Wales needs second industrial revolution

Elin Jones sets out her vision in her bid to become leader of Plaid Cymru

Wales is a nation. It has a capital city, a Parliament and a Government. It has a border, an anthem and two official languages. It has national sports teams, a National Museum, Library, Opera and Poet. And yet, it has no seat in the European Union or United Nations. Its Government can legislate only on a limited range of issues and can raise no taxes. It has no separate legal jurisdiction. In this quandary exists 21st century Wales: a nation in all but power and status, a nation but not a nation state.

In my view, this nation can be so much more. It can be a nation state in its own right. Its economic potential has remained stifled and untapped. As a people, we should not accept the inevitability of poverty, as promoted by our political opponents. Our economic weakness is as a direct consequence of 40 years of UK economic policy having paid no attention to the plight of the Welsh economy and basing economic growth on the financial sectors of south-east England. It is time for economic and fiscal levers to be vested with Welsh Government, and Welsh Government needs to promote an imaginative Economic Plan for Wales. By unleashing the talent of our small businesses and workers, the Welsh economy can flourish.

Our abundant natural resources should be exploited fully for the benefit of the Welsh people and our economy. Increasing our renewable energy and food production would contribute to national self-sufficiency in a volatile world needing to reduce dramatically its dependence on carbon. Now is the time for our nation’s second industrial revolution – based again on our natural resources, but, this time, exploited for our own benefit, not for the benefit of others. Decisions on our energy, water, land and sea should be made in our Welsh Parliament.

A stronger economy can maintain a strong public service, to better educate and care for our people. Aneurin Bevan’s British NHS has ceased to exist. Fragmentation and privatisation of the NHS in England over the past 15 years has wholly undermined the NHS in that country. However, Aneurin Bevan’s NHS must continue to thrive in Wales, its birthplace.  Our NHS must treat and care for all our citizens for free, for public gain and not private profit, and at the time and place of need.

Wales needs to provide our children with a modern high standard of education. It must provide all our children with the basic skills required for 21st century life and employment, and it must provide the challenge for our children and young people to reach their full potential.

As we work to build a fairer, more prosperous society in Wales, we can seek to increase the prosperity of all, but we must commit to reducing the income gap between the richest and poorest in society.  That income gap has become wider under successive Tory and Labour UK Governments. We must support a progressive tax system that redistributes wealth from the most well-off to the least well-off.  Taxes based on income and the ability to pay are the fairest form of taxation, and we must not be shy to promote a progressive tax system.  Too many of our children are brought up in poverty. We cannot allow another generation of children’s life chances to be stifled by the poverty of their upbringing – it hinders the individual, the economy and society.

Both official languages in Wales should flourish side by side and we must enhance our education system to grow our numbers of Welsh-speakers.  We have not yet secured the future of our Welsh language, and our actions must continue to support its growth and re-invigoration. We can enable our citizens to use their bilingualism as a stepping stone to multi-lingualism and an understanding of the richness of European and global linguistic diversity. We can use our country’s varied environment and rich heritage to inspire our communal aspiration to protect our planet’s future and to sustain its plural cultures and identities.

Our greatest asset is our people. Their decisions shape our future and their democratic will – and theirs alone – will decide our nation’s fate.

Plaid Cymru members in our everyday lives and in our political actions are continuing to build our nation. However, as we near the marking of the 500th anniversary of the passing of the first Act of Union in 1536, we must re-double our efforts. In this Leadership election, and for the next 25 years, I pledge to re-double my efforts.

In 25 years time, in 2036, our nation must not still be dependent on a Westminster Government, whose devolution of power to Wales is limited and whose economic and social policies ignore the needs and values of Wales.  We can break the ties of 1536 and become a nation state in our own right – of equal status with England and Scotland, with open borders and free movement of people and trade. A partnership of nations, working alongside each other and with others in the European Union and the world.

Elin Jones is AM for Ceredigion. This article is taken from her leadership campaign website which was launched yesterday

10 thoughts on “Wales needs second industrial revolution

  1. @ Jeff: I’d have thought Elin’s call for the Welsh parliament to take control of Wales’ energy, water and sea resources was quite beefy to start with, although I’d have preferred to see her adding the armed forces to the list.

  2. There’s a bit of a problem with this: “We can enable our citizens to use their bilingualism as a stepping stone to multi-lingualism and an understanding of the richness of European and global linguistic diversity.”

    All the indications are that our “bilingualism” has the opposite effect to what Elin envisages. During the time that Wales has had compulsory Welsh language lessons in schools the percentage of pupils taking a modern foreign language at GCSE has fallen;

    ” •The percentage of 15 year olds entering at least one GCSE in a modern foreign language has fallen each year, from 41 per cent in 1999 to 28 per cent in 2007.” That is from a study in 2007. This year’s results show that 25% of pupils (or less depending on how many took 2 MFLs) entered a modern foreign language GCSE in Wales. In England the rate is a (still very poor) 40% this year but already the “English Bacc” is persuading schools to push more pupils into taking a MFL exam.

    Thanks to Culture and Language Nationalism Wales won’t be talking to the World……only to Gwynedd.

  3. One must agree that compulsory Welsh in English medium secondary schools seems pointless the way it is taught. I have yet to meet an English-speaking kid who could string two Welsh sentences together even after ten years of supposed compulsory Welsh. It can’t be taken seriously by pupils or teachers. It is to be hoped that teaching in other subjects is better, though PISA results suggest the hope is vain.
    Bilingualism is impossible when so many of the Welsh have Sion Jones’ attitude that the language is a burden rather than a birthright. Smaller linguistic communities like the Icelanders and the Maltese would not dream of abandoning their language despite all speaking English but then they have more self-respect.
    Elin Jones’ belief that genuine bilingualism favours multilingualism has plenty of academic and other support – look at the Swiss – But given the crappy schools in Wales we can’t get over the first hurdle.

  4. There is much academic and other evidence that bilingualism fosters multilingualism – look at Switzerland. What are the language results of Welsh medium schools like I wonder? But there is no bilingualism in English-medium schools in Wales. I have never met a kid from an English-speaking home who can string two sentences together in Welsh after ten years of compulsory Welsh lessons. I don’t know what they do in those lessons but evidently neither teachers nor pupils take them seriously and indeed they might as well be dropped. Given the apparent standard of teaching I would not expect however that dropping Welsh would necessarily lead to competence in anything else.

  5. Well I can answer part of your question R.Tredwyn; “What are the language results of Welsh medium schools like I wonder?”
    Estyn undertook a study in 2004 which looked at relative uptake of Modern Foreign Languages in Welsh medium and English Medium schools. The uptake of languages overall followed the percentage of pupils on Free school Meals, that is, schools with low percentages on FSMs had higher uptake of MFLs. When WM schools were looked at in isolation it was found that they had a lower percentage of pupils taking MFLs. I checked this last year looking at benchmarked schools with less than 10% on FSMs; Welsh medium schools had 27% of pupils taking a MFL. EM schools at the same benchmark had 38% taking a MFL. The number of pupils getting A*-C was slightly higher in the WM schools as you would expect given the low number taking the subject.

  6. Thank you Mr Jones. Interesting and slightly depressing news about Welsh medium schools. It seems that if bilingualism does confer potential advantages in learning other languages, which I believe, then our Welsh-speaking youngsters are not taking advantage of it. How much higher is “slightly” by the way?
    On the other hand you appear to have partly resolved the puzzle about low uptake of languages in English-medium schools. Apparently once you correct for deprivation as indicated by FSMs 38 per cent take a modern language, not significantly different from the 41 per cent in England. Could poverty rather than linguistic imposition be the main reason for lower language uptake in Wales? Anyway, I would not use that to justify the current policy which is clearly failing to communicate interest or competence in Welsh so taking up time for nothing.
    By the way, what proprotion of children in English-language schools do get any qualification in Welsh?

  7. R.Tredwyn; “How much is slightly?” It depends on the particular MFL and how you compare; A* and A or A*-C but I would have to go back and find the figures to give you a completely accurate figure but I remember that WM schools had better figures in Spanish but produced fewer A* in French than EM schools. A*-C is a confusing measure because 50% at A can look equivalent to no As or Bs but 50% at C. What I did in the end was to add together the results for all MFLs and allocate points at each grade as they do for GCSE points scores. This gave WM schools a superior overall tally but there wasn’t much in it. However if few pupils are taking a particular subject it’s reasonable to suppose that those pupils are outstanding in that subject; the more pupils take it the lower down the scale of ability you travel.

    As for comparison with England; England is less deprived over all but nowhere near the “less than 10% on FSMs” which would be the elite schools both in Wales and England. At this benchmark in England I would expect that many more than 41% would take MFLs.
    This year I looked at comparative figures for EM and WM schools at KS3, that is before pupils “drop” subjects leading up to GCSE at KS4. Over all subjects at each comparable benchmark (ie 2% to 18%) EM schools did better than WM schools in 39 subject comparisons, WM schools did better than EM schools in 11 subject comparisons and in 10 EM and WM were equal. (12 subjects x 5 benchmarks). WM schools were behind the EM schools in ALL core subjects except two instances where they were equal but in MFLs WM schools were better at 3 out of five benchmarks.

    The problem seems to be that in WM schools MFLs are dropped for GCSE.

  8. 33% of pupils took GCSE second language from all schools (11,448). 5,233 took Welsh first language from all schools. 95.6% of GCSE candidates took English Language.

    Welsh second langauge is about as much practical use as a chocolate fireguard. 407 pupils took Welsh second language at A level.

  9. Language (Welsh) and schools doing the right thing for children are vexed and hugely important subjects. Sion and R. Tredwyn (above) clearly wanting the same thing, are arguing about the causes of failure.
    The risks in the argument are: blaming WM is emotive. The language needs protection, what to do? What world and jobs should we prepare children for? Competing on the global market for receding numbers of jobs is musical chairs with no music. Loosers alley. Preparing for a decentralised self-reliance based economy and society is more realistic, and ultimately the only option. Recognising this changes everything.
    Which does not remove the need for MFLs or the need to protect Welsh, or issues of school failures, it just changes the context dramatically.
    I hope the debate can start from sharing the issues we agree on – common ground, and build up creative solutions rather than digging under each other in the search for who or what to blame.
    I do recognise that teaching Welsh in secondary schools isnt working well, the lessons are opportunities for kids to mess around all too often. The WMschool near me is doing well compared to others, it was the only one getting a ‘1’ rating in the county in the recent league table thingie, a school of choice. Mature debate os gwelwch yn dda.
    My feeling is that the destiny of the language of Wales is to come, the job is to keep it alive for this time. When is impossible to predict, the variables are too many and too wild. It could be a tool to help us emerge from breakdown.

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