Sunday, 2 May 2021

Whose Wales?

 The battle for Welsh devolution and nationhood 1880-2020

We’re almost there! After more than two years of work by my co-author Alun Gibbard and me, the book will be released within the next week or so.

 In a nutshell, it asks can any political party claim the credit for securing the devolution we now have in Wales. We look at how our devolution has evolved through twists, turns, and many battles from Lloyd George, to Gwynfor Evans, to Mark Drakeford.

What started as a project expecting to be about 60,000 words turned out in the end to reach 115,000 - there was a great deal to say!

It is comprehensive in its political content and breadth of historic detail. It’s divided into four sections:

·         The Devolution Crucible 1880 – 1966

·         The Carmarthen Cauldron 1966 -1974

·         The Road to Referendum 1974 – 1979

·         Years of Respite and Return 1979 – 2020

The volume contains prefaces by historian Sir Deian Hopkin and Political Editor Martin Shipton. There are two appendices, one by David Melding, the former Conservative MS, on a federal model solution for Wales and the other by Glyndwr Cennydd Jones on a sovereign Wales in a UK confederation. 

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

What do the polls for Senedd Elections 2021 tell us ?


Can they accurately point to the final outcome?

Wales is more or less halfway through the Senedd election campaign. Hitherto it is proving to be a rather subdued campaign as well – although I doubt whether the candidates in the constituencies are of that opinion. Nevertheless, the noise and bustle seem to be missing.

Perhaps that was always going to be inevitable during the pandemic period.

Be that as it may, the pollsters on the other hand have been busy. Three polls in three weeks or so all giving contrasting sets of data.

The first poll was in the third week of March when the usual You Gov/ITV Wales poll showed that Labour could be heading for trouble. They were on 32%, the Conservatives on 30%, Plaid Cymru on 23% and the Welsh Liberal Democrats on 6%. The reasons for Labour's decline is for another time.

What was intriguing about this poll was that First Minister Mark Drakeford was seen as doing a good job by 57% of those interviewed and only 34% with a negative opinion. Over 70% of Labour and Plaid Cymru voters gave Drakeford the thumbs up. Plaid Cymru came in behind the Conservatives on the popularity contest for First Minister. Adam Price and his party just do not seem able to make a breakthrough according to the polls. The issue of independence for Wales is a similarly intriguing set of polls but again, that is for another day.

But despite that, the poll highlighted that Labour could lose seven seats – 5 to the Conservatives and 3 to Plaid Cymru. The Conservative gains would be in Cardiff North, Gower, Vale of Glamorgan, Vale of Clwyd and Wrexham.  Plaid Cymru projected to gain Blaenau Gwent, Cardiff West and Llanelli. Lee Waters has been very active on social media and he like Helen Mary Jones has also come in for criticism recently. How much that will impact the Llanelli result is speculative.

This synopsis would give a Senedd seat distribution of Labour on 22 seats, the Conservatives on 19, Plaid Cymru on 14, Welsh Liberal Democrats on 1 and the remaining 4 seats probably to the Abolish Welsh Assembly party.

By 20th April a new poll emerged, this time from Opinium for Sky News and this one gave a completely different result. This time Labour was forecasted to be within a couple of seats of returning to Government. Labour would win 29 seats, the Conservatives on 19, Plaid Cymru on 10, Liberal Democrats with 1 and Abolish the Assembly with 1. This one showed that Plaid had taken the main hit, down by 4.

Soon after there followed the second YouGov/ITV Wales poll confirming the Opinium poll and a Labour recovery. This time the poll result forecasted Labour with 26 seats, the Conservatives on 14 but Plaid Cymru with 17 replacing the Conservatives as the main opposition party in the next Senedd. Abolish the Welsh Assembly party remained on two seats and Welsh Lib Dems with their solitary one.

So what is going on with these polls?

The first thing to say is that every poll result has a margin of error in its findings of around +/- 4%. So for example, if a poll finds that Labour is on say 29% that means it could actually be in a range of support between 25% to  33%.

Then of course whilst pollsters do their utmost to get their say 1,000 interviewed sample as near as possible to cohere with the actual composition of the population of Wales the sample may not actually be truly accurate.

These two factors really make making seat projection from polls somewhat hazardous, particularly when you consider marginal seats and of course the 20 regional list seats. So possibly the pollsters should be reporting on the range of seats for each party in a given poll rather than being so specific in their findings.

There are aspects that I will return to before polling day such as likely voting turnout; that in this election because of Covid the figure using postal ballots will be probably much higher; then there is the matter of 16-17 year-olds voting for the first time and in what numbers will they turn out to vote; and finally the extent and impact of tactical voting in a number of key marginal seats.

So where are we at present?

First of all polling headlines could be misleading. But it does look that at present as if Labour will be just short of overall control. That is not unusual, because in four of the last five Assembly/Senedd terms it has had to rely on either formal coalitions or the support of non-Labour members to govern.

But there are still two weeks of campaigning left and as we have discovered in the last 36 hours unforeseen events can and will happen. Just Ask Boris Johnson!

Monday, 8 February 2021

Alan Evans Llanelli Online interviews Rob Phillips of the Prospect Union

The latest news and information on the National Library of Wales

The discussion follows Welsh Government's change of heart and after a 15,000 petition calling for more financial support to the National Library.

Although welcomed, the £2.25m additional funding is only a stop gap measure.  

Required is a medium term strategy and a development plan for the way ahead, placing the Library on a sound financial footing and ending uncertainty including job security. 

 https://ceredigiononline.com/newyddion-news/an-interview-with-rob-phillips-union-rep-at-the-national-library-of-wales/

I was also at the zoom meeting making a contribution after posting week or so back this -

https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/6193048010130023309/7759643716511621479

Cyfweld Rob Phillips o Undeb Prospect

Newyddion am y Llyfrgell Genedlaethol

Ychydig ddyddie 'nol cefais air gyda Rob Phillips ar ol i Lywodraeth Cymru newid ei meddwl a chyfrannu dros £2.25m i'r Llyfrgell dros y flwyddyn nesa. 

'Roedd hyn ar ol i'r Senedd derbyn deiseb oddiwrth tua 15,000 o fobl.

Gwrandewch ar y drafodaeth yma:-

 https://ceredigiononline.com/cymraeg/cyfweliad-gyda-rob-phillips-o-undeb-prospect-ynglyn-a-llyfrgell-genedlaethol-cymru/

Thursday, 28 January 2021

My experience working with a hyperlocal pioneer – Alan Evans

We run 6 news sites, 5 hyperlocals, one national news, and a Talk Radio

I first met Alan Evans (editor of Llanelli Online) in 2018 he was at the time involved in compiling a half-hour video on Jim Griffiths, the former MP for Llanelli and Charter Secretary of State for Wales. He came to my home, full of exuberance and ideas. His journalistic, camera work and broadcasting skills stood out immediately.

He ran the business from a small room adjacent to the kitchen in his then home in Pontyates and I was immediately impressed with his set up and know how the few times I visited him a year later, in the summer of 2019. What was also a surprise to me was that were always two and sometimes three media students helping him and ‘learning the trade’ as it were.

As we talked during the summer months I became more and more interested in his ideas and particularly taken by his determination, work rate, skills, professionalism, and vision for journalism in Wales.

I had run my own business for 20 years and knew full well what it takes and the commitment involved. Come the autumn there was a small office in John Street Llanelli where I started volunteering, not on any significant scale but more as a colleague to assist in the future planning and development of the business. At times he endeavoured to teach me some extra IT skills so that I could be of more help on the journalism and broadcasting side. At my age the lessons were hard but with Alan’s perseverance, I became quite adept and valued as a member of his team.


 


To cut a long story short since the early spring of 2020 I have become more involved and my contribution has broadened from being of assistance with business development, dealing with press release content, and covering the Welsh language side of the by now six online sites. We also have a partnership agreement, which Alan handed me as a thank you for my contributions.

To be honest I wasn’t too much into ‘community’ news and the term ’hyperlocal’ was new to me – I was familiar with ‘hypermarket’! But by now I fully realise the importance of hyperlocal news and the value of this public news service we now provide.    

Increasingly over the last five years, if not longer, hard copies of weekly local papers have been in serious decline. Indeed many have ceased publishing I daresay that the coronavirus pandemic will add further to that decline. Weekly newspapers, once so dominant in the communities of Wales, have suffered enormously and many are a pale shadow of their former selves and indeed many have gone to the wall. Even daily national and regional papers have seen their print sales significantly decrease and as a result, they have been increasingly switching to online publishing and very recently emulating Alan’s pioneering hyperlocal style.

Increasingly as the ‘bigger boys’ turn to a variant of the hyperlocal and the result is that this development places greater financial pressure and presents a competitive challenge to the original ‘community’ independent groupings. I fear that unless we’re careful it could become the same old story, as in so many other sectors of business, when the bigger companies notice something going well, developing and expanding they then muscle in.

Hyperlocals contribute greatly to community news and participation, they add to the essential task of holding authority to account, encouraging wider involvement and campaigning, giving communities a voice, covering local stories and events, reflecting cultural identity, and promoting civic life and pride. They also fill the gaps in news provision so obviously lacking even from the giant BBC.

I came across that most vividly covering the General Election 2019 from Selwyn Samuel Centre. Llanelli Online and Wales News Online in-depth reporting and live interviews on the night were of a high order. There were candidates interviewed that otherwise would never have received any coverage.

These smaller, independent, entrepreneurial businesses by now play an important part in ensuring a thriving news sector in Wales. It is vital that they are no longer put at a disadvantage because they find it difficult to access the same level of funding and support, as so often is the case when compared to the traditional newspapers and broadcast media, which can dominate and influence too much of the scene in Wales.


We run 6 news sites, 5 hyperlocals, one national news, and a Talk Radio

Our visitor figures at the end of 2020 were as follows:

Llanelli Online: launched July 2016.Total 3,505,506 visitors. 792k in 2020 (68k per month)

Wales News Online: Launched April 2019. Total 1,114,258 visitors. 519k in 2020 (44k per month)

Ceredigion Online: Launched November 2020. Total to date 33,300 visitors

Carmarthenshire Online: Launched November 2020 Total to date 17,000 visitors

Pembrokeshire Online: Launched December 2020 and is slowly gaining a following

Swansea Online: Launched December and attracted 10,000 visitors by mid-January.

Llanelli Talk Radio: Launched mid-2020 120k session listeners in 115 countries

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and video channel with over 25k followers

We have built a very successful news model for Wales and we have advised others in the industry to share our experiences openly. We maintain that Wales needs 4 regional hubs for news production and training and we see ourselves as being able to fulfill the role for a South West Wales hub.

Alan and his wife Angharad have a working day that can be up to 15 hours such is the volume of news we process. My daily input is much less in time than that. We also run a 24/7 online radio station, which has taken off and is gathering a large audience. We promote the Welsh language throughout our service. We do not have any political agenda. We maintain plurality publishing news from all political parties with no preference at all.

We process hundreds of PR’s from sources across Wales but we also actively seek out news from within each of the communities and from organisations embedded in the communities like the NFU, Cylch Meithrin, Schools, colleges, Local Businesses, RNLI stations, RSPCA. We also take content from other news agencies, former journalists, and the BBC Local Democracy Reporters Service.

We have given placements to students from several universities, all of whom have gone on to find work in the industry.

Because of Covid our advertising, which was increasing in 2019, has suffered. We now face an uncertain 2021 unless we can secure some funding.

The pervasive view of businesses and those who wish to advertise or publicise is that the newspaper is the place to do so. They still get public notices, part of the NHS advertising budgets, and other notices we are excluded from They too benefit from the supply from the BBC local democracy service.

I find it intriguing that old habits die hard. The 3,000 printed copies of a local newspaper is more often than not the preference of many when it comes to advertising, even though online news outlets such as ours cover well over one hundred thousand visitors a month. What is more, advertisements appear within every news story.

We have had a modest amount of funding from the Welsh Government, which came in two tranches and was greatly appreciated by us all.

The first tranche was in the autumn of 2019 supporting hyperlocals. We used the majority of the money to fund two new members of staff and open an office in the centre of Llanelli. When the funding ended and news of the pandemic emerged it was clear that the office had to close. So using our own resources we set up a very professional studio operating from Alan Evans’s home in Mynydd y Garreg.

Despite all the difficulties the commitment and enthusiasm that we have has resulted in us opening four new online sites in late 2020 for Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Swansea/Neath Port Talbot. In two short months, visitors to those sites exceed 60 k. The studio uses cutting edge technology and it could be said that what most are experiencing, having to work from home and interview online is something Alan was trying to persuade the media industry and the offices of public servants to do all those years ago. His operation has been described as a hyperlocal beacon by the Independent Community News Network and was invited to become a board member of that organization.

Despite the setbacks and the far from a level playing field we have stuck with it and adapted to make use of whatever we could to maintain a very valued hyperlocal and national news service for the people of Wales.

 

www.walesnewsonline.com

w www.swanseanewsonline.com

www.llanellionline.news 

www.carmarthenshirenewsonline.com

w www.pembrokeshirenewsonline.com

www.ceredigiononline.com

www.llanellitalkradio.com 








Monday, 25 January 2021

 Its high time the Welsh Government and Senedd Members step up to the plate

Future generations will not forgive us if we walk away from our heritage.

It is the failure of today’s politicians to appreciate and understand the enormous sacrifices made by generations of working people decades ago that quite frankly appalls me.

It is a travesty that the National Library of Wales is facing cuts to its services and staffing that a previous National Librarian has said could mean the end of the institution.

Anyone that has visited and or used the services of the National Library can but marvel at what a jewel in Wales’ cultural crown the institution is. Set in a commanding site overlooking Aberystwyth with outstanding facilities. It’s a national library, education centre, art gallery, map library, music archive, national archive, photo library and television archive holding the folk memory of Wales on behalf of the people.



The Library budget has been frozen for a decade, which when considering inflation, it has been cut by some 40%. Over the years it has lost 100 staff and now the current round of cuts will see the loss of a further 30 jobs, mainly in curatorial roles and those related to access. This represents 15% of the workforce and comes on top of a reduction of 30% in the last decade

The story of the last decade therefore had been repeated restructuring. Just like other public services staff pay was frozen for 5 years, but it still has managed to keep core services in operation and prioritise acquisition, cataloguing, digitisation and access.

It was established in 1909 thanks to generous contributions from the regular working people of Wales and was given its first government support by David Lloyd George. It is the failure of today’s politicians to appreciate and understand the enormous sacrifices made by generations of working people decades ago that quite frankly appalls me.

It is frankly unbelievable that staffing levels will return to a level even Margaret Thatcher’s government thought unsustainable to run a limited access national library https://undod.cymru/en/2021/01/24/nol-i-oes-thatcher-ir-llyfrgell-genedlaethol-toriadau-in-treftadaeth/

A report commissioned by the Welsh Government recognised that the Library was underfunded for its present role and needed to invest further to meet the challenges of the digital future https://gov.wales/national-library-wales-tailored-review-national-library-wales

It said that changes would be needed, but what is happening isn’t a restructure to help our National Library serve the people of Wales better, it’s a bonfire of culture and history.

In the last 20 years it has transformed from a closed institution where you needed a letter of recommendation to study to a truly pioneering service with collections and exhibitions open to all, an education service to help support school children and an outreach programme which has taken works of art out to communities across the country. It was a huge cultural change with a massive shake up of the structure and services to meet the demands of the digital age and the agenda of opening the Library and its collections to those who really own them.

It’s digitised millions of items and made them available free of charge for people across Wales and the world to use; photographs of life in Wales during the Second World War letters home from soldiers in the First World War, historic manuscripts, maps, works of art, and a century of Welsh newspapers. This work is now all under threat.

According to Andrew Green, cuts of this nature means that the Library means that there won’t be enough staff left to keep essential services running (https://nation.cymru/opinion/are-we-going-to-lose-the-national-library-of-wales/).

The plan seen by unions shows that there will be no digitization except for broadcast material, a cut of between 20% and 40% in collecting and much more restricted outreach and exhibitions.

The photographs showing the Greenham Common protest, posters, and leaflets from the Miners’ Strike, letters sent home from soldiers in the Second World War, and newspapers detailing life in Wales during the Great Depression will remain locked in their storage.

Even seeing those items in Aberystwyth will be more difficult. The enquiries service and reading room services will be disbanded and replaced with a much more restricted service by appointment only and on a part-time basis.

Without a fair budget, even this sad shell of a national library will only survive another few years until the next inevitable round of cuts. But by then, there may be nothing left to save.

The expert staff will be gone and valuable records of Welsh life will either have been sold overseas or thrown in the bin.

The unions at the Library are asking for the support of the public to show the Welsh Government how much they value the Library.

It’s clear from the response to the campaign that the people of Wales care about their National Library- the petition now has over 10,000 signatures and this means that the Senedd will consider a debate on the issue, but we still need your help.

Future generations will not forgive us if we walk away from our heritage.

Please help in as many ways as you can:

·         Sign and share the petition on the Welsh Parliament website at https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/244641

·         Write to your Member of the Senedd to ask them to call for fair funding of our National Library. You can find your Senedd Members at https://senedd.wales/find-a-member-of-the-senedd/

·         Contact the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and the Welsh Language (Eluned Morgan Eluned.Morgan@senedd.wales) and the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism (Dafydd Elis-Thomas Dafydd.Elis-Thomas@senedd.wales) to ask them to act on the review of the Library that they commissioned and to provide the extra funding

 

You can follow the campaign on Twitter https://twitter.com/ProspectLlGC

www.prospect.org.uk

Daniel.maney@prospect.org.uk

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Dr John Ball was guest on Gwynoro’s People

A well known personality in West Wales and way beyond was Gwynoro’s fourth guest

John talks about his varied career from school days in Dynevor school, working in industry, a mature student studying for his economics degree, his years working for the Welsh Development Agency in Carmarthen and as a lecturer.

He is widely known for his passionate advocacy of Welsh independence and his contributions are avidly read especially on the economy of an independent Wales, the financing of a self governing country and is Wales too small or poor..

The three pieces of music he chose in many ways reflects his character and varied career and experiences.

‘Finlandia’ by Sibelius, Gershwin’s ‘Strike Up the Band’ and Dafydd Iwan’s ‘Yma o Hyd’

 https://www.spreaker.com/user/alanevans/johnball?fbclid=IwAR0YuLidW7wlAb8dU_KKO-cv5zxEEQgAk0GgC9EHYJGl9w5dpa8qQ6K3bFU

Friday, 25 September 2020

Plaid Cymru launches its Commission Report on the future of Wales –  up to the other parties now

Plaid Cymru’s 220 page report titled ‘Towards an Independent Wales’ is to be welcomed.

It is not a document to be ignored or simply immediately rubbished by political adversaries.

The Commission’s report lays out in detail the party’s long term vision for a self-governing Wales. It is also an important contribution to the national conversation, albeit sadly not at a governmental or official level hitherto.

The present Welsh Labour government should be at the forefront of this developing debate.  Labour leaders often refer to the need for a Constitutional Convention - well, even if one is not established for the UK, most certainly it should be formalised in Wales.

Plaid Cymru has now put its stall in the public domain and no one can again say that they have not addressed many of the issues confronting the future governance of our nation. It is now beholding the other political parties in Wales to do similar - and not just in a throwaway, generalised manner with mere sound bites.

The Commission report deals with important matters such as the establishment of a National Commission, the constitution of an independent Wales, the current fiscal gap and a Welsh self-determination bill.

The role and responsibilities of the National Commission is crucial to ‘’ensure maximum awareness, participation, and involvement ….and test the views of the people of Wales in an initial exploratory referendum, setting out constitutional options’’.

As the document implies, Plaid Cymru recognises that Wales is on a journey ‘towards independence’ and of necessity, a number of economic and political milestones will need to be met along the way.

To that end, the report identifies two confederal options for consideration – one proposed by the leader Adam Price for a Benelux type solution and the other by Glyndwr Cennydd Jones for a League of the Isles. Both will merit and require further deliberation and examination.

I believe the issue of confederalism is crucial in the current political climate. There are many proponents of a federal solution within the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. It clearly has a head of steam behind it. Hence the need to detail confederalism as a positive, sustainable solution to the challenges faced.

If one is tempted to be critical of the report, then there is a tendency for Plaid Cymru to typically hedge its bets in relation to making a commitment to a definite way forward. However, that state of affairs might be expected in the uncertain economic and political climate ahead.

Further, many of the actions identified as necessary to achieving independence are dependant upon Plaid Cymru forming a government following the Senedd elections in 2021.

Whilst it is understandable why the report has taken that approach, the reality on the ground dictates that the debate in Wales demands cross-party participation. Plaid Cymru is currently far from being in a position to form a government after May 2021, so what happens then?

To my mind, the next Welsh government, regardless of party, should put into effect the National Commission proposal, if nothing else.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Dr John Ball and Gwynoro discuss where does Wales go from here


Gwynoro and Dr. John Ball discuss independence for Wales at a time when opinion polls suggest that over 20% of the people of Wales support full self-government.

The growth of Yes Cymru, implications of leaving the European Union, future of the devolution settlement, and now concerns over the implications of the Internal Market Bill for Wales and its Parliament’s powers.

New parties are forming but there is still caution from those who want more detail on what independence really is. Indeed others argue that the existing Welsh Parliament should be abolished.

Questions about can Wales stand on its own two feet, can we afford it?  Is Wales too small a nation?

 There are so many issues raised and debated - around the economy, the currency, the borders, employment, health, the quality of our representatives in the existing Senedd, relationships with other countries including the other home nations.

It is a question, which has dominated Welsh politics at differing times throughout the last hundred years -  why can't the Welsh nation go it alone?

Here, they discuss all this with Alan Evans, editor of Wales News Online, and Llanelli Online . 

click on:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/alanevans/independence?fbclid=IwAR0YuLidW7wlAb8dU_KKO-cv5zxEEQgAk0GgC9EHYJGl9w5dpa8qQ6K3bFU


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

 The time has now arrived for a Wales Constitutional Convention.

Over the last 18 months, along with my colleague Alun Gibbard, I have been engrossed in the writing of a book, soon to be published, on the story of devolution and the nationhood of Wales from 1880 to 1980. The book will be called ‘Whose Wales?’. It trails the contributions of the political parties to that turbulent century.

So my mind is full of the details of the turmoil and divisions between and within the political parties over the future of Wales.

Essentially the end of the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century was a period where the debate over the nationhood of Wales was very much to the fore. Then the period of the two world wars coupled with the economic depression of the 1920s and 30s inevitably took predominance and the debate was broadly, although not entirely, silenced for over 30 years.

After the Second World War under the determined campaigning of Jim Griffiths, Cledwyn Hughes and others inside the Labour Party for a Secretary of State and a Welsh Office, then followed by the Campaign for a Welsh Parliament in the mid-1950s devolution was once again back on the agenda. Then followed  the establishment of a Secretary of State and a Welsh Office in 1964, which was a seminal moment. It firmly established that Wales was accepted after over 400 years as a distinct and separate arm of the administration of government.  In fact one could say it recognised Wales as a land and nation – regions don’t have a Secretary of State and their own offices.

Within living memory, we have witnessed the turbulent decade after the Carmarthen, Caerphilly, and Rhondda West by-elections, the Kilbrandon Report in the early 70s, and the heated and emotive devolution referendum of 1979. That referendum was a resounding defeat by almost a 4:1 majority and it killed off any prospects of devolution in Wales for a generation, although, as I will show in another book out first half of next year many of us endeavored to keep the debate on the agenda. The SDP/Liberal Alliance in Wales in the 1980s, who consistently  argued for a federal structure to the governing of the UK in a period when the other parties had fallen silent.

A commitment to the creation of a Welsh Assembly with executive powers was again put into the Labour Party manifesto for the 1992 General Election. 

There then followed a new momentum into the whole debate coming from the Scottish Constitutional Convention and devolution soon came back centre stage. Eventually, it all led to the 1997 referendum and this time, without a 40% threshold as there’d been in 1997, the vote for a Welsh Assembly went through on the filmiest of majorities with 50.3% voting yes.

We tend to forget the March 3, 2011, referendum in Wales on whether the Welsh Assembly should have full law-making powers in the twenty subject areas where it had jurisdiction. Overall, 63.49% voted 'yes', and 36.51% voted 'no'.  The First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "Today an old nation came of age."

Indeed at the end of 2013 he went further and said the current constitutional arrangements were no longer functioning and the UK must continue down the road to becoming a federal nation in 2014. He has repeated that call for a federal solution several times since.

Of course the result of the Brexit referendum in 2016 transformed the nature of the debate over the governance of the UK. Indeed an enormous bibliography has been built up on the subject as witness in the Facebook page of #WalesNationalConversation (@SgwrsCenedl on Twitter). People like Dr. John Ball, Owen Donovan, David Melding MS, Glyndwr C Jones and many others have contributed to ongoing conversation over the years.

Then the online publication Nation Cymru has been at the forefront as well as of course YesCymru who, without doubt, has injected a considerable amount of momentum into the whole debate over the last four years with its campaign for Welsh independence.

It is also fair to say that under the leadership of Adam Price, Plaid Cymru has emerged from a long period of silence, essentially twenty years, over the future governance of Wales. His regular call for independence has become considerably more heightened..

So in 2020, having left the European Union, the future of the UK Union is increasingly coming centre stage. It is clear that it is beginning to occupy the minds of the political parties and not just the nationalist movements in Scotland and Wales. Indeed there is developing a growing debate in England as to the nature of that country’s future governance

The introduction of the Internal Market Bill has further heightened the debate and nowhere more so than within the Parliaments of the devolved nations. In essence the future of the devolved settlement after  twenty years is in question.

Here in Wales a succession of Labour figures have raised their concerns and serious worries.

The First Minister has called the bill an‘’ an enormous power grab – undermining powers that have belonged to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for over 20 years … and that it will do more to hasten the break-up of the Union than anything else since devolution began’’.

Very recently Jeremy Miles, the Welsh Government Brexit minister said that the Internal Market bill is “an attack on democracy” which will “sacrifice the future of the union by stealing powers from devolved administrations”. He then goes on to state that imposing a new UK internal market after the end of the Brexit transition period will “accelerate the break-up of the Union”.

So, what needs to happen?

Well, in the first instance, the endless speeches, articles and various campaigns have to be augmented by concrete action, coupled with a meeting of minds on the way ahead. We all know that the political parties are divided, and yes there are internal divisions as well. It is well understood that there are differing opinions over whether the future lies in devo-max, federalism, confederalism, independence within the EU, or any other option. No more needs to be said on that subject at present and in any case, it’s a distraction given the situation Wales faces.

This meeting of minds needs to understand that choices between nationalism, socialism, liberalism or anything else is not the central issue – it’s all about the future governance and the nationhood of Wales.

To my mind in this crucial period the Welsh Parliament needs to clearly state that yes it is right and proper that the people of Wales should have a say over its future and just as what’s going on in Scotland it should prepare draft legislation to that effect.

Adam Price makes the point very well:

"We are not asking the Senedd to support independence today, but asking the Senedd to support the principle that the people of Wales should decide,"

The Welsh Government needs to establish a Wales Constitution Convention of people from all parties and none, linked to regional Peoples Assemblies. Personally, I and several others have been advocating all this since 2016.

All this is necessary so that Boris Johnson’s government and Westminster gets a clear message that Wales means business and will not be brushed aside. Words and platitudes do not measure up to the dangers that face us now.

It would be apposite if the message is heard on this day of all days – Owain Glyndwr Day.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

'Gwynoro's People' podcast on Wales News Online meets Aneira Thomas, first NHS baby

It was a pleasure to meet up with Aneira once again. We went to the same primary school in Cefneithin, although I am a few years older and also to Gwendraeth Grammar school.

Both of us grew up with a wide range of people in Cefneithin and Foelgastell and we have shared treasured memories.

Image result for aneira thomas bookAneira by now is well known as the 'First NHS Baby' and also has published a book based on real life experiences.

The book is called 'Hold on Edna' and it is a heart warming account that goes back before the NHS came into being in 1948 



In the podcast she tells about the events surrounding her birth, family background, school life, her career as a nurse and much more.

Also refers to the people she has met over the years film stars, tv personalities and politicans along with visiting Downing Street.

In the series I ask guests to choose three pieces of music. Aneira chose:

'How Great Thou Art' - Cary Underwood
'Love Changes Everything' - Michael Ball and Alfie Boe
'In Dreams' - Roy Orbeson

Take a listen.

https://walesnewsonline.com/podcast/

and maybe read this as well.

https://news.sky.com/story/meet-the-first-person-to-be-born-on-the-nhs-11416062




https://walesnewsonline.com/podcast/

2020 exams student gradings result in anger, disappointments, dismay, confusion and government u-turns across UK

Article as appeared in  WalesNewsOnline

THE latest chaos and confusion over grading for A-Level and AS levels have made the news as Ministers shapeshift and move the goalposts to try and make some sort of process appear to be fair for the many thousands of students who through no fault of their own have been thrown into a grading system, which has struggled to cope with the curveball which was and still is COVID-19.

In this article, former Schools Inspector GwynoroJones takes a look at what has happened across the UK as governments announce their latest approach to assessing students.


Former Schools Inspector: Gwynoro Jones

As in Scotland and England, the publication of the AS and A level results in Wales has ended up in controversy. There has been a call for a review of the awarding process used which was a combination of teacher assessments and a subsequent standardisation mechanism.

When initial findings began to emerge the examination watchdog indicated that the gradings had "been too generous" and would have to be revised downwards to ensure standardisation and consistency.

When the results were announced Thursday (August 13) the data for Wales showed a record proportion of A and A* grades at 29.9%, up 2.9 percentage points from 2019. But significantly this was less than the 40.4% estimated after the initial teacher assessments.

The announced results for Wales also revealed that performance at both A* to C and A*-A grades in Wales is higher than in all regions of England, apart from the south-east, which is only slightly higher.

The results for Wales further indicated that proportionately more pupils received more top grades and grades A* to C than in England, but fewer than in Northern Ireland. Also, the performance at both A* to C and A*-A grades in Wales is higher than in all regions of England, apart from the south-east, which is only slightly higher.

But despite all this encouraging and praiseworthy performance, the concerning statistic was that the announced results saw 42% of students had their result downgrade from the original assessment made by schools and teachers. Yet 53.7% of students received the same as forecasted earlier with 4.1% achieving a higher grading.

In the meantime, in order to forestall some of the looming criticism, the Welsh government has already announced a free appeals process for students and that no student should have got a grade lower than their AS results of 2019.

Qualifications Wales chief executive Philip Blaker said this year's process had not disadvantaged particular groups of pupils.

"We have analysed attainment gaps this year relative to previous years - looking at aspects such as gender, age and eligibility for free school meals", he said.

"Our analysis shows no statistically significant differences this year relative to other years."

Although Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford is claiming that it was a "record year" for results and that "the big picture is we have more students achieving, more students achieving at the very top end of the scale, and a record number of people from Wales accepted into university." the criticisms and allegations of unfairness has burst into the open.

Several Labour Senedd members are asking for an urgent review and Plaid Cymru urging that pupils who have received a lower grading should receive their earlier teacher assessment predicted results.

A Welsh Government spokesman has stressed however that about 94% of the grades were the same or within one grade of those that students were predicted to achieve earlier on in the process.

"This is before any adjustments are made as a result of the AS [level] floor announced yesterday by the minister for education," he added.

In England, the education minister Gavin Williamson and the government too are facing increasing and mounting backlash over the contentious A-level grading system used. Among the many critics is the Labour leader Keir Starmer who is calling on the UK government to scrap its "fatally flawed" results system.

Mr Starmer has even called on the Prime Minister to resolve the situation with "a Scottish Government-style U-turn",

When the results were announced by the exam regulator Ofqual it transpired that 39% of teachers' assessment was downgraded by one or more grades. Figures from Ofqual also showed that some 24,000student results were lowered by more than one grade - something the schools' minister Nick Gibbs had said would not happen.

What has further added to the dismay and anger in England has been the revelation that independent schools faired much better than state schools and experienced greater rises in the grades awarded.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation as was the case in Scotland was that the greatest reduction in grades awarded was recorded within those students and schools from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In an attempt to retrieve the situation Mr Williamson abruptly announced that students could use results from their mock examination to appeal. That actually just added to the whole controversy because schools across the country approach such mock examinations in so many different ways and added to which a lot of schools don't even hold them at all.

Turning to Scotland, initially, the Scottish government announced results also following a moderation process by the Scottish Qualifications Authority which saw over 125,000 students having their grades reduced. But within a day the government did a complete turnaround.

Over the last four years, pass rates in Scotland in nearly all the school education institutions fell. Even after the 2020 moderation process the results bucked the trend and revealed increases in grades. However, after the uproar and cries of unfairness and mounting concerns, the Scottish government reverted to the originally recommended grades as per teacher assessment.

The 2020 grade results in Scotland reveal the increased performance of 10.4% for National 5s, 14% for Highers and 13.4% for Advanced Highers. Results in Scotland have not just bucked the trends of the last four years but smashed them.

The ongoing controversy raises questions over the credibility of the whole process, which many claims have been completely unfair to the student population. It remains to be seen whether or not the powers that be are able to sort out the mess once and for all and most certainly in readiness for the students of 2021.