, and others still applauded every relocation as ‘New jobs coming to —————‘.
Many countries pay companies to set up in areas needing employment, but I have never come across another case like the DBRW, where a state paid firms to transfer lock stock and barrel, plus workers, to another area. It makes no sense, until you see it for what it was – plain, unvarnished colonisation.
The colony of Wales also serves as a receptacle for those who are not making a contribution to the common weal in England. Those in this category range from geriatrics to young criminals and drug addicts. To the point where in some areas of Wales – such as where I live – two-thirds of the over 65s were born in England. But, hey! looking after old people is a ‘growth industry’.
If it’s not wrinklies then it’s a feckless white underclass. Some towns have been almost destroyed by this phenomenon, and none have come closer to implosion than Rhyl. This link reports a story of a woman living in Rhyl sent down after police found a dead body and a stash of heroin in her flat. An everyday story of Rhyl folk.
When it’s not drug addicts then it’s paedophiles. So many such deviants from over the border are now turning up in Wales that it just has to be organised, perhaps by the Probation Service. I have written about this problem before, one of the most notorious recent cases was a whole gang of paedophiles relocated from London to Kidwelly. Read about it and other cases. Within the past few days I have learnt of two more paedophiles who, by some unspecified route, arrived in Wales. This one in Ciliau Aeron and this one in Llanbadarn Fawr.
In the great colonialist scheme of things it really doesn’t matter whether those coming into Wales are sweet old dears straight out of an Ealing comedy or dangerous perverts, they all make their contribution to skewing Welsh statistics in a way that is unflattering to us, put a strain on an already overburdened health service, and of course, make their contribution to anglicising Wales. ‘Poor Wales’, ‘Ageing Wales’, ‘Wales’ Drugs Problem’ writes Phil Space, and intones Jamie Owen, but no one has the balls to really investigate these issues and give us the truth.
But then, in a colony, the last thing you can expect is an honest media.
I can’t be absolutely certain when I first realised the media lies (maybe it was when I was first lied about), but the reporting of the Balkan wars in the 1990s was something of a watershed because that coverage was not simply a lie here and there, or some vague and ill-defined bias, it was an unwavering adherence to a propaganda line originating in the Pentagon.
Done in pursuit of a strategic objective dictating that Jugoslavia should be dismembered and Russia’s Serb allies at the core of that State be internationally isolated. To achieve this objective the fascist Croats of the Ustaše, and the gangster Albanians in the Kosovo Liberation Army, were depicted as knights in shining armour, while a blind eye was turned to foreign jihadists killing Serbs in Bosnia, leaving us to focus solely on the beastly Serbs, the only ones guilty of any atrocities.
Obviously, when dealing with ‘internal’ matters the UK media is different, but even here, the bias has long been unmistakable, and especially in television. Just about everyone has noticed the recent plethora of programmes with titles beginning ‘Great British’, in fact, it’s become so obvious that it’s something of a joke. A regular orgy of cringe-worthy ‘patriotism’, on sets bedecked with union flags, and all done in the hope of persuading Scots and other disaffected minorities that it don’t get no better than singing the worst national anthem on earth.
While on another level we see some elements of the BBC – Newsnight comes to mind – becoming almost schizophrenic in their desire to maintain their Left-liberal bias while simultaneously following the BritNat line in the hope of pandering to those in the Tory party who wish to dismantle the Beeb. Though in its coverage of the Scottish independence referendum last year all pretence at impartiality went out the window for the BBC in general, and Newsnight in particular.
Here in Wales, with its recent acquisition of the Evening Post, we have Trinity Mirror taking a stranglehold on the ‘Welsh’ print media. We can now look forward to Swansea’s daily paper, the largest selling Welsh daily, being written in Cardiff. And why not? With the political and economic life of the country being centralised on the capital like some tin-pot dictatorship it makes perfect sense.
Our self-styled ‘National Newspaper of Wales’ is now little more than a desperate amalgam of showbiz news, columnists nobody reads, sport, and a daily promotion of all things Cardiff. To the extent that a new restaurant opening, or a celebrity being spotted in the city, somehow becomes a news item that Llais Y Sais deludes itself will be of interest to people in other parts of Wales. No wonder so few people outside of the Cardiff area buy the bloody thing.
Perhaps the best way to explain how this Cardiff-obsessive system operates is by introducing that famous bullshit duet the Barry Brothers. Mark Barry runs M&G Barry Consulting and gets paid to promote the Metro system and other projects designed to further enrich Cardiff at the expense of the rest of Wales, while brother Siôn is the Business Editor for Media Wales, which of course covers the Wasting Mule. So Mark Barry’s clients tell him what they want promoted, he passes ready-made promos on to brother Siôn, who ensures that they appear in Llais y Sais as ‘news’! This is how low ‘journalism’ in Wales has sunk.
In the panel below (click to enlarge) you’ll see a piece by Siôn Barry that appeared in the Western Mail on Monday (23.11.2015). I’m using it because it brings together a couple of the points I’m making in this post. First, we have another successful Welsh company being taken over. This company is based in Swansea, but it’s left to a spokesperson for the company to tell us that.
Because the purpose of this business news report is to give a plug to “Cardiff-based business advisory firm Greenaway Scott”. Something Siôn Barry does quite regularly. Here in May 2013, March 2015, May 2015, and there may be other write-ups by Barry that I’ve missed. Puffs for this company have certainly appeared on Media Wales attributed to others. Would a law firm in any other part of Wales get so much free publicity? So how do we explain it – is Greenaway Scott a client of M&G Barry Consulting? And if so, why is Trinity Mirror allowing the Wasting Mule to be used in this way? Whatever the answer, this is not journalism.
On the television front, S4C looks to be on its last legs as the Tories consider that if its funding is withdrawn no one will complain other than those with a vested interest in so doing. There certainly won’t be any protests of the kind that brought the channel into existence.
ITV Wales continues to plod along, a curate’s egg of a channel ranging from the engaging Adrian Masters to reporters and newsreaders who look and sound as if they’d have trouble locating Aberystwyth if they were dropped on top of Constitution Hill.
While over at the Talfan Davies patrimony things get weirder and weirder. The Monday following the Paris outrages Wales Today carried a piece about Islamophobia! Over a hundred people were dead in Paris, killed by Muslim extremists, yet for BBC Wales the real horror was that some Welsh person might say something nasty to a Muslim! Rarely in a human lifetime does one encounter such a corrupted sense of values, such an absence of proportion. The interviewee, living in mortal fear of being shouted at, claimed to have previously been subjected to abuse, but this must of course have happened before the Paris massacres. She was shrouded from head to foot with just a slit for her eyes, so I suppose she could have been an actress. I began to wonder if this interview had been in the can for a while, just waiting for the next killing spree.
Something becoming more regularly noticeable on BBC Wales is the adherence to the Question Time dictum – ‘When in Wales, listen only to English opinions’. Because even when reporting on news items from the Swansea Valley and similar places with very few English residents BBC Wales will find those English residents, and interview them, ignoring locals. There is an echo here of the British media’s attitude when working abroad – find someone to interview who speaks English, even if that person knows sod all about the issue being covered.
In other areas BBC Wales follows the ‘Great British’ line, and few do it more loyally than Jason Mohammad. His recent interview with Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood is a gem of its kind. But then, his ‘ethnic’ background, the fact that he speaks Welsh (but is a devoted Brit), makes ‘Jase’ an absolute treasure who will do anything for the cause. Hang on, it wasn’t him in the niqab, was it?
It is beneficial to the UK economy because – seeing as Wales is tied to England – most of the money spent by tourists in Wales will find its way to England in the form of taxes, payments to suppliers, etc.
‘Welsh’ tourism provides thousands of business opportunities for English people thanks to their greater purchasing power coupled with the unwillingness of some Welsh to engage in the prostitution of their homeland.
Tourism attracts a few million English tourists to Wales every year, many of whom decide to settle here. And even if they don’t immediately settle, then they might buy a little place to use as a holiday home.
Nothing is anglicising Wales faster and more comprehensively than tourism and the colonisation that is its inevitable corollary and consequence. This explains why tourism is being forced on us as ‘the economic salvation of rural Wales’.
Yet we Welsh are expected to accept all this in return for a few thousand low paid, seasonal jobs, and a pat on the head accompanied by, ‘You Welsh should be so grateful that all these English people come here’.
Wales in 2015 is a land being ripped apart, with a national identity under the kind of pressure it is unlikely to survive.
Our former mining valleys are now among the poorest and most wretched areas of Europe. But, due to the low property prices – among the lowest in the UK – we can predict that the Valleys will see more bail hostels and properties housing persons and groups that English communities are glad to see the back of. And the ‘Welsh’ Government – plus local politicians – will welcome this, because appearances are everything, and anything looks better than derelict houses and a rapidly declining population.
Our rural and coastal areas have been condemned to serve as recreation and retirement areas for our neighbours because, ‘There’s nothing else around here, is there?’. No of course there isn’t, not after decades of allowing the rural economy to decline, and doing nothing to bring in decent employment, for local people.
And while the Welsh population is engineered into decline, in both rural and urban areas, a new, replacement population is encouraged to move in, not least through building new homes that Welsh people either cannot afford or else will not be allocated. ‘Oh look! the population of Wales is rising – things must be good there’.
And while this social engineering goes on older forms of exploitation persist. English cities steal our water resources, but it’s justifiable we are told because these cities built the dams. Mmm, try going to Iran and claiming the oil because the original infrastructure was built by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
Wales is a colony of England, and we Welsh are still bottom of the pile. The only Welsh who make it – outside certain spheres such as sport and entertainment – are those who submit, or those who collaborate with the colonialist system.
You reading this can either accept this system, or you can fight it; but let no one – certainly not the professional liars in politics and the media – pretend that our relationship with England is anything other than colonial, and designed to eventually destroy Welsh identity.
A few days ago I was directed to a piece on the MailOnline website about Barcelona or, more specifically, tourism in Barcelona or, to be really, really specific, high volume and damaging tourism. The problem is that “uncontrolled tourism” is attracting too many low-spending tourists who are turning Barcelona into a ‘theme park’ and making locals feel like strangers in their own city. To give some idea of the perceived problem, in 1993 the city attracted 2.5 million visitors but by 2012 that figure had quadrupled to 10 million. Going to YouTube turned up other videos on a similar theme. One about the Lake District, this one about Snowdonia. And there are others.
Does all this sound familiar – hordes of cheapo tourists over-running a place and making the locals feel like strangers? Of course it does, because it’s what happens in Wales. Though the citizens of Barcelona should be thankful that their city isn’t being bought up by these visitors, looking for holiday homes, a lifestyle change, or somewhere to retire to. Nor is it destroying the Catalan language and identity. And I guarantee that most of the businesses taking the tourists’ money are run by natives of Barcelona. (Though the pickpockets mentioned almost certainly come from further east.)
The traditional reason that Wales is a low-spend destination for tourists is because tourism in Wales was developed for the convenience of England, not for the benefit of Wales. Which has meant that in practice, we – or those who run tourism here – target English tourists saving their major outlay for holidays abroad, encouraging them to use Wales for weekend breaks and secondary holidays. Then, because these English tourists don’t spend much, we must have them in damaging and unsustainable numbers. This recent news story even rejoiced in the fact that Wales is “affordable” / cheap, without apparently realising that ‘cheap’ is also a derogatory term.
Though the story in WalesOnline is rather confusing. It claims a record 9.93m tourists spending a record £1.7bn in 2013. Yet the figures on the ‘Welsh’ Government website, for 2012 (see panel), claim 10.45m tourists (from the UK and overseas) spending £2,44bn. Presumably the article refers only to tourists from within the UK, though this is not stated.
Numerate readers (of whom I have many) will have worked out that this means in 2012 UK visitors spent on average £165 (up to £171 in 2013), whereas overseas visitors spent on average £405. So why aren’t we doing more to attract overseas visitors, of whom we’d need fewer? Well, in addition to the explanation given above, tourism in Wales also has a political purpose, in that it anglicises Wales; partly by smothering areas in English tourists for months on end and partly by encouraging English tourists to make a permanent move to Wales. And don’t overlook the financial benefits . . . to England. Money spent in Wales by English tourists will eventually make its way back to London, unlike money spent abroad.
(The panel from the ‘Welsh’ Government website also quotes “around 100 million day visits” earning “over £3bn”. I have ignored these figures mainly because we are expected to believe that these are all day trips made from outside Wales; they are not. The most popular pay-to-enter ‘tourist attraction’ in Wales is Swansea Leisure Centre. Most visitors come from within a 15 mile radius. Your next shopping trip or day out in Wrecsam, Llandudno, Aberystwyth, Brecon or Carmarthen may count as a ‘day trip’. So you will understand why I treat such figures with caution, if not contempt. The (nicely rounded) figures for day trips get wild guesswork a bad name, but are, regrettably, what we expect with tourism ‘statistics’.)
The table I’ve compiled (and I hope it’s clear) gives some figures for the tourism industries in Ireland, Scotland and Wales for one year. (Click to enlarge.) The figures for Ireland and Scotland were fairly easy to come by, but not so with the figures for Wales. The ‘Welsh’ Government website is difficult to negotiate, full of guff and propaganda on tourism but low on facts. So I went to StatsWales, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s specialist group for statistics – actually part of an English government department – but the most recent figures available there are for 2010. (A regular failure with StatsWales.)
A few observations from the table. As an example of how little Wales really earns from tourism note that visitors from the Six Counties to the Republic spent £225 per head, even though many would have been staying with friends and family, or making just a short trip (e.g. Derry to Donegal). Compare this to UK visitors to Wales, who spent just £165. UK visitors to Scotland spent £227 per head. In addition, Scotland made over one billion pounds more than Wales from overseas tourists. Spend per head can be equated with the profit margin, which means that when other considerations – cultural damage, traffic congestion, environmental degradation, etc – are factored in to the equation then tourism in Wales is a loss-making, bargain basement business. To tourism what the Reliant Robin is to automotive technology. Nothing to be proud of.
Furthermore, remember that Ireland and Scotland are some four times the size of Wales and both see a ‘spread’ of tourists across the land, whereas most of those who come to Wales head for the west and the north, and stick fairly close to the coast. This, inevitably, results in the kind of overcrowding and unsustainabilty being complained of in Barcelona.
Given the damning facts why is ‘Welsh’ tourism trumpeted as a great success story that cannot be improved on? Why are we constantly reminded that our rural and coastal areas were wastelands ere the arrival of English tourists, and without them to wastelands they will return? In a word, we’ve been brainwashed. We can either continue accepting this ludicrous – and, frankly, racist – propaganda or we can start arguing for a tourism industry for the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth, one that serves Wales and Welsh people.
Fundamentally, and for benefits across the board, we need to attract more overseas visitors and fewer low-spend tourists from England. To do that we must ditch the defeatist argument that says Scotland and Ireland have a higher international profile. Because even though this may be true today, there are successful tourism destinations now that were unknown a few decades ago. It comes down to promotion, and priorities.
The first priority is for the soi-disant ‘Welsh’ Government to start living up to its name, by putting Welsh interests first. A phased move from caravans to serviced accommodation would be a start. Tourism taxes – especially at ‘hot spots’ – would be another step in the right direction. The second priority must be minimising the influence of the tourism operators who currently control long-term and strategic planning. Few of these are Welsh and consequently have little regard for the damage being inflicted. Too many are driven by self-interest and believe there can never be too many tourists. That’s the major problem with tourism – if you allow it to be run by such people then you end up with the problems of Barcelona, or Venice, or Prague, or Wales. Restraining influences are needed.
I have always argued that Wales gets the worst of all possible worlds when it comes to tourism. Being a low wage activity, tourism drives down wages in other local industries. Leaving ‘tourism hot-spots’ poor areas where locals have to compete in a distorted property market with people who liked the area so much as tourists that they want to settle, or buy a holiday home. Finally, the vast numbers of tourists put a massive strain on all manner of services such as hospitals and ambulances, the road network, litter clearance . . . for which we, who get no benefit from tourism, have to pay. Making tourism, for the vast majority of Welsh people, a lose-lose situation. And I haven’t even mentioned the cultural damage and the environmental degradation.
I made some of these points in a letter to the Wasting Mule last month. I argued that Wales could make just as much money from far fewer tourists, while also creating more jobs, if we closed off some of the avenues to holidays on the cheap. My letter was answered in Friday’s issue by ‘Alun Davies’, who gave us a little travelogue on what he claimed was his recent visit to Pembrokeshire. It’s a cleverly written letter that pretends to answer the points I made, but doesn’t. He tells us that Sir Benfro was full of continental visitors, while making no mention of English tourists, before wandering off to discuss, among other things, public lavatories!
The point to be made here is that if tourism is the economic activity we are told, then the priority has to be maximising the profit. Those overseeing tourism in Wales have only known one way of doing this – by increasing the numbers of low-spending tourists from over the border, with all the attendant problems I list above. Worse, I cannot recall anyone involved in tourism ever wondering out loud whether there might be a limit to how many tourists parts of Wales can cope with. Quite amazing that in 2013 sustainability should be such an alien concept.
The reason I bring this up again is that I’ve just run across some fascinating figures on global tourism (click to enlarge) on the BBC website, put out by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. France gets more foreign tourists than any other country on earth, but the spend per head of $646 compares badly with almost all other countries, as the table on the right will show. (For neighbouring Germany, the figure is $1,253.) The explanation suggested by the BBC is given below, and it makes fascinating reading, very relevant to Wales.
“Some 83% of France’s visitors come from other European countries, which may explain the relatively low amount spent per head. A lot of them come from neighbouring countries and often choose to camp and buy food from supermarkets, rather than filling the coffers of hotel and restaurant owners.”
The BBC website could have added, ‘Coming from neigbouring countries they may even bring food with them rather than buying in French supermarkets, thus further reducing the amount they will spend’. Even without this, what it does make clear is that tourists who are camping – and this includes caravans and other forms of self-catering, including of course, holiday homes – will spend far less per head than tourists staying in hotels, bed and breakfasts and other serviced accommodation. Self-evident, surely? That being so, why is Wales awash with ugly caravan sites? Why do we eulogise over sites like the Bluestone chalets?
There seem to be linked and unavoidable truths at work here. They can be expressed thus, almost as a syllogism:
1/ The further away your tourists come from, the more money they are likely to spend.
2/ To maximise the tourism income a country will keep to the minimum opportunities for low spend, self-catering holidays.
3/ It follows that the most economically beneficial tourists will come from far away and stay in serviced accommodation; they will also hire cars, they will eat in restaurants, they will create employment, etc.
So why is it that what passes for ‘Welsh’ tourism can think no further than Brummies and their caravans on Cardigan Bay? Or Mancs and Scousers on stag nights in Llandudno? Weekend breaks for Londoners in Pembrokeshire? This is not a tourism strategy, this is not any kind of strategy, it is simply a form of surrender, allowing things to continue as they have in the past. Unwelcome, undesirable and indefensible.
Tourism in Wales developed with the spread of the rail network in the nineteenth century to serve England’s needs not Wales’s interests. Over that we had no control. Yet now we are in the second decade of the twenty-first century and the second decade of devolution, surely time we had a tourism industry serving Welsh interests. Not least because the continuing failure to serve Welsh interests will only make more people suspect that attracting millions of English tourists to Wales every year serves an agenda that has little to do with economics.
The Welsh Government has just received ‘2020’, a new report on the future of tourism compiled by the Tourism Sector Panel. I’ve been taking an interest in tourism for quite a few years and I’ve read a lot of such reports; this one, I’m afraid, was just another off the same production line. Summed up by what is grandly called “A new vision and ambition” Which says . . .
Like I say, I’ve read a lot of such documents over the years and this one is just another mish-mash of platitudinous bollocks and pious hopes. What does the ‘vision’ say? In essence: ‘In the next decade tourism in Wales will carry on much as it has for the past century. It will serve England’s needs and to hell with the lack of economic benefits accruing to the Welsh and the social and cultural damage incurred.’
For that’s always been the bottom line of ‘Welsh’ tourism – it was always English tourism taking place in a scenically more attractive, adjoining country that happened to be called ‘Wales’. Because it takes place in our country we Welsh are then expected to be proud of the fact that so many people – the vast majority of them English – want to come here. With the added joy that many more wish to move here permanently, for tourism is the main driving force behind English colonisation.
I won’t deny that in the early days of tourism, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Welsh people did benefit, but those days are long gone. What we have now is tourism run by strangers for strangers. You know how bad things are when there are English mountain guides in Wales! (Can you imagine going climbing in the Alps and learning that your guide is Jeremy from Reading! Sorry, I’d want somebody who’d been born and bred there; could read the weather . . . and the names of the streams and other features.)
Perhaps worse, our treacherous and incompetent politicos, devoid of ideas and energy, take advantage of tourism and present it as an ‘industry’, the ‘economic salvation’ of rural Wales, no less. These politicos pretend they put a lot of work and money into making tourism what it is today. Rubbish! Tourism in Wales would carry on even if the Welsh Government ignored it. Day-trippers would still infest the resorts of the north coast. Brummies would still flock to their mobile homes along Cardigan Bay. Walkers and climbers would still come here because we have the scenery and the topography. Nothing would change because we have no real control over it. It is, I repeat, English tourism that just happens to take place in Wales.
It needn’t be this way. It’s done differently in Scotland. If the political will was there we too could have a tourism industry that served us, without the destruction of our identity and despoliation of our homeland.
Before making direct comparisons, let’s familiarise ourselves with the figures for Scotland in 2010. For a start we see that Scotland earns only slightly less from English visitors than from Scots holidaying at home, £1,471m against £1,002m. In 2010 the ‘domestic markets’ provided 84% of Scotland’s tourists but only 65% of her income. A fuller breakdown of Scotland’s markets and spends can be found below. Curiously, Wales is half way up the table in numbers of visitors, but nowhere to be seen in the ‘spend per head’ column. (Surely there can’t be that many Cardis going to Scotland on holiday!)
Where Scotland scores heavily, and what shows up the real difference between the two countries’ (see table below), is in income from overseas visitors. Wales’ figure of 879,000 overseas tourists is dwarfed by Scotland’s total of 2,341,000, almost three times what Wales sees. Translated into hard cash, Scotland earned, in 2010, £1,444m against Wales’ £328m a year later. With the spend per head figure for overseas tourists in Scotland £616 to Wales’ £373. Not good, is it? And remember, most businesses in Scotland catering for tourists are owned and staffed by Scots. Another unfavourable comparison.
From whichever angle one looks at it, it soon becomes clear that Wales is simply being used by England to provide cheap holidays and breaks. The slogan might as well be: ‘Come to Wales, you won’t be expected to spend much’. Because this is so we have to encourage more and more low spending English tourists just to stand still . . . with all the attendant cultural and social damage already referred to plus the sheer numbers at certain times of the year slowing traffic and in other ways damaging the wider economy; bringing added expense to local authorities and similar agencies; plus adding strain to already stretched health services.
Let us be honest. If Wales was starting out today to develop a tourism industry to benefit Wales and Welsh people it would be a lot different to what we are now suffering. You don’t need to be an economist, or even a nationalist, to realise that Wales should be targeting overseas tourists for all sorts of reasons. Here are just a few:
Overseas tourists spend more money per head than ‘domestic’ tourists; over twice as much in Wales and nearly three times as much in Scotland.
Overseas tourists are more likely to want serviced accommodation (hotels, etc.) or quality self-catering, thereby creating jobs.
Overseas tourists are less likely to want to buy a holiday home, or to settle here, so they will not inflate property prices and place excessive demand on our housing stocks.
Of course the defeatist argument will run, ‘Ah yes, but Scotland can attract more overseas tourists because she has a higher international profile than Wales . . . whisky, golf, kilts, Braveheart . . . ’. Agreed. And mightn’t one way of remedying foreigners’ ignorance of Wales be to attract them here first as tourists? If Bangor University can attract so many students from China in such a short time why can’t Gwynedd attract their parents as tourists? Why don’t we at least try?
The new publication is yet another afraid or unable to think outside the box or challenge the orthodoxies that prevailed when Rhyl was still a vibrant tourist resort and Coney Beach was filled with miners. An ugly combination of anglophilia and economic illiteracy – ‘More tourists good; fewer tourists bad’. (Even when it could be fewer tourists spending more money!) The Tourism Sector Panel does not dare articulate it, but nevertheless believes that Wales’ only real function is to serve as a destination for low-spending English tourists. All the while refusing to even consider that there might be downsides to tourism in Wales.
Low-spending tourists result in second-rate facilities, low wages, and a race to the bottom. For a country becoming poorer year on year this ‘strategy’ is not only unhelpful, it exemplifies perfectly the lack of ambition to be found in those who rule us and those who advise them. Left to the likes of these, in ten or twenty years time Wales will be receiving food parcels and old clothing from Albania and Bulgaria. But don’t worry, for Wales will by then be an even cheaper destination for English tourists.