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’

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:

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.