#GE2017: The Real Issues

Politicians will tell you that they have your best interests at heart. That they want to make ‘the country’ (which country, Wales?) a better, fairer place. That they will ‘grow the economy’, create jobs, fix the mess the other lot have made.

But it will be easy enough to spot the biggest bullshitters, from the things that they don’t talk about.

Not even your toenails grow forever

We need to talk about growth. It has become an addiction, and like all the most hopeless addictions, we are in denial. We have allowed ourselves to be sold a dream of infinite economic growth. All UK politicians subscribe to this (with the occasional refreshing exception like Caroline Lucas).

There is no alternative, apparently.

But anyone with any experience of almost anything in the real world, knows that this can’t possibly make sense. Nothing grows forever. Most of us who aren’t politicians have noticed that we live on a finite planet, with a fixed amount of resources. The global economy cannot and will not grow forever.

Instead, we are going to have to start talking about other ways to measure our economy and whether or not it is functioning well.

Lots of people are having this conversation (people like enlightened rebel economists such as Cardiff Uni’s Calvin Jones, and Kate Raworth from Oxford Uni) but, oddly, politicians are not.

It’s as if they have forgotten that they were elected to serve people, and instead are beholden to the economy in which people live.

So next time someone tells you that Wales can’t be independent because it is too poor, it’s just worth raising an eyebrow and instigating a conversation about what constitutes a healthy, sustainable economy.

Because this won’t feature in the upcoming election talk. We’ll just get sold short again by the duplicitous usual suspects. For as long as we are all chasing the non-existent pot of gold at the end of the economic rainbow, it will distract us from asking how we might measure our economy to scrutinise whether it is actually working as it should (growth or no growth), and whether if we were focused on something other than GDP we might design something better.

Is economic growth a worthwhile end in itself anyway, even if it were possible to sustain it forever, if in the process people are left behind?

Maybe toenails is not the right metaphor here, I guess they can grow pretty long if you let them. But what is it doing to your socks? Can you still walk? Do these things even matter?

People are shafting the system, and its not who you think

There are a small number of people getting very rich at the moment, and they are the same people telling us we need to tighten our belts. You know that, and I know that. But what I notice is that even though we all know it, an uncomfortably high proportion of us are still minded to blame the ‘welfare culture’ for our problems.

So we are in a pretty tight spot. A vicious circle. A momentous feedback loop.

The people holding the public purse strings (they don’t keep their own money in purses, there’s too much of it, so they keep it in offshore bank accounts where its safer from the dangers of things like tax) are calling all the shots. And the shots they are calling right now go like this:

We need to reign in public spending because of the National debt (which they caused by failing to regulate the banks and then bailing them out with our money).

So we are going to cut spending on mental health, youth provision, women’s shelters, the arts, libraries, social care, policing, education etc.

You know, non-essential stuff we don’t really need (well, you might but we don’t because we’re privately educating our children and have a security guard).

Oh. Spending on health went up? And the prison population increased? Inequality and poverty levels worsened? (Scratches head whilst searching for causal relationships).

Well, that’s all very expensive, so we’re going to have to tighten our (your) belts a little (a lot) more. Looks like we’ll have to cut housing benefit, and the Personal Independence Payment (disability living allowance), and remove child support for third children because its all you (poor) people having too many children that are causing the problems.

You don’t like that in Wales? Well, deal with it. Because we make the decisions, so get back to us when you have grown your economy and stop squealing about the fact that you can’t because someone else owns all your resources, you pay rent to the Queen for your own seabed, and you are too busy running food banks.

And so on and so forth.

But on the whole, this massive, fundamentally flawed assumption on which all of our politics in the UK has been based since the financial crisis in 2008, will not be mentioned by any of the major parties in the run up to the election.

The assumption that the answer to all our woes lies in cutting public spending goes essentially unchallenged.

This assumption will not be discussed. It will just be taken as a given, and then the only remaining discussion will be about the detail. Who should be shafted, and how much and how quickly.

We’ll just be offered a range of very slightly varying flavours of the same dish. This dish is austerity. The side orders on offer aren’t any more appealing, they are poverty, inequality, division and blame.

Its served up to us by those who will later dine on fine food and the best wine that money can buy.

So we need to change the menu.

Or better still, take our custom elsewhere entirely.

Anyone fancy getting together and setting up a restaurant around the corner? We could put on a range of affordable meals, simple but nutritious, organic local produce, bring a bottle. If you can’t afford it, we’ll work something out. Everyone welcome, stay on for late-night banter and we’ll carve you a rose out of a water melon.

In case it passed you by, that last bit is a reference to Oz Urfa, an amazing Turkish restaurant on City Road. I’d suggest you go there next time you are in Cardiff, but they aren’t carving roses carved out of water melons there anymore, or amazing food with charming service either because despite winning the Taste of Wales Best World Cuisine Award in 2016 the Home Office deported their chef and so they had to close.

Obviously, the wider metaphor was about an independent Wales. An independent Wales in which, incidentally, we could have made our own decision about whether to let Faruk Yavuzel stay in Wales to continue flame grilling award winning food and contributing to his local economy….

Anything that doesn’t come with a set of multiple choice answers

Like, whose fault is it that we are in this mess?

This will be discussed, but the answers will be multiple choice and the only ones available will be:

a) Foreigners

b) The EU

c) Poor people

d) The elite (but not the economic elite, just people that read books or are in the judiciary etc)

Multiple choice answers that will not be available include:

e) Tax-dodging billionaires

f) Bankers

g) Politicians that privatised your public services and that now receive an income from their shares in the resulting companies

Other accounts we are overdrawn on

There’s just this small thing, nothing really. Its hardly worth bothering about, so I hesitate to even mention it here.

It’s just this thing, you may have heard of it, it’s called…

Planet Earth.

Not the BBC documentary featuring David Attenborough and dung beetles.

The actual planet.

The one we live on.

So I’m not sure if you have been following this, but whilst the Brexit reality show has been playing out on the main channels, there’s been this gripping drama going almost unnoticed.

The plot is bordering on unbelievable. If it wasn’t based on a true story, you wouldn’t believe it.

It’s based on these crazy people (‘the human race’) who live on Planet Earth. They inhabit this planet for hundreds of thousands of years, including the most recent twelve thousand during a geological period known as the Holocene, during which they have developed agriculture, and civilisation and then industry, in part due to the unusually stable climate which has characterised this period of geological time.

And then, in the space of a generation, they stuff it up.

They bust through at least four out of nine recognised ‘safe limits’ for their planetary system (atmospheric carbon/climate change, nitrogen and phosphate loading, biodiversity loss and deforestation) within the space of about forty years.

Their population trebles, their consumption quadruples, their energy consumption goes up tenfold. Inequality goes through the roof.

The impact that all of this has on the planet, its climate and its natural regulatory systems, is so great that this time is designated as a new geological era. The human race, through its own actions, brings to an end the stable geological period known as the Holocene, and instigates the beginning of the Anthropocene.

Their impact is now great enough that it will be visible in the fossil record.

The human race has become an extinction event.

But their politicians don’t talk about this. They don’t mention the fact that they are overdrawn on their environmental accounts.

They ignore the warning signs.

They put up a smoke screen and betray everyone and everything, by not acknowledging that with power comes responsibility. That with leadership comes tough decisions. With elected representation comes a requirement to act in the collective interest and call out vested interests.

We have voted those interests into power. That’s why on the subject of the real threats we face, we hear…

Silence.

Anything about Derry, Barnsley, Motherwell or Bangor

Since Thatcher, and globalisation, local economies have kind of been put on the back burner. We’ve all watched it happen. First the major extractive industries go, then the manufacturing. Then a whole tranche of local businesses that are supported by the spending power of the people formerly employed in those sectors.

Making stuff has been replaced, in the main, by the jiggery-pokery of the finance sector, overwhelmingly located in London. It’s pretty much all MPs can see. It parasitises our economy. The money system, invented to make it easier to trade and barter the real stuff that people in Derry, Barnsley, Motherwell and Bangor make, and the services they provide, has hijacked the whole of the economy. More money is traded in fancy packages of nonsensical risk every year, than actually exists.

And it effects everything. Property is bought up, and lays empty (although not so much in Barnsley) because the system has flipped reality on its head. Instead of money representing stuff, as intended, stuff has started to represent money.

That’s OK if you earn a living in stocks and shares and the splicing, slicing and dicing of debt to be sold, resold and profited on. But if you live in Cleethorpes, or Glasgow, Carmarthen or Omagh, its likely that your world revolves more around real things. Food that you can eat, water you can drink, energy that powers your home.

So listen out for those candidates that talk about localism. And call out those who have a ‘High Speed 2’ mentality (it’ll all be fine if we can just get to London quicker). Or a ‘City Region’ mentality (it doesn’t matter if there are no jobs in Blaenau Gwent, just travel to Cardiff).

Because soon, we are going to have to figure out that the economy is not an end in itself. And that it isn’t exclusively located in London. It is a construct that we use to describe the way that goods and services circulate around our society, and the benefit (and harm) that they cause in the process. So next time your local candidates talk about ‘the economy’ call then out. Pin them down. What does this mean locally? What does it mean in terms of real outcomes for real people? Why has the money stopped circulating, where has it gone (there isn’t less of it, as we are told, it’s just not reaching most of us).

What are we doing about that?

What does it mean for Bangor?

What does it mean for Wales?

Tax is a good thing.

It pays for stuff. End of.

Politicians and their rich backers would like us to universally demonise tax. It’s the ‘enemy of the people’ (that’s a dangerous phrase we are likely to hear more of). But we know that isn’t true. Not all tax is equal for instance. Some is progressive, so you pay more the more you can afford, or to look at it another way, the more you benefit from shared services (like the NHS which looks after the health of the employees that help you make a profit) the more you contribute.

Some are regressive, so you pay the same tax on tampons, even if you are so poor you can’t afford them and so you just don’t go to school when you have your period.

Some are nominally progressive, like Council Tax, but not really, because there is a cap, so the most well off people in London whose house may be worth many millions, pay the same as someone in Wrecsam who paid £200K for their house.

So give us a break, lets stop talking about ‘Tax Relief’ as if tax is an affliction we must cure, and start talking about Tax Justice.

And while we are at it, let’s campaign for an independent Wales and then we can introduce a fair system of tax that works for the majority of people, rather than rich people who want to get richer without paying their way. They might not use the NHS, but last time I checked they drove on roads and most of the people they employ on zero hours contracts were educated by the tax payer.

Performance review

In most jobs, your continued employment is contingent on regular performance review.

Pay increase is performance linked.

MPs not so much.

In this role, you get paid even if you don’t turn up. You get re-elected (or not) based not on whether you have actually voted in the best interests of the people you represent (or, heaven forbid, the planet on which we all live) but, largely at the whim of the tabloid press.

In Wales for instance, if you are a Labour MP, and like Chris Bryant in the Rhondda you haven’t even bothered to turn up for important votes on the devolution of more powers (like policing and control of our natural resources) to Wales, you’ll likely get let off the hook for failing your electorate.

Maybe.

To boot, you will glibly continue to espouse a policy of further devolution, criticising those who might have had enough of your bullshit and for whom independence for Wales is looking better and better, despite the fact that when further devolution is offered, you don’t vote for it.

In short, if we aren’t careful, we are rewarding mediocrity, hypocrisy and duplicity. So do me a favour, if you are even considering voting for your incumbent, check out their voting record and then ask yourself whether they genuinely have the interests of their local constituents at heart.

If you are in Wales, ask yourself if any of them really do. And then ask yourself how we can make some genuine change here. Ask yourself which party sticks up for Wales’ best interests, time after time after time.

Then get yourself to a hustings and ask candidates some difficult questions about the first five things on this list, and the things on your list, which no doubt once you start to write it, is quite long.

We didn’t choose to have this election, but we are choosing who to vote for, so lets make it an informed choice.

And don’t tell me you are voting X, Y or Z because your family always have. Just imagine explaining that to your grand children when they ask why you didn’t demand change when you had the opportunity.

The time has come, let’s make our voices heard.

You can follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at @tywodlyd and at her blog page indymam.wordpress

 

 

Willie Rennie & the Lib/Dem’s

Willie Rennie & the Lib/Dem’s – (In Government With Labour) – Forced Through The Intermediary Technology Institutes Scheme – Against the Wishes of the SNP- Investments Cost the Taxpayer £230Million – But Was Willie Ecstatic at the £600K ReturnThe Labour and Liberal Democratic Party Coalition Government – (1999-2007)

In 2002 Labour and the Liberal/Democrat’s formed a powerful coalition government in Scotland. Their political dominance over a fractured opposition provided opportunity for their politicians to introduce novel and untested working arrangements.

The Liberal/Democrats had enjoyed a long and successful history representing Scottish constituencies and had in place an efficient lobbying machine, advancing to government the interests of a number of multi-national organisations and other UK based companies. McEwan-Purvis was one such company, operating in or around Holyrood between 2001-2006.

With the assistance of government ministers, the company introduced direct links between the government and the commercial sector, (Willie Rennie’s input was substantial but largely unnoticed) through the introduction of an ALEO (given the title “The Intermediary Technology Institutes” (ITI)). Opposition party and public protests questioning the integrity of the scheme, “fell on deaf ears” and a new way of working to government was adopted by Scottish Enterprise and given a budget of budget of £450m.

The scheme, launched in 2003, was aimed at turning innovative ideas in Scottish universities into commercial triumphs, attracted hundreds of millions in public cash. However, only £600,000 was ever received in royalties.

ITI had badly malfunctioned; chronically failing to deliver the economic objectives envisaged by Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. The ten year programme produced very little of the expected commercial outputs, such as new tech start-ups and licensing revenues, and was prematurely terminated by Scottish Enterprise in 2010.

This article identifies some of the characters and circumstances that resulted in such a massive loss to the Scottish Taxpayer. The route to the truth may be convoluted and lengthy but it is important Scottish electorate is appraised of the shortfalls of those who seek their vote.

 

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McEwan-Purvis – A Lobbying company with direct links to the Liberal Democratic Party (operating between 2001-2006).

There were two directors and 5 shareholders: (Jeremy Purvis – Sam McEwan – Willie Rennie – Jayne Struthers – Jacqueline Wilson)

Jeremy Purvis: graduated from University in London. He then worked full-time for Sir David Steel in the House of Commons and ran his office in the House of Lords. In 1998 he moved to Edinburgh to work for political lobbying firm GJW.

In 2001 he established, with a fellow director, his own strategic communications consultancy, advising clients on communications. He was elected to the Scottish Parliament in May 2003 (suggesting that he ceased to be a director of the company before June 2003).

In August 2013 he (Baron Purvis of Tweed) was elevated politically when he was appointed to the post of “working peer” for the Liberal Democratic party, in the House of Lords.

He represents the Liberal/Democratic party on: “The Commission on Parliamentary Reform which is an independent group, established in October 2016 by Ken Macintosh, the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament It expected to report by June 2017.

 

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Sam McEwan: Was employed (from 1993) as Media Manager at “Scottish Enterprise.” (advising on public affairs issues in the software, textiles, food and biotechnology industries).

Before founding McEwan & Purvis he was manager of the Edinburgh based political lobbying firm GJW (now Weber Shandwick Worldwide).

 

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Willie Rennie ran the Scottish Young Liberal Democrats whilst studying at college in Paisley. After graduation he left Scotland to work for the party in Cornwall, returning to Scotland in 1997 to take up the post of chief executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, moving on to the post of chief of staff in the new Scottish Parliament from 1999-2001.

From 2001-6 he worked for the lobbying company McEwan Purvis, primarily providing supporting advice to the Royal Society of Chemistry and the arms manufacturer Raytheon.

In 2006, Rennie won the Westminster seat of Dunfermline and West Fife in a bye-election. At Westminster, he was a member of the Lib/Dem shadow defence team, and also chair of their parliamentary campaigns unit. In November 2006 at Westminster PMQ’s Rennie (Lib/Dem defence spokesperson) asked the Prime Minister:

“After the conflict ended, cluster bombs used in Lebanon by Israel resulted in 159 casualties, including 23 deaths so far. In Geneva last week, why did the UK not support calls from the UN Secretary-General, the International Committee of the Red Cross and 27 nations for urgent action? In Oslo next year, will the Prime Minister push for a ban on those indiscriminate bombs, or does he agree with the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, who has responsibility for the armed forces, who strongly advocates the use of such bombs?”

What a chancer, (and thick with it) Rennie was a Lobbyist employed with McEwan Purvis, (the Liberal/Democratic commercial organ) who had the merchants of death as their client. Yes, it was “Raytheon” – one of the World’s largest weapons manufacturer. Looks like “Oor Willie” is not only a political opportunist but the worst kind of hypocrite seeing as Raytheon is a proud manufacturer of, you guessed it, CLUSTER BOMBS.

He failed to hold the seat in the 2010 GE and returned to Scotland once more taking up a newly created post as special adviser to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore then Danny Alexander.

He was elected leader of Scotland’s Lib/Dems after their demolition in the 2011 Holyrood elections. In his first address to party members he stated that under his leadership the party would rediscover its soul and rebuild trust with voters. He was an honourable man who would have no truck with anyone in public office who did not measure up to the exacting standards he demanded of himself. Those who failed, for any reason would be expected by him to resign.

And so to “Frenchgate”. The exposure of former Scotland Secretary Alistair Carmichael, after much prevarication by himself, of his disgraceful, underhand leadership and devious direct involvement, with others in an attempt to smear Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

There were strident across the political spectrum, the public and the press for the exposed rogue and liar to stand down from the seat he won by a whisker in the Westminster Election for Orkney and Shetland. But he didn’t. That he took his place at Westminster brings politics into disrepute. And Willie and his principles. Scotland waited in vain for the word “Resignation” It was not to be.

Finally, after much pressure Willie issued the following statement:

“I have discussed the serious nature of the publication of the Scotland Office document with Alistair Carmichael. He fully understands the impact it has had on his reputation. He deeply regrets his actions, has accepted responsibility for his error of judgement, apologised to Nicola Sturgeon and the French Ambassador and declined his ministerial severance payment. I have known Alistair for almost thirty years and have worked closely with him in parliament for almost a decade. I have always been impressed by his energy, dedication and professionalism. He has served Orkney and Shetland for fourteen years and has been elected on four separate occasions. It is clear to me that recent events are an aberration. As a liberal I believe that people deserve a second chance. I hope fair minded people would agree that Alistair Carmichael should be given that second chance.”

 

 

 

 

Clients of McEwan-Purvis

Raytheon: At that time the fifth largest defence manufacturer in the world. The company had four business areas: Missile Defense; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Precision Engagement; and Homeland Security. It was most famous for missiles. The company is a global leader in the development and deployment of advanced technology missile systems and air combat and strike systems”. Products include the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-air missile, the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-air missile and the Tomahawk Block IIIC Cruise Missile. and the now banned cluster bomb.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (Scottish branch):

Royal Society of Chemistry:

Association for Science Education in Scotland:

 

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Dec 2002: Scottish Parliament Science Information Service

In December 2002 the Scottish Parliament launched a one-year pilot Science Information Scheme for MSPs at the Scottish Parliament. The Scheme was promoted as a collaborative project between the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in association with the Institute of Physics in Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.
Scheme purpose

To ensure all MSPs had access to rapid, reliable and factual information on science, engineering and technology-related issues in order to help inform Parliamentary debates on scientific issues.
Scheme Operation

The scheme was operated through a group of 52 Topic Co-ordinators who acted as “sign posts” directing MSP queries to the appropriate expert. Queries were directed to these Topic co-ordinators through the RSC Parliamentary Liaison Officer or SPICe.
Political lobbying connection

The contacts named at the end of the press release included the Royal Society of Chemistry. The contact was named as Willie Rennie of the political lobbying company McEwan Purvis. This indicated that Rennie was passing himself off as working for a learned society while in reality he was employed by and a shareholder in the PR firm. It is common knowledge that science related organisations enjoy strong corporate links and that they routinely promote pro-corporate views on science issues.
Biased briefings

The scheme, (guaranteed to be rapid, and impartial) was run jointly by the parliament, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, in association with other learned or scientific bodies.

Some briefings for MSPs were provided through the scheme on an anonymous basis and initially the list of “Topic Co-ordinators” was kept confidential to avoid “inhibiting” their ability to provide “free and frank” advice.

After a long struggle the Green Party gained access to the list under the freedom of information (FIA) and discovered that among the Topic Co-ordinators were Sir Tom McKillop, (then chief executive of Astra/Zeneca) and other academics with ties to industry which the Greens said made them partisan. (1)

(1) The GM crops/agrochemical divisions of Astra/Zeneca and Novartis merged in 2000 under the name Syngenta. As of 2008 Syngenta is one of the major producers of GM crops.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the SPICe briefing on GM crops was described by Dr Sue Mayer, director of campaign group Genewatch and a member of the UK Government’s Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, as “highly biased and pro-GM”.
Protests against the Scheme

Mark Ballard, the Green MSP, wrote to Holyrood’s chief executive asking for a review of the Scottish Parliament science information service saying “The scheme must be open, transparent and objective. I am deeply concerned that people providing information feel the need to hide behind a cloak of anonymity.”

Professor David Miller of Strathclyde University, who runs the internet group spinwatch claimed the parliament has been naive in its dealings with the private sector and its lobbyists. He pointed out that Willie Rennie, now a LibDem MP, effectively ran the science information scheme while working for a PR agency hired by the Royal Society of Chemistry – the kind of linkage between learned societies and private lobbyists who could represent other clients, which made it impossible to be confident of the impartiality of advice.

 

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The Intermediary Technology Institutes (ITI)

Ignoring the critics warnings, (at the end of the 2003-2004 trial period) the Scheme was formally adopted by the Scottish government and titled, “The Intermediary Technology Institutes” (ITI).

Its mission statement included the statement: “to drive innovation in research and development within Life Sciences, Energy and Digital Media sectors.”

To facilitate the foregoing the ITI’s commissioned research programmes to generate assets for onward commercialisation by Scottish companies supporting Scotland’s economic growth.

(http://powerbase.info/index.php/Scottish_Parliament_Science_Information_Service) (http://www.dmiller.info/articles/16-teaching/124-greens-science-briefings-could-be-biased-by-business)

 

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14 Jan 2009: Scottish Enterprise takes charge of failed ITI scheme

Scotland’s flagship technology commercialisation body is to lose its independence and come under the direct control of its main financial backer, Scottish Enterprise.

In a move to cut spending, the Intermediate Technology Institute (ITI) will become part of the publicly funded enterprise quango.

The surprise decision means that the ITI chairman, will step down and the organisation’s non-executive board will be disbanded at the end of the month.

In November, the chairman said that the organisation – set up in 2003 to commercialise intellectual property – faced a shortfall in its budget, allocated annually from Scottish Enterprise. Last year the group had a budget of £38.1 million.

The same month, Scottish Enterprise said “in future the two organisations will be working more closely together”, but the merger surprised business groups and politicians.

Scottish Enterprise yesterday said there would be no compulsory redundancies among the organisation’s 80 staff but promised there would be a review of its funding.

A spokesman denied the merger was a failure of strategy on behalf of Scottish Enterprise and said it would knock out duplication between the two organisations.

Last year, Scottish Enterprise undertook a major restructuring as more than half of its employees moved out to a new organisation, Careers Scotland, and its annual budget was slashed from £329m to £283m.
BACKGROUND to ITI

The Intermediate Technology Institutes (ITI) were set up by Scottish Enterprise in 2003 to commercialise technology based research and intellectual property in a ten-year programme with an overall budget of £450 million.

ITI Scotland oversees divisions in three main research areas: energy in Aberdeen, life sciences in Dundee and techmedia in Glasgow.

In its latest annual report, ITI Scotland said it had so far spent £134 million on 25 commercialisation projects and filed 132 patents.

 

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11 Sep 2013: Holyrood urged to back Scottish Enterprise probe

The Scottish Parliament has been urged to back calls for Audit Scotland to investigate a failed Scottish Enterprise scheme (ITI) which wasted more than £230 million of taxpayers’ money. The scheme, launched in 2002, was aimed at turning innovative ideas in Scottish universities into commercial triumphs, and attracted hundreds of millions in public cash.

However, only £600,000 was ever received in royalties, and it was wound-up in 2009 having been deemed a spectacular failure. No full-scale investigation has ever taken place into why the programme did not succeed and Audit Scotland has been asked to find out what went wrong to ensure mistakes are not repeated in future, and to obtain an explanation as to how so much cash could have been wasted.

 

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Monday 19 Jan 2015: Academics warn policy-makers must learn from their mistakes

New research examining the controversial Scottish Government funded innovation initiative – the Intermediate Technology Institutes (ITIs) – was published this week by a team of entrepreneurship researchers from the Universities of St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh.The work examines the spectacular failure of the programme.

The ITIs were an extremely ambitious policy intervention launched in 2003 by Scottish Enterprise with a budget of £450m. Designed to have a major transformational impact on the Scottish economy, its main aim was to produce new high-technology start-ups and to dramatically increase the levels of business expenditure on research and development (R&D).

The researchers concluded that the ITI badly malfunctioned; chronically failing to deliver the economic objectives envisaged by Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. The ten year programme produced very little of the expected commercial outputs, such as new tech start-ups and licensing revenues, and was prematurely terminated by Scottish Enterprise in 2010.

In the first independent and objective assessment of the initiative, the research examined the reasons for this policy failure.
Three comments are worthy of note

(1) The ITI programme was based on an outdated linear view of innovation. The critical stumbling block behind the policy’s failure was the inability of policy makers to properly diagnose the nature of structural problems within the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem.

While policy failures in the sphere of innovation policy are numerous and costly, such failures are rarely acknowledged by policy makers, as was the case of the ITIs. Arguably, this prevents the ability to learn from past mistakes.”

(2) A number of factors contributed to ITI : The research undertaken was too ‘far from market’, fitted poorly with the innovation needs of Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) had too many restrictions in terms of the usage of the intellectual property (IP) and the licensing conditions were prohibitively expensive.

Innovation policy makers need to become less focused on generating the supply of new IP and more focused on increasing the ability of Scottish SMEs to undertake innovative activities and to absorb external sources of knowledge. A critical mass of innovative SMEs will provide more of a seed-bed for new tech start-ups than policies to stimulate and protect.

(3) Lessons need to be learnt to prevent similar and costly policy failures being repeated. This entails being open with external researchers and stakeholders with information and data to further understanding of the performance of policies and, crucially, the causes of failure.

The authors of the report expressed concern that Scottish politicians may not have fully absorbed the lessons from the failure of the initiative.

 

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You can follow the CaltonJock on his webpage Caltonjock

Featured image LibDem

 

 

 

Why Welsh independence is a no-brainer

 

People will tell you that Wales is too poor, too Welsh and too dependent to be independent. But, like me, you aren’t stupid, and therefore no doubt you are starting to see the circularity of these arguments…

You’re also probably starting to realise that it’s almost impossible to list all of the reasons why Welsh independence is a good idea. But I’m not bored of writing these pithy lists yet, and if you aren’t bored of reading them, then here’s my latest thinking on why anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together, is taking a good look at Welsh independence right now.

Because if you are in a burning building and the people supposed to be in charge are holding flame throwers, you at least want to know where the nearest exit is

OK, this is not a subtle analogy, but these are not subtle times. I don’t think I even need to elaborate, do I…

Optimists are the new Nationalists

Call it what you want, optimism, curiosity, a refusal to be told something isn’t possible, a stubborn insistence on evidence based reasoning…

Being an advocate for Welsh independence has traditionally been associated with the term ‘Welsh Nationalist’, but oddly, in the eight months or so I have been actively involved in this movement (as opposed to sitting at home waiting for someone else to do something about it as I was previously), I have hardly heard the term ‘Nationalist’ used, and I have never once used it to describe myself.

I get that there is a strong case for reclaiming the term ‘Nationalism’ in the context of Celtic independence, and that there is a difference between Welsh/Scottish and British Nationalism. It’s very important to make this distinction too, since some people are so determined to conflate the terms, and even to equate Celtic Nationalism with racism.

I’m not denying the validity of inclusive, civic, Celtic Nationalism, it is a fine thing and should be celebrated. But I think that in Wales the landscape has shifted. You don’t have to identify with old school ‘Nationalism’ to think about Welsh Independence and to try it on as a way of looking at things, or as a vehicle for solving some of Wales’ problems (although of course you may choose to).

To be curious about Welsh independence is not to assume an identity. It is to adopt a frame of mind. To agree to maintain an open mind

That’s all.

The status quo is no longer the status quo

Change can be scary. We’ve been part of the United Kingdom since, like a really long time. I get that. I get that it’s easier to stick with what you know.

The thing is, from where we are standing right now, in March 2017, you can kiss goodbye to pretty much everything you thought you knew.

I’m pretty sure that when we (or whoever inherits this sorry mess) looks back at this time in Planet Earth’s history, by which I mean last year, this year and maybe the next 5 to 10 years, people will have a lot to say about it.

But the dominant theme is likely to be ‘holy shit, that was a rough ride’.

Let’s just re-cap.

Robots are about to inherit the Earth (it an Artificial Intelligence thing, and an automation of jobs thing, but it doesn’t look great for you or I or our children’s employment prospects).

For our part, the UK is about to crash out of the biggest trading union in the world, maybe with no safety net whatsoever, just as almost every other country in the world is busy joining trading unions.

We are on the cusp of a now almost unavoidable global climate apocalypse, with implications for absolutely everything, but most crucially for food and water security, and in terms of the refugee crisis that will follow when many millions of people lose their homes to rising sea levels and desertification.

The far right are on the rise across Europe, and Russia has interfered with America’s free and democratic election process to install a despotic authoritarian in the White House.

So you tell me.

Do you think we should do things exactly as we have for the last 600 years, or do you think its worth revisiting some topics that haven’t had an airing for a while? Perhaps we should dust off this Welsh Independence issue, in the light of some new circumstances?

Because when big changes happen, it’s usually best to adopt a position that allows you to appraise the options and effect the outcome to best advantage/minimal damage, for yourself and those around you. You want to have a say in the way things settle out, rather than flying by the seat of other people’s pants.

Just ask yourself who you trust right now.

I bet you didn’t vote for a Red White and Blue Car Crash Brexit

There is almost nothing that Unionists like saying to Wales more right now than ‘well don’t blame us, you voted overwhelmingly for Brexit afterall‘, before mumbling something about turkeys, and Christmas, and trying to hide a very large, red bus up their own arse (or more probably, yours, just bend over would you…)

Well you may have voted to leave the European Union, and I respect that, I really do.

But I bet you didn’t vote for a ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, ‘screw the economy’ (especially the Welsh economy) ‘who needs an export market anyway’, Brexit.

I bet you didn’t vote for a sadomasochistic Brexit  (‘while your backs are turned we’ll privatise your underpants, remove your human rights and make you eat them while we sit back and pleasure ourselves’ kind of a Brexit, which it turns out is just an excuse for Theresa May to act out all of her most twisted fetishes).

So given that what Wales thought it was voting for, turned out to be a strong laxative, forcibly administered, and given that we are already pretty dehydrated, why don’t we pause and regroup?

We don’t have to take the kind of medicine that Westminster is prescribing for Wales.

We can seek another opinion.

It’s called our own.

 

Learning to ride a bike was difficult, but you did it

(Unless you never did, in which case, have I mentioned I am a qualified cycling instructor and my rates are very reasonable?)

So my point here is pretty obvious. Lots of stuff seems daunting, improbable even, at the beginning. There’s an element of ‘no pain no gain’. My daughter is learning to walk right now, and I’m not pretending there isn’t going to be a lot of tears and gravel imprints to the forehead before we get there.

But we get over these hurdles. We take risks because we know that we’ll be glad we ventured.

I’m willing to scuff my knees and ride out some turbulent times for a better future, are you?

It’s not a good time to be a sacrificial lamb, and Wales is famous for sheep so you do the maths…

This isn’t about the Welsh lamb industry (although it could be). It isn’t even about the risk that Wales disappears so far up it’s own stereotype that we become invisible to the outside world, ceasing to exist at all except on the ‘Traditional Welsh Cawl Recipe’ tea towel your Aunt Bev once bought in Criccieth.

It’s about the fact that if you made a list of all of the vulnerable groups that Westminster is shafting right now, you’d see immediately that Wales is disproportionately affected. People on a low income. People claiming out of work benefits – and people on in-work benefits, people dependent on long term sick or disability benefits.

People whose health has been adversely affected by a lifetime working in heavy, polluting industries, but who haven’t reaped any of the profits.

People who didn’t happen to inherit an estate, or a peerage or go to Eton.

There are a large number of people in the United Kingdom at the moment that are being crushed by the cruelty of the system imposed by the British State. It’s not a phenomenon unique to Wales of course. Many of the people disproportionately affected by ‘we’re all in this together austerity’ live in the North of England, and Scotland for instance. And not as many live in the South East of England, which is coincidentally where most of the power is based.

But given that rather a lot of the people that are on the ‘getting shafted’ end of the Tories’ austerity jolly, do live in Wales, how about we review whether this is a party we still want to be at? Ask ourselves, and everyone who came with us, if we are still having fun?

We aren’t likely to see anything but a Tory Government in Westminster for a very long time, and given that Wales gets a Tory UK Government at least half of the time despite never voting for one, shall we get together and have a chat about whether we still think this system is working for us?

Or shall we just knuckle down, plan ahead and open a few more food banks?

Better take out some health insurance too, because I heard that ol’ kinky boots is going to flog the NHS to Donald Trump, and I’m sure she won’t let a little thing like devolution get in her way.

(When Wales says ‘no’ it means ‘yes, more’, in Sadomasochistic Brexit World after all..)

Because I do not want my name on bombs that blow the heads off Yemeni toddlers

Actually I would rather that bombs did not blow the heads from the bodies of Yemeni toddlers.

It’s hard to treat this topic lightly, so I won’t try to. But we need to talk about it. Because if you, or someone you know, is inclined to feel that the British State is a benevolent force for good in the world, and that we in Wales should continue to be associate with its international policies and its ‘look the other way and pocket the cash’ approach to arms dealing with war criminals, then we need to agree that it means that you and I, and Auntie Bev (you can use this argument with her), are all culpable too.

Is that the price you want to pay to call yourself British?

Because Boris Johnson looks to camera, and without blanching, brushes off the fact that the UK still profits from selling arms to Saudi Arabia, including bombs that we know will end up killing innocent people.

So I am looking at Boris Johnson and I am thinking, FUCK YOU.

How short is the money trail that leads back from those bombs to Boris Johnson’s pocket do you think? Or to the pocket of a Tory donor? How long after leaving office will Boris wait before he accepts a seat on the Board of BAE?

So you can take your Union Jack and use it as a marketing tool to make profit from war and state sponsored genocide if you want, Boris.

But you are not doing it in my name.

Not any more.

 

There’s no ‘W’ for Wales in BAE. Where do you think the profit is going? And would you want it even if it was coming here?

Given the price?

So we can all keep writing to our MPs about things like this, or we can cut them off at source. What about if we all just stand up at once, and leave? Just say we’ve had enough, and we are leaving (the UK) on principle?

(Ideally, do both, write to your MP and list all the reasons you are pro independence for Wales, you could use their voting record to help you compile your list).

It’s not good karma to end on the topic of dead toddlers

So we need one more thing on this list, something upbeat. But don’t forget about those toddlers.

Actually I need to build back up to upbeat, so here’s a penultimate thing, for free

Independence is sexy. It just is. Check out almost anything from the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign. Do a Google image search and tell me, who looks like they are having a fun, inclusive, sexy time?

‘Yes’?

Or ‘No’?

Its palpable. And enervating. It blows the ‘heart’ or ‘head’ argument about independence right out of the water.. When you look at images associated with the ‘Yes’ campaign for Scottish Independence, you feel it in your loins

Hell, it makes me want to just rush up there and have a whole load of Scottish babies.

Who do you think is getting it on more, when you look at those pictures?

‘Yes’?

Or ‘No’?

So even if it weren’t obviously going to go for ‘Yes’ in Scotland the next time around, even if we just waited it out, ‘Yes’ would just out breed the Unionists out of the equation if we waited long enough.

Young people are overwhelmingly in favour of independence compared to older generations anyway.

All this is also true for Wales, so let’s do it.

‘Let sleeping dragons lie’, is not a thing.

Sleeping dogs, yes.

But not dragons. Sleeping dragons should always, always be woken up.

So go on, wake your dragon. She’s just snoozing anyway…

####

You can find information about safe ways to wake sleeping dragons here.

You can follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at @tywodlyd and at her blog page indymam.wordpress

What is an independent Wales for?

If I’m honest, I’ve been one political crisis away from rebellion for a while now. I may like to chalk all of this indytalk down to the whole ‘leaving the EU without so much as a plan on the back of a fag packet’ malarky, but really, it started a long time before that.

And it doesn’t even have that much to do with Wales. Not by necessity.

A wise friend asked me several months ago, why I want independence for Wales. Is independence the end? He asked. Or the means?

Both, I replied. Definitely both.

I have thought about this question a lot since. What does this really mean? I have come to the conclusion that it means everything.

I emphatically believe that we need to change course. Take this at whatever scale you like, but whether that scale is the UK, or Western capitalist countries, the global economy or Wales, things are screwed up and they need to change.

Our economy doesn’t work for people. It is destroying the planet. We are pitted against each other in desperate competition for jobs that destroy our souls and keep us from our families for ridiculously long hours, all on the promise that it will help us buy more, and make us happier. For jobs that are disappearing, or based on zero hours contracts, or that don’t pay enough to live on.

In the process we are succumbing to mental illness in epidemic proportions. We have accepted the doctrine of free market economics and allowed it to privatise our lives. Loneliness is the new obesity. The mainstream media, speaking from the pocket of corporations and billionaires, instructs us to batten down the hatches and worship at the shrine of individualism.

The irony is that none of us see the profits from any of this, but we all pay the price.

These are the real reasons that Wales voted for Brexit. And if we don’t address them, it will all be for nought.

Instead of protesting in our thousands against the injustices of a system pitted against the many in favour of the few, we are instead slaves to Netflix.

We have forgotten how to connect. We have forgotten how to organise. How to protest.

Really protest. The kind of protest that isn’t just placard waving, but that shows up armed with genuine alternatives, with radical ideas.

We have forgotten how to rebel. And in the absence of any tangible, credible alternative outlay for their anger and despair, many people in Wales voted for Brexit because at least it felt like a way to register that they have had enough.

And those of us who voted remain? We may march in the streets now, but we didn’t do it when it might have made a difference. We may be able to list a hundred and one things we will miss about European Union membership, but are we willing to call out the problems with our global economic system, that it seems the EU may accidentally have taken the fall for?

Because much as I would rather have stayed in the EU, and much as I think that many aspects of our lives are going to be the worse for leaving, perhaps now we will finally have a conversation about whether the current allocation of wealth and power is working out for most of us.

Because it is pretty fucked up that the richest 1% of people on our planet own more than the other 99%. When are we going to talk about that?

None of this knowledge is new. My heart has been breaking over all of this for a long time. I have tried to keep up a pretence of normality. Gone about a normal job. Raised my children. Made do with bits of activism when I could, community projects, the odd petition. I have rebelled in my own way. My refusal to own a television has finally stopped raising eyebrows.

But I couldn’t shake off this feeling. This feeling that there is something else. That if the stakes are high enough, and there are people with sufficient determination, then rebellion is possible. That if there is a vision clear enough, and inspiring enough, to rally around, then we can make change happen.

That maybe we can actually change the system.

Well, guess what. All of those conditions now apply.

Welcome to #indycymru.

Because all we really need for rebellion is a place to start, and it turns out that there are lots of places.

When we look for these starting places, the smallest common denominator is the scale of a community. And a community can be anything, it can be me, you, and your mate Fran, if we all share an interest in common and are willing to connect.

And now of course, connecting is easy, because I am here, and so are you, and we have the power to reach practically anyone anywhere.

As well as to simply talk to those around us.

So what is new?

Everything.

You know, and I know, that we are at a crossroads. Define it how you like, on the basis of whatever parameters you like (environment, economy, equality, humanity) we are going one of two ways from here.

These directions are called ‘better’ or ‘worse’.

Which one are you going to pick?

It’s important to acknowledge at this point, that the cavalry is not coming. Politicians are not going to fix this, they have (with notable exceptions) thrown themselves in with the problem, or are waiting for someone else to make the first move.

So guess what.

The machinations of formal democracy are not going to fix this, because democracy has been kidnapped and is currently tied, bound and gagged to a chair, by the oligarchy owned press.

We could be forgiven for thinking after all, that the Daily Mail writes Theresa May’s speeches (when you consider that Rupert Murdoch practically lives at Number 10, I heard he keeps a pair of slippers there, the kitchen tiles are notoriously cold).

How do you think that austerity has gone on so long, despite the fact that it is quite literally killing people, in order to make rich people richer?

So given that no one else is going to fix this, we are going to have to.

And we are in Wales.

There are a lot of very special things about Wales. I could list them, but I’m not going to. Because the most important thing about Wales is that it is no more or less special than anywhere else. We don’t have any special right to self determination compared to other countries, but then nor do we have any less.

We don’t have any special imperative to solve any of these massive problems either (problems like an economy that doesn’t work, or loss of biodiversity on a mass-extinction level).

No more imperative than anywhere else, and no less.

There are people in Wales who live in poverty. There are people in Wales who are lonely. There are people in Wales whose community has been ripped apart and who are left with little material wealth and precious little hope.

This is also true of many people in other places.

It is true of people in Merseyside. It is true of people in East Kilbride. It is true of many people all over the world.

But we don’t live in those places, you and I (well maybe you do, if you are reading this internationally, hello).

We live in Wales.

And so this is where we can start.

Because when I imagine an independent Wales, it’s not a destination. It’s not something that I want to happen overnight, or even next year or in three years. It’s a process.

The means are as important as the end, maybe more so.

Because along the way we are going to ask a lot of questions. Questions like, what kind of economy do we want in Wales? Who should the economy be for? Should it make people better off, healthier and happier, rather than just growing for its own sake? What price are we willing to pay for material goods? Are we willing to pay the price of birdsong, and butterflies? Are we willing to sacrifice happiness for stuff?

Would we rather work less, consume less, but have more fun? Shall we consider a universal basic income for people in Wales so that no one falls below a minimum standard of living, and people are freed from meaningless dreary work that doesn’t pay the bills?

Will we discover along the way how many artists, musicians and writers have never used their talents because they are stacking shelves at Tesco or queuing to sign-on?

Starting to have the debate about whether Wales should or could be independent is going to bust open a whole load of conversations, and that’s going to be incredibly good for our democracy, and our self esteem, and also for our media.

Yesterday, there was an #indymedia fringe event in Cardiff, organised by YesCaerdydd. Its aim was to create a space for people to imagine and start to create an independent, #indyconfident media for Wales and to discuss projects that are already underway.

I wasn’t at the event, because one of the young citizens of a future independent Wales was throwing up in my care.

But if I had been there, one of the points I would have raised is this.

I don’t want an independent media in Wales just so that we have a platform to debate independence, although it’s unlikely that we will achieve independence without a strong thriving independent media, certainly.

There are other compelling reasons to want an independent media.

A new, independent media for Wales, free from the editorial dictat of billionaire media-moguls, will be able to speak the truth. It will be free to call out injustice. It will, if it is brave, be able to call into question some of the most basic assumptions that prop up the current, broken global economy.

And there is every reason to assume that those motivated enough to strive for an independent media will also be brave, independent of spirit, and radical at heart.

So if you think you might be curious about the alternatives, that you might have just a smidgen of interest in discussing something more radical than the ‘more of the same’ status quo, maybe you should hang out with some local indycurious types and chat about your vision for Wales.

If you aren’t sure if you know any indycurious people, there are ways you can spot them. They usually ask a lot of questions, they won’t take any bullshit about Wales not being good enough, and they may well have a habit of saying Wrexham when they mean Wrexham (rather than North Wales).

Or they may do none of those things, but you won’t find them if you don’t look.

But watch out because once you do start finding each other, soon you won’t be able to move for indycurious types and you’ll have to start hanging out in bigger pubs.

A lot bigger.

And not long after that, you’ll find that you look back nostalgically at the days when you were indycurious, and that you feel pretty indyconfident. And you’ll know when that happens because you will be surrounded by people who feel that way too, and you will know that you are on a roll. It will be exciting, and things that once felt improbable, will feel likely.

So go on, what are you waiting for?

Because it’s your future, and mine, and all of ours. And I want the birdsong, and the butterflies, and the meaningful job with the work life balance and the thriving local economy that hasn’t been bulldozed to make way for an out of town shopping centre.

And I want my children to grow up in a world that values connection and compassion.

To be able to live in the moment.

To be who they are, and value other people.

If we want to change the world, no one can stop us.

Let’s start in Wales.

############

To be part of the rebellion, join YesCymru.

You can get involved with rebellious antics as part of YesCaerdydd. We are on Twitter and Facebook @yescaerdydd, get in touch.

There may be a branch of YesCymru rebels more local to you, or if not you could start one…

All you need is the desire for change (and beer helps – YesCaerdydd can next be found upstairs in the Tiny Rebel, Westgate Street, 8pm on Thursday the 27th April).

You can Follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at @tywodlyd and at indymam.wordpress.com

It. Has. Started. #indyrefcymru

We are going to have a referendum on Welsh Independence. You know it, and I know it.

You will no doubt have watched Nicola Sturgeon’s historic announcement today that there will be a second referendum on Scottish independence. This will happen some time between autumn 2018 and autumn 2019.

So this time in three years, Scotland will be independent.

I said that out loud earlier and it felt good.

Try it.

You know it’s true, and I know it’s true, but more interestingly, Theresa May knows it.

You can hear it in her voice. You can see it in her eyes. She is thinking ‘holy shit’ and she is stuffing up this interview because in the back of her mind she is scrambling to think of something witty for #SuggestANewNameForTheUK

This is her pre-prepared response remember. Because indyref2 isn’t a shock. And the best that May can do is thirty five seconds. Her voice is cracking and we can all see why.

Scotland is leaving.

I should quote that line where she says that it will bring uncertainty that will result in…uncertainty. But I can’t bring myself to, it’s too God damn awful.

And don’t start me on ‘politics is not a game’, because it’s just too obvious to even go there.

So Scotland is leaving the UK.

And Wales is going to be independent. This is the new most likely scenario, and everybody knows it. It’s like a game of ‘who’s going to blink first’ (except that it’s not a game, but the Unionists are going to carry on as if it is).

So before Wales is independent, first we are going to have a referendum.

Soon seems like a good idea, yes?

Because we hardly need to remind ourselves what the alternative is. What has our First Minister got to say on this historic day in history, when Scotland set the wheels in motion to liberate herself and ensure that the people of Scotland can determine their own destiny?

At this momentous time, Carwyn Jones’ sources said:

“The constitutional future of Scotland is a matter for the people of Scotland… the First Minister is clear that the four nations of the UK are stronger together than apart.”

So it’s basically head back in the sand time. Nothing to see here. No need for Wales to trouble itself with actually having a rigorous debate about something that might concern it’s future. That most definitely concerns Wales’ future.

That was pretty much his stance ahead of the EU referendum.  Not our argument….

And look where that got us.

 

 

But from today onwards, Wales is preparing for a referendum. End of. We are having one. It is inconceivable that we can face this level of constitutional crisis in the UK, and not have this conversation.

So we are having this conversation.

It is going to be impossible not to this time.

If you are reading this and you are not in Wales, I imagine you’d quite like to move back i’r Hen Wlad right now, because it’s going to be very exciting having an independence referendum…

If I’m honest, I’m actually so excited it’s a little hard to type. I’ve spent an hour on twitter reading all the #indywales tweets, and catching up on #indyref2 stuff that I’ve missed all day because I’ve been caring for the future citizens of an independent Wales…

And I am absolutely starving hungry. I’ve just eaten half the contents of the fridge. It is like my body is saying to me ‘this is going to be massive, you’ll need energy, and lots of it (pauses to eat peanut butter on toast).

Because we are all going to be very busy now. We have a lot to do. We are going to make this happen. So if you aren’t eating your own body weight in toast right now, and bouncing off the walls with nervous energy, then you have missed a memo.

Go on, watch that Nicola Sturgeon clip again. Then Theresa May. And then remember that a year ago Carwyn Jones said this:

‘If we leave the EU our economy will tank’.

You see, he always knew that Brexit would be a disaster for Wales, he just didn’t think it would happen. And he’s going to make the same mistake all over again this time. All the Unionists are in Wales. You can see them all now, adopting the position. It goes like this:

Fingers in ears… and then everybody very loudly say: ‘la la la la la la la la la la’.

And if that sounds like something a stubborn child might do…

 

And of course he didn’t think that people would vote to leave the EU. He certainly didn’t think that Wales would vote to leave. He misjudged his electorate.

And of course, that wasn’t all he said back then. The full quote is this:

‘… our economy will tank. And we might be in a position at some point in the future where the Welsh people are asking which union – the UK or the EU – we should be a member of’.

Well, guess what Carwyn. We are at that point. And if you are not careful, you will be one of the few people in Wales that are not prepared to ask this question.

So do we think, perchance, Carwyn might be about to misjudge his electorate again?

Do you think there may be a small possibility that all those people who wanted to stick their boot a really long way up the backside of the establishment by voting for Brexit, would pass up the chance to do the same to Theresa May, and every other Westminster Government past and future that has neglected Wales?

Do you think that perhaps, all those people in Wales who didn’t vote for Brexit, might be starting to wonder whether a union with England in the absence of Scotland and probably Northern Ireland, after a hard Brexit, on a ‘tanking economy’ might not look that great an option?

Do you think that people are starting to get curious about the alternatives?

Hell, I can’t even hang out my washing at the moment without the neighbours telling me over the fence that they ‘certainly wouldn’t vote against independence for Wales’.

So, best keep your fingers in your ears Carwyn and friends (by whom I mean people like Andrew RT Davies and Alun Cairns, who may not be best buddies with our First Minister, but who share his unfortunate lack of any ambition, vision or respect for Wales).

Now.

Part of me wants to say ‘what are you still doing here, reading this?!’

If you are reading this, then don’t.

Or do, but then straight away afterwards, start making a plan. And write your own blog for heavens sake.

Because it starts today. This is the next chapter in the story of Welsh Independence, and this one is called #indyrefcymru, and it involves you.

You play quite a big part actually.

But before we talk about that, we need to talk about hashtags. Because this stuff is important. Do you think we’d be where we are now if they’d called it #ukleave? or #Brout?

So we need to talk about the fact that #welshref is a really, really bad hashtag.

Firstly. It sounds like its about sport . I don’t have anything against sport, but this isn’t about a football match and the implementation of the offside rule.

Secondly, it doesn’t mention the word indy, which is kind of key here. If you need clues, see #indyref and #indyref2.

Thirdly, ‘Wales’ or ‘Cymru’ are much more empowering words, I think, than ‘Welsh’ which just has that kind of ‘its what other people call us and they don’t always mean it as a compliment’ kind of feeling about it.

So can we get this one sorted today, now? One of you tweeper pollster types do a poll or something?

Because really. #indyrefcymru/#indyrefwales, maybe we can do both depending on which way people are leaning linguistically speaking when they are doing hashtag type things. They’re both a bit longer than #welshref (admit it, its an awful hashtag!!), but I think we can spare the extra five or so letters for something that sounds like we are definitely doing it.

Because we are. Definitely. Having a referendum.

I’m done with all the ‘woe is me/us, we haven’t got a functioning media, all our politicians are as bad as each other and I’m/we’re just so lacking in confidence, blah blah blah’ carry on.

If that’s still where your head is at, get a life coach. Read some self help books. I don’t care what you do, but pull your finger out and get over your ‘we’re not good enough and it won’t happen because of x,y and z’ complex. That’s what they want you to say/think/do.

It’s the psychology of oppression.

And we aren’t doing that anymore.

Hell if you need to, just watch back-to-back youtube videos of Nicola Sturgeon and tell yourself you are Scottish. Whatever you need to do, get over it and do it quickly.

Because who do you think has all the power here?

We do.

Who do you think get’s to decide this?

We do.

Who do you think can do something about making it happen?

You can.

If I can write 30 blogs in eight months on the subject of Welsh Independence (who knew there was so much to write about until I started), then you can do something.

So get on with it. We are having a referendum. Not yet, but soon.

#indyrefcymru

#indyrefwales

Have you joined yescymru yet?

You can follow Sandra Clubb on twitter at @tywodlyd  and visit her blog at indymam.wordpress.com

 

Tiredness Kills…

 

 

This week, I have been driving around all around this great little country which, with immense pride, I call home. Wales. After visiting family and friends from earning a well relaxed break in Malta, (which I would advise you to definitely visit!) I was driving back home when my mind wandered inevitably to politics and what the next few months hold in store for Wales.

One thing that I deduced was certain, exciting times definitely lie ahead!

Whilst thinking about all this, driving home in the wet and drizzle, an overhead illuminated sign caught my attention. “Tiredness Kills: Take A Break.”

Now, for many drivers, that isn’t anything new and the same applies to me. I have seen this sign many times before, issuing safety on the roads and of course, we must pay attention. But this sign caught me in a different way, in a political way.

Thinking about that sign, I came to the conclusion that it was the perfect analogy for the state that Welsh politics has become.

Let me explain…

Ever since Devolution was granted to Wales, back in 1997 and the first elections were held 2 years later, the Welsh Assembly has only ever had one driver at the wheel of the car that is our beloved Nation. ‘Welsh’ Labour.

Election after election, ‘Welsh’ Labour have been in charge of our affairs, and quite frankly, it’s becoming quite tiresome, and it is starting to show. The cracks are starting to appear.

The state of Welsh politics today has become, in my eyes, no other word than ‘stale’, disenchanting many voters and putting them off politics all together, resulting in poor election turnouts and all because one party has been driving us continuously down a one-way street, an in my opinion, up the wall!

People in Wales have, unfortunately, become disillusioned with their political life. We all have one, and it’s up to us to use it. Labour are, and have been for a long time, in the habit of taking your vote for granted. Just look at the atrocity of the Welsh Labour MP’s who abstained regarding the welfare Bill. One even issuing a statement after abstaining stating he would vote against the Tory cuts!

Getting your votes and being elected seemed the only thing that matters. Now that the General Election is over, they have disappeared like phantoms into the corridors of power. Suddenly, we don’t matter anymore. It’s ‘them’ over ‘us’.

Should why do we continue to fall for them? We vote for them, subsequently complain for 5 years, and then vote for them again come the next election, as though nothing ever happened. They must be held to account.

Now, whenever I have the great joy of visiting my friends in the North, in the Lochs and Glens of Bonnie Scotland, I am always struck by an unnameable force. Yes, there is the beauty, (though compared to hills and valleys of Wales, I will have to disagree!) the wonderful language of Gaelic (which I want to see used right across Scotland!) and the great friendliness of the people, there is an invisible energy in the air that I simply love and am quite frankly addicted to!

In my opinion, I believe that this, somehow, is energy from the political impact of the SNP radiating from Holyrood and being felt by all in Scotland. From Gretna in the South and across the Lowlands right up to the Highlands and Islands in the North, this is a force to be reckoned with.

What’s more, after the peaceful democratic revolution of the Independence Referendum, held back in September, Scottish politics has been given a hell of a boost and crackles with intense fervour on the tongue of nearly every person in Scotland. The people are very much in control.

And that is what is missing from us in Wales. Although we have the magic of our 600+ castles and fascinating history, we lack the spirit of our national politics which must seek to help all in Wales that has become so evident up North. I mean, just look at the Scottish General Election result!

Furthermore, there must be a cause of this laissez-faire attitude that has become the status quo of Welsh politics in the last decade, which I believe falls squarely on the tiny shoulders of the twig like branch office called ‘Welsh’ Labour.

Returning to the analogy, they, as our driver for the last 16 years, have become quite content in the driving seat and taken their foot of the accelerator and put on the cruise control. Quite frankly, they are letting someone else do the driving, and that is no-one else but their fat-cat bosses in Westminster.

From what I see, this must stop, and stop for good in May. Although Wales has its own Assembly and is a law-making body, with Welsh Labour in control, Wales is treated no-more than a puppet on strings. With David Cameron as our puppeteer, they pull the string attached to us, those of the Assembly and even those attached to the so-called ‘First Minister’ Carwyn Jones.

When Westminster tugs at the strings, Wales can do nothing but jump as a result. We must cut these attachments to us now if we want to get our voice, our eyes and even our body, back. The National Assembly for Wales must have a Government that is capable of standing UP to Westminster and not this tired, lacklustre Government which stands ASIDE for Westminster’s cruel, damaging and as awe-inspiring Mhairi Black put it, ‘outdated’ traditions and laws.

A proper democracy is where the people are in control, not another political establishment. So when May comes around, we need to stop the car and yank the driver out! We need a new driver who will put their pedal to the metal and get Wales moving again, in the right direction and who will put the people at the steering wheel. And neither, the Tories nor Labour or indeed, any Westminster party are fit for that job. That belongs to us. The Welsh people.

So if it isn’t a Westminster party that is looking out for us, then who is? Only one party is active in Wales of whose politics does not owe its allegiance to Westminster. It is the Welsh Nationalist Party: Plaid Cymru.

Their main ambition is to put us, the people, in charge of our own destiny and let us think for ourselves. After all, who knows what is better for our Nation: A cabinet situated 150 miles away from the Welsh Assembly or us, the people? It’s time we thought for ourselves and brought power closer to the people.

We need to apply the brakes quite firmly on this Welsh Labour Government’s doting dependence on Westminster when all Westminster does in return is give us the scraps from the table which is meant to seat 4 but only has 3 seats. England, Scotland and Northern Ireland get a seat each whilst poor, defenceless Wales is left to eat the scraps off the floor. This isn’t good enough! We deserve better!

So, in the upcoming election, we seriously need to reflect as a Nation about what we want for the next 5 years. Another 5 where the cruise control is kept on, where Westminster still pulls the strings and where, it seems, the Welsh First Minister has very little power?

Or do you want to be in control? Where you come first. Where your First Minister puts you at the heart of political life? Think about it.

In the meantime: Welsh Labour, I have a message for you. Tiredness Can Kill: Take A Break.

featured image labour party link

CAPITALISM

              It is the present world system, but are we right?

Capitalism means: The use of wealth to create more wealth.

From the moment we started creating farming communities, perhaps earlier people traded with each other to acquire resources that would keep them alive. Farming land meant that individuals were tied to a piece of land because of the need to grow crops for human consumption. Animals such as cattle and horses became domesticated and a complicated societal structure came into being because of the needs of the living environment. Each adult individual within a community had his or her work which was available both for themselves and to trade with other individuals. At the same time living in bigger communities meant that there was greater chance for survival of everyone (strength in numbers). The strongest in each community or those with the keenest leadership skills would become head man or head woman of a village directing the management of the village for the rest of the community. These individuals would win their position by their prowess and were either elected or took their position by force, just as now. The importance of keeping leaders healthy, able to lead, the acknowledgement of the difficulty of the job and reverence for the leader meant that a greater share of what was produced would be given to the leader of a village or community.

In times of hardship, (lack of resources), through jealousy or other argument one community would go to war with another community, vanquish their leaders, take their resources including human resources and become a bigger integrated community and so it continued…

If leadership of a community was lost then individuals would continue on at a level of subsistence until a new leader came along.

All the empires ever created have been created round taking resources including human resources from someone else, giving the winner greater wealth, power and a bigger community to lead.

Eventually empires got so big that they collapsed. Their boundaries were too far extended from the centre to maintain control, to be there to protect people and resources and to meet the different needs of populations within the Empire’s control. Added to this, there was greater competition at the centre to gain control and power over the empire resulting in in-fighting and destruction.

Until the 12th Century only 5% of the population of Europe lived in towns or cities. Skilled workers lived in the cities, getting their subsistence from Feudal landlords, in the form of food, clothes and shelter. In the same way, farm workers worked on the land for their keep. The Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in history was instrumental in changing the system substantially. So many people were killed by the plague that there was a shortage of labour creating competition between landlords needing workers to keep their estates going and between trades needing people to keep their trades going having to train outsiders because whole guild families were wiped out.

The advent of true wages being paid by traders encouraged the movement of people from the land into towns and cities, rather than subsistence in exchange for labour. As a result of this change birth rates exploded families having more children who, without land to look after, had to have work. Child labour was as much a part of a town’s economic development as slavery was part of rural life.

Mercantilism

Mercantilism is now used as a word to describe an attempt to create trade imbalances between nations, as well as between colonies and their imperial rulers, so that one nation prospers at the cost of others. The word mercantilism originally meant the principles and method of commerce. Originally each town had vastly different products that became homogenized by demand over time. After the homogenization of products; trade was carried out in wider and wider circles town to town, county to county, province to province, and finally nation to nation. When too many nations were offering similar products for trade the trade took on a competitive edge that was sharpened by strong feelings of nationalism in a continent that was always at war.

During the age of colonialism and mercantilism the nations seeding the world with colonies were not trying to increase their trade. Most colonies were set up with a feudal economic system that meant that raw products were sent back to the country that had created the colony and (for example the case of the American colonies), the colonists being forced to buy back the finished product with a pseudo currency that prevented them trading with other nations.

It was Adam Smith (the father of Economics), who came to the conclusion that Mercantilism was not a force of development and change, but a regressive system that was keeping the world from advancing. His ideas for a free market opened the world to capitalism.

Industrial Capitalism

At the beginning capitalism, and the free market economy, arrived just in time for the Industrial Revolution. As investment was more concentrated in the developments in industrial production at home. Industrial tycoons were the first people in history to amass great financial wealth in their life-times. For the first time in history ordinary people could aspire to be wealthy without being born into it. The new money crowd was as rich as the old money crowd, they had no interest in the status quo. They built more and more factories that employed more and more people, while producing more goods for sale.

The Bottom Line

Industrial Capitalism was the first system to benefit a wider circle of people. The formation of the unions and the glut of affordable products being mass-produced helped wages increase and the standard of life get better. A middle class was formed that the working class could aspire more easily to be part of.

All over the world capitalism has grown beyond pure industrial capitalism. The free market has been held up as being the best commercial system to follow, however?

  • The gap between rich and poor is getting greater – wealth is still held in the top 1% of the world’s population.

  • The constant hunt for more resources and to sell products is creating more war, control, paranoia, fear, suffering than ever before in the history of mankind.

  • There may be a free market in most of the world, however, there is no such thing as a totally open border any more. People are controlled from birth to death.

  • Capitalism creates slavery. Nothing truly increases in value except the value of capital.

  • We are killing life on this planet by industrial over-use, bad extraction methods, of resources without replacement. We are living in a consumer driven society that is over the top. The world’s natural resources are not as wealthy as they once were.

  • Natural Diversity of goods and life-styles is disappearing. The demands of fashion and homogenous goods is impoverishing the natural and human world.

  • The individual aspiration to financial wealth has impoverished their own and community health, wellbeing, life. We live in disoriented, confused, unhealthy isolation and it is getting worse.

  • In the UK at least, we appear to have regressed to a point of using mercantilism and other restrictive practices. Perhaps we never truly moved forward?

  • featured image pyramid of capitalism link
  • you can follow Sandra Marshall on twitter @leithunique

fracking and the death of the green society

So the Tories got there way and marched back in to power this time all on their own to do whatever they please ok it’s a slim majority but with the abstain party in opposition sorry the Labour party it seems they have taken this as a green light to do what they want . Speaking of green we have all read and heard about the cuts to disability to screwing of the Scotland bill or the welfare but what has slipped under the radar is their attack on the green policies.

The Government has all but abolished the flagship green homes scheme which encouraged homeowners to cut down on their energy bills through new boilers insulation as well as other ideas gone and they plan to replace it with well nothing .The Green investment bank often used by Cameron and Osbourne as there card to say they were green friendly is to have 70% of it sold off according to Sajid Javid the business secretary.

Scotland as we know are big fans of onshore wind farms as a way forward but that is also getting axed as Amber Rudd the energy and climate secretary says it should pay for itself and has no future, lovely even though it has attracted a lot of investment and can be the most efficient way of producing low carbon energy. Solar power is for the chop too even though the sector has seen it grow steadily over the last couple of years and don’t mention Tidal power still waiting for Government funding .

So what are we going to do without solar, wind or tidal well the Governments big plan is FRACKING yes fracking the one thing every environmental group says we shouldn’t touch with a barge pole. John Ashton a former special envoy on climate change said “you can be in favour of fracking and you can be in favour of tackling climate change, but you can’t be in favour of both”. New York State banned fracking after a public health commissioner found serious health risks it has even been banned in Denton, Texas known as the birth place of Fracking and if it’s too dangerous for the Americans that’s saying something.

With the media seeming oblivious to the dangers of fracking and the lack of coverage on television the public are still dead against it 43% at last poll where against it and over a quarter of a million people signed a petition against it but still the government want to press ahead. There has even been talk that the Government will relax laws to allow fracking under our national parks which is an utter disgrace. So what can be done well get in touch with your local MP to protest against it or get in touch with any anti fracking groups near you I’m sure you will find them on social media or on the internet. Fracking is a real danger to our environment and our health and as the government is proving they don’t give a damn, the only green they are interested in is your money.

featured image link to Enviroment

A New Wales Dawns…

It’s been a troubled time for the Labour Party since their crushing defeat in May, but things just seem to be going from bad to worse. None more so than here in Wales!

The Welfare Bill that was debated by politicians in the House of Commons late on Monday night romped home with an outstanding victory for the Conservatives, all because of Labour’s ineptitude.

The motion of the Welfare Bill was passed 308-124 and the Conservative welfare changes are going to soon come into effect. Capping welfare and pushing thousands of families who are struggling to barely cope on the breadline, pushing them needlessly down into the despair of poverty.

In Wales, on average one out of every three people in Wales are classified as living in poverty which is some of the highest in the UK and indeed, in Europe. This is an alarming rate of which the Welsh Labour Government seem to be selectively oblivious to. That is when it suits them.

But Monday night’s no-show from Labour MP’s just shows how far from their roots Labour have travelled. To me, it is as though they are now a completely different party, determined to copy the Conservatives every move just to keep up with them.

This white streak from Labour has caused furore on social media as thousands cut up their membership cards at the result. All because Harriet Harman decided that it was the best thing to do.

Many in Wales and the UK have felt betrayed by this stab in the back from Labour who were elected on the context that they will stand up to the Tories. So much for that… Just look at what happened in Scotland.

And that could now very well be the case in Wales when it comes to next year’s National Assembly Elections. Welsh Labour could be in for a very bad night. And rightly so.

Even though Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales and leader of the Welsh Labour Party could have intervened like his counterpart Nicola Sturgeon when it came to lifting the ban on fox hunting, all too predictably, Carwyn simply sat on his hands and stayed silent. What else could he have done?

It just goes to show that the Welsh First Minister has absolutely no control or power when it comes to his Party. Welsh Labour are like a runaway train that is about to crash head on into the ground if they’re not careful.

That’s not to say that all the Labour MP’s did abstain. Some chose to fulfil the job they were elected to do and voted! However, that number was a measly 48. And only 7 of those came from Wales, a Nation which elected 25 Labour MP’s. This proving that dear, old Carwyn has no more power and that Welsh Labour MP’s prefer to obey Westminster 150 miles away than their own ‘Leader’, if he can be called that anymore.

So it’s time we in Wales rolled up our sleeves and got rid of this mess that is Welsh Labour. We deserve better. We need a fresh start. With Labour veering off to the right, someone must now occupy the chasm that has been left by the former ‘people’s party’.

And that now must go to Plaid Cymru. They must expand and occupy this gorge.

They are Wales’ only hope of getting our nation back on our feet and getting our Nation moving forward again. More importantly, they will give us self-belief. Scotland believed in itself back in 2007, now it’s time for us in Wales to do the same.

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Carwyn Jones on tour! Don’t miss out!

Yes he’s realised Wales exists outside Cardiff & Bridgend!

Can you sense the buzz? The excitement! The anticipation! God, I can barely contain my excitement. Many a restless night across Wales recently but not due to the sweltering heat but due to the excitement of…….. the Carwyn Connects tour! Yes, as if you didn’t know, coming to a town near you – your chance to quiz the illustrious First Minister of Wales.

In the bars and pubs across our nation – from north, south, east and west – people are discussing the tour. Across dinner tables and social media – the excitement has reached fever-pitch!

So, the leader of the Welsh branch of British Labour is going on tour – hold on, only two dates announced so far – WRITE THEM IN YOUR DIARY NOW to avoid missing out! My school pupils this morning asked if I’d booked tickets to avoid disappointment.

Carwyn wants to understand the peoples concerns – to be fair Labour have ONLY had 16 years to work them out, 93 years in Llanelli and other seats in the south. By the way the cost of staging each ‘gig’ is estimated at £1,000 and yes, you’ve guessed it – we’re footing the bill!

I will be asking him about Andy Burnham! Burnham admitted knowing while working as Treasury Minister Wales was being underfunded – and did NOTHING. To be fair to him Labour was probably too busy engaged in the Iraq War.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-33283863

In Wales we have a small media – very small, we need to grow a ‘Welsh Fleet Street’ – minus the phone hacking. What doesn’t help is when BBC Wales News acts as a mouthpiece for the Welsh branch of British Labour – announcing the tour dates as the MAIN STORY on the news yesterday morning!

I urge you all to meet Carwyn, quiz him as to why our children live in abject poverty. Quiz him as to why our elderly people live in such poverty. Quiz him as to why his party has ruined our education system. Quiz him as to why he won’t fight for the Welsh national interest. Quiz him as to why his party didn’t secure fair funding for Wales despite 13 years in office in London. Quiz him as to why he described money in the Welsh economy as ‘England’s money’.

The list goes ON AND ON AND ON!

featured image link

and you can read more from Vaughan at his blog click here