Happy Saint David’s Day

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Saint David’s Day is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on 1 March, the date of Saint David’s death in 589. The feast has been regularly celebrated since the canonisation of David in the 12th century, though it is not a national holiday in the UK.

Traditional festivities include wearing daffodils and leeks, recognised symbols of Wales and Saint David respectively, eating traditional Welsh food including cawl ,Welsh rarebit, and Welsh Cakes and women wearing traditional Welsh dress. An increasing number of cities and towns across Wales including Cardiff, Swansea and Aberystwyth also put on parades throughout the day.

The day also marked some interminable display of the Welsh Language going on in schools, suffering through that was always a hellish experience. I actually make quite a quick study in languages, speaking about four conversationally and being able to spout the basics in 7 more, but Welsh is something I’ve never been able to get my tongue around, you need both a lisp and severe throat infection to really get it and I lack both. Being a Welshman who doesn’t speak Welsh is actually a pretty common thing, about 85% of Welsh residents report having no ability to speak Welsh, and yet over 99% report speaking English. Yet every official sign and form (from the public sector only thankfully) has to be in both English and Welsh, which is ridiculous, how many trees have died just to preserve a dying language. It’s also worth mentioning that the number of Polish speakers in the UK is almost double that of Welsh speakers, but we don’t see council tax bills in Polskie do we?

Lifting The Veil On Politics: Wales

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This is the first of a series of posts trying to de-mystify politics for everyday people.

Wales is one of the countries that makes up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it is bordered to the east by England, the south by the Bristol Chanel and north and west by the Irish Sea. It has a population of just over three million people, English is the main language, although Welsh is commonly used (if not spoken), the currency is pound sterling and the capital city is Cardiff.

When it comes to the governance of Wales there are 5 levels of government (four after brexit finally transpires and Britain leaves the European Union) and they are:

  1. Community: The over 800 Town, Parish and Community Councils throughout Wales.
  2. Local:  Unitary authorities comprising of County, City and Borough Councils (Of which there are 22) [another blog about this will be forthcoming].
  3. Regional: The National Assembly for Wales is the directly elected parliament for Wales with 60 directly elected assembly members with responsibility for, healthcare, education, transport, business, tourism and agriculture and various devolved monetary policies.
  4. National: The UK government in Westminster which influences Wales by controlling aspects of foreign policy, defence policy and some aspects of tax policy. [another blog about this will be forthcoming]
  5. European: Governs 28 nations including the UK, with directly elected members of the European Parliament, European Commissioners and Councillors appointed by each of the member states.  Handles regulatory matters and Human Rights. [find more here]

Wales finally got its own government as a result of a referendum held in 1997. 60 Assembly members were elected to the first term of the National Assembly For Wales in 1999, 40 members elected from first past the post style constituency elections and 20 members elected from five proportionally represented regions.

As of 2011 the Welsh Government is responsible for making policy and laws for the following areas:

  • Agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development
  • Ancient monuments and historical buildings
  • Culture
  • Economic development
  • Education and training
  • Environment
  • Fire and rescue services and promotion of fire safety
  • Food
  • Health and health services
  • Highways and transport
  • Housing
  • Local government
  • National Assembly for Wales
  • Public administration
  • Social welfare
  • Sport and recreation
  • Tourism
  • Town and country planning
  • Water and flood defences
  • Welsh language

The way laws are made in the Welsh Assembly is as follows:

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Source: National Assemble For Wales

Hopefully that helps to shed a little light on how the governance of Wales works (or works in theory).

 

La Lingua Franca of Wales

I live in Wales and to be honest the Lingua Franca of Wales is defiantly English, now I’ve run media and political campaigns in both English and Welsh (and once en Espanol but that is defiantly a tale for another time) and if anything I’ve learned its that Welsh just costs money and takes time.

The Welsh Language costs the taxpayer millions of pounds to accommodate but its spoken fluently by around 8% of the population. Now my local council (Torfaen) has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the provision of Welsh language services and has had one request for dealings in Welsh, and this came from the Welsh Language Commissions mystery shopper.

The reason of the Welsh Language Commission was set up was to provide guidance and support for businesses, charities and government bodies in relation to their legal position for the use of the Welsh Language. Except from what I see it doesn’t, in recent months I emailed the commission asking for guidance on what the legal position is for the use of Welsh Language in the production of political campaign literature…3 months later I’m still waiting for an answer. But my specific case aside this is not the only time that the Welsh Language Commission has dropped the ball when it comes to doing their duty. In recent times the WLC has issued new standards for public bodies with a whole system of fines in place for breaches, which is great public sector bodies should be held accountable over their use of language but surely some guidelines would be nice, a few little clues as to how to implement the new standards? Nope, these are being left entirely open to interpretation, but watch yourself, you get it wrong and you pay the price.

From my point of view though Cymraeg yn boen yn y gwaelod