Saturday 27 April 2019

All Under One Banner - the first AUOB March in Wales . Cardiff, May 11th . An open invitation to all .

The Cardiff AUOB march was well attended, estimated at 2-3,000 and  I was in attendance with my own group, Gwlad Gwlad.
Apart from the public address system, (I have no idea what anyone said !) all went well and I believe the organisers plan many more events. The next one Caernarfon, is on  Saturday July 27th

ALL Under One Banner is a Scottish Organisation whose aim is to bring all the pro Independence groups in Scotland together in large inclusive marches throughout Scotland. It encourages a show of total solidarity among all in favour of Scottish Independence whatever their politics or opinions. Recent marches have been impressive with large turn outs as shown below

The 100,000 strong Edinburgh AUOB March  October 2018, their largest march to date
The Scottish Independence movement is, at present, more popular and organised that our Independence movement in Wales.
They started organising these marches a month after the  2014 Independence referendum to keep up the momentum and the camaraderie of the independence campaign .

Below is one of their posters for a 2016 event which illustrates neatly one big  difference between the SNP  and Plaid Cymru. 

Scotland has more than one Scottish Political Party embracing the policy of  Scottish Independence. The S.N.P. would not be in charge of the Scottish Government today without the support of   Pro- Independence allies , currently the Scottish Greens.

The First Welsh March was on May 11th March and supported by many patriotic individuals and an increasing number of organisations:
 These include, All Under One Banner Scotland, Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Cymraeg, Welsh Football Fans for Independence, Gwlad Gwlad, Ein Gwlad, Yes is More, Plaid Cymru,  Awoken Cymru, Labour for an Independent Wales and Yes Cymru. 

It would be a great thing to see more people freely and confidently expressing their Welsh Identity, Culture and Patriotism and desire for change.  It was a good day out in Cardiff !.

 Siân Caiach, 

Sunday 21 April 2019

Brexit Promises - who promised to do what and why , how no-one delivered , and the next tactics we can expect.

Most of you were probably sick of Brexit, but with all the MP’s on holiday it does give us a chance, now things are quiet, to look back at how the Circus came into being and the possible motivations. 2017 seems ages ago but its worth looking at what we were promised before that election.
The main Political Parties in Wales with only one exception, said in 2017, prior to the General election of that year, that they accepted the Result of the Referendum to Leave the E.U. They would deliver the best form of Brexit. Then one did a sharp U turn to demand a second referendum and  campaign for Remain the others kept their policies but then  spent years wasting our time and destroying our economy by not sorting out Brexit.

I believe that most UK politicians genuinely originally believed in 2016 that the people of the UK would not vote Leave. Still reeling with the shock many made promises to deliver Brexit that they had no real intention of fulfilling. Follow that with a misguided 2017 general election which turned the Conservatives into a minority government dependent on the DUP, and the focus of many Remain MP’s switches to delaying and/or stopping Brexit. This is complicated by what becomes a clear policy by Labour to concentrate on undermining the Conservatives and forcing another General Election to put Labour into power on a UK basis.

On the other axis is a small group of more principled MP’s who actually want a proper Brexit where we do leave the EU and between these a large number of our leaders claim to want to fulfil the decision of the people but whose antics are totally ineffective. The E.U. negotiators have done their best to thwart Brexit, They need our money [which we now know from the wording of the Withdrawal Deal is nearer £390 million a week rather than the £350m on the bus] and the E.U. Beaurocrats want to make leaving the EU a long and difficult process. They need to discourage the Eurosceptics in other E.U. Countries from taking similar action as the UK and every delay is more money for them.

Lets look at the 2017 party manifesto for each major party standing in Wales, most promised in 2017 to deliver Brexit but haven’t quite made it yet. In fact, in practice, the M.P.s have appeared to deliberately deliberately obstruct leaving the E.U.

Few M.P.s declared how they had personally voted in the 2016 referendum on their election literature when they stood in the 2017 General Election. Their party policies were all the public generally had to go on, reflected in their election literature. The result was a House of Commons where around 75% of all M.P.s had previously supported and voted Remain. Although few could be described as young, they do, in the main, fit the rest of the demographic for remain voters. Many are graduates, all have a very comfortable income, most are homeowners, and many are of middle or upper class background. What they did not realise was that they were about to expose the UK political class as seriously unfit for purpose, and change our politics radically.

The Conservative and Unionist Party.

Their manifesto opens with Theresa May’s positive statement on Brexit:

This manifesto, Forward, Together: Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future will meet the great challenges of our time, beyond Brexit. With this plan and with a strong hand through Brexit, we will build a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain, for all of us.
No hint of the ultra Tory Brexiteers and the determined Tory Remainers who would in fact, deliberately block her Brexit Plans. Also the Conservatives totally underestimated the EU negotiation difficulties. as the EU had no interest in an early Brexit and is quite happy to receive the generous contributions from the UK for as long as possible.

The Labour Party

 "Let's build a fairer Britain where no one is held back. A country where everybody is able to get on in life, to have security at work and at home, to be decently paid for the work they do, and to live their lives with the dignity they deserve." Jeremy Corbin

Welsh Labour have a separate manifesto. “Standing up for Wales” 116 pages long. “This is not the Brexit Election”, it states. It calls for backing to elect Westminster members to form a UK Labour government to support the Welsh Labour Government and makes Welsh promises such as the end of Severn Bridge tolls and Support for Wylfa Newydd Nuclear power.

On Brexit:
They would “give a meaningful role to Parliament and the Welsh Government through the Brexit negotiations”.
Recently, in UK’s Labour Conference, an option of a “People’s Vote” has been added to the Brexit mix by Labour but is not yet definitely adopted as a rigid policy.

The Liberal Democrats

Manifesto title “Change Britain’s Future”

Tim Farron's leader’s foreword says: "I want the Liberal Democrats to be the party that holds Theresa May to account over spending on the National Health Service; our young people's education, skills and opportunities; the protection of our precious environment; and our future relationship with Europe."

The Lib Dems are the only major party who list a second referendum as a policy prior to the 2017 Election and paint a picture of doom for any form of Brexit from then onwards. Full marks for consistency but they didn’t do too well at the General Election.

Plaid Cymru

The 2017 manifesto is titled “Defending Wales” and reminds us several times that “Plaid Cymru is the hardest working party in Westminster”.

Plaid accept the result in Wales of a pro-Brexit vote and offer to deliver a Brexit favouring Wales:

“We will fight to get the best possible Brexit deal for Welsh Industry and Agriculture.”

“We will secure all the money promised by the Leave Campaign and not a penny less”.

At some point, presumably by some internal party process I can’t find, this has morphed into a policy of reversing Brexit and having a “peoples’ vote” on any Brexit decision.
It is thought that Plaid may have just changed policy, perhaps by executive decision, to the SNP’s policy, in the hope that a second referendum in the UK will set a precedent for a second Scottish Independence referendum. There is certainly an argument that supporting the SNP in order to hasten Scottish Independence may progress Plaid’s plans for our own Independence. However, there is this little problem in that the majority of people in Wales voted out. Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards, whose Carmarthen East Constituency voted out with a similar margin as neighbouring, Llanelli, is especially cynical in taking this view.

The other Plaid M.P.s can at least claim their voters voted remain, and now hold the view that a re-run is necessary. However, I doubt that many M.P.s of all colours have any real idea of what their voters actually think today. Some media claim all leavers have changed their minds significantly but the panic about EU elections suggest that the fear of Eurosceptic Parties’ by the mainstream ones. belies that belief


Paul Nuttall was the UKIP leader in 2017 and he presented a manifesto called “Britain Together”

A "patriotic agenda for defending our country and our way of life."
Paul Nuttall's foreword says: "We are the country's insurance policy, the guard dogs of Brexit. We have fought for Brexit all our political lives and we want to ensure that the people get the kind of Brexit they voted for on 23rd June last year.
However, the party were not successful in getting any MPs elected so could not influence Brexit at all..
Recent polls suggest that if there is an EU parliamentary election the current trends are a drop in Conservative and Labour support and an impressive showing for the new Nigel Farage led Brexit Party:

Overall, Wales 2016 referendum result of 54% leave vs 46% remain is close to the UK result of 52% Leave vs 48% remain, with 2% more Leavers in Wales and 2% less Remain supporters.
Next steps politically…..
Its been suggested in the Guardian that the EU Parliamentary Elections could be used by Remain Campaigners as a second Brexit referendum. The individual Remain parties have all rejected electoral pacts but they could still replicate a second referendum and possibly even increase the turnout for EU elections, usually pretty low in the UK. So a campaign to encourage Remain voters to vote for the Stop Brexit policy parties, it is argued, could “win” overall in the EU parliament elections and show that the people of the UK have really changed their minds.
Any vote for the Remain favouring “Reverse Brexit Parties” - Plaid Cymru, Change UK, Greens, Liberal democrats and Scottish National Party – would count as a Remain vote, a request for staying in, and presumably any vote for UKIP, Brexit Party, Labour and Conservatives etc would count as a pro Leave vote. The trick is to get more theoretically Remain supporters out to vote than supposed pro Brexit ones on the day.
However, with the great public lack of confidence and trust in our politicians would anyone bother to play this game or accept the “result”? 

In any case the current polls suggest that this particular gambit looks rocky unless Labour , as advised by Deputy Leader Tom Watson, declares for a second referendum campaigning for Remain, thereby joining the "stop Brexit club",and,  on today's figures, getting a theoretical but narrow pro Remain vote of 51% . 

However the risk of losing Labour Leave voters for the next general election would be real. Is staying in the E.U. more important to than Labour than winning a UK general election? I think not, but we are about to find out if the elections go ahead.

 Yougov results 17.4.19 below

Published by YouGov  17.4.19 
The 2 main political parties may well now try a last effort to pass the only withdrawal agreement the EU will allow, despite its flaws, as their only way of avoiding a very embarrassing European Union Parliamentary election.

 Siân Caiach

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Wellness Project exposes quite a swamp - Senior Council Officers and Executive Councillors must have known!

What Happened to Wellness? The Swansea City Deal  revealed as an expensive sham. .
In Carmarthenshire a Plaid Cymru led Council is caught up in a mire of a public project which may never have been viable and threatens the whole Swansea Bay City Deal .

Many of us older folks recall the comedy programmes of "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister" where the civil service were portrayed as being completely contemptuous of the elected members of parliament, even the top elected post. Civil servants often have effectively a job for life and incompetence is more likely to result in a change of internal post or title rather than the more uncertain position of elected politicians who actually have to justify themselves to the electorate.

The 4 pillars of the civil service are allegedly the core values of honesty, objectivity, impartiality and integrity. They are as lacking in local government civil service as they are in Whitehall. Of course there are some decent people who are civil servants and who try very hard to work in the public interest. However, there are groups of civil servants who use their power and influence against the democratic representatives they claim to serve and instead clearly control the policy and direction of their organisations.

The details of the betrayal of the people of Carmarthenshire and the Swansea Bay City Region as a whole, by the less than noble proponents of the "Flagship" Wellness Neurosciences Village planned to create jobs and prosperity in Llanelli. The whole mess is not yet fully investigated but the theme of the reports to date is that the scheme was never properly planned or thought out and some of its leading proponents were clearly lacking in honesty, integrity, objectivity and impartiality.

 The beneficiaries were seemingly the few and not the many.  Academics from Swansea University seem to have meant to use the centre as a cover to sell UK medical degrees to middle eastern students. who would be enrolled at the Swansea Postgraduate medical school and likely accommodated at the Llanelli Wellness Village either to study and/or reside for some time to justify the Swansea degree.

False Hope for Llanelli?
The plans promised to transform Llanelli from a depressed post industrial town to a beacon of Wellness featuring Health Tourism, World leading research, producing 2000 jobs on site and much needed boosts to local business. I very much doubt that the original idea for the scheme came from elected members. It was certainly not local councillor led. The choice of the contaminated brownfield site seemed simply due to its availability as publicly owned "free" County Council land. The problems in developing this land were dealt with by not investigating the issues and a bizarre report by the Council's agents, which was patchy, flawed, and did not satisfy Natural Resources Wales.

Medical facilities for local people were included in the "Village",and a local authority care home to replace one closed in 2011, long promised but never delivered. The publicity shows a gleaming futuristic site with a computer animated "fly over", set in parkland and with attractive water features. It may well be that the "fly over" is the best production of the whole plan, as nothing pictured appears to have been properly planned or funded.

Several million pounds of public money have been spent already on various assessments and initial site preparation. Carmarthenshire County Council is said to have already borrowed £200 million and certainly have not denied this when I've stated this before. I'm told the interest is already being paid from our council tax..

Carry on regardless!
Having lost the UK City Deal funding Carmarthenshire County Council initially said that alternative funding was available, that the project could be financed in other ways, such as the eventual income rental and business rates from the neurosciences themed industrial units once they are built. In fact the project is on hold.

Fooling the Councillors, few,if any, of whom in Carmarthenshire will have experience of building large projects like this, was probably easy. However, Senior Officers must have been concerned unless they too were mislead or perhaps complicit?, The whole premise of the City Deal was that large amounts of private money needed to be pledged to match fund much of the City Deal borrowing and grants. C.C.C. officers must have known, from the start, that the Sterling Health Group was essentially a bunch of small companies without significant funds and possibly just there to get money, not give it? The information on them from Companies House, from which they have now applied to  remove their registrations, was freely available on line to all. Did nobody at CCC check?

Cllr David Jenkins,(Plaid Cymru, Glanaman) the Executive Board Member for Finance in CCC has not been able to reply to any of the questions I have put to him on the subject of the Wellness Project. I am sure that he must have somehow been initially persuaded that the money was available, the scheme viable and everything was fine. But surely he must have realised eventually that the whole thing was a farce and unlikely to reinvigorate the economy of Llanelli as promised? In fact, it could have quite the opposite effect and leave the County now with even more debt than it had previously.
Where was the return on any investment for private business?
Councillor David Jenkins, Carmarthenshire County Council 
 The Scam has been revealed not by insiders at Carmarthenshire County Council but by scepticism from concerned local residents who researched the participants and analysed the scheme. The  eventual exposure of Sterling Health, together with some of the the Swansea University participants in the Deal, by exhibiting some very unprofessional behaviour related to the proposed deal was shocking enough, The Council cancelled its arrangement with Sterling. This was followed with the surprise additional revelation of a closely related scheme, the new Private Shifa'a Hospital and University in Kuwait, apparently ready to import its students and claim UK medical degrees for them through the Wellness Project. The CEO of Carmarthenshire County Council, Mark James, was offered and accepted a position as a trustee of the new Kuwaiti Medical School but forgot to declare his interest in this plan.

In an article in the Llanelli Herald March 29th Jon Coles reveals that a Kuwaiti company, KIG, Kuwaiti Innovative Group, is now threatening to sue Swansea University. The academics are accused of leaking confidential information  to the Western Mail to the detriment of KIG and effectively scuppering their project entirely.

He reports:  "The Controversy turns on a leaked report prepared by KPMG. It said "The project, which would take 3 years to develop consists of a University, a teaching hospital, a physical and occupational therapy centre, and commercial developments, including a hotel, hostel,staff accommodation and rental outlets"

" All of which sounds awfully like the plans for Delta Lakes in Llanelli" says Mr Coles. KIG claims the leak "irreparably harmed the prospects for the Scheme's success".

 Swansea University denies the allegations and has suspended Professor Clement who in the past has arranged for thousands of overseas degree courses to be recognised as British degrees through the University of Wales. Evidence emerged that these degrees were not monitored adequately and the overseas scheme was stopped for good, it was thought. Now he has been exposed setting up a similar and probably more lucrative deal in medical degrees.

How on earth did a scheme to build a Neurosciences themed industrial park with health,leisure and tourist facilities end up linking to a project to build a private hospital and medical school in Kuwait. These foreign students would presumably be offered degrees by Swansea University Postgraduate Medical School and possibly accommodated and offered experience at the Wellness Centre in Llanelli. Were they to be the real source of funding all along? Was it always just a scam to sell medical degrees  to the Gulf?

Siân Caiach