Leanne Wood says alarm bells should be ringing at the poor financial deal Wales is getting from Whitehall
Wales is facing a day of reckoning when it comes to our finances. With cuts to public services and the UK-wide double dip recession as a backdrop, the replacement of the Barnett Formula must now take on a new urgency. This is no longer a stale constitutional issue, if indeed it ever was. Access to fair treatment by the UK Treasury would provide Wales with resources that could be used to address some of the multiple challenges our nation faces. Plaid Cymru is developing a new consensus in the Senedd to develop Wales’ economy through investment not austerity.
|Look out for a brand new column by Positif Politics Managing Director Darran Hill on ClickonWales on Monday|
Plaid Cymru has consistently been in the vanguard of constitutional change in Wales. Commentary and analysis rightly focuses on the ‘coming of age’ moment secured by my predecessor Ieuan Wyn Jones when he achieved the successful referendum on law-making powers.
We should also not forget also the important work of the Holtham Commission. However, the Unionist parties do not have the political will to see immediate results from Holtham’s work. The Commission has set the scene for Wales to be treated fairly, as a matter of justice and equality, to give us the base upon which we could also take responsibility for our own finances and taxation powers. If it wasn’t for Plaid Cymru insisting that the Holtham Commission should be established, today’s intergovernmental talks would be unlikely to be taking place at all. The question of borrowing powers and the Silk Commission would also not be so high up on the agenda.
The Holtham Commission estimated the relative needs of Wales to be at 115 per cent of those of England for 2010-11. On that basis the Commission made a further estimation, that for 2010-11 the shortfall in funding for Wales would be around £400m. The Commission’s estimate has been widely accepted. Crucially, the Commission did this work before the Treasury’s 2011 Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses (PESA) had been released. These up to date statistics show that the situation is now even worse. The level of underfunding looks closer now to £540 million.
The Treasury outturn figures for 2010-11 show that total identifiable public expenditure was £9,829 per head in Wales, compared to £8,588 per head in England. After removing social protection spending (£4,175 per head in Wales) and an estimate of the above-Barnett EU convergence funds for Wales, we end up with devolved spending figures for £5,500 per head in Wales and £5,001 per head in England. This shows that Welsh funding is closer to 111 per cent when compared to England, rather than 112 per cent as Holtham estimated. Assuming Wales’s relative needs have not significantly changed, we can see the true scale of underfunding that needs to be addressed.
Plaid Cymru constantly checks new Treasury statistical releases. We are indebted to party members who have expertise in this area. A special thanks must go to Eurfyl ap Gwilym but our intellectual commitment to Welsh finances goes back to the work of Dr Phil Williams who proved the inefficiency of the Barnett Formula long before it was fashionable to call for its reform. It was the joint efforts of Phil, Eurfyl ap Gwilym, and Dafydd Wigley among others that made the first ever case for a dedicated economic development agency for Wales. Their contribution led to the setting up of the Welsh Development Agency.
This year we are establishing a major Economic Commission. We are renewing our commitment to a successful future Welsh economy, with a significant programme of engagement with business and enterprise in Wales. Over the next few years we will be producing imaginative and bold ideas aimed at reviving the economy and turning around our fortunes. I’m sure that many of those ideas will genuinely surprise people. Some of our ideas will require some form of intelligent and strategic public investment, which is why ensuring fair funding is such an essential task.
What then is the way forward? The Holtham Commission, which we established as part of the One Wales programme of government, envisioned a Barnett Floor as a short-term fix to prevent further convergence. But it would be an insult to the Commission’s work if today’s Labour Welsh Government caved in and accepted an inadequate or weak floor. If a half-hearted Barnett Floor is agreed without the immediate needs-based uplift that the Holtham Commission called for, we will be locking in Wales’ underfunding for years until full-scale replacement of the outdated Barnett Formula is delivered.
We know from experience that without pressure from Plaid Cymru the parties in London are unlikely deliver. The prospect of an inadequate Barnett Floor, which will formalise fiscal injustice, should be setting off the alarm bells in the Welsh Government’s finance department.
Such an outcome would not be a win for Wales. Plaid Cymru will insist that Wales must not be betrayed by an inadequate or unambitious Barnett Floor. We want to believe that the Welsh Government has fully up to date figures and has revised upwards the estimates made by the Holtham Commission, in line with the new Treasury data. Plaid’s Ministers from the One Wales government will tell anyone that when negotiating with the Treasury you have to know what figures you are dealing with.
If Jane Hutt’s department accepts a Barnett Floor that doesn’t include Holtham’s uplift then her move will result in fiscal catastrophe for Wales. The solution should be a Floor set at Wales’s current relative needs, and a commitment to complete replacement of the Barnett Formula in time for the Comprehensive Review Spending period beginning in 2014.
If Plaid Cymru’s demands are fulfilled, we will be in a position to build some kind of recovery and to take on any new responsibilities that the Silk Commission might recommend. We know that there are far bigger events going on in the Eurozone and that the economic and social outlook for people in many parts of the world is deeply worrying. Wales can mount a response to these events. At the very least we deserve a chance.
Tomorrow: In a commentary on this post Gerald Holtham says the UK government and Treasury are living in shame but are apparently immune to embarrassment
33 thoughts on “What we need to build economic recovery in Wales”
Let’s be realistic; Wales has two problems with regard to funding and its economy. Scotland and Nationalism. Scotland because Barnett is never going to be revised while an independence vote is in the offing and Nationalism because it is the millstone round the neck of Wales when it comes to developing a welcoming environment to the entrepreneurs who would bring wealth to the country.
It’s no use both Labour and Plaid bleating about the needs of an impoverished Wales if they are hell-bent on pushing its unique and exclusive Culture and Language agenda. Wales needs inward migration, particularly to the North West and West. It is incomers who bring wealth and innovation and the jobs that follow. Stop the free flow of labour and you stop the flow of capital and stifle the economy.
Jon, I totally agree that Wales desperately needs inward migration, and the free flow of capital and labour. Sadly the British nationalists of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties staunchly oppose this, as they have no real European perspective. Out of a workforce of 27, I employ four members of staff – one from Poland, one from Denmark, one from Catalunya, and one from Germany – who are brilliant workers, and have embraced everything Welsh (two are currently learning Welsh at evening classes). Unfortunately, they have all had some negative responses from people to their presence and they have all said that they can’t understand the xenophobia of, amongst others, the London media, which many people in Wales blindly follow on a daily basis. On Leanne Wood’s article, I think that Plaid is far more realistic on economics than the the Unionist parties, though I would like to see Leanne championing some alternative visions rather than just playing the devolution numbers game.
Plaid Cymru’s reference to the Barnett formula settlement, and other such ‘Whitehall injustices’ are constant reminders of the party’s immature and introspective political mindset. In the scheme of things, the calculated settlement is a mere drop in the ocean and should not be used as a smoke-screen to hide a continuing unwillingness – or inability – to create outward-looking socio-economic policies. Plaid Cymru has failed the Welsh nation, isolating us through cultural and language barriers that make us a laughing stock in the wider world of business and commerce. On the one hand, they support spending something in the region of £40m on the promotion of a language that is spoken by the minority and then, on the other hand, naively stand by as tens of thousands of low-value tourists who, in many coastal areas, despoil our landscape and dilute the very culture and language the policy is designed to support. Leanne Wood is in real danger of becoming exposed as a lightweight leader in a political world that demands sophisticated and mature thinking and, more importantly, strategically valid action.
I disagree with Mary. Plaid Cymru has actually adopted a mature mindset in my opinion because it was on their insistence in the coalition that the Holtham Commission was set up. It’s not as if there were going to be any votes in that. The Commission featured not only its namesake but David Miles from the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (the most influential financial panel in the UK), and the German economist Paul Spahn (remember Germany is a federal system). These experts, with no previous loyalty to Wales, concluded that Wales was being underfunded and produced work on fiscal devolution. Leanne engaging with these issue suggests she is anything but a “lightweight leader”. She is starting to find her feet, but more importantly than her or Plaid Cymru, what is going to happen with Wales’ financial settlement? This is a major issue for the future of the country and needs to be debated. It might not be very exciting but it is important.
Chwarae teg to Leanne and Plaid for raising this issue. Labour did nothing to create fair-funding for Wales in the 13 years they had the keys to No 10. Even after Labour’s death-bed conversion to the cause immediately after being turfed out of Westminster Government, Carwyn’s attitude to the issue when it was brought up in plenary this week was typically childish along the lines of ‘raise it with your friends in the SNP.’
Is that really the most constructive bit of advice he has to offer about the problem of hundreds of millions of pounds being denied to Wales every single year? Just think what could be done with that money in terms of the health service, education and other public services. That we are being denied this money, which was the view of an independent commission no less, is not only the fault of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition, but also Labour for nearly a decade and a half of faff and denial.
Interesting that Gerald Holtham seems to support Leanne Wood’s analysis. Surely, this is exactly the kind of constructive contribution to debate we need from our politicians, helping get a better financial deal for Wales
Most observers would probably agree that the Barnett formula is no longer fit for purpose and that perhaps Wales is underfunded by as much as the claimed £400M. However that £400M is less than 3% of a total WG budget of £14.7Bn. I would suggest that it is probably more important to focus on what we can do with the £15bn, given that the Scottish issue will prevent any substantive change to the funding mechanism for the devolved nations for quite some time. Other more pressing issues include securing more control/influence over some non-devolved matters. For example rail infrastructure, the Crown Estates and power generation.
I tend to agree with Mark Berry. Plaid Cymru has to forget about Barnett, Holtham, etc and concentrate on presenting fresh options for wealth creation and better management of our current budget. They should offer new ideas, and let the Brits argue over their financial mechanisms.
It is important that this issue is fixed as soon as possible. It cannot be right that UK governments continue to ignore this injustice. Wales’ economy is clearly struggling, even in relation to the rest of the UK and securing fair funding is an important (although clearly not the only) plank in starting to turn things around.
Attracting people from outside Wales who contribute to a more prosperous nation is clearly a good idea too, but we must also nurture talent within Wales too to build a sustainable economy.
The idea that Wales having a distinct culture is somehow bad for the economy is ridiculous – indeed when looking at the important tourism sector, it is surely this distinctiveness which helps draw visitors and boost the economy. What’s more, we must value those things which are important to Wales which cannot always be measured by the dated index of GDP. Clean air and water, wildlife, culture, green spaces etc must be part of sustainable development as we work to improve the economy, businesses and job prospects.
Anyway – good that Leanne Wood is pushing this issue, it’s important to hold the UK govt to account on this.
I agree with Mark Barry and Steve Thomas that the funding shortfall is small in percentage terms and the primary focus of our politicians should be control of essential matters for the country’s future and “better management of our current budget”. That is not inconsistent with arguing for an end to Barnett-driven convergence or the long-term tendency for Wales’ share of public expenditures to fall. It is sad that some commentators drag the language issue into this discussion. Does anyone tell Danes or Finns they would get more foreign investment if they abandoned their language and schools and operated only in English? Let’s keep a sense of proportion.
It shows the ‘brass neck’ of Plaid Cymru in demanding more money from the English, who already provide far more than we produce, but constitutionally declare that they do not wish to remain in partnership with our next door neighbour and other parts of the UK. Surely when they were part of the One Wales Administration the re-ordering of Barnett should have been their priority – not a referendum on law making powers on marginal issues when compared to the financial funding of this region of the UK. It would surely have been easier to re-order funding from Westminster during the time the coffers were full, due to excess borrowing/property bubble, rather than when the whole structure of western european social models is coming under such pressure due to lack of funding. It is true that we have very great social/economic issues to be dealt with, however the internalising of virtually everything into a Welsh context is a non-sense, but is a sop to the Welsh language fanatics and the seperatists in the media and middle classes who are still doing very well through state spending. The funding coming from ‘over the border’ is large and if spent in the manner to maximise its impact our problems could become manageable, however this would require a total re-engineering of state supply by cutting out ‘bean counters’ and devolving power to people with individual budgets to spend on education/health etc. The transfer of powers to town/village based councils for very basic services, such as grass cutting/tree pruning would save fortunes and invigorate communities to take control over their own lives. This will never happen as our leaders are stuck in a 1945 socialist model of provision of services and we can see the results which are slowly turning us into a third world country.
I can see Steve’s point that Plaid should concentrate on creating wealth from within the current budget. But generally Government can’t create wealth, it can only create the conditions for the private sector to create wealth, mainly in infrastructure, education and training. Doesn’t less state investment in transport and skills mean less wealth creation, in the Welsh context? You only need to look at our transport network to see that, and that the National Transport Plan from the previous Minister has been downscaled. I disagree with Mark Barry’s point that this is only £400m per year – what’s the cost of electrifying the Valley Lines? Or the much-vaunted South East Wales metro? These ideas need finance behind them. I know that’s a UK Government job not a Welsh one but £400m per year over a decade adds up, especially if it was ringfenced to form a dedicated transport investment fund for example. If not for transport what would say £300m extra in the education budget every year do for the Welsh economy? To get away from the dryness of this issue politicians should explain what they would use extra funding for, but in contrast to Steve Thomas I think that while new ideas for wealth creation are desperately needed, they’re going to need funding behind them or they will come to nothing. If you want businesses to come in you need to put the benefits in place, and that simply isn’t going to happen without the pump-priming that fair funding could be used for.
It appears that there is a belief that if a country has more than one language investors and entrepreneurs are meant to be put off from doing business there. I presume that is why Switzerland, where four languages enjoy a parity of esteem is amongst the world’s poorest countries.
It may be time to regard diversity as an asset rather than a liability when considering how to revitalise the private sector here. I have done business with a multiplicity of clients in Europe, America and Asia. The only place which regards Welsh as an impediment for doing business with companies in Wales such as mine appears to be Britain.
Gerald Holtham says:
“It is sad that some commentators drag the language issue into this discussion.”
What is sad is that Wales’ politicians have bought into the mantra “The language should not be a political football” and as a result all rational discussion of language politics and the economic consequences of the push for a bilingual nation is stifled or, more often, vigorously attacked. Gerald Holtham joins those who would rather turn a blind eye to the “protectionist” aspect of requiring Welsh langauge ability in job applicants in the public and, increasingly, the private sector when there is no evidence of substantial demand for Welsh Language services. He would like to ignore the fact that the emphasis on Welsh language teaching in schools means that we have a smaller percentage of pupils taking GCSE in a Modern Foreign Language than any of the other UK nations. He would like to ignore the fact that at A level Welsh students do far worse in MFLs than do students from other areas of the UK and that language politics have resulted in an inward looking nation and an area of the NW and West where inward migration is actively discouraged in the name of “The Language”.
Time and again the Welsh Government is asked to put a price on its Welsh language measures. Time and again they refuse to do so.
I look forward to any AM standing up in the Senedd and questioning the wisdom of bilingual policy in Wales… of course, to stand up you need a spine.
“I look forward to any AM standing up in the Senedd and questioning the wisdom of bilingual policy in Wales… of course, to stand up you need a spine.” And indeed, an electoral mandate.
Err… how do you establish an electoral mandate when you are too scared to raise an issue? Alongside general goodwill towards the Welsh language and all policies aimed at maintaining its existence there are a few indicators that the support of the people of Wales is fragile or, indeed, absent. BBC Wales did a survey on “The fate of the language” you will remember. There were very high levels of support for Language measures but there, in amongst, the almost universal acquiescence was a question on the policy of compulsory Welsh teaching in schools. I think that I remember a figure of 54% being against compulsory Welsh teaching. This is in a population furthermore that doesn’t, on the whole, realise that Welsh Medium schools are compulsory throughout Ynys Mon and Gwynedd. What would happen if one of the questions was “Do you think that Welsh Medium education should be compulsory?” I’m guessing that about 85% would say “No”.
This is the problem. The propaganda of the Welsh language lobby dominates Welsh consciousness. The Welsh Language Board never uttered a word of rational analysis apart from “The Welsh Language Use survey 2004-2006” and obscure statistical papers which gained no publicity if they raised questions about Welsh Language policy.
Without information and open discussion by our politicians and media how can opinion be gauged?
Tell me Martin, which of the political parties has asked a question of the Education Minister about the compulsory teaching of Welsh from 5-15 in schools? Which politician of which party registered that a majority of Welsh people are saying that Welsh should be a matter of subject choice for pupils in Wales and stood up and asked Leighton Andrews to respect the wishes of the majority?
Of course it’s not just politicians that are muzzled. What happened when what passes as our national newspaper, The Western Mail, actually questioned (in the mildest terms of course) the wisdom of spending on translation of Committee meetings in the Senedd?
What passes as the voice of Language and Culture Nationalism in the blogosphere (the London based Michael Haggett and the Tywyn based Royston Jones) quickly rallied the troops to boycott the Western Mail or Western Fail or Western Mule as they now consistently call it.
This is the Wales of today; a small circulation newspaper questions one aspect of spending on the language and is (metaphorically) ripped to shreds.
You think this is a sign of mature, healthy, democracy in action in a free country? I think it looks like domination of thought and equality rights by a powerful and belligerent minority aided by a supine and gutless body politic.
There is one absolute and definitive answer to Leanne Woods’s article: Wales does not need Plaid Cymru and its policies if Wales ever wants to prosper. Noticed Switzerland being mentioned as an example of a multi-lingual society prospering in economic terms but this specific post omitted to mention that there is no forced language learning compulsion in any of the German, French or Italian sectors of Swiss community and what’s more English is used as a common language in Swiss industry and commerce. Furthermore the Swiss do not do ‘Language Impact Assessment’ for any inward investment – see here.
Gerald Holtham says: “It is sad that some commentators drag the language issue into this discussion.”
People drag the Welsh language into discussions about the economy because it has a critical negative impact on the economy of Wales in so many ways. Unless and until you, and the rest of the people in your unrealistic public funded bubble, accept this then Wales is going exactly nowhere except into terminal uncompetitiveness. You appear to be aware of that uncompetitiveness and that it arose around the early-mid 1990s after a reasonably bouyant period for Wales during the 1980s, but you keep looking for reasons other than the eliffant in the room… There certainly are other reasons but you all need to accept, and quickly, that the Welsh language is a significant parameter in the economy which needs to be properly researched – if this is even possible in this politically correct world?
The day Wales adopted compulsory Welsh in education, thereby creating a regional system which fails to provide continuity of education with the English curriculum at any Key Stage, was the day Wales signed its competitive death warrant. Gwynedd and Anglesey signed theirs long ago and suceeded in driving inward investment away even in the 1980s. Look at the result!
We live in a world where ambitious parents will move across town to get their kids into a ‘better school’. Do you seriously think many of them are going to risk damaging their kids’ education by moving in, and probably out, of Wales in general and the Fro Cymraeg in particular when there are equal or better job and investment opportunities in England and Scotland which don’t carry this risk?
Not only is this damaging the wealth-creating private sector by reducing the free-flow of skilled labour and funding but it is also damaging the public services – fast-track civil servants, teachers, lecturers, doctors, dentists and other essential highly-skilled highly-mobile front-line service staff are equally reluctant to move in and out of Wales. Look at the difficulty that what should be called the North Wales Health Trust has in filling vacancies, leading to a deficit created largely by an over-spend on locums. But nobody dares to confront the eliffant in the room.
Nobody, that is, except the Ministry of Defence which recognised and dealt with this problem as long ago as 1999 when they introduced the Day School Allowance (North Wales) to try and provide continuity of education for service personnel moving in and out of Gwynedd and Anglesey where the compulsory Welsh in education problem is at its most damaging. DSA (NW) was introduced as a result of “recurring casework submitted by personnel assigned to the areas in question” which I take to be MoD code for ‘angry parents concerned about their kids’ education’. It is hardly a surprise that it has now had to be extended from 2 to 5 counties across North Wales as the continuity problem has become more embedded and damaging.
Apart from the MoD there are many people in the private sector who are acutely aware of these issues but, for obvious reasons, they prefer to remain silent. Why do they remain silent? Because they’ve seen the unlawful disruption caused to businesses such as Boots, Morrisons and Thomas Cook to name but three out of many… Why would any ‘new money’ take this risk when it doesn’t have to?
Thanks for the link J Protic. Is there any voice in Gwynedd that might “float” the idea that a sailing instructor in an elite academy which aims to attract people from all over the World (but mostly will get people from England) should have a high degree of competency in sailing instruction and will have little use for Welsh?
As always Nationalist politics falls down when faced with the logic of the market.
J Protic, I fear, is badly informed. All Swiss children learn a second language (usually French or German) in primary school. Bilingualism and bilingual education are also prevalent in the Basque Country and Catalonia both of which have GDP per head that is way higher than the EU average. Indeed, I’m tempted to challenge Messrs Walker, Protic & Jones to furnish us with the international data which proves beyond doubt the existence of a negative correlation between bilingualism and economic performance. That should keep them busy for a few decades.
I doubt that there is any correlation between bilingualism and economic performance. However you mustn’t fool yourself by generalising too widely. If Wales was bilingual in English and German for instance there would be great economic benefits in that we could potentially have migration from a wealthy and populous country. The problem arises when a country’s economy is artificially tied to a minority language that no other country speaks. The present situation in Wales is that the requirement for Welsh language ability in employment, the compulsory teaching of Welsh in schools, the various language protection measures like TAN 20 and language impact assessments and the pressure for Welsh language policies for businesses is a significant disincentive to inward investment and migration.
A country with a significant population, natural resources and vibrant home grown industries can perhaps afford the luxury of isolationist measures like minority language policies. Wales is in a different position; we desperately need the world, but particularly England, to see us as a trouble free, open and attractive place to set up business. We can’t spend all our time arguing about whether our hand-outs are large enough but repulsing anyone who might add dynamism to the economy.
Why is Welsh language provision and cost even an issue in the debate? Only 35,000 people speak Romansh in Switzerland and yet they are efficiently and adequately provided for. Many of the comments here are missing the point entirely. The point is to look at the Block grant as a whole – language provision included – not to single out Welsh language policy specifically. The Welsh Government spend some £41 million on Welsh language bodies per annum including education, Welsh Language Board and an extra £18 Million for Welsh Language Board over 3 years. The total public spending in Wales is some £29+ billion. Some perspective is required here.
This is the consequence of a unique and exclusive education and employment system in Wales:-
Two or three years ago Hywel Jones, for the Welsh Language Board, did a study of migration and Welsh speaking capabilities. No surprise that he found that young migrants from Wales to England were predominantly non-Welsh speakers. This was particularly the case with migration from the Fro Cymraeg. Wales exports its non-Welsh speaking talent and is happy about it. The last census showed that the young migrants in England had higher qualifications than the young people remaining behind in Wales and were holding higher status jobs. This study finds the same trend…higher qualifications amongst those leaving. Wales needs to get away from squabbling over its next handout and change its society to one that recognises young talent… in any language.
I absolutely agree that there is a brain drain from Wales to other parts of the UK for work and particularly those with good University degrees but that is not a function of Language more so that of quality of HE in Wales. If you want to go to a top class University in the UK you don’t go to a Welsh one necessarily – I didn’t and then once you are over the border people do tend to settle and even marry in the University town in which they find themselves. After 13 years I did return back to Wales but to Cardiff and not Wrexham. One has to have a reason to stay and for the brightest that means high quality education and job opportunities. Language just does not come into it.
You miss my point Tegid. I rarely if ever argue about the cost of Welsh language measures. Despite your estimate, the real cost of translation through 22 councils, coupled with other public bodies and of course the Welsh Government is unknown and un-knowable. My main point about not counting the cost is that Governments squander money in all sorts of ways, for good or ill, and counting the cost of one or another is futile. That the Welsh Government chooses to spend on Welsh in Government, in education and in public services is not my point. My point is that Welsh language ability is a very scarce commodity. 12% of the population are fluent in Welsh and an even smaller proportion can write Welsh. The proportion of the adult, working age population who are fluent is smaller still. Despite this we make Welsh fluency a requirement in many job specifications and by so doing narrow the pool of people who can apply for those jobs. We give ourselves no chance of capturing good quality candidates from England but we pretty well ensure that we keep all our fluent Welsh speakers. What does this do to Wales? We lose the “Hybrid Vigour” that often drives business start ups. We fail to gain the breadth of experience that people from a wider population catchment could bring. We put every obstacle in the way of growth of population in the name of “The Language”. Expand housing provision in the North East of Wales? No way, what will it do to the indigenous language and culture? Extend a marina in Pwllheli? No way! What will it do to the language and culture? But economic growth is impossible without new blood. Industries are attracted by good conditions for expansion but they must see a potential workforce or the opportunity to transfer their existing workforce. They would like to see a large and growing customer base on their doorsteps too. If key people want to move into the NW and West of Wales they must know that their children can learn through the medium of English.
What we do in Wales is construct an economy built round a bilingual aspiration not a bilingual reality. We throw away a large proportion of our talented youth and fail to capitalise on the large body of talented experience to the East. With England gearing up to produce (at last) pupils who have studied Modern Foreign Languages, we in Wales fill the curriculum with Welsh lessons which are of no future use to either individual or country. Worse we take teachers away to train them to say “Bore Da” so that the corridors of English Medium schools can ring with trivial “Incidental Welsh”.
Don’t tell me that the language has nothing to do with the future wealth of Wales.
In extensive field research carried out some years ago, it was clear that significant numbers of employers experienced difficulties in recruiting high-calibre candidates to north-western Wales. Main reasons cited were long-term impacts on career progression; Welsh language imposition in schools, impacts for spouse career and distance from leisure/retail facilities. Coupled with outward migration of young talent, the net result is an unhealthy form of ‘stay-flation’, a small career gene-pool of narssistic self-reflection and self-congratulation.
Jon Jones, where do your figures on Welsh language usage come from? 12% of the Welsh population fluent? According to the Welsh Language Board figures it is much higher than that and what constitutes fluency? And do these jobs you speak of actually ask for fluency in the language or a working ability or the willingness to learn? The attitude of some on this site if I might be candid smacks of an earlier period and having come from a household where both Welsh and English was spoken I am offended. You should not be surprised that in the north west of Wales where a large proportion of the population speak Welsh first language and have done so for centuries want to speak in their natural language? Are you really surprised by this – is it so difficult to comprehend? The population of Gwynedd is 120,000 people and therefore around 4% of the population of Wales. Are they really holding our economy back? I’m married to a half Indian, half Chinese Singaporean national who learnt to speak Welsh in Oxford when we lived there and she can’t comprehend why some people here are so against the Welsh language.
Tegid, makes two of us. I can’t understand it either.
John R Walker, I wasn’t aware of living in a publically funded bubble. My City career was not publicly funded and nor was my hedge fund. As for the critically negative impact of Welsh on the economy, if it exists at all it is only because some people have a critically negative view of Welsh. Oddly enough the negative view is largely confined to English speakers. Perhaps you should try shouting louder?
“Jon Jones, where do your figures on Welsh language usage come from? 12% of the Welsh population fluent? According to the Welsh Language Board figures it is much higher than that and what constitutes fluency?”
What constitutes fluency in this case is what proportion of the population say that they are “Fluent”. The Welsh Language board does NOT put the figure much higher than that since 12% is the result of the Welsh Language Boards study of over 8 thousand respondents with a significant portion of the survey carried out by face to face interview by Welsh speakers. The figure is in the “Welsh Use survey 2004-2006”
“• 20.5 per cent (588 thousand) of all people aged 3 and over could speak Welsh.
This compares with 20.8 per cent in the 2001 Census.
• 58 per cent (317 thousand) of the Welsh speakers considered themselves to be
fluent in Welsh. It is estimated, therefore, that approximately 12 per cent of all
people aged 3 and over could speak Welsh fluently. 83 per cent of speakers in
Gwynedd were fluent, the highest percentage in Wales. In Monmouthshire, the
authority with the lowest percentage, 13 per cent were fluent.”
A further authoritative survey in 2008 also came up with 12% Fluent.
One other smaller survey by Beaufort research found 11% of adults Fluent. This was a smaller survey and so there is a wider margin of potential error.
Job adverts usually come in two forms “The ability to speak Welsh is considered essential for this position” and “The ability to speak Welsh is desirable for this position.” Both types discourage or rule out applicants from any other country and this is my point with regard to narrowing the pool of potential labour.
As for the rest of your post, it doesn’t relate to anything I have said. Where have I expressed surprise that Welsh speakers want to speak Welsh? Job adverts which specify Welsh requirements are not restricted to Gwynedd as you no doubt know.
Jon Jones, your figures from the WLB say that 20% can speak Welsh and therefore can apply for jobs where the ability to speak Welsh is essential or desirable. Fluency does not come into it and is not asked for. With regards ruling out applicants from any other country how ridiculous – these job adverts are asking for provision in a local language which can and is learnt by anyone. I have plenty of friends and a spouse who have moved here, learnt the language and are just getting on with it. As regards to comments about Gwynedd they were general and not specific to you. This has all been a distraction from what is really wrong with the economy in Wales and the UK as a whole. Our transition from low skilled and heavy industries has been painful and is ongoing, our failure to realise that we must have better quality Universities here in Wales so that our brightest don’t leave to go to other university towns in the UK and the overall UK problem of not valuing Science and Engineering more as they are real wealth and job creators.
And meanwhile, entrepreneurs who believe in a multi-lingual world get on with their work, serving clients and customers across the world. I am pretty well a monoglot English speaker and simply cannot understand the sound and fury directed here against allowing a native language to endure. We must be almost unique in this sense.
How often have I heard this instantaneous response to any attempt to discuss the politics or economics of the bilingual aspiration in Wales:
“…simply cannot understand the sound and fury directed here against allowing a native language to endure.”
In Wales what politicians are doing is not “allowing” the Welsh language to “endure”. The Language endures by being spoken by those who can speak it. Wales is aiming to do something quite different; we are aiming to somehow MAKE people who have no need or desire to speak Welsh learn the language and then serve those people who have Welsh as a first language.
What I have tried to say is that the imposition of Welsh on the jobs market is counterproductive for the economy. Gerald Holtham has responded by saying that “English speakers…should try shouting louder.” And so we come full circle…where is the political voice for English speakers (I take it that Gerald Holtham means non-Welsh speakers?). I also, of course, recognise the coarse reference to a Welsh stereotype of English people.
I must confess I found that crass anti-English stereotype from Gerald Holtham a little offensive. Perhaps not if we were down the pub, but from somebody we’re supposed to respect and take seriously it was a bit dissapointing.
Still, Gerald Holtham has proved to be a breath of fresh air in other respects… As of yesterday ‘U-turn’ comments in the Western Mail he now appears to be a staunch supporter of the Welsh language who admits Wales can’t afford independence. Well there’s always a first for everything
Comments are closed.