Thanks to Dewi Eirig Jones (@djones7774) for directing me to Click on Wales, the IWA site, where I found this article. Nothing breathtaking or groundbreaking in the piece itself, but what really interested me was that it was written by a Professor Paul Milbourne, who is ‘Director of the Wales Rural Observatory at Cardiff University’. I must confess that, despite the Wales Rural Observatory being in existence since September 2003, I’d never heard of it. Intrigued, and wanting to learn more, I went to the Observatory website.
The WRO is split between Cardiff and Aberystwyth. (Well, Cardiff’s not that rural, is it?) And naturally I wanted to find out what it does, so I was grateful for this on the ‘Overview’ page:
“The Wales Rural Observatory undertakes independent research and analysis on social and economic issues in rural Wales. It is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government to support evidence-based rural policy-making in Wales. The Observatory is operated by a team of specialist rural researchers based in the School for City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University and the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University.”
I suppose I could be pedantic and point out that it has officially been the Welsh Government (not the Welsh Assembly Government) for well over a year now. Later on the same page I came across the section below. (Readers concerned with cultural identity and related factors may be worried by their apparent omission.)
“The Observatory is focusing its activities around the following five broad themes: Rural Economy and Employment; Environment, Sustainability and Land-use Planning; Social Inclusion and Exclusion; Housing and Service Provision; Society and Community.”
Moving on, I next came to the ‘People‘ page, where I learnt more about Prof. Milbourne and his team. For example, I learnt, of Prof. Milbourne, that “His research specialisms include rural social exclusion, housing and homelessness in rural areas, social change and conflict in the countryside, and the rural environment.”‘Social exclusion’, ‘homelessness’ – doesn’t this sound like the bollocks we hear to justify building thousands of social housing units for English indigents? I also learnt that,“Paul has been awarded grants and contracts totalling £2 million to undertake research on a broad range of rural topics . . .” So there’s serious money in this bollocks, then.
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Then I looked at the others making up the team . . . and an unkind thought struck me. Apart from Dr. Nerys Owens, that the page – as if making a point – describes as “a fluent Welsh speaker”, it could be that few, if any – apart from Dr. Owens – are actually Welsh. Which would mean that this body, funded by the Welsh Government, may indeed be expert on ‘rural affairs’ in a general sense, but may know very little about Wales. The WRO will of course be working with the Welsh Government’s Department for Rural Affairs, the web page for which you can see on the right.
I suspect that with the Wales Rural Observatory we have another example of how things have gone backwards since devolution. For here we have a team funded by the Welsh Government that liaises with senior civil servants (most of whom will also be non-Welsh) and co-operates with hostile agencies such as the Planning Inspectorate and the Housing Directorate – with maybe no genuinely Welsh input at any stage in the process. These various groups will make decisions that will subsequently be delivered, pre-packaged, to our elected representatives, who will then, in turn, lie to us by presenting these policies as the products of their protracted deliberations. Hey presto! we have a new ‘Welsh’ law. This is democracy? This is the devolution so many Welsh got excited about?
All that’s changed with ‘devolution’ is that more of the English civil servants controlling life in Wales are now based in Wales. Only a fool would confuse this with ‘greater accountibility’ or true devolution.
The colonial system is more entrenched here now than ever it was in the past; increasing its hold, year on year, on what passes for ‘Welsh’ public life and ‘Welsh’ politics – and all disguised by the fig leaf of devolution. The fundamental problem with outfits like the Wales Rural Observatory and the Housing Directorate, the Planning Inspectorate and all the rest, is that they operate within a geographic unit called ‘Wales’ which for them is an appendage to, and in no way different from, England. And those arseholes in the Assembly let them get away with it, even encourage them in this outlook.
There is no hope for Wales until devolution is destroyed. Given the choice between devolution and what we had before, I would choose to go back to pre-devolution days rather than stick with this insulting charade any longer. But the choice must be between devolution and independence. So don’t get bogged down in trivia, distractions and side-shows. Make as many as you can reach focus on the choice between independence and assimilation. Because that is the choice.
P.S. I also detect a strong whiff of Common Purpose, that New Labour ‘Freemasonry for the twenty-first century’, around the ‘Observatory’.
UPDATE 28.08.12: Today’s offering from the Wales Rural Observatory appears on Click on Wales. It tells us, wait for it! – you need a car if you live in the country. Public money is being used to keep these people in work, to produce ‘findings’ that the average seven-year-old could tell us. This is no joke.