Friday, 30 December 2011

Renewable energy, a real boost to the economy

A progress report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, says latest research shows that so far this financial year:
  • £2.5billion worth of investment in renewable energy projects in the UK
  • the potential to create almost 12,000 jobs across the country
Chris Huhne, Energy Secretary, said yesterday:

“Renewable energy is not just helping us increase our energy security and reduce our emissions. It is supporting jobs and growth across the country, and giving traditional industrial heartlands the opportunity to thrive again.

“Our renewable target is less demanding than other EU member states, but the effect is bringing real jobs and investment.

“I do not want the UK to be left behind by turning our back on the green economy. The agreement to negotiate a global deal secured at Durban has reinforced major nations’ commitment to cutting carbon. We cannot afford to stand alone while the world wises up.”

You can read the full text of the press release at the DECC website

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The weather and the jet stream.

Figure 1

The winter weather to date has been rather warm, if wet and windy. A major reason behind this has been the jet stream, which for most of December has been above us, bringing warmer air in from the Atlantic. A good explanation as to how the jet stream affects UK weather can be found in the - tutorial

You can see a predicted model of the jets stream from the Global Forecasting System at Weatheronline.

Figure 1 above shows the jet stream as predicted for new years eve at 18:00 hours GMT.  As you can see the jet stream is moving in a general South to North direction as it passes the UK, which will bring warmer weather as can be seen in figure 2 below:

Figure 2

Therefore for Ynys Môn weather on new years eve is likely to cloudy but mostly dry with a mild temperature (up to 11 Celsius) but may feel colder in a brisk wind (25-30 mph). An approaching cold front from Ireland may bring rain sometime after 9 pm,  with  light rain showers for most of new years day.

Base data from Weatheronline and Met Office for Surface Pressure Charts

Friday, 23 December 2011

My perspective on wind farms and why we need them.

There is it seems a growing concern about wind farms on Ynys Môn,  the island of whom most visitors I know comment on how windy it is.

A related concern is the apparent lack of debate around the issue of wind farms - well let me contribute some of my thoughts.

First all you need to think about the wider picture - One day we shall have used most of the planet's natural resources be they oil, coal or gas.

And in their burning we produce carbon dioxide, which evidence suggest is causing global warming.

Much is made about future generations - i.e the need for austerity now, so that we don't burden them with our debt.

I for one believe we are very lucky, that we (if a small percentage of the world population) live in the golden age of mankind. The future if we continue on the same irresponsible consumer driven madness is a bit bleak to say the least.

However, we should at least try and make the future better for those yet born.  One big step we can take is to reduce our dependency on carbon fuels.

Climate change is real, is accepted by most countries of the world, and is something we need to tackle as a matter of urgency. You may say what's the point of the UK cutting our carbon emission if China emits more - a bit like saying it's OK I only smoke 20 a day, the bloke next door smokes 40, then dying of cancer.

We need to consume less and reduce our reliance on carbon based fuels. Think about the electricity we use, we need a balanced mix of electricity generation.  Now, one day there may be new means of generating electricity such as thorium power, but until then we have to use what we have.

That would be nuclear power in the first place, then gas (the most 'friendly' of carbon based fuels) and then renewable sources.

I don't think the Conservative led Coalition Government is under any impression that renewable power can provide a majority of our electricity, although some might disagree. The latest government policy aims for 15% of our electricity to be supplied from renewable sources, a major component of which is wind power.

That means 85% of our electricity needs has to produced from either nuclear, gas or coal. One day soon we might develop a commercially viable carbon capture system, which would make gas or coal more environmentally friendly. But even then that's still burning it, and gas and coal wont last for ever - sorry kids we used it all, at least we've made it warmer for you!

Let's be realistic whatever we do has an impact on the planet, but we are not talking about the planet's future; its destiny is already mapped out in the stars - we need to STOP, and think about the future of HUMANITY.

If we didn't have wind farms, then we would have to build more nuclear, gas or coal power stations. Offshore wind farms being more expensive, whereas wind farms on land provide a relatively cheap and short term solution to our need to reduce our dependency on carbon based fuels.

A major part of the government's policy for reducing carbon emission is a switch to electric cars. That's going to be a lot of batteries, and the next major breakthrough is likely to come in battery technology. In theory electric cars could be a source of storage, after all not going out for the day, battery full why not sell it to the national grid.

We could also build more hydro power station like the one at Llanberis, which is a storage unit. It was build to utilise spare capacity from Wylfa and Trawsfynydd, to pump the water to the top reservoir, and then quite quickly give a boost to the national grid when the nation say had a cup of tea during a commercial break in Coronation Street.

I finish by saying that in my opinion onshore wind farms are the short term answer to our urgent need to reduce our dependency on carbon based electricity albeit as part of a mix of generating sources. Who knows in 20 years time we might have new means of generating clean and green electricity, but until then we would be foolish to totally rule out onshore wind farms as part of the solution.

See also

Does wind power reduce carbon emissions?

Select Committee on Economic Affairs - The Economics of Renewable Energy

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Councils consult on windfarms in 'Gwynedd'

Wind farms especially the new generation of wind turbines; which are much larger than those we currently have on Ynys Môn, have of late become a contentious issue. The pressure group Anglesey against wind turbines "exist to oppose any further erection of commercial on shore wind turbines on the grounds that they are unsightly, damaging to our fragile economy, uneconomic, noisy and damaging to our wildlife."

Large non-commercial wind turbines being OK I assume?

I myself have previously stated the in my humble opinion wind farms are the short term answer to our electricity needs, as part of a sustainable national grid.  However having said that I think 'Anglesey against wind turbines' are doing a good job in that wind turbines "has recently become a hotly debated topic".

As Paul Williams (aka The Druid) points out, even the Council has taken notice. Last week Anglesey and Gwynedd Joint Planning Policy Unit published a draft Supplementary Planning Guidance document which you can download from Ynys Môn Council website.

The consultation period runs till Friday 10th February 2012.

Update: With thanks to Mairede Thomas (see below comments) who makes reference to the following documents:

Electricity Market Reform (EMR) White Paper 2011 (July 2011)


Written ministerial statement by Chris Huhne on Electricity Market Reform: technical update. (December 2011)

or Press release by Chris Huhne, Energy and Climate Change Secretary.

Monday, 19 December 2011

The renewable energy debate - more investment in Nuclear power?

A joint report "Renewable Energy Vision or Mirage" published the Adam Smith Research Trust and Scientific-Alliance in summary concludes:

...In light of this assessment, we conclude that taxpayers’ money would be far better spent on measures to increase energy efficiency, plus investment in proven nuclear and gas generating capacity to provide energy security as many of the UK’s coal-fired stations – and nearly all existing nuclear reactors – are decommissioned over the coming decade.

You can download the full report from the Adam Smith Website see Reports.

However, the above review has been criticised by some, and the below is a press release from WWF Scotland

Responding to a report out today (Monday [12 December 2011]) ‘Renewable Energy: Vision or Mirage’ by the Adam Smith Institute and Scientific Alliance, Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland said:

"This report comprises a selection of tired and unconvincing myths about renewables and is a distraction from our fight to reduce carbon emissions. The report's attacks on renewables just don’t stack up, more renewables really do mean less fossil fuels burnt and less carbon emitted. WWF research shows how 100 per cent of global energy needs can be met from renewables by 2050 and Scotland is already aiming for a perfectly achievable 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020.

"At the UK level, our Positive Energy report shows that we can have well over 60 per cent of renewables in the UK by 2030 in a way that is secure and affordable and could generate great benefits to the economy.

"Scientific Alliance are a well known front for anti-environment, pro-nuclear and climate-sceptic views. They were set up by a PR company and a quarry millionaire who didn’t want to pay environmental taxes. They are a right-wing think-tank that isn’t very good at thinking and this report is destined to go the way of all the other biased tosh they have produced over the years."

You can see the full press release at WWF Scotland which includes additional information.

Friday, 16 December 2011

My two tone crow

Not this crow this is a rook.

For the last few months I have noticed a crow with some white feathers in its wings and tail which has intrigued me. Sorry no pictures yet, but it looks a bit like the rook above. Today I googled 'crow with white feathers'.

According to the website Birds of Britain:

Much more usual is a Blackbird or crow with a few white feathers, on the body, wings or tail. Birds with large amounts of white are the result of a genetic flaw in both male and female. The reason they remain rare is that both parents must carry the genes responsible for the white plumage. Birds with just a few white feathers may arise in the same way, but equally may have suffered an injury or even a disease which has damaged the feather follicles so that the feathers grow without any pigment. Most reports of birds with a few white feathers are of Blackbirds, Starlings and crows, but then these not only are these common birds, but their normal colour is black or very dark so that white feathers will show up well. It is quite usual for the amount of white to grow as the bird gets older.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Ynys Môn GVA per head revised figures

We here on Ynys Môn have long being used to the label of poorest region in Wales, if you use GVA per head as a measure.

However, the latest revised figures from ONS shows that for the period 1997 to 2003 the GVA per head for Ynys Môn had been over estimated, whilst for the period between 2004 and 2009 they where under estimated.

The result of this revision means that since 2004 based on NUTS3.2 GVA per head at current basic prices, it has in fact been Gwent Valleys and not Ynys Môn that has the lowest GVA per head in Wales.

As a comparison in Ynys Môn the GVA per head between 1997 and 2009 grew by 5247, whereas for Gwent Valleys and the same period only grew by 2979.

Not surprisingly in 2009 in most regions GVA fell, Ynys Môn by 233 and Gwent Valleys by 344.

I would add my usual disclaimer about using GVA per head to compare regions see Anglesey and GVA

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Final banding for secondary schools announced.

The final banding for secondary schools based on 2011 data, has been published by the Welsh Government.

For Ynys Môn and in no particular order, the banding for secondary schools are:

  • Ysgol David Hughes - Band 3
  • Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni - Band 1
  • Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones - Band 3
  • Ysgol Uwchradd Bodedern - Band 5
  • Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi - Band 5
It's important to point out that the banding system is not a league table, you can download a brief explanation as to the model used for banding of secondary schools (in pdf format) from the Welsh Government website

See also: BBC News Wales

Monday, 5 December 2011

Bribery Act and the Royal Mail

It's nearly Christmas and some of us, as we have done for a long time, will give a small gift to the likes of the local postman and binmen.

Recent guidance published by Royal Mail (see BBC News) advised postmen to politely decline any gift  over £30 in value. Now I don't know about you, but when I said a small gift, I meant a small gift, £30 pounds and over sounds a bit much to me.

But if someone wants to give a gift greater in value than £30 and the postie receives it in good faith, it's very unlikely to constitute a bribe.

Guidance by the Director of Public Prosecution ( Download in PDF format) is quite clear on the matter.

See also the website Merry Christmas from the Royal Mail: Postmen (and women) – tips could violate Bribery Act

Bribery is wrong and in his foreword to the 2004 United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) the then UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan) described the serious effects of corruption:

“Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish … Corruption is a key element in economic under-performance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development.”

Joint prosecution guidance of the Director of the Serious Fraud Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions (see above for download link) define the scope of the Bribery Act 2010:

The Act takes a robust approach to tackling commercial bribery, which is one of its principal objectives. The offences are not, however, limited to commercial bribery. There may be many examples outside the commercial sphere where individuals attempt to influence the application of rules, regulations and normal procedures. Examples would include attempts to influence decisions by local authorities, regulatory bodies or elected representatives on matters such as planning consent, school admission procedures or driving tests.

So I doubt if it was ever intended to include say Mrs Jones from down road giving a Christmas gift to her favourite postman and possibly only daily contact with the outside world.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Windfarms in Irleand.

In a recent flyer from the protest group Anglesey against wind turbines they claim:

"Similar developments in Scotland and Ireland have permanently damaged their tourist industry."

I have posted before about the impact of wind farms on tourism in Scotland, see Wind farms and tourism 'compatible'.

But what about Ireland?

Research in 2008 undertaken by Lansdowne Market Research which involved face-to face interviews with 1,300 tourists, both domestic (25%) and overseas (75%) (1,000 in the Republic; 300 in Northern Ireland, for Fáilte Ireland’s Environment Unit says in summary:

Almost three quarters of respondents claim that potentially greater numbers of wind farms would either have no impact on their likelihood to visit or have a strong or fairly strong positive impact on future visits to the island of Ireland.

Of those who feel that a potentially greater number of wind farms would positively impact on their likelihood to visit, the key driver is their support for renewable energy and potential decreased carbon emissions. Those who are negatively disposed are more likely to cite that wind farms look ugly, are noisy and can frighten or damage wildlife. A small number also claim they have preference for other forms of renewable energy.

In terms of the size and composition of wind farms, tourists tended to prefer farms containing fewer turbines. If both produced the same amount of electricity, tourists also preferred wind farms containing a small group of large turbines (55%) to a large group of smaller turbines (18%).

You can download the leaflet from Fáilte Ireland’s Environment Unit.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Travellers have basic human rights too.

It may seem a long time ago, but I still think that the way the travellers at Dale Farm were treated was wrong.

Recently Dale Farm has been back in the headlines with some of the families moving back onto the access roads. See BBC News Jail threat over travellers' return to Dale Farm

One of the arguments against the extension to the existing lawful travellers site was that it was development in open countryside, although how a former industrial site at the location it is, with it seems much industrial units and housing in the vicinity, can be described as open countryside is beyond me. Have a look yourself on Google Maps.

And this is how Basildon Council saw fit to leave the a site in "open countryside" after the evicitions:

Now isn't that a nice view for the existing travellers living in the lawful site to wake up to every morning.

Sadly it seems discrimination against travellers is also a problem in Ireland as highlighted in this excellent programme by Vincent Brown

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday

Home at Last a poem by Tony Church

He's home at last, a mother's son, a fine young man, his duty done,
Yet not for him the fond embrace, a loving kiss, a smiling face
Or cries of joy to laugh and cheer the safe return of one so dear,
It is his lot to show the world a soldiers fate as flags unfurl
And Standards lower in salutation, symbols of a grateful nation.

Sombre now, the drum beats low, as he is carried, gentle, so
As if not to disturb his rest, by comrades, three and three abreast
Who now, as quiet orders sound, they, one by one then move around
To place him in the carriage decked with flowers in calm and hushed respect,
Preparing for the sad, slow ride through silent crowds who wait outside.

So the warrior now returns to native soil and rightly earns
The great respect to one so young, though sadness stills the waiting throng,
While flowers strew the path he takes, as the carriage slowly makes
A final turning to allow the veterans standing there to show
The soldiers pride, a silent, mute, proud and respectful last salute.

Yet, while onlookers stand and see the simple, moving ceremony,
There is a home, a place somewhere, where sits a waiting, vacant chair,
And one great yawning empty space in someone's heart, no last embrace
To bid a final, fond farewell to one who will forever dwell
In love and cherished memory, a Husband, Son, eternally.

And we who see should not forget that in this soldier's final debt
And sacrifice for duty's sake, it is the loved ones who must take
The hurt, to bear as best they can, and face a future lesser than
The one they dreamed in bygone years, now to regard with bitter tears,
Reflecting, as time intervenes, on thoughts of how it might have been.

But in their grief there's quiet pride that loved ones bravely fought and died
Believing in a worthy goal which helps give solace, and consoles
By knowing that the loss they bear is shared by all our peoples where
In gratitude, their names will be forever honoured, guaranteed
To be remembered and enshrined, beyond the shifting sands of time.

From Poems for Remembrance Sunday

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Is a Fedral Europe now the only answer?

This week we shall be remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free, be they in the first world war or second or conflicts since.

With the European Union seemingly close to collapse, I think the following speech given by a famous person from the past is one we should all be reminded of.

"I must congratulate the Assembly upon the high level maintained during this debate. Not only have the speeches been full of thoughts which have their own particular value because they have been contributed from so many angles, but also there have been successful attempts at oratory which have triumphed over the acoustic conditions which, I must tell you, are none too good and which will, I trust, be subject to development, like all the rest of our proceedings.

We are engaged in the process of creating a European unit in the world organization of the United Nations. I hope that we shall become one of several continental units which will form the pillars of the world instrument for maintaining security, and be the best guarantee of maintaining peace. I hope that in due course these continental units will be represented in the world organization collectively, rather than by individual States as in the present system, and that we shall be able to settle a great mass of our problems among ourselves in Europe before they are brought, or instead of them being brought, to the world council for decision.

We are not in any way the rival of the world organization. We are a subordinate but essential element in its ultimate structure. The progress of our first meeting has so far been encouraging. Our relations with the Committee of Ministers show a desire on both sides to reach a working harmony. That should not be difficult if we recognize clearly what our respective functions are.

We are a deliberative Assembly, and we must have full freedom of discussion on all questions except defence. We must assert our right to this freedom and we must have our own Parliamentary officers to assist us in our debates. I trust that the necessary Amendments to the Statute will be made by the Committee of Ministers on this point as the result of our first session here at Strasbourg.

But while I feel that we should insist upon full freedom of debate, and choice of subjects, we do not possess executive power, and at this stage in our development we could not possibly claim it. Our foundation by selection by the Governments of the day from the various parliaments is not such as to give us authority at this stage to take decisions. We claim, however, to make proposals. It is not for us to make decisions which would require executive authority. We may discuss European problems and try to bring about a sense of unity. We must feel our way forward and, by our good sense, build up an increasing strength and reputation.

But we must not attempt on our present electoral basis to change the powers which belong to the duly constituted national parliaments founded directly upon universal suffrage. Such a course would be premature. It would be detrimental to our long-term interests. We should, however, do our utmost to secure that these national parliaments examine and let us know their views upon any recommendation on European problems that we may make. That, I think, we may require of them. Each of us, in our respective parliaments, should take the opportunity to raise points according to the procedure which prevails.

I touch upon some of the points which are upon our agenda. I am not myself committed to a federal or any other particular solution at this stage. We must thoroughly explore all the various possibilities, and a committee, working coolly and without haste, should, in a few months, be able to show the practical steps which would be most helpful to us. I will not prejudge the work of the committee, but I hope they will remember Napoleon's saying: 'A constitution must be short and obscure.'

Until that committee reports. I think we should be well advised to reserve our judgment. I am in accord with what Mr. Morrison has said on this subject. I share his view that we would be wise to see what are the recommendations of our committee which. I hope, will sit permanently and not be broken up by our departure. To take a homely and familiar test, we may just as well see what the girl looks like before we marry her. It is to our advantage to have an opportunity of making a detailed examination of these problems.

Then there is the question of human rights, which is the second subject set down on our agenda. We attach great importance to this, Mr. President, and are glad that the obstacles to discussion by the Assembly have now been removed by the Committee of Ministers. A European Assembly forbidden to discuss human rights would indeed have been a ludicrous proposition to put to the world.

Again. I should like to see the report of the committee on this subject before we put forward our proposals to the Committee of Ministers. There is an urgency about this, because once the foundation of human rights is agreed on the lines of the decisions of the United Nations at Geneva but I trust in much shorter form we hope that a European Court might be set up, before which cases of violation of these rights in our own body of twelve nations might be brought to the judgment of the civilized world. Such a court, of course, would have no sanctions and would depend for the enforcement of its judgments on the individual decisions of the States now banded together in this Council of Europe. But these States would have subscribed beforehand to the process, and I have no doubt that the great body of public opinion in all these countries would press for action in accordance with the freely given decision.

I now come to the question of the empty seats, which was put before us by M. Andre Philip. Ten ancient capitals of Europe are behind the Iron Curtain. A large part of this continent is held in bondage. They have escaped from Nazism only to fall into the other extreme of Communism. It is like making a long and agonizing journey to leave the North Pole only to find out that, as a result, you have woken up in the South Pole. All around are only ice and snow and bitter piercing winds.

We should certainly make some provision for association with representatives of these countries, who are deprived of ordinary democratic freedom but who will surely regain it in the long march of time. This is a matter which should be carefully considered by the Assembly, and I agree with all those, and there are many, who have spoken in favour of setting aside some seats in the Assembly as a symbol of proof of our intention that the Assembly shall some day represent all Europe, or all Europe west of the Curzon Line.

I now come, sir, to the greatest and most important of all the questions that are before us. A united Europe cannot live without the help and strength of Germany. This has always been foreseen by the European Movement to whose exertions our presence here is due. At The Hague, fourteen months ago, where we resolved to press for the formation of this Assembly, a German delegation was present and was welcomed by all, especially by the representatives of France. One of the most practical reasons for pressing forward with the creation of a European Assembly was that it provided an effective means, and possibly the only effective means, of associating a democratic and free Germany with the Western democracies.

It is too early to judge the results of the German election; but so far as we can yet appreciate the results, many of us, apart from party considerations, may have felt encouraged by the evident size and validity of the poll and by the general results. We cannot part at the end of this month on the basis that we do nothing more to bring Germany into our circle until a year has passed. That year is too precious to lose. If lost, it might be lost for ever. It might not be a year, but it might be the year.

On the other hand, I am assured and here I must break the rule which Mr. Harold Macinillan laid down this morning, that the word 'impossible' must never be used again that it is physically impossible for any German Government that may emerge in the next few weeks to be represented here before we separate.

I need scarcely say that I should be very glad if a way could be found. If, however, this cannot be found, then we must draw the attention of the Committee of Ministers to Article 34 of the Statute, which says: 'The Committee of Ministers may convoke an Extraordinary Session of the Consultative Assembly at such time and place as the Committee, with the concurrence of the President of the Assembly, shall decide.' I think we must ask that an assurance shall be given to us before we separate that the Committee of Ministers will convoke an Extraordinary Session of the Consultative Assembly at the earliest suitable date.

If we could be told that we should meet again for an Extraordinary Session under this Article 34 in December or in January. I personally should be content to leave the matter in the hands of the Committee of Ministers, and even to forgo our claim for a debate upon this subject at this juncture. I would ask that we should receive an assurance that an Extraordinary Session will be convened and I appeal to you. Mr. Vice-President, personally to place yourself in communication with M. Spaak and urge him to confer with the Committee of Ministers upon this subject, so that we may have an answer and know what course we should take in the limited number of days and weeks which are at our disposal.

When we meet in the Extraordinary Session, if one is granted in December or January next, it is my hope that we shall find ourselves already joined by a German delegation similar to that of other Member States; but if this cannot be done, then will be the time for us to debate the issue in full freedom.

Mr. Vice-President. I earnestly hope that an agreement on this matter may be reached along these lines, and that we may be informed of it as soon as possible. It would enable us to avoid various serious difficulties at the present moment and would, I think, give the best chance for the future development of the European Assembly, and the best chance of making sure that the peace of Europe will be given every opportunity to consolidate itself. Such an event as the arrival in our midst of a German delegation as a result of our work here this month would certainly crown our first Session with a solid and memorable achievement, and would have a highly beneficial result in the cause of world peace and European security.

I have only ventured to deal with these particularly important practical points, and I have not attempted to speak of the sentimental and moral aspects of our work. I hope that we shall not put our trust in formulae or in machinery. There are plenty of formulae-"slogans" I think Mr. Morrison called them and, in spite of all the misfortunes which have occurred, there is still plenty of machinery in the political field.

It is by the spirit that we shall establish our force, and it is by the growth and gathering of the united sentiment of Europeanism, vocal here and listened to all over the world, that we shall succeed in taking, not executive decisions, but in taking a leading and active part in the revival of the greatest of continents which has fallen into the worst of misery.

As some of you will know that famous person was Winston Churchill, and a speech he made to the Council Of Europe at Strasbourg, August 17, 1949. Source: The Churchill Centre

At the time Winston Churchill was not sure about a federal Europe - he says "I am not myself committed to a federal or any other particular solution at this stage. " Which does not rule out support for a federal Europe in the future had he been convinced of its merits.

I think that that time has arrived and why we need now to begin a true debate about the future of Europe and whether it would be in all of your interests for closer integration and the formation of a federal Europe.

Lastly when reading the speech again, do take note of his strong support for human rights and the establishment of an European Court.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Tonight with Vincent Browne

For a refreshing and intelligent political debate can I suggest you forget the BBC and consider instead a nightly program from Ireland that is Tonight with Vincent Browne

From the website:Vincent Browne has been in journalism since 1968.

He was Northern News Editor of The Irish Press group 1970-'72, with Independent Newspapers from 1973 to 1977.

He founded and launched Magill magazine in 1977. Vincent was Editor of The Sunday Tribune from 1983 to 1994.

He is a columnist with The Irish Times and The Sunday Business Post.

He broadcast on RTE radio from 1996 to 2007.

He was editor and publisher of Village magazine and is writing a biography of Charles Haughey.

Vincent is married to Jean Learmond and they have two children, Emma and Julia.

Hat Tip: Golem XIV - Thoughts

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A special Remembrance Day

This year as the 'The Royal British Legion' website says at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011, the nation will pause.

We will fall silent and take two minutes to reflect on the sacrifice of our brave Service men and women from conflicts past and present.

And what 'sacrifice' are we remembering? - for me this was brought to sharp focus today by a report on Excavating tunnels from World War One by Robert Hall for the BBC.

You see sometime back me and my mate did a tour of France, and one place neither wanted to miss was the 'Thiepval Memorial to the Missing', Somme Battlefields, France. (Somme Memorials)

Now pardon my french, but with all honesty that day, when I was standing reading all them names and how young the majority were when they died, silently with tears in my eyes, I went fuckty fuck fuck as I realised the madness of mankind.

Which brings us to another memorial we visited - Lochnagar Crater,"The largest crater ever made by man in anger" (see above BBC report)

As said in Wilkipedia - "The Lochnagar mine was an explosive-packed mine created by the Royal Engineer tunnelling companies, located south of the village of La Boisselle in the Somme département of France, which was detonated at 7:28 am on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Lochnagar mine, along with a neighbouring mine north of the village known as the Y Sap mine, contained 24 tons of ammonal. At the time these mines were the largest ever detonated.

The explosion was witnessed from the air by 2nd Lieutenant C.A. Lewis of No. 3 Squadron RFC:

The whole earth heaved and flashed, a tremendous and magnificent column rose up in the sky. There was an ear-splitting roar drowning all the guns, flinging the machine sideways in the repercussing air. The earth column rose higher and higher to almost 4,000 feet. There it hung, or seemed to hang, for a moment in the air, like the silhouette of some great cypress tree, then fell away in a widening cone of dust and debris.

Some of the British infantry waiting in no man's land were struck by falling debris and one man, having braced himself in a trench, had his leg broken and later required amputation.

The Lochnagar mine lay on the sector assaulted by the Grimsby Chums Pals battalion (10th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment). When the main attack began at 7:30 am, the Grimsby Chums successfully occupied the crater and began to fortify the eastern lip which now dominated the surrounding ground. However elsewhere the attack at La Boisselle went badly and infantry sought shelter in the crater, particular those who had been attacking up Sausage Valley to the south of the village. The prominent crater drew fire, including from British artillery although eventually it was learnt it contained sheltering infantry and the British shell fire ceased."

And that is just one reason I'm wearing my poppy with pride this year.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Cofio Aberfan - 45 - Rembering Aberfan

On Friday 21 October 1966, a coal tip collapsed sending thousands of tons of mud and colliery waste down Merthyr Mountain near Aberfan in South Wales, destroying a school and about 20 houses and killing 144 people. Susan Robertson, 8, was pulled alive from the rubble.

The collapse of tip seven sent a vast quantity of saturated sludge, a "dark glistening wave", higher than a house, roaring down the mountain and into Aberfan. One hundred and sixteen of the dead were children.

Pictures and words from BBC

Read more: The Aberfan Disaster

Friday, 14 October 2011

Time for Welsh Farmers to get real - CAP has to change.

The guest columnist in today's Daily Post, Emyr Jones, President of the Farmers Union of Wales make a case against the proposed changes to the common agricultural policy. He somehow tries to link the proposed changes to "heartbreaking images of starving population in far off regions of Africa and Asia"

Let us be clear, the answer to world hunger is not the number of sheep we have in Wales, nor the price of milk. No it will be down to how we can develop new strains of the basic food stuffs, such as grain or rice, that can be grown in the harsh conditions of Africa or Asia, so that the peoples of those continents are self sufficient.

In a way CAP subsidises, a by-product of the Second World War, has made the situation worse, in that third world countries can never hope to compete against subsidised food from Europe.

Yes to feed the growing population of the world we need produce more basic foods, but it should not be at the cost of the environment, or otherwise we might as well cut down the whole South America rain forest to produce cheap beef for our hamburgers.

The real answer GM food, local production with an emphasis on production of essential foods such as grain and rice. And that means using our resources carefully, which makes sense that certain parts of Wales are taken out of food production, and payment be made for preserving it's beauty and contribution to the wildlife of the area.

After all extensive farming with all it entails isn't really helping the environment, and it's a cyclic argument, we need to produce more food, cause the way we produce food is damaging the environment.

And the likely food shortage has nothing to do with farmers planting crops that will maximise bio-fuel profits has it.

Sorry farmers of Wales, cant make any money from farming - my suggestion get another job.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Unemployment - a price worth paying?

Norman Lamont famously said on 16 May 1991, "Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we have had to pay to get inflation down. That price is well worth paying."

In 1992 a young Conservative named David Cameron was his special advisor.

Yesterday, the latest unemployment figures published by the ONS estimates that UK unemployment rose by 114,000 between June and August to 2.57 million - a 17-year high.

A main plank of the Conservative led Coalition Governments austerity plans was a belief that jobs created in the private sector would more than make up for the jobs lost in the public sector.

Stephanie Flanders, BBC Economics Editor says in her blog: "For some time, we were able to say that employment growth in the private sector was outweighing the loss of jobs in the public sector. That is no longer true. The public sector lost 111,000 over the three months to June (97,000 excluding temporary jobs for the census), while the number of jobs in the private sector rose by 41,000."

The official government line: The Employment Secretary, Chris Grayling, said [to BBC News] that what the UK was now seeing was "the impact of the international financial crisis".

David Cameron at Question Time also defended the Governments Plan A, and as reported by the BBC:

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, rejected the criticism and said he would stick to his plans to reduce the deficit of nearly 10%.

"These are very disappointing figures that have been announced today and every job that is lost is a tragedy for that person and for their family and that is why this government is going to do everything it possibly can to help get people into work."

One worrying aspect of the latest unemployment figures has been the increase in the number of young people out of work. The BBC highlights today a survey by the Association of Colleges which claims, almost half of England's further education colleges have seen a decline in student numbers - with the drop blamed on the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

Whilst the Department of Education defended the more closely targeted £180m bursary scheme, which replaces the EMA, which had cost £560m per year. It says that under the new scheme students who would have been eligible for free school meals could receive up to £800 per year.

The shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden said,"These findings are underlined by today's devastating figures on Youth Unemployment which show their failure to have a strategy for growth which will start remedying this."

Returning to the Conservative led Coalition Government, they say 'another reason why we need to stick to Plan A, is to keep international confidence in our economy, which has resulted in record low interest rates. This will benefit us all in the long term.'

In other words "Rising unemployment and a recession will be the price that we have had to pay to keep interest rates low, cut the defecit and get inflation down. That price is well worth paying"

In logic a pure neoliberal statement, but in these days of media savy politicians not one you will hear any of them declare soon.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Make this man a welshman - and be quick about it.

Never argue with our Shaun

Wales are through to the semi finals of the Rugby World Cup after a well earned win over Ireland. The captain of Wales Sam Warburton led by example, as the young welsh side justified the build up to the world cup as mapped out by Warren Gatland. A build up that saw Wales play many games against southern hemisphere teams.

Some pint half empty commentators where sceptical of Wales chances, and critical of team selection, but I do hope they now just shut up, they quite obviously haven't got a clue what they are talking about.

The current Welsh team are the most prepared mentally and physically we have had for a long time, and possibly for the first time ready to match the strengths of the southern hemisphere teams.

And defensively Wales have also stepped up to the plate, and we have Shaun Edwards to thank for that. The rough edged defensive coach can be truly proud of what he has achieved.

Let's make him an honorary welshman and be quick about it.

Friday, 7 October 2011

RBS to be nationalised?

It hard to know what to make of the news these days, one thing for certain its about to get much worse, as the world seems to be heading towards recession.

This morning Moody's Investors Service downgraded the senior debt and deposit ratings of 12 UK financial institutions and confirmed the ratings of one institution.

The Chancellor, Mr Osborne said [to the BBC] he was confident that British banks were well-capitalised. "They are not experiencing the kinds of problems that some of the banks in the eurozone are experiencing at the moment."

However in his blog, Robert Peston, BBC Business editor says:

If the minimum stressed capital ratio were set at 8%, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds would all be forced to raise new capital.

Among the British banks Royal Bank of Scotland is most vulnerable to being forced to raise new capital, because under July's health checks its stressed capital ratio emerged relatively low at 6.3% (compared with 7.3% for Barclays, 7.7% for Lloyds and 8.5% for HSBC).

So if the new minimum capital bar were set at 7% (and we have no idea where it will ultimately be set) RBS would seem to need to raise a few billions of additional capital.....

.....I would therefore expect the chancellor to argue pretty strongly to his eurozone counterparts that RBS has quite enough capital for now.

And if he were to lose this battle, he might well be better off launching a takeover bid to acquire all of RBS - to nationalise it fully - than recapitalising the bank through an exercise of the existing rescue mechanism.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Wind farms and tourism 'compatible'

A report in the Daily Post today speaks of 'High Stakes' as Ynys Môn Council considers a number of applications for new wind farms. The most controversial perhaps is an application for three 100 metre high wind turbines at Penymynydd. This application was the reason that the protest group Anglesey Against Wind Turbines was set up.

As the (now defunct:Jan 2012) Photon Blog explains:

Despite my overall support for renewables, I have to say I was glad that a protest group has sprung up to protest at the several wind turbine applications now in the pipeline, some being decided upon this week. Different views are a healthy thing, and are especially welcome on an island that, traditionally, is reluctant to protest or speak up against anything at all.

I too am a supporter of renewables, we have wind farms already on the island, albeit not as tall as some of those proposed at Penymynydd. To the north of the island there are many existing wind farms, which from certain viewpoints can be seen as a continuous strip across the landscape. Maybe because I have got used to them, but for me they blend in, they do not stand out, they have become part of the landscape.

A spokesman for Anglesey Against Wind Turbines said to the Daily post "After a bumper year for tourism, what a pity to ruin it by spoiling our island. A decrease in tourism would have a widespread effect, not only on those directly involved in providing accommodation, attractions, shops, cafes and restaurants, but also a knock-on effect on all the other places where those business owners then spend that money."

Yes, this year Anglesey, as result of a number of factors; including the royal wedding, cost of the pound, and staycations  - had a bumper year for tourism. Or to put it another way, the existing windfarms that can be seen quite predominately from the A5025 coast road doesn't seem to have deterred the tourists.

If anything is likely to deter the tourist from returning it's the delays on the A55.

But what written evidence is there about the effect of wind farms on tourist?

The title of this post Wind farms and tourism 'compatiable' is from the Scottish Government press realise on their website.

And Three quarters of tourists surveyed for the study into the Economic Impacts of Wind Farms on Scottish Tourism felt wind farms had a positive or neutral effect on the landscape. 97 per cent of tourists in the sample said wind farms would have no impact on their decision to visit Scotland again.

The full study into the 'Economic Impacts of Wind Farms on Scottish Tourism' can be downloaded from the Scottish Government website.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

We need a balanced debate about organ donation.

In Wales, nearly 300 people are waiting for an organ transplant, many through no fault of their own.

Which brings us on to the "controversial" issue of organ donation. Let me be clear as an atheist my thoughts on the matter are very simple.

When I die I'll no longer need my body or any of its parts. Therefore after my demise, if any of it could be used to enhance the lives of others, what's the problem? - especially if I'm to be cremated, isn't recycling the done things these days.

And that is why I'm a supporter of the "soft" opt out system. But what exactly would a "soft" opt out system of donation mean?

There would be a presumption that a person consented to organ donation on their death, unless they had indicated otherwise (opted out), or their relatives objected.

Which brings me on to some ill thought out comments made yet again by Rob Davies (The Daily Post's Outspoken columnist)

Putting aside the frankly ridiculous statement of "I suspect the drive to introduce presumed consent for organ donation in Wales is fuelled in part by the separatist agenda of Wales-isn't England' lobby".....he goes on to make factually incorrect statements, take for instance in his column of today in the Daily Post he states:

Take this scenario: a young man is fatally injured in a crash. His is not on the organ donor list but lives in Wales and so is presumed to have given consent to the removal of his organs. His distraught parents are duly informed that doctors are to take out his heart...etc...What will haunt them for ever more...that their son had never actively agreed [to organ donation].

But the above scenario is wrong, it would not happen.

In the first as is the practice today, their next of kin would need to be consulted before a decision could be made. As reported in the Telegraph: The new laws would still require doctors to consult with the relatives of the bereaved as part of a "soft" opt-out system.

Whereas today the relatives could agree to organ donation, even though the deceased person when alive objected to do so, it would be similar in a 'soft' opt out system. The relatives could object to the donation of organs, even if the deceased when alive had no such concerns. Or if they had any 'doubt' which would haunt them for ever more they could just say no.

In reality you are more likely to take action if you object to something, as opposed to those who don't think it matters. Let's be honest the vast majority of us are far more concerned about what's happening now, than whats occurring when were dead.

The Christian Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan says it has to be a choice "that is freely embraced".

Surely, if you decide not to opt out of the organ donation system, you have so to speak "freely embraced" the idea that on your death your organs could be used by others.

There could be a number of safeguard built in, your doctor, health nurse etc could easily explain to those who have not opted out the consequence of not doing so. I'm sure the church could also have a role.

At the end of the day it will still be a personal choice, you could always opt out.

Above all what is important is that we have a balanced debate, and using emotive language or spurious arguments, will not help at all.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

TATA to build factory by Wolverhampton - the Enterprise Zone wat did it?

If only the Welsh Government had got it act together and followed blindly the policies of the Conservative led Coalition Government on enterprise zones, the new engine factory could have been built in South Wales. Or that is what the Conservatives and some in the media want us to believe.

TATA the Indian owned car manufacturer, had decided that rather than buying engines from Ford plants including Bridgend and Dagenham, they are to build their own engines. What affect this will have on the viability of the Ford plants is not known.

There was some speculation that TATA would build the new engine factory in India, were it already has a production plant for it's Freelander 2, but seeing the local difficulties they have had over there (see:Indian state to return Tata factory land to farmers) maybe the UK was a more appealing prospect.

As reported by Reuters:

Mike Wright, executive director at Jaguar Land Rover said they had considered building the facility in a number of locations within the UK and outside the UK.

"One obvious location would have been India," Wright told journalists.

"There are a whole host of factors that go into these decision ... but on the balance of all of those factors, we determined with the support of Tata Motors, in this instance, the UK was the best option," he said....

"Clearly, situating it almost equidistant between our Halewood, Solihull and Castle Bromwich plants does have efficiency benefits," said Wright.

As part of its growth strategy and investment, Jaguar Land Rover is targeting 40 new products over 5 years, as it eyes emerging market growth.

"(The site) will enable us to accelerate our new products to penetrate new markets," said Wright.

"Our latest investment decision follows a period of rising sales, rising demand and rising profitability," he said, adding that the business is performing in line with expectations...

...Jaguar Land Rover already employs more than 19,000 people in Britain and supports up to 140,000 jobs. It has been boosted by strong demand from emerging markets such as Russia and China for its cars.

"As we invest 1.5 billion pounds a year for the next five years on new product developments, expanding our engine range will help us realise the full global potential of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands," said Ralf Speth, JLR CEO.

In the last few years, TATA through growth in sales in Russia and China have managed to turn around a loss making company to one with growing profits year on year. In 2009 there was speculation that TATA would have to close one of it's plants in the UK. (see Jaguar Land Rover to close factory)

Sky News reports that Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of the Conservative led Coalition Government, said he was "delighted" by the decision.

He said: "Growing our economy has to be the number one priority for Britain, and the Government is not sitting on its hands. With initiatives like the Regional Growth Fund, putting up to £10m into this new plant and Enterprise Zones boosting growth across the country, we're making the UK a better place to invest and do business."

Enterprise zones will benefit from:

  • A business rate discount worth up to £275,000 per business over a five year period

  • All business rates growth within the zone for a period of at least 25 years will be retained by the local area, to support the Partnership’s economic priorities and ensure that Enterprise Zone growth is reinvested locally

  • Government help to develop radically simplified planning approaches for the zone using, for example, existing Local Development Order powers

  • Government support to ensure that superfast broadband is rolled out throughout the zone, achieved through guaranteeing the most supportive regulatory environment and, if necessary, public funding.

The Regional Growth Fund which is giving £10 million to TATA is a £1.4bn fund operating across England from 2011 to 2014. It supports projects and programmes that lever private sector investment creating economic growth and sustainable employment. It aims particularly to help those areas and communities currently dependent on the public sector to make the transition to sustainable private sector-led growth and prosperity.

The second round of bidding to the Regional Growth Fund ended on the 1 July 2011. 492 bids were received with a combined total value of £3.3 bn. The Government welcomed this positive response to the Fund.

And that fact is quite interesting, the bid for the £10 million for TATA had to have been made by 1 July 2011, before the Conservative led Coalition Government announced the 21 English enterprise zones on 17 August 2011.

There is no equivalent regional growth fund in Wales or Scotland.

To conclude TATA decided to open a new engine factory outside Wolverhampton, because it's a logical decision and the proposal was being discussed with local Councils and Government well before the new enterprise zones had been announced.

Also in order to match the offer, the Welsh Government would have needed to find more than £10 million pounds.

Welsh Business Minister Edwina Hart recently announced the five new welsh enterprise zones, and is initially making £10m available over the next five years.

Don't get me wrong, the decision by TATA to open a new factory by Wolverhampton is good news, but I have a feeling that enterprise zones, or lack of them, had little if anything to do with the ultimate decision.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Trains are a rich man's toy

Picture from Virgin Trains

Now to be fair to Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, I haven't listened to the evidence he gave; when appearing earlier today, in front of the Commons transport committee. He was there to answer questions on High Speed 2 (HS2) - the planned line between London and Birmingham with a possible future extension to northern England and Scotland.

On the BBC he is reported as saying: British railways are a "rich man's toy".

Putting aside what Philip Hammond actually said, no doubt taken out of context, it cannot be denied that privatisation of the railways in the UK has been a bit of a disaster.

As mentioned in Wikipedia (about the privatisation in 1992) - "The management of British Rail strongly advocated privatisation as one entity, a British Rail plc in effect; Cabinet Minister John Redwood "argued for regional companies in charge of track and trains" but Prime Minister John Major did not back his view; the Treasury, under the influence of the Adam Smith Institute think tank advocated the creation of seven, later 25, passenger railway franchises as a way of maximising revenue. In this instance it was the Treasury view that prevailed."

Talking of rich men and women, a report from the Press Association says:

Sir Richard Branson was reportedly paid £17.8 million in dividends last year from Virgin Rail....

....The payment takes the total Branson has received from the railways since they were privatised to £188.8 million.

A spokesman for Virgin Rail told the newspaper: "Virgin took no dividend for the first seven years and now the turnover is one of the strongest in the industry"...

And the Herald Scotland recently reported:

SCOTTISH bus and rail company Stagecoach is to return £340 million in cash to shareholders – equivalent to 47p a share – with co-founders Sir Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag respectively in line for £51m and £37m.

Now who said that the trains of the UK were a rich man's toy again?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Neil Kinnock - I warn you...

In 1983 Neil Kinnock made an iconic speech, it was just two days before the General Election, and he knew he was about to loose to the Conservatives and Margaret Thatcher.

As the blog Owen Abroad says "He scribbled the notes from which he delivered the speech in the car on the way to the rally, and his voice was hoarse from campaigning."

The world has moved on since then, but I think we should be reminded of what he said, as some say, the speech could also be levelled at David Cameron's Conservative led Coalition Government. Not that the previous Labour Government can escape any criticism, as some of the below could also easily apply to them.

With thanks to the blog Owen Abroad here is the full text:

If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you.

I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.

I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.

I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.

I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.

I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.

I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.

I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.

I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.

I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday–

- I warn you not to be ordinary

- I warn you not to be young

- I warn you not to fall ill

- I warn you not to get old.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Wales too small - what about Uruguay?

Yesterday I said that in my humble opinion Elin Jones AM would be a very good leader of Plaid Cymru.

I mentioned the dreaded 'I' word independence, which we shouldn't be afraid to discuss. I said "I do not think independence for Wales would be right as things stand."

This morning I listened to a conversation on the Today program on Radio 4. They were talking about the football game tonight, between England and Wales, and the Radio 4 chap said something along the lines of “why hasn't Wales qualified for any major football tournament since 1958. Take Uruguay for example, whose population is also just above 3 million and the amount of times they have qualified, and they recently won the Copa America."

And that made me think. One argument put forward by many against independence for Wales is - its too small.

Now I know you cant really compare Wales and Uruguay, especially if you believe some who say that Wales is the poorest Country in Europe. Somehow I don't think Uruguay is the poorest South American Country.

The CIA World Factbook says in a short history of Uruguay:

Montevideo, founded by the Spanish in 1726 as a military stronghold, soon took advantage of its natural harbor to become an important commercial center. Claimed by Argentina but annexed by Brazil in 1821, Uruguay declared its independence four years later and secured its freedom in 1828 after a three-year struggle. The administrations of President Jose BATLLE in the early 20th century established widespread political, social, and economic reforms that established a statist tradition. A violent Marxist urban guerrilla movement named the Tupamaros, launched in the late 1960s, led Uruguay's president to cede control of the government to the military in 1973. By yearend, the rebels had been crushed, but the military continued to expand its hold over the government. Civilian rule was not restored until 1985. In 2004, the left-of-center Frente Amplio Coalition won national elections that effectively ended 170 years of political control previously held by the Colorado and Blanco parties. Uruguay's political and labor conditions are among the freest on the continent.

And in an overview of Uruguay's economy say:

Uruguay's economy is characterized by an export-oriented agricultural sector, a well-educated work force, and high levels of social spending. Following financial difficulties in the late 1990s and early 2000s, economic growth for Uruguay averaged 8% annually during the period 2004-08. The 2008-09 global financial crisis put a brake on Uruguay's vigorous growth, which decelerated to 2.9% in 2009. Nevertheless, the country managed to avoid a recession and keep positive growth rates, mainly through higher public expenditure and investment, and GDP growth exceeded 8% in 2010.

Just in case you missed it, a GDP growth of 8% in 2010, making them 14th in the list of country comparisons, compared with the UK GDP growth of the same year of 1.3% putting us in 163rd place on the list.

And the Country's main exports:

beef, soybeans, cellulose, rice, wheat, wood, dairy products; wool

Again I emphasize you cant really compare countries, as Paul Williams (aka The Druid) has pointed out on numerous occasions, but to me at least it disproves the argument that Wales is too small to be an independent Country in terms of population. Its really down to the question of whether we have the economy to sustain us, as an independent state.

I would also like to thank Rob Davies, 'The outspoken columnist who tells it how it is' of the Daily Post, for his support for independence - ok maybe not - but all you have to do is change a few words from his rant of today and you get from the section headed 'Old Boundaries' (were he argues to retain the 22 welsh Councils - which in reality don't follow old boundaries) the following:

"At [national] level, [..] government works best following ancient [..] boundaries to which many people still retain loyalty. Many of these are based on natural divisions such as rivers. Far more people will engage with [governments] if they represent the actual geographical terrain they call home."

I also recommend you read an article by Adam Price, which was published in the Huffington Post titled - 'Why Independence for Wales and Other Countries Makes Economic Sense' on 2 August 2011, by following this link: Adam Price - Huffington Post

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sunday Trivia - Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company

I'm too young to remember the trips you could make from Menai Bridge to Liverpool, and other excursions around the North Wales Coast line, including Llandudno to Isle of Man.

The many services and excursions which were operated by the Liverpool & North Wales Steamship Company, sadly ended in 1963 due to declining passenger numbers. The last ship to operate was the St Trillo which is shown in the postcard below.

The Liverpool & North Wales Steamship Company was formed on the 19th January 1891. The company's main route was as described in their name, between Liverpool, Llandudno and Menai Bridge. The mainstay of the Liverpool to Llandudno and Menai Bridge sailings until their cessation in 1962 was the St Tudno (the second ship to carry that name), and is shown below.

Above images reproduced with the kind permission of

To find out more visit:
Simplon Website- postcards from Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company.
Simplon Website - timetables for Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company
Simplon Website - a detailed history of the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company.

Friday, 2 September 2011

When it comes to rubbish, were on top of the pile.

Well done all of us, Council staff and the hardworking binmen of Anglesey, who work for Verdant.

Once again; as reported in the Daily Post today "Latest figures from Environment Agency Wales show Denbighshire and Isle of Anglesey Councils have used the least amount of their allowance to divert biodegradable waste away from landfill." - we are showing the rest how it should be done.

I know it can be bit confusing at times - do they take this container or not?

And it can be hard for the elderly - but guess what I do, I offer to take the out the bins for them, I think its called being neighbourly.

Not forgetting that "the council can arrange a ‘fetch and return’ service for disabled residents or those who are having difficulty wheeling their bins to the collection point."

To find out more go to Council website - Household waste collection

Proud of Anglesey and the people of Anglesey!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Saturday connections – Copper mines.

Image by Nasa- Bingham Canyon Mine.

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries Parys Mountain Amlwch, Ynys Môn was claimed to be the largest copper mine in the world. There has been talk recently of the mine reopening. See report in the Daily Post

However, the mine is very small compared to the operations of today - one of the largest operating copper mines is the Bingham Canyon Mine, also known as the Kennecott Copper Mine, a open-pit mining operation extracting a large porphyry copper deposit southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, in the Oquirrh Mountains.

The mine is owned by Rio Tinto Group, who also operated Anglesey Aluminum at Holyhead.

According to Wikipedia the operations at the Bingham Canyon Mine is massive:

Employing 1,800 employees and hundreds of contractors, 450,000 tons (408 kt) of material are removed from the mine daily. Electric shovels can carry up to 56 cubic yards (43 m³) or 98 tons (89 t) of ore in a single scoop. Ore is loaded into a fleet of 64 large dump trucks which each carry 255 tons (231 t) of ore at a time; the trucks themselves cost about $3 million US each. There is a five mile (8 km) series of conveyors that take ore to the Copperton concentrator and flotation plant. The longest conveyor is 3 miles (4.8 km) long.

As of 2010, Kennecott Utah Copper is the second largest copper producer in the United States and provides about 13-18% percent of the U.S.'s copper needs. Kennecott’s Bingham Canyon Mine is the largest man-made excavation in the world, and is visible with the naked eye from space. It is one of the top producing copper mines in the world with production at more than 18.7 million tons. Every year, Kennecott produces approximately 300,000 tons of copper, along with 400,000 ounces of gold, 4 million ounces of silver, about 20 million pounds of molybdenum, and about 1 million tons of sulfuric acid, a by-product of the smelting process. Rio Tinto purchased Kennecott Utah Copper in 1989 and has invested about $2 billion in the modernization of KUC’s operations. KUCC has also spent more than $350 million on the cleanup of historic mining waste and $100 million on groundwater cleanup.

The current mine plan will expire in 2019. Rio Tinto is currently studying a plan to extend the open pit 1,000 feet southward, which would extend the life of the mine into the mid-2030s. The plan is contingent on approval by the Rio Tinto board of directors and approximately 25 required environmental permits.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

e-petitions: Hillsborough Disaster 1989.

Send a clear message - please sign the following e-petition:

Full disclosure of all government documents relating to 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Responsible department: Home Office

"Full government disclosure and publication of all documents, discussions and reports relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. *As requested by information commissioner Christopher Graham*"

At time of writing number of signatures 24,524.

Update: 23/08/2011 Even though the number of signatures has passed 100,000 it's still important for people to sign the petition. The greater the number of signatures are, the more difficult it will be for parliment to ignore the wishes of those who signed the petition.

Read More:
Liverpool Echo - Dave Prentice on why all Merseyside fans should sign....[the]...e-petition. - justice for the 96

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A great Welsh actor - Huw Ceredig (1942-2011)

Huw Ceredig - much loved Welsh actor, brother of Dafydd Iwan, Alun Ffred Jones and Arthur, died aged 69 following a long illness, 16 August 2011.

Most fondly remembered for his portrayal of Reg Harries on the welsh soap Pobol y Cwm.

Read More:
BBC News - Ioan Gruffudd's tribute to Pobol y Cwm's Huw Ceredig
Newyddion BBC - Teyrngedau i'r actor Huw Ceredig

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Sunday Trivia - this years largest cruise ship to visit Holyhead.

The largest cruise ship to visit Holyhead this year has been the Crown Princess, who's last visit to Holyhead was 6 August. She can accommodate up to 3,200 passengers and is the 30th largest cruise ship that is currently sailing. According to ShipAIS at the time of writing she was in the North Sea off Grimsby heading for Le Harve.

The largest Cruise Ship (currently sailing) is the Allure of the Seas. She has a capacity of 6,300 in all berths, but is very unlikely to visit Holyhead preferring the warmer waters around the Caribbean Sea. At time of writing she is currently docked at Fort Lauderdale. Keep track of all ships worldwide at

Source: Stena Line Ports and Wikipedia.

Friday, 5 August 2011

It's summer 'time' for some ice cream - Môn ar Lwy

It may not have been a prolonged heatwave, but Anglesey hasn't done to bad this year weather wise. So what better way to cool down than with a mouth watering – luxury handcrafted ice cream - better still a locally produced and award winning ice cream!!

Visit the Môn ar Lwy website to find out more.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh - 90 today

Picture by Allan Warren

Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh; the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch,is 90 today .

His mother was Prince Alice of Battenburg, his grandmother was Princess Victoria of Hessa and by Rhine, and his great grandmother was Princess Alice of the UK, daughter of Queen Victoria (the grandmother of Europe).

His father was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, his grandfather was George I of Greece, and his great grandfather was Christian IX of Denmark (Father in law of Europe)

His father’s brother Constantine I of Greece married Sophia of Prussia whose mother was Victoria Princess Royal, daughter of Queen Victoria.

The son of Sophia of Prussia, Paul I of Greece married Frederika of Hanover and their daughter is Queen Sofia of Spain.

Princess Alix of Hesse, daughter of Princess Alice of the UK married Nicholas II of Russia whose grandfather was Christian IX of Denmark.

Not forgetting that Maud of Wales and sister of George V married Haakon VII of Norway whose grandfather was Christian IX of Denmark.

Wikipedia - Royal descendants of Queen Victoria and King Christian IX