A Wales where everyone can flourish

IWA Director Lee Waters looks back at 2015

Over 100,000 different people have visited the IWA’s sites this year. In a fragmenting media environment, where long-form discussion about policy and performance in Wales may not be seen by editors as promising material for click-bait, we feel that we have a role to play in creating a platform for intelligent debate. As well as providing a digital space our magazine, the welsh agenda, is one of the few places in print where you can read serious material about Wales in the English language.

Why do I mention this? Because in 2015 the IWA clarified its strategic direction and even though these activities do not generate a profit we are committed to keeping them at the heart of what the IWA does. In fact we will be launching our new website early in the new year which will merge Click on Wales with the main IWA site to bring comment into the heart of our digital presence.

“Our vision is to help create a Wales where everyone can flourish. Our mission is to act as a catalyst for change. We bring people together so that ideas can collide and solutions can be forged”.

This is our new strategic statement. In common with other organisations that spend time developing strategies we spent a lot of effort writing on wipeable surfaces trying to distill what we are about – the dreaded ‘elevator pitch’. The IWA has done lots of different things over recent years and trying to sum that up pithily to the majority of people who have never heard of us has been tricky. So here is what we’ve come up with:

“We are an independent think tank working to make Wales better. We come up with practical ideas to improve the economy, education governance and health”.

Some things that we’ve done – like organise awards ceremonies – don’t fit with that description so we’ve dropped them. We no longer see ourselves as a conference organising business. Bringing people together to share information and network will still be part of what we do, but only when it is linked to a project we are running or our it is linked to our core strategic focus. As a charity we cannot justify the huge ticket prices that commercial companies charge, and with just four full-time staff we simply cannot keep churning out barely profitable events without paying too high an opportunity cost and losing our strategic focus. We’d rather be a policy forum for Wales rather than just call ourselves one.

As a think-tank our primary purpose must be to generate ideas. We have set-up policy groups on the economy, education, health & social care, governance and the media. In each area we are bringing together experts and practitioners to analyse current performance and suggest practical ideas for long-term change. And it is already beginning to bear fruit. This year we have produced substantial pieces of work in three of our four priority areas. Each of the reports were critical and challenging of current performance, and each of them set out practical ideas to improve things in keeping with our intention of being a ‘critical friend’.

Our economy report, led by economist Gerald Holtham, set out a searing analysis of Wales’ economic performance which pulled no punches, and set out practical proposals for an ambitious stimulus package. We are now following-up several of the ideas including the ambition to make Wales a net exporter of renewable energy.

Our ‘Crowd-sourced Constitutional Convention’ was equally ambitious and was provoked by the lively debate which stirred Scotland in the run up to  its independence referendum. Thanks to dozens of small donations from across Wales, and the support of the UK’s Changing Union project, we were able to engage 12,000 people in an eight-week experiment in deliberative democracy.

The conclusions of both exercises were strikingly similar – Wales has not made the most of devolution to date, and if we are to create a Wales in which everyone has a chance to flourish we must seize all the levers available to fulfil our potential.

Over the summer we refined our ‘crowd sourcing’ approach with an innovative project looking at first hand experiences of cancer sufferers and their families. Working with Tenovus Cancer Care we asked for a good experience of cancer are in Wales, a bad experience and a suggestion for improvement. The conclusion of the 6 week conversation was surprising, rather than focus on the availability of high-cost drugs and waiting times (as we anticipated) ‘the crowd’ called for a focus on the simple things – improving the experience of patients, and better communications. We’re now following this up with a project to unpick what is stopping these common sense reforms being implemented in the NHS.

As well as trailing new approaches to policy development we’ve also maintained the traditional approach. Our Wales Media Audit involved a comprehensive trawl of statistics to paint a picture of the current media landscape (though we couldn’t resit trying something new and we published the whole report in draft online and invited criticism, with the final version being significantly revised in parts in response). Led by voluntary effort from our distinguished Media Policy Group the report found that Wales is becoming harder to see and hear through the media, and it set out 37 recommendations for change. The group has given evidence on their findings to the inquiries being held by the UK Parliament, the National Assembly and a variety of reviews being held into the future of the BBC. Quite simply had we not done this work there would be very little informed thinking about the future of the media in Wales feeding into any of these important debates. Our media group will be following this work up and in particular hope to work with the Welsh Universities active in this area.

Each of these projects was accompanied by an event – from a wacky Open Space discussion in an abandoned bus drivers canteen for the Constitutional Convention – to a full-day Media Summit with a distinguished line-up of speakers for the Audit launch. We’ve also held events in Swansea, Aberystwyth and Wrexham this year. Our Eisteddfod lecture is now a staple of the Maes and this year’s in Meifod saw Beti George speak about her personal experience of dementia care and set out some policy recommendations. And our Senedd Paper launch in the Assembly witnessed a stimulating discussion of Kevin Morgan’s important Good Food for All manifesto which advocated using our approach to food to tackle a battery of ills.  We also hosted a debate on the future leadership of Welsh public services as part the IWA Debates (sponsored this year by Abersytwyth University and switching to support from Cardiff University next year).

As well as opening up our activities digitally – broadcasting the keynote of our Media Summit on Periscope and making it available free on AudioBoom. All our publications are now available to download for free.

In fact making ideas to improve Wales freely available, and encouraging them to be contested and strengthened, is at the core of what we’re about. Our new branding sums it up – IWA: Making Wales Better.

We are delighted that you are one of the 100,000 who have visited our site this year. It is a free resource to use, but not to provide. If you support our vision of making Wales better please consider making a donation or, better still, becoming an IWA member.

Wales can flourish, but we all need critical friends to help us reach our potential.

Lee Waters is Director of the IWA.

28 thoughts on “A Wales where everyone can flourish

  1. As you say it Lee we do have a ‘fragmented’ media environment but a media environment that has largely failed to do its prime job in scrutinising the devolved Welsh Governance.

    IWA together with Letters from Wales and The Eye has played some part in articulating some difficult Welsh realities that all the major media (BBC / ITV Wales; Western Mail and the Daily Post) largely censor.

    Whilst in my view IWA is significantly pro Welsh Government at least IWA has allowed some contributors to bring up some devolved realities that are a taboo subject elsewhere.

    Yes, I’m referring to Welsh Governance with a tunnel vision hell bent in making Wales a ‘bilingual nation without a mandate from Welsh people and oblivious to immense harm being inflicted on Wales in the process of doing so.

    Would like to finish this note with a small tribute to Julian Ruck of Letters from Wales who is still in a critical condition at the Cardiff’s UHW weeks after a hit and run incident that took him out of Welsh politics.

    Do hope Julian will recover fully and equally hope for a more robust and honest journalism to find its way into Welsh politics in 2016 – Best wishes for the New Year to all, Jacques.

  2. All very good and I wish it every success. However, I no longer see the IWA as politically independent. Don’t see how it can be while the Director stands for political office.

    I don’t say this as a personal criticism of anyone. It simply means that I will doubt the independence of their output while the situation continues.

  3. Alex and Degsy…how short are your memories. Not that long ago three contributors, myself, Jacques and Howell were all rather arbitrarily banned from contributing to this forum and we believe that this was because we were consistently critical of Culture and Language nationalism and particularly the politically driven and unquestioned aim of discriminating against English first language Welsh people in education, employment and society.

    Our view is a minority view and is regularly denounced but when we were banned one of the people working for the IWA subsequently went on to stand for Plaid Cymru in an election. I was also told that the IWA had come under pressure from its financial supporters because it allowed us a voice.

    Lee Waters allowed us to contribute once more even though I am certain he shares none of our views and neither does the Welsh Labour party.

    So, here’s to freedom of thought and the right to express those thoughts in print here in Wales. Thanks to the IWA and Lee Waters and a merry Christmas to people of all political persuasions.

  4. IWA should just call themselves institute for labour affairs. It’s a shame how corrupted by cronies it has become. I’m sure some will keep sucking up the gravy for as many long as it lasts.

  5. Degsy, Only guessing but likely that most of IWA’s members are Plaid Cymru supporters! As the Welsh Labour is in the hands of the Welsh speaking ‘More Equals’ the two have become united through the same goals and aspirations. It seems to me this is the principal cause of a huge ‘Democracy Deficit’ in Wales?

  6. J. Jones

    “we were consistently critical of Culture and Language nationalism and particularly the politically driven and unquestioned aim of discriminating against English first language Welsh people in education, employment and society”

    I am Welsh and only speak English. The school I attended, in Newport, was obviously enough in the 1970s an English only school. Yet neither I nor any of my school friends have ever experienced any discrimination because we only speak English in employment or society. This discrimination against us English speakers seems to be an anti-Welsh language conspiracy

  7. Update on Julian Ruck of Letters from Wales: Delighted to report that Julian is now back home but wheelchair bound and still a way off from full recovery. Thankfully his pragmatism and the SOH is still there and hopefully we’ll have more of his thoughts and wisdom on Welsh politics in January.

  8. Brilliant Philip Hughes ‘Anti Welsh Language Conspiracy’ and No Discrimination! Say that to parents of kids living on Anglesey, Gwynedd Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire etc where most parents are denied the basic Human Rights freedom to chose the educational language for their kids and are compelled to educate their children in Welsh Medium schools, that damage them for life. Then the endless public job adverts ‘Welsh Language Essential’ where a Tribal language skill often comes before competence for jobs that have no bearing or relevance to Welsh language but required just in case some Welsh speaker demands his/her ‘God Given Right’ to be addressed in Welsh by the public officials – Again No Discrimination?

  9. Wishing the IWA all the very best for 2016. You are playing an essential role in Welsh democracy, at a time when our media has never been weaker in scrutinising our politicians. I welcome many of the changes made and the fact that I do not always agree with you, is I suspect a good sign in terms of political balance.
    Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i bawb.

  10. As a matter of principle, everyone, even the Director of an ‘independent think tank,’ has the right to his political opinions and to stand for office in support of those opinions. To deny that to anyone would be very dangerous in a democracy. The only issue as far as the ‘think tank’ is concerned is whether he has allowed those opinions to prejudice its operations and this particular anti-Socialist Unionist has no complaints on that score.

    Overall, the Institute has been very fair in granting access to dissenting views. Of course, this is within the context of a definite pro-devolutionist bias in recent years, but that is a reflection of commercial and political realities. In 21st century Wales it literally does not pay to criticise the Assembly.

    All this matters because the Institute now provides practically the only forum for free and serious discussion of the future direction of Wales at this crucial time. It deserves credit for that – just as the political class and the media deserve blame for the absence of such discussion among the broader electorate.

  11. A rare opportunity to agree with people across a broad spectrum of opinion. JWR, Lee Waters and an honourable mention to Ross Tredwyn who, when I was banned from posting here and despite being in total disagreement with whatever I said, nevertheless criticised the IWA for banning me.

    Freedom of speech is always precious and the IWA has a sensible forum for discussion in a country where there are few opportunities to exchange ideas and information. Wales is in fact already in the dangerous position that many totalitarian countries find themselves in; some subjects are not up for discussion in mainstream politics. The tide of devolution, Welsh medium education and language politics in particular are all forbidden topics.

  12. The point is to keep the topic on track. Too many blogs and have your said boards have been hijacked by English nationalists with turn every topic into an attack on A) The Welsh language and how you can only get a job in Wales if you speak Welsh, which discriminates against us Welsh people who only speak English B) The Assembly C) The status of Monmouthshire.

    Of course they claim “free speech” whilst hijacking every topic and, and to excuse their in-bred anti-Welsh racism. And of course these topics A) The Welsh Language and now you can only get a job in Wales if you speak Welsh, B) The Assembly C) The status of Monmouthshire are of course, or so they claim, hot topics in Wales, which are tearing Wales apart and must be addressed. Where “must be addressed” is code for A) Banning the Welsh Language despite the wishes of the people of Wales, B) Abolishing the Assembly despite the Wishes of the people of Wales C) Handing Monmouthshire over to England despite the wishes of the people of Monmouthshire. Of course they have “facts” to prove that Welsh education is bad, that the Assembly has failed Wales and that Monmouthshire was an English county illegally given to Wales!!!!

    I was born and live in Wales, born and grew up in Monmouthshire, and have never encountered this anti-Welsh language feeling from “Welsh people”, from a minority of English immigrants yes. I live in Monmouthshire and have never met anyone from Monmouthshire who claims to be English or who thinks we were somehow actually an English county. So topics which are tearing Wales apart, this seems to be code from a tiny minority of fanatical immigrants who wish to impose their own ethnic prejudices and racism on the people of Wales and keep us down.

  13. Thank you Mr Jones. I not only criticised I boycotted Clickon while you were banned. No doubt many people thought my absence was an improvement, if they noticed it at all. There is no doubt that there are problems in Welsh education and while our conclusions differ, because the Welsh language matters to me and not to you, I appreciate the fact that you adduce facts in support of your argument. Those of us who disagree with you still have to deal with the facts. Unfortunately others who criticise Welsh language education are less empirical and tend to deal in wild assertions rather than fact and the discussion then generates more heat than light. Philip Hughes’ experience of no discrimination reflects the general situation in South and mid- Wales, outside the BBC at least. And I don’t blame Gwynedd for a bit of positive discrimination. It’s now the only place on earth where Welsh is a majority community language. Plenty of other places to go in Wales if you don’t want to help maintain that situation. To be fair to IWA, both the current Labour-leaning director and his Plaid-leaning predecessor seem to me generally committed to fostering open debate. The banning was objectionable but it was also unusual.

  14. The question of discrimination is always an important one providing those making the assertion can explain why a Welsh speaker cannot live their life through the medium of Welsh in their own country. As for the English language, its survival or success does not depend on its usage in Wales; the United States of America is its guarantor. Welsh on the hand has no other home but Wales.

    The issue of cultural attitudes within the Welsh language has been well-documented by Charlotte Williams in her book “Sugar & Slate”. I myself encountered some rather unpleasant attitudes in a Welsh language educational institution which were based on prejudice regarding the supremacy of Cymreictod over other Welsh cultures. I would not describe these views as widespread but they were sufficiently entrenched to raise the question of how institutional these attitudes have become.

    Part of the ideology behind this bigotry was the view that first language speakers were inherently superior to second language speakers, a view not based on linguistic ability but on cultural membership, and thus were to be regarded as belonging to a different social grouping altogether.

    That language and culture were two fused ideas; if you did not belong to one, you could not belong to the other. Commitment to the languageandculture fusion, or should that be confusion, was demonstrated by a commitment to the Eisteddfod. If you did not commit to that particular cultural project, you could consider yourself an outsider.

    That this commitment was part of a wider agenda of monoculturalism being at the heart of the Welsh language project. There is no way of reconciling this with Wales’ wider agenda of inclusivity and multiculturalism and it is why I find the idea of signing up to Cymreictod as a cultural project unconscionable. But its existence as a practice derives directly from the educational policy that there is education for first language Welsh speakers and education for second language Welsh speakers. This discrimination cannot be justified in a modern inclusive democracy if that is what Wales aspires to be. The fundamental principle that underpins any education system is that of recognition based on ability, not on an accident of birth as to which family you were born to. Yet, presumably based on successful lobbying by the Welsh speaking middle class, we persist with iniquitous precepts at the heart of our education system.

    If we are all to flourish in Wales then we could start with recognising the rights of Welsh speakers to live lives through the medium of Welsh and to address the discriminatory practice, both direct and indirect, that prevents them from doing so, something the Welsh Language Commissioner was established to achieve. And the Welsh Assembly should move away from an education system that discriminates between first and second language speakers towards one based on ability and educational achievement. If progress can be made on both of these fronts in 2016, then “a Wales where everyone can flourish” may have a chance of being seen as something more than pre-electoral rhetoric.

  15. Abolishing the distinction between first and second languages may be an admirable aspiration, but doesn’t alter reality. I recommend reading the Nov 2015 Scientific American article by Patricia K. Kuhl, “How Babies Rapidly Learn Languages”.

    To summarise: At birth babies can learn any language and the second half of the first year is the ‘sensitive period’ in which the sounds of the native language are learnt, starting with vowels at 6 months and then consonants at 9 months. This period only last for a few months but is extended for children exposed to the sounds of other languages. And a child can still pick up a second language with a fair degree of fluency up to the age of seven. And that social skills are very important, involving the countless hours of listening to parents speaking in the vernacular.

    The latter sentence ‘summarises’ why it is so difficult for most adults to learn Welsh. But leaving that aside the fact is that we all have first languages and if it isn’t Welsh then the schools have an uphill struggle. And of course there is the problem of not enough Welsh teachers which has been highlighted on this forum. Given the overwhelming presence of English more of the same, not very well taught will not help the survival of the language. And all of this has economic consequences.

  16. Thank you Rhobat Wyn Jones for supporting my assertion that Wales has become an Orwellian World where the few ‘More Equals’ are demanding their right to speak their language anywhere they wish in ‘their own country’ – So the 7% fluent Welsh speakers that the world and the time forgot now own Wales!?

    The very policies that you are deluding to are dragging Wales back into the dark ages and are simply unsustainable in the long term – Welsh Media’s silence and censorship of the corrosive and destructive nature of Welsh Governments policies to impose a tribal language of the few on the disinterested majority can’t last for ever as perpetual decline of everything that matters in Wales will need to be answered at some stage!

  17. “The question of discrimination….” is as you say an important one and, since you ask, I’ll rise to the challenge of explaining why “Welsh speaker cannot live their life through the medium of Welsh in their own country.”

    Firstly “…in their own country.” As you point out later, there is an assumption that a first language Welsh speaker is more Welsh than a second language Welsh speaker or a non Welsh speaker. You are not alone in this position. Going back to the early years of the WLB they included a question in one of their early surveys about the view that people had of Welsh speakers; were they “more Welsh” than non Welsh speakers. A large minority was of the opinion that they were. In more recent years the St David’s day poll asked the same question and the answer was the same; about 45% of Welsh speakers thought that they were more Welsh because they spoke Welsh.

    So having established the superiority of Welsh speakers in the minds of many the next question is; have they enhanced rights? Well there is confusion here isn’t there?

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Even this is ambiguous isn’t it Rhobat? “Liberty?” well that’s the right to speak your preferred language which will lead to “happiness”. The problem comes when we consider what it takes for the right of Welsh speakers to “live their lives through the medium of Welsh”. Since only 19% say that they speak Welsh to some degree (2011 census) and 52% of those say that they are more comfortable speaking English (2012-15 Welsh Use survey) we won’t be far wrong in assuming that less than 10% of the population actually objects to speaking English. But even that isn’t true; another 26% of the total have no preference for either Welsh or English leaving 20% of all Welsh speakers who feel most comfortable speaking Welsh.

    So there we have it; we, the people of Wales, are required to provide a Welsh language service, within these borders and outside to some degree, for 3.8% of the Welsh population. This figure is still higher than the actual percentage of people who use Welsh language services but it’s close.

    The big question is have NON Welsh speakers language rights in Wales? Certainly not in law. “Saving the language” has become shorthand for maintaining an elite in Wales. In real terms, people, non Welsh speakers, will have the significant disadvantage of being made unemployed in preference to a Welsh speaker for no rational reason other than that we have a Language commissioner who imposes unreasonable demands on local authorities where demand for Welsh language services is driven entirely by Cymdeithas Yr Iaith “secret shoppers”.

  18. Thank you Rhobat for your considered observations.

    In Northern Ireland they are still struggling with the issue of education being segregated on cultural (religious) ground and its long term negative influence on social harmony.

    Makes you wonder doesn’t it ?

  19. Rhobat, I’m sure some of your comments will soon be taken out of context, by those who dislike the language, but I guess that’s par for the course. Hopefully the move towards homogenising the teaching of Welsh across all schools and removing the unnecessary label of “second language” in our education system will go some way to removing any unnecessary divides.

    In terms of cliques, I cannot think of a country in the world which doesn’t have cliques or powerful elite classes – some countries simply have more powerful cliques than others and they are rarely representative of the mass populations. In Wales I think the clique thing is greatly overstated, because my perception is that we are the least elitist of the home nations and we are rapidly moving away from the cliquey sort of society we once were. I wouldn’t argue that academia is a very different world, full of cliques no doubt, coupled with significant egos etc, but again no different the world over.

    Wales has always had its land owning gentry and aristocrats, sheriffs and lord lieutenants, the people who tried very hard to compare to English equivalents, but were in the main regarded as poor relations. While remnants of that not too distant era linger on, the Grammar school educated post war era children, stepped in to become part of a generation where a larger proportion of “normal” people became elevated to a university educated elite. Many of that era did well enough to attend colleges at Oxford or Cambridge and in historical terms became part of a transitional clique of civil servants, solicitors, barristers, medical professionals, politicians and accountants. This was the age that most people think of when they imagine a Welsh Taffia, because this was the age when local boys made good and started to talk and act a lot more like their English peers, but more importantly established peer networks analogous to their English counterparts. New cliques maybe, but nothing in comparison the Etonian type networks that dominate institutions of Government like Westminster, the English civil service, security services and state media like the BBC.

    There are cliques and there are powerful networks. We need to ensure that we have the tools to scrutinise elitism and favouritism, but it would be wrong to thwart the development of networks that could benefit Wales, simply because we regard them as different or cliquey. I’ve no doubt that things like the Eisteddfod provide opportunities for networking and ideas and perhaps cliques may well emerge from these things, but the way to inclusivity is to have more events, associations and general opportunities to network, not less.

    We may have some inequities, but they are not based on divisions in terms of language or culture as some would like to suggest. We are not as egalitarian as we should be, but we are not infected with gross elitism either. There are those with wooden spoons who would love nothing better than to divide us along language lines – I don’t speak Welsh and I have never been to the national Eisteddfod, but these things belong in my consciousness and to everyone else in Wales who considers themselves to be Welsh.

  20. I’ll show you how Wales builds an elite if you like Aled, and we do it with the complete blessing of every political party in Wales.
    If you go to the Welsh Statistics website and click on “Ad Hoc statistics”:-


    That should give you the archives. Then go to June 1st releases and look at the data for “pupils entering A level through the medium of Welsh.”
    Look at the entry for Welsh first language which was just 252. That is the pool for all potential teachers of Welsh in Wales for the year although of course few of those will actually go into teaching.
    Now look at where those potential Welsh teachers come from: half of them come from the Nationalist voting areas of Wales, the Fro Cymraeg.

    The next question is where do Welsh medium teachers go to? Well the growth area is undoubtedly the multi cultural Capital city, Cardiff, where one in four children born each year is born to a mother who was herself born outside the UK.
    Move up the Ad Hoc statistical data requests to Nov. 16th 2015 and look at “Cardiff primary schools by Welsh medium type by FSM, Gender and Ethnic background.”

    I’ll work out the percentages for you:
    Eligible for free school meals.
    WM schools 9%.
    EM schools 22%
    Gender (Girls are better at languages and perform better academically).
    WM schools. Girls 50.2%
    EM schools. Girls 48.8%
    (the gap grows wider at secondary school as boys disproportionately move to EM schools)
    Ethnicity. Non White, British.
    WM schools. 10%
    EM schools. 37%

    And, hey presto, we have built ourselves a state sponsored, Language Commissioner blessed White, Welsh speaking, middle class, nationalist elite that any Northern European eugenicist would be proud of.

  21. @ J Jones

    I think I should first welcome the use of statistics in your argument. It is always a good idea to move a discussion towards being evidence-based, to use the jargon of the day. However I believe that you have used my terms to describe a number of phenomenon at the same time which unfortunately only serves to confuse matters.

    When I state that a Welsh speaker cannot live their life through the medium of Welsh, there is no assumption that they are more Welsh than their fellow citizens. In fact, the opposite is the case since an English speaker can live their lives quite comfortably in Wales through the medium of English in their own country. English is the majority language of Wales and therefore it is the Welsh speaker who is at a disadvantage in this specific regard.

    The issue that you conflated with the above point is how people perceive themselves and this, given its subjective and social aspects is a complex one. However if we are to develop a cultural model of Wales that accurately reflects the nature of our population, then we need to move beyond issues of subjective self-perception, important though that is. It seems to me that what is referred to as Welsh culture is in fact a combination of regional cultures given the nomenclature of national by those pursuing an ideological agenda. ‘Welsh’ culture is the culture which has its home in the areas of Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. Put crudely, these cultures can be coralled under the umbrella term of ‘Cymreictod’ or the ‘Fro’. Uncoincidentally, these areas are regarded as the homeland of the Welsh language.

    It is not the only sense in which Welsh culture is used. There is also ‘Valleys’ Welsh. There are connections between ‘Cymreictod’ and the Valleys since there was a great deal of internal migration towards the coalfields away from rural poverty. But there is a recognition that the industrial nature of the cultural landscape of the Valleys and the predominance of the English language in this region that made it a culture distinct from the traditional Fro. The predominance of socialism as a social creed as opposed to the non-conformity of the Fro and the Eisteddfod was also a distinctive marker.

    But this narrative does not make for a comprehensive or inclusive view of the nature of Welsh culture as a civic phenomenon. It does not include the urban cultures to be found in Barry, Newport or Wrexham for example. It does not include the culture of the Marches where English-Welsh interaction is a daily occurrence.

    To resolve this, My starting point is that of citizenship. Iif you live in Wales, you are a Welsh citizen living under a Welsh government. And that, in a democracy, all citizens are equal before the law and consequently all cultures to be found within the geographical area for which the Assembly is responsible make up Welsh culture. This includes the cultures of the 20% of the population who speak Welsh and the 25% of the population who were born outside of Wales but now live here.

    So I agree with J Jones to this extent that the best framework within which to discuss issues of language and culture is that of citizenship. This is a weak concept in Welsh political discourse as are other judicial concepts that could help at least to stabilise our understanding of our cultures. Political discourse tends to focus on the executive branch of government in which legal concepts are assumed rather than debated. Perhaps as the Assembly grows as a legislature and a more distinctive Welsh judiciary emerges, we can hope that the debate will become more balanced. Needless to say, this leaves a huge area of debate as to the relationship between citizenship and cultural identity. In the United States, to which J Jones alludes, this distinction is understood and practised. It is not without its difficulties and tensions but it is a workable model which allows a democracy to function based on respect for cultural difference. There is also a growing awareness there that the States is no longer a monolingual English speaking country as 37 million (13%) use Spanish as their first language and that figure is growing.

    I had intended to reply to a great many other points made by other contributors but I have used enough blog space for the time being. I will finish however with a repeat of a plea I have made before. In addition to all the other tabs at the top of this page, the time has come to add the law. This is after all the future of the Assembly and is not to be left solely for professionals and academics to debate. The law, and the citizenship that goes with it, belongs to us all.

  22. Of course there is also subtle censorship. That’s where the “Click” editor groans at the direction a particular thread is taking…for the hundredth time, and holds back a comment or comments so that no one reads it or responds to it. Preferably holding back the comment until the entire thread drops off the bottom of the page.

    I. like the estimable Ross Tredwyn, believe that even the least well informed of contributors should enjoy the freedom to comment and certainly not be subject to personal attack but, with so much information out there in the “Welsh government statistics and research” pages, the Welsh Government disclosure log, Roger Scully’s Elections in Wales anthology of Welsh polling and academic research papers, particularly WISERD, it is a mystery as to why so many people confidently propound untenable assertions based, it seems, only on confident self belief.

  23. J.Jones,

    Just a quick point – I didn’t realise that you needed an A-level in Welsh to teach through the medium of Welsh. I have friends who are science teachers in WM schools and I’m pretty sure that they don’t have A-level Welsh. If you do need an A level then it’s a much higher barrier to entry than teaching through the medium of English where you only need a B at GCSE level and until Huw Lewis changed things, it used to be a grade C.

  24. Rhobat Bryn Jones, 11:00pm

    ‘Iif (sic) you live in Wales, you are a Welsh citizen living under a Welsh government.’

    Absurd idiocy!

    If you live in Wales you are a citizen of the UK and living under a UK government.

  25. @ J Jones

    I think you’re abusing the term ‘censorship’ here. Censorship is an act of suppression. An editor is perfectly entitled to edit which in this context should be in accordance with the principle of moderation. Passions can become inflamed and if no editing took place at all could end up with some pretty rancid views; it would be irresponsible of an editor of this website to allow immoderate views full reign in the name of free speech.

    I also have experience of seeing my views held back from publication while others are published for reasons I can’t explain. But my views have always been published eventually. If my views were not published at all, that would be a different matter. Or if my views were in violation of the rules governing debate on this blog, then the editor has the authority not to publish them.

    A belief in democracy governed by the rule of law requires that we do not tolerate dictatorship. In this context, I am entitled to my express my view but I do not have the right to dictate to the editor how or when my views are published. In the same way that the editor does not have the right to dictate to me what I should think or write. That way, power is distributed and democratic debate can flourish.

    In practice, it seems to me that the editors of this blog exercise a fairly light touch when it comes to moderating debate. On the rare occasion that they directly intervene, a full explanation is offered. Perhaps you would edit things differently but that is simply a matter of opinion, not a matter of censorship.

  26. Fair point Rhobat. Maybe I get too impatient.

    Aled F:- read my actual words; ” That is the pool for all potential teachers of Welsh in Wales for the year” Teachers of Welsh actually DO need to have A level Welsh. WM teacher just need A*-C at GCSE. I think that is still the case although they need A*-B in English and Maths and A*-C in Science.

    It doesn’t detract much from my case either way. The argument that I was making was that we in Wales are quite at home with building an educational elite. Just because it’s uniquely Welsh does not mean it is not an elite.

    Welsh Medium education is divisive and always has been…I believe quite intentionally so.

  27. @ Karen

    We can always rely on you to turn to personal abuse in the absence of understanding.

    To complete the trilogy

    If you live in Wales, you are a Welsh citizen living under Welsh law.

    If you live in Wales, you are a British subject living under English law.

    If you live in Wales, you are a European citizen living under European law.

    My original remarks were not so much about layers of jurisdiction but made in relation to Welsh cultural identity. Should you need any help understanding the concept of meaning being derived from context, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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