The Brexit Party has announced that it is contesting the Welsh elections next year on a flagship policy of abolishing the Senedd.
The Welsh Assembly – now called the Welsh Parliament, or Senedd in Welsh – was established in 1999 following a referendum in 1997 in which the Welsh people voted by a majority of just 6,721 votes to introduce devolution in Wales. A further referendum in 2011 on increasing the powers of the Senedd produced a rather more emphatic 219,752 vote majority in favour.
It’s more than a little bizarre that a political party established entirely on the premise of forcing the British government to respect the result of the EU referendum would base a whole election campaign on overturning the results of two referenda in Wales.
The latest polling Wales suggests that 22% are in favour of abolishing the Senedd, 24% want to leave it as it is, 20% want to give it more powers and 16% want Welsh independence. It looks like the end of the road for the Brexit Party’s four Senedd members.
The great and good of Wales are tackling the most important issue facing the Welsh with a letter urging the Welsh government to rename the Welsh Assembly to the Senedd.
The Welsh government are already planning a rebrand of the Welsh Assembly by giving it two official names: Senedd Cymru and Welsh Parliament. But having an official English name alongside the Welsh is apparently a problem as it will lead to the Welsh name and therefore the entire Welsh language falling into disuse.
Now, I’m all for preserving the Welsh language and even encouraging its use in Wales. I was born in Shrewsbury, just 10 miles from the Welsh border and have never lived more than 30 miles from Wales. Most family holidays as a child were in Wales and I am fairly proficient in road sign Welsh as most people in the western half of Shropshire generally are. It’s not unusual to hear Welsh accents in places like Shrewsbury and Oswestry or even Welsh being spoken in public. Almost a third of the population of Wales speak some Welsh and just shy of a fifth of the population are able to read and write Welsh as well as speak it. The language is not going to die out because the Welsh government has an official English name as well as Welsh.
When the time comes, maybe we’ll have the same debate in England about the naming of the Thæt Angelmot? Or should it be ᚦᚬᛏ•ᛅᚾᚴᛁᛚᛘᚬᛏ?
The MP for Telford, Lucy Allan, appears to have had a devolution-related epiphany.
The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) covering Shropshire has plans to downgrade the accident and emergency department at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford and operate just one A&E at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.
When the CCG carried out its statutory consultation on what it optimistically calls “Future Fit” it didn’t just consult residents in Shropshire but included those in Mid Wales who fall within the catchment area of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. Unsurprisingly, people in Mid Wales supported the plan to centralise the A&E service at Shrewsbury.
Health is a devolved matter, the NHS is Wales is the responsibility of the Welsh government. The Welsh government receives more money per head of population in public funding than the British government spends in England. Last year the British government spent £8,989 per person on public services in the West Midlands. In Wales it was £10,397 per person. That’s a £1,408 premium for every man, woman and child in Wales subsidised by the English taxpayer.
Lucy Allan has said that too much importance has been given to what the Welsh thought about the plans at Telford’s expense. I agree wholeheartedly. People in Wales shouldn’t have had any say whatsoever on the plans for Shropshire’s hospitals. I didn’t expect to have a say on the plans for the Newtown bypass even though I used it every summer because I don’t live in Powys. People in Powys shouldn’t expect to have a say on the plans for our hospitals in Shropshire just because they use one of them.
One of Montgomeryshire’s AMs has expressed his delight that Shropshire’s single site A&E is going to be close to Wales, as has the British Secretary of State for Wales. They’re happy because a town with a larger population than the whole of Powys and which will soon have a larger population than Powys and Ceredigion combined is losing the A&E its residents pay for because it suits people in Powys and Ceredigion who don’t.
The question is, would this have happened if we had an English Parliament? My answer is that the chances of it happening would be infinitesimally small. An English government directly elected by people in England to represent English interests alone would have been unlikely to allow the downgrade of a hospital in England to mitigate the Welsh government’s underfunding of the Welsh NHS. An English Secretary of State wouldn’t “fully back” plans to close an A&E in England because it makes it easier to service people living in Wales to the detriment of people in England. It is because England is still under direct rule of the British government that these things are allowed to happen in England and it because these things keep on happening that we need an English Parliament, Executive and First Minister to represent English interests.