April 29, 2009

Its the Economy.....

In a recent conference to discuss the first 10 years of devolution, the Western Mail reported that:

THE man behind the 1997 Yes campaign bemoaned the failure of devolution to deliver an economic boost for Wales in the Assembly’s first decade.
Raising concerns that Wales’ economy had not improved in the way he had argued it would, he said: “I’ve spent a long time over the last 10 years thinking with intensity about that missing dividend.”
Describing the absence of a link between prosperity and autonomy as “devolution’s dirty little secret”, he said: “On the basis of the economic trends over the last 10 years, it is at least arguable that we have been devolving our way to relative economic decline.”

To try and put Professor Morgan's comments in context, the Welsh economy (measured by GVA per head) was a poor 77% of the UK average in 1999, and the gap has now worsened to 75% in 2007. We are clearly the poor relation of the UK and getting poorer, and I have to agree with Professor Morgan that devolution has not delivered in this respect.

There are inevitably those who say that devolution has failed and should therefore be abandoned – but remember that it was direct rule from Westminster that led to our relative poverty in the first place, and the initial devolution settlement gave us very few real powers in any case.

Contrast the Welsh performance with Scotland – who were able to close their gap with the UK economy from an already respectable 95% in 1999 to 96% in 2007. Is it mere coincidence that Scotland’s fully empowered parliament have been able to develop laws and strategies to suit their economy and particular conditions, while we have had to rely on hitching a ride on the back of Wesminster legislation, or trying to negotiate the painfully slow drip-feeding of powers by the LCO process?

We have not been able to benefit from the flexibility that devolution should have delivered, because we were never given the powers that we needed. The new powers that will be voted on in the referendum will still not match the powers of the Scottish Parliament, but it will at least give us more of a fighting chance to address our underlying economic problems.

The proposed referendum is not about independence –
it is about empowerment
– giving us the ability to react to rapidly changing circumstances and to develop Welsh solutions to Welsh problems.

April 26, 2009

Wales First Blitz Swansea!

Setting up stall outside a shop closed down by the incompotent policies of the UK government, the Wales First show rolled into Swansea this Saturday. Members leafletted the middle of town, and then went on to leaflet the Labour Party conference!
In both cases we recieved a warm and favourable response.

Swansea has always been a natural supporter of greater devolution, and the majority of members of the public, both young and old, thought that more powers seemed like a good idea. It was also interesting to note that strong support was to be found amongst trade union delegates and grassroots members of the Labour Party also.

Based on this good initial response, we aim to widen the net a little, and start leafletting the surrounding areas, including Llanelli and Neath Port Talbot. If you're free for a few hours over the next few months, why not give us a shout? Help us to build the broad base of popular public support we need to demonstrate that the Welsh public are ready for the next step - full lawmaking powers!

April 15, 2009

Continuing Success

Wales First - Cymru Gyntaf continued their success story by signing up its 2,000th member this week. This is another demonstration of the strength of support by people across Wales for the goal of establishing a law-making parliament for Wales. Our supporters include politicians from all parties (together with a few celebrities) but more importantly are mostly ordinary people.

We believe that our success has been due to promoting our goals truthfully and objectively, and not engaging in personal attacks. This is in stark contrast to the untruths, misrepresentations and downright lies adopted by True Wales and its campaign for the abolition of the Assembly altogether.

Congratulations to all involved.

April 6, 2009

Learning from America

There was an article in the Times recently, which was picked up by some of the unionist commentators, suggesting that the UK was over governed, and quoting the fact that the US House of Representatives has only 435 members for its 300 Million population. This was then compared with the 635 MPs, plus 60 AMs, 129 MSPs and 108 MLAs, and suggesting a radical reduction in all of these numbers, and predictably the abolition of the devolved Celtic Assemblies.

What the Times forgot to mention was that every State in the US also has its own State Legislature, and taking the example of Mississippi, which like Wales has a population of around 3 million, this elects 122 members to its House of Representatives and 52 members to its Senate, as well as a State Governor. This is in addition to electing members to the US House of Representatives and Senate.

And the US is not unusual in this respect – taking federal Germany as another example. The German Lander of Schleswig-Hosltein (population 3 million) elects 69 members to its State Legislature or Landtag, while at the same time sending members to the Bundesparliament in Berlin.

And again in Spain, which is divided into a series of Autonomous Communities, which includes Galicia – population 3 million. Galicia elects 75 deputies to its legislative Parliament in addition to sending representatives to Madrid.

Even France, one of the most centralised countries in Europe (apart from the UK of course) is divided into a series of Regional Counsels which have legislative and executive powers. This includes Bretagne (population 3 million), which elects 83 Councillors to its Counsel as well as sending politicians to Paris.

So despite what the anti-devolutionists would have you believe, devolved governments with legislative powers are the norm around the world and it is the UK which is out of step. And none of the examples quoted above is on the ‘slippery slope to independence’.