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.