Border Politics in North East Wales

Aled R. Roberts AM, The Institute of Welsh Affairs Eisteddfod Lecture, Wrexham and District Eisteddfod 2011

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When we discuss the politics of north-east Wales we need first to define the area to which we are referring. It is a region over which the Welsh and the English have struggled to achieve dominance for centuries.

If you look at old maps of Wales, the north-east is identified as the area of Berfeddwlad lying to the east of the River Conwy. Surprisingly, however, for those of us who live in Wrexham, that area comprised the northern part of Denbighshire and Flintshire and southwards to Mold. The area around Wrexham, or Wriclesham as it was known, was recognised as being under the jurisdiction of the Marcher lords of the borderlands. Nonetheless, since 1536 it has been accepted that Wrexham was part of the old county of Denbighshire and some (including my father in law) still think that areas such as Rhos and the Ceiriog Valley still belong there, as Welsh is stronger. I must admit I don’t agree.

Interestingly, if you were researching this topic on the internet you might have noticed the lecture which was presented at the Wrexham Science Festival about a fortnight ago. This referred to the study undertaken recently by Sheffield University, which seems to question whether the Welsh and the English are the only influences upon this region, as the DNA profile is very different to other parts of Wales and the UK. Their study shows that 30 per cent of the population here share a genetic profile which is similar to that of the Mediterranean, compared with only 1 per cent in other parts of the UK. Perhaps that explains why we are known for our straight talking and independent views. Perhaps we have more in common with the Italians than the rest of Wales!

Most of us, I’m sure, would recognise the former county of Clwyd – that existed between 1974 and 1996 – as defining the area of north-east Wales as we know it today. Its personality and political character was shaped, in the course of the last centuries, by the industrial revolution around the north Wales coalfield. We must remember, for example, that the Bersham Ironworks was founded – about 200 metres from today’s Maes – in 1762. But villages such as Llay were founded as late as the 1920s, with large numbers of their population coming from Kent, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Even in areas that developed to become strongholds of the Welsh language, well known families such as the Tunnahs and the Pembertons came form Cornwall and other parts of England. I well remember my grandmother referring to Rhostyllen, the nearest village to the Maes and where her eldest daughter lived, as Little Wigan. Presumably, this was because so many of the miners at the Bersham colliery came from that particular part of Lancashire in the early part of the last century.

The pattern has been repeated to a certain extent during the last 10 years, with  large numbers arriving from eastern Europe and Portugal in Wrexham and also in Denbighshire and Flintshire. As in the past their arrival has been related to the need for additional workers. To the area’s credit, the cross-party agreement at Wrexham Council for its ‘One Wrexham’ campaign has been seen as a model for community cohesion for the whole of Wales. This recent development creates new challenges to raise understanding of the Welsh language and culture amongst these new arrivals who, in their home countries, were perhaps only aware of the existence of Britain.

This complex pattern may in part explain why attitudes towards devolution remain complex even up to today. I think it’s true to say that, whilst proud of their Welsh identity, the people of this area have also recognised their dependence on the large cities of north west England, if only for their specialist health needs.

It is important that we do not over-generalise, because the character of the north east of Wales is not uniform. The local politics of the present counties of Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire are quite different. If we look back to the referendum of 1997 the results in the three counties were very different with 44 per cent of the population in favour of devolution in Wrexham, 41 per cent in Denbighshire and only 38 per cent in Flintshire.

At both Westminster and Assembly levels, the area is still a stronghold for the Labour Party. It is interesting to note – in the late Tom Ellis’s book, Dan Loriau Maelor – that in 1922, when Robert Richards was elected the party’s first MP for Wrexham, 18 out of 26 members of the Constituency Labour Party were Welsh speakers, three of them being ministers of religion, two lay preachers and at least three deacons. Contrast this with the rather indifferent attitude towards devolution amongst Labour Party members in the north-east, and indeed within my own party, during the last 20 years including the most recent referendum in March.

It is imperative that those of us who are interested in politics consider the role that the area is to play in the new Wales. It is true to say that, since 1997, the political debate about the area’s role has been tame and uninspiring. Many were probably surprised by the results from the north-east in the March referendum. I don’t believe that many in Cardiff would have predicted that 64 per cent of Wrexham voters would favour additional powers for the National Assembly. We must also note that each one of the three counties voted in favour.

But there is still a lack of debate locally over our role in this new Wales. In fact there has been very little political leadership during the last 10 years. We have to all intents accepted the view taken at the centre regarding our role. It may be that this reflects the dominance of the Labour Party in the past. Politically, we all probably agree that the biggest challenge facing the north east is our over-reliance on manufacturing and how we overcome the problem of unemployment which particularly affects our young people. Those same young people face problems of affordability or lack of social housing, as do many in other parts of Wales.

What should be our political response to these issues? As I said, the response has not been developed locally as the policies regarding economic development, planning and housing allocations are based on the Wales Spatial Plan. This is the central strategy of the Welsh Government today and it has been since 2005. Under this plan north Wales was split into two areas – east and west. This formed part of the approach of the Labour Government, and I quote

“… to provide the context and direction of travel for Local Development Plans and the work of the Local Service Boards. Future policies and strategies of the Welsh Assembly Government will be assessed against the Wales Spatial Plan to ensure alignment.”

It is surprising that the Plan was accepted at the time without much debate amongst councillors locally or by our Assembly Members, never mind amongst ordinary citizens. It is also interesting to compare the approach the plan takes towards the other border regions: for mid Wales it talks about building on practical relationships with areas in England; for south-east Wales there is little mention of the border, except in one paragraph regarding cross-border working in the area of economic development with areas such as Bath.

The challenge for politicians in the north-east is to ask whether we continue as reluctant devolutionists or are we ready to mature somewhat? This new politics must deal with our role within a devolved Wales. This is not to say that I want to ignore facts. It is my view that the north-east will continue to enjoy a very close relationship with Cheshire and neighbouring counties in areas such as economic development and transport, and that is why I personally support bodies such as the Mersey-Dee Alliance that have a role to play in these areas.

We cannot pretend that there has been a consistent political approach across the region. It would appear that Flintshire has been ready to accept its role as part of the Liverpool City sub-region, whilst Denbighshire was never considered to be part of the policy. Meanwhile, Wrexham made a political decision in 2007 not to be considered as part of the plan. Let us not forget either that only 51 per cent of the population of Flintshire was born in Wales compared to Wrexham where it is well over 70 per cent. Yet the current policies of the Welsh Government to encourage local authorities to merge or collaborate may stifle the ability of individual areas to reflect local political aspirations.

However, our relationship does need to mature. I believe that our politicians, and I include myself, have not accepted sufficient responsibility. Many of our current views and policies are based on studies and strategies developed by officers and consultants that fail to comprehend many of the post-1999 political realities.

Many current plans are based on the policies of New Labour in the UK and the Welsh Government. The latter accepted the creation of a new economic and planning area called West Cheshire and North East Wales. None of the parties in the Assembly questioned the policy. At the same time the local authorities were being re-organised along the lines of Executive Boards and Planning committees. This required the key local politicians to become detached from the Planning Committees which led to little local challenge of the planning policies.

Many recent developments underline the potential of north-east Wales. As I stated earlier, one of our greatest challenges is the number of our youngsters who are leaving our schools without qualifications or who then decide not to go on to college or university. The establishment of Glyndŵr University with its campuses at Wrexham, Northop in Flintshire and Optic at St Asaph in Denbighshire was a step forward, but once again the lack of vision of some of our politicians created its own problems.

Recently we saw what happens if a simple pan-north Wales approach is taken. University courses in primary education were removed from Glyndŵr and re-located to Bangor. But our close proximity to the border, with more than 90 per cent of the population of Wales living within 50 miles of the border, creates a difficulty. Instead of those students from north-east Wales studying at Bangor, evidence suggests that they chose to study instead at Chester or Liverpool. As far as education is concerned they are lost to Wales.

If we look at the Holtham Report we must acknowledge that the Welsh situation is very different to Scotland: 48 per cent of the Welsh population live within 25 miles of the border and, as I said, 90 per cent within 50 miles. In Scotland only 3 per cent live within 25 miles and 21 per cent live within 50 miles. So cross-border influences are always going to be stronger in Wales.

However, part of the problem for north-east Wales is the lack of recognised institutions within the region. The result is that our collaboration has tended to develop across the border to the east rather than westwards. Economically we have a Chamber of Commerce which covers west Cheshire and north Wales. This raises issues as to whether the current arrangements can respond to the skills, infrastructure and business support agendas as they develop differently on both sides of the border. This will be particularly the case when the political colour of the governments on each side of the border is different.

There is a need, therefore, for a mature cross-border relationship in areas such as health that take into account the possibility that political direction on each side of the border may differ. It is the responsibility of the politicians to define the nature of this new more mature relationship.

Is it practical to develop separate north Wales arrangements in every case? Are north Wales patients to be expected to attend a Welsh facility in the south? Isn’t the reality that patients will always have to travel across the border for specialist services in, say, Liverpool? I can’t imagine a situation where, because of political ideology, a patient from Wrexham would be forced to go to Cardiff for specialist health services.

As we consider this new role for north-east Wales we must be aware of the need for there to be more effective engagement between local politicians and their Assembly colleagues. We need to define precisely the position that we take here in north-east Wales. It isn’t necessarily a choice between facing westwards or eastwards. My belief is that it is imperative that our area continues to develop its relationship with services in the north-west of England, especially when there an insufficient critical mass of population in north Wales alone.

But in a mature relationship is it acceptable for north-east Wales to have to assume the burden of housing development in order to protect West Cheshire’s green belt? Consultations across the whole of north Wales have shown that our residents are not in favour of continuing with the pace of development seen over the last 20 years. It will be necessary for the politicians in Cardiff to re-think their strategies if they expect the north-east to play its full part in devolution.

This is not a call for us to break our links with the north-west of England, but I do think we need to re-consider the effects of creating a cross-border sub-region which then determines the framework in which Welsh local authorities and the Welsh Government operate.

Some of this work has already begun. It is difficult for us to develop arrangements for north-west Wales and north-east Wales separately. However, whilst developing these arrangements, we must have regard to the different circumstances of the two areas. We should re-consider the approach undertaken by the Wales Spatial Plan. Perhaps we should look at models such as the North Wales School Improvement Service that acknowledges these differences without suggesting that the future for north-east Wales lies with ever closer ties over the border.

This approach allows different policy approaches to reflect different circumstances. The challenge, politically, is to define the governance arrangements so that the structures are answerable to the local population and its elected representatives. This will be a considerable challenge as we face the prospect of an elected Police Commissioner for North Wales and the arrangements regarding the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

It is my belief that the traditional strength of the Labour Party in north-east Wales has created a problem of accountability. We must resist the temptation to centralise power in Cardiff so that the people of north east Wales can feel that they have real influence in the development of their role within the new Wales.

Gwleidyddiaeth y Gororau yng Ngogledd Ddwyrain Cymru

Sefydliad Materion Cymreig

Darlith yr Eisteddfod

Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Wrecsam a’r Fro 2011

Aled R. Roberts AC Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru, Gogledd Cymru, a chyn-Arweinydd Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Wrecsam

Wrth sôn am wleidyddiaeth yn y Gogledd Ddwyrain mae’n rhaid diffinio’r ardal rydym yn sôn amdani yn y lle cyntaf. Mae hon yn ardal gymhleth lle bu’r Cymry a’r Saeson yn ymladd i oresgyn eu gilydd am ganrifoedd.

Os edrychwch ar hen fapiau o Gymru mae’r Gogledd Ddwyrain yn cael ei adnabod fel ardal yr hen Berfeddwlad i’r dwyrain o’r afon Conwy. Ond, er mawr syndod i ni sy’n byw yma yn Wrecsam, ardal yn cynnwys gogledd Sir Ddinbych a hen Sir Fflint ceir yma i lawr at gyffiniau’r Wyddgrug. Bu i’r ardal o gwmpas Wrecsam – neu Wriclesham fel y gelwir – gael ei nodi fel ardal roedd dan ddylanwad arglwyddi Sir Amwythig ar y pryd. Ond ers 1536 fe dderbyniwyd bod ardal Wrecsam yn rhan o’r hen Sir Ddinbych. I ddweud y gwir mae rhai (yn cynnwys fy nhad yng nghyfraith) yn mynnu dylai Rhos a Dyffryn Ceiriog barhau i berthyn i Sir Ddinbych, am fod y sir yna yn fwy cefnogol i’r Gymraeg. Tydw i ddim yn cytuno efo fo!

Wrth gwrs, os ydych wedi bod yn astudio’r gogledd ddwyrain ar y we yn ddiweddar, hwyrach eich bod wedi sylwi ar y ddarlith a draddodwyd yng Ngwyl Wyddoniaeth Wrecsam rhyw bythefnos yn ol. Mae’r astudiaeth a gyhoeddwyd yn ddiweddar gan Brifysgol Sheffield yn gofyn ai’r Cymry a’r Saeson yw’r  unig ddylanwad ar y gogledd ddwyrain, am fod proffil yr ardal yn wahanol iawn i bob rhan arall o Gymru a Phrydain. Mae rhyw 30 y cant o’r boblogaeth yn rhannu genetau sydd yn gyffredin o gwmpas Mor y Canoldir, i gymharu a tua un y cant ym mhob ardal arall o’r Deyrnas Unedig. Felly hwyrach bod na esboniad pam yr ydym yn eitha pendant ein barn yn yr ardal yma – yn fwy tebyg i Eidalwyr na’r Cymry cyffredin.

Mae’n debyg bod y rhan fwyaf ohonom yn diffinio’r gogledd ddwyrain yn ôl yr hen Sir Clwyd a fu’n bodoli rhwng 1974 a 1996. Mae gwleidyddiaeth a phersonoliaeth yr ardal yn ystod y canrifoedd diweddar yn seiliedig ar y chwyldro diwydiannol o gwmpas maes glo’r gogledd. Cofiwn bod gwaith haearn y Bers  wedi ei sefydlu – tua 200 metr o’r Maes – yn 1762. Yn ardal Wrecsam ei hun fe sefydlwyd pentrefi fel Llai yn ystod 20au’r ganrif diwethaf gyda’r mwyafrif o’r boblogaeth yn dod o Gaint, Caerhirfryn a Swydd Efrog.

Hyd yn oed o fewn pentrefi  sydd erbyn hyn yn gadarnleoedd i’r Gymraeg – fel Rhos – mae nifer o’r teuluoedd fel y Tunnahs, a’r Pembertons yn hannu o Gernyw ac ardaloedd eraill yn Lloegr. Bu fy Nain am flynyddoedd yn son am Rhostyllen – y pentref agosaf at y Maes – fel  Little Wigan achos fod cymaint o’r gweithwyr ym mhwll Glanrafon wedi dod yma o ardal Wigan yn nechrau’r ugeinfed ganrif.

Yn ystod y deg mlynedd diwethaf mae’r patrwm yma wedi ei ddilyn i ryw raddau unwaith eto gyda’r mewnlifiad o ddwyrain Ewrop a Phortiwgal, yn arbennig yn Wrecsam ac i raddau llai yn siroedd y Fflint a Dinbych. Fel yn y gorffennol, roeddent yn ymateb i’r galw am weithwyr yn yr ardal. Mae rhaglen traws-bleidiol Cyngor Wrecsam, ‘Un Wrecsam’, yn cael ei ystyried yn un arloesol yng Nghymru. Mae hyn, wrth gwrs, yn creu sialens i sefydliadau Cymreig megis yr Eisteddfod:  sut i ymestyn dealltwriaeth o’r Gymraeg a’n hetifeddiaeth i newydd-ddyfodiaid sydd, hyd yma, wedi bod yn ymwybodol o’r gyfundrefn Brydeinig yn unig.

Mae’r cefndir yma yn esbonio pam fod agweddau pobl yn y gogledd ddwyrain tuag at datganoli wedi bod yn eitha cymhleth hyd. Mae’n wir dweud hyd at yn ddiweddar bod pobl y ffin yn sicr iawn o’u Cymreicdod ond yn cydnabod hefyd eu dibynniaeth ar rhai o drefi mawr Gogledd Orllewin Lloegr, yn arbennig o ran ysbytai arbennigol ag ati.

Ond rhaid i ni beidio gor-gyffredinoli a chymeryd fod pob rhan o’r gogledd ddwyrain yr un fath. Mae patrwm gwleidyddiaeth lleol  siroedd Wrecsam, Fflint a Dinbych yn eitha gwahanol. Cofiwn refferendwm 1997,  lle bu’r bleidlais yn eitha gwahanol yn y tair sir: 44 y cant o blaid yn Wrecsam, 41 y cant o blaid yn Sir Ddinbych a dim ond 38 y cant o blaid yn Sir y Fflint.

Hyd heddiw mae’r tair sir yn gadarnleoedd i’r Blaid Lafur o ran y Cynulliad a San Steffan. Mae’n ddiddorol nodi – yn llyfr y diweddar Tom Ellis,  Ar Loriau Maelor – fod 18 o 26 aelod o bwyllgor Plaid Lafur Wrecsam – a ffurfiwyd yn 1922 pan gipiodd Robert Richards y sedd am y tro cyntaf – yn Gymry Cymraeg, tri ohonynt yn weinidogion yr Efengyl, dau yn bregethwyr cynorthwyol ac o leiaf tri yn ddiaconiaid. Ond eto, digon llugoer bu’r ymdrechion dros datganoli gan aelodau’r Blaid Lafur, ac yn wir gan fy mhlaid fy hun, yn yr ardal yn ystod yr ugain mlynedd diwethaf, yn cynnwys pleidlais mis Mawrth eleni.

Mae’n amser i’r rheini sydd yn ymddiddori mewn gwleidyddiaeth yn yr ardal ystyried rôl yr ardal yn y Gymru newydd sydd ohoni. Ers 1997 bu’r  drafodaeth wleidyddol yn yr ardal yma yn eitha di-ddim a di-fflach o ran ein cyfraniad o fewn y Gymru newydd. Mae’n wir dweud bod nifer wedi eu synnu efo canlyniadau’r gogledd ddwyrain y refferendwm mis Mawrth dros bwerau ychwanegol. Prin bod y mwyafrif o newyddiadurwyr yng Nghaerdydd wedi disgwyl pleidlais o 64 y cant yn cefnogi’r syniad yn Wrecsam. Ond mae’n bwysig hefyd cofio bod pob un o siroedd yr ardal wedi bod o blaid y newid.

Er hynny, mae diffyg trafodaeth leol ynglyn a lle y gogledd ddwyrain yn y Gymru newydd. Ychydig iawn o arweiniad gwleidyddol a welwyd yn ystod y ddegawd diwethaf. Yn rhy aml mae’r ardal wedi derbyn arweiniad ynglyn a’i rôl o’r canol – o’r tu allan, efallai yn adlewyrchu y ffaith taw’r Blaid Lafur a fu mewn grym yma am gymaint o flynyddoedd.

Mae’n debyg mae’r her fwyaf sydd yn wynebu’r ardal yw yr or-ddibynniaeth ar waith cynhyrchu, a sut mae’r ardal yn mynd i oresgyn problemau diweithdra, yn arbennig ymysg ein hieuenctid. Mae’r plant a pobl ifainc hynny yn wynebu problemau o fethu fforddio prynu tai o fewn yr ardaloedd lle eu magwyd, yr un problemau yn wir sydd yn gwynebu llawer iawn o ardaloedd ein gwlad.

Ond beth ddylai’r ymateb wleidyddol fod i’r sialensau hyn? Yn anffodus, nid ateb lleol a geir hyd hyn. Fel pob rhan arall o Gymru mae polisiau datblygu economaidd, cynllunio a darpariaeth tai yn seiliedig ar Gynllun Gofodol Cymru (Wales Spatial Plan). Dyma strategaeth ganolog Llywodraeth Cymru  ers 2005, ac hyd heddiw. Dyma strategaeth lle rhannwyd y gogledd yn ddwy ran – y gogledd ddwyrain a’r gogledd orllewin.

Bwriad y cynllun, yn ôl y Llywodraeth Lafur ar y pryd, ac rwy’n dyfynnu oedd:

“to provide the context and direction of travel for Local Development Plans and the work of the Local Service Boards. Future policies and strategies of the Welsh Assembly Government will be assessed against the Wales Spatial Plan to ensure alignment.”

Mae’n syndod bod y Cynllun wedi ei gymeradwyo ar y pryd heb fawr o drafod ymysg cynghorwyr lleol nac ymhlith ein Aelodau o’r Cynulliad, heb sôn am ymysg bobl leol. Mae’n ddiddorol hefyd cymharu’r gwahanol agweddau o fewn y rhanbarthau ar y ffin: ynglyn a chanoldir Cymru mae’n sôn am adeiladu ar y cyd-weithio effeithiol efo ardaloedd yn Lloegr; ond pan yn trafod De Ddwyrain Cymru mae bron dim sôn am y ffin, heblaw am un paragraff am gyd-weithio o ran datblygu economiadd efo ardal Caerfaddon.

Mae’n amser felly i ni, fel gwleidyddion yn y gogledd ddwyrain, benderfynu os mae datganolwyr amharod ydym, neu os ydan ni’n barod i aeddfedu rhywfaint. Fe fydd rhaid i’r wleidyddiaeth newydd yma ddelio efo rôl yr ardal yn y Gymru ddatganoledig. Peidied neb a meddwl fy mod yn diystyrru ffeithiau. Mae’n glir bydd y gogledd ddwyrain yn parhau i fanteisio ar berthynas agos, o ran datblygiad economaidd, efo swydd Caer – a dyna pam fy mod yn gwerthfawrogi mudiadau megis Cynghrair y Merswy a Dyfrdwy.

Nid yw’r farn yn gyson ar draws y rhanbarth chwaith. Mae Sir Fflint yn ymddangos yn fodlon yn wleidyddol i gael ei hystyried yn ran o is-ranbarth dinesig Lerpwl o ran cynllunio a datblygu economaidd, er ni fu i Sir Ddinbych gael ei gynnwys yn rhan o’r is-rhanbarth o’r dechrau, tra bod Wrecsam wedi gwrthod cael ei ystyried fel rhan o’r cynlluniau ers 2007. Nac anghofiwn mae dim ond 51 y cant o boblogaeth Sir Fflint erbyn hyn a anwyd yng Nghymru, tra bod dros 80 y cant o boblogaeth Wrecsam wedi eu geni yng Nghymru. Y peryg yw bod cynlluniau Llywodraeth Cymru i wthio cynghorau i uno neu gyd-weithio yn mynd i olygu bydd ardaloedd unigol yn methu dilyn ei dyheadau arbennig eu hun.

Nid yw’r berthynas wleidyddol bresennol yn un aeddfed. Nid yw gwleidyddion y gogledd ddwyrain, a dwi’n cynnwys fy hun yn hyn, wedi dangos cyfrifoldeb digonol. Mae ein polisiau o ran cynllunio a datblygu economaidd yn seiliedig ar astudiaethau sydd wedi eu paratoi gan swyddogion ac ymgynghorwyr sydd yn methu deal y sefyllfa newydd sy’n bodoli ers y datganoli yn 1999.

Mae’r cynlluniau presennol wedi ei sefydlu yn ôl polisiau Llafur Newydd ym Mhrydain a Llywodraeth y Cynulliad. Cytunodd Llywodraeth Cymru a’r awgrym i greu is-ranbarth economaidd a chynllunio o dan yr enw Gorllewin Swydd Caer a Gogledd Ddwyrain Cymru. Methodd pob plaid o fewn y Cynulliad gwestiynnu’r cynllun ar y pryd. Ar yr un adeg bu i’r cynghorau yng Nghymru cael eu ail-drefnu, a chrewyd Byrddau Rheoli a Phwyllgorau Cynllunio. Bu rhaid i’r gwleidyddion blaengar o fewn y cynghorau unigol gadw draw o’r Pwyllgorau Cynllunio a phrin iawn bu’r herio ar y polisiau cynllunio.

Mai nifer o ddatblygiadau diweddar yn tanlinellu potensial y gogledd ddwyrain. Un o’r sialensau mwyaf, fel y dywedais eisoes, yw y nifer o’n ieuenctid sy’n gadael ysgol heb unrhyw fath o gymwyster, neu y rhai hynny sydd yn penderfynnu peidio mynd i goleg neu brifysgol. Mae dyfodiad Prifysgol Glyndwr gyda’i tri campws yn Wrecsam , Llaneurgain (Sir Fflint) a Llanelwy (Sir Ddinbych) yn creu posibiliadau, ond eto mae diffyg gweledigaeth ein gwleidyddion yn creu sialensau hefyd.

Yn ddiweddar gwelwyd canlyniadau mabwysiadu agwedd or-syml at broblemau gogledd Cymru. Fe gollwyd cyrsiau addysg cynnar yng Nglyndwr a’i hail-leoli ym Mangor. Ymateb traws-ogleddol medd Llywodraeth Cymru. Ond mae ein agosrwydd at y ffin, gyda 90 y cant o’r boblogaeth yn byw o fewn 50 milltir o’r ffin, yn creu anhawster. Mae tystiolaeth yn dangos bod myfyrwyr o’r gogledd ddwyrain, yn lle symud i Fangor, yn mynychu cyrsiau yng Nghaer neu Lerpwl ac yn cael eu colli i addysg Cymru.

Yn ol adroddiad Holtham mae’n rhaid cydnabod y gwahaniaeth rhwng y sefyllfa yn yr Alban ac yng Nghymru. Mae 48 y cant o’n poblogaeth ni yn byw o fewn 25 milltir i’r ffin a 90 y cant o fewn 50 milltir. Yn yr Alban dim ond tri y cant sydd yn byw o fewn 25 milltir a 21 y cant o fewn 50 milltir, felly mae’r dylanwad traws-ffiniol yn sicr mynd i fod yn gryfach yma.

Yn yr un modd mae’r diffyg sefydliadau o fewn y rhanbarth yn creu sefyllfa sy’n golygu fod cyd-weithio yn ymestyn i’r dwyrain, ar draws y ffin, yn hytrach nag i’r gorllewin. Yn economaidd, cofiwn mae Siambr Fasnach dros Orllewin Swydd Caer a Gogledd Cymru sydd gennym. Mae’r sefyllfa hyn yn codi cwestiwn ynglyn a’n gallu i ymateb yn effeithiol i gyfundrefn sgiliau, is-adeiladwaith a chefnogaeth i fusnes, sydd eisoes yn wahanol ar y ddwy ochr i’r ffin, ac fydd yn pellhau ymhellach wrth inni gael llywodraeth o liw a natur gwahanol yng Nghaerdydd a Llundain.

Wrth i’r llywodraethau ddilyn llwybrau hollol gwahanol mewn meysydd fel iechyd, bydd angen perthynas aeddfed ar ddwy ochr y ffin. Mae’n bryd i’r gwleidyddion ddiffinio sut mae’r gogledd ddwyrain, ac yn wir y gogledd yn gyfangwbl, mynd i ddelio efo trefniadau hollol gwahanol ar ddwy ochr y ffin. Ydi hi’n ymarferol i greu gwasanaethau ar gyfer y gogledd yn unig, a disgwyl i gleifion o’r gogledd ddibynnu ar wasanethau Cymreig sydd wedi eu sefydlu yn y de? Claf o Wrecsam yn gorfod mynychu ysbyty arbenigol yng Nghaerdydd? Onid ydi hi’n fwy ymarferol i’r claf fynd ar draws y ffin i Lerpwl?

Wrth ystyried rôl y Gogledd Ddwyrain yn y Gymru newydd fe fydd cyfrifoldeb arnom fel gwleidyddion i wella’r drafodaeth rhwng cynrychiolwyr lleol ar y cynghorau sir ar yr un llaw, ac Aelodau’r Cynulliad ar y llaw arall. Fe ddylem ddiffinio yn union be ydi safbwynt y gogledd ddwyrain. Nid mater syml o ddewis rhwng y gorllewin a’r dwyrain sydd yma. Mae’n angenrheidiol bod y Gogledd yn parhau i ddatblygu perthynas clos efo rhai gwasanaethau yn LLoegr pan nad oes poblogaeth digonol yn y Gogledd ei hun.

Ar y llaw arall, fel rhan o’r berthynas yma, ac er mwyn cynnal gwasanaeth i’w phobl, ydi o’n dderbyniol i ogledd ddwyrain Cymru gymeryd y baich dros ddatblygiadau tai er mwyn diogelu ‘green belt’ swydd Caer? Mae’r ymgynghoriad ar draws holl siroedd gogledd Cymru yn dangos anfodlonrwydd gyda maint y datblygiadau. Mae pob sir yn y Gogledd Ddwyrain yn awyddus i dorri nôl ar raddfa datblygu yn y dyfodol.

Os yw gwleidyddion Caerdydd yn awyddus i’r ardal hon gymeryd mwy o ddiddordeb yn ein datblygiad fel gwlad bydd rhaid iddynt ail-feddwl ei strategaeth. Nid galwad am dorri cysylltiadau efo siroedd Lloegr yw hwn ond galw am ail-ystyried y strategaeth o greu is-ranbarth traws-ffiniol sydd yn gosod  fframwaith ar gyfer polisiau’r Cynulliad ac awdurdodau lleol Cymreig.

Mae rhan o’r gwaith yma eisoes wedi dechrau. Mae’n anodd datblygu cyfundrefnau ar gyfer y gogledd ddwyrain a’r gogledd orllewin ar wahan, ond wrth inni fynd ymlaen bydd rhaid inni  ystyried y gwahaniaeth yn y diwylliant rhwng y ddwy rhanbarth. Nid yr ateb a gafwyd yn  y Wales Spatial Plan yw’r un iawn. Dylid ystyried modelau megis y cynllun dros Wasanaeth Gwella Addysg yn y Gogledd, fel model sy’n cydnabod y gwahaniaethau heb osod y gogledd ddwyrain yn orfodol mewn perthynas efo siroedd cyfagos yn Lloegr.

Er mwyn cydweithio ar draws y gogledd ni ddylid cael un polisi ieithyddol a diwylliannol sydd yn ymateb i ofynion y gorllewin a’r dwyrain.  Mae’n rhaid i’r gwasanaethau rhanbarthol yma adlewyrchu gofynion gwahanol y gogledd ddwyrain trwy fod yn atebol i bobl leol a’u cynrychiolwyr etholedig. Dyma’r sialens i ni, wrth i ni symud tuag at Gomisiynydd yr Heddlu i’r Gogledd ac i sefydliadau eraill megis Bwrdd Iechyd Betsi Cadwaladr.

Mae rhaid cydnabod hefyd bod cryfder y Blaid Lafur yn draddodiadol wedi gwneud atebolrwydd yn fwy anodd. Wrth i ni symud tuag at y trefniadau newydd mae’n ofynnol iddynt ymwrthod a’r duedd i ganoli grym yng Nghaerdydd ac, yn hytrach, gwneud i bobl y Gogledd Ddwyrain deimlo bod ganddynt wir ddylanwad ar ddyfodol y Gymru newydd.

Aled R. Roberts is the Welsh Liberal Democrat AM for North Wales and former Leader of Wrexham County Borough Council

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