As I am blasting through the English countryside on a rickety old 125 Intercity train, cleverly repainted as the First Great Western service between Cardiff and London Paddington, I thought I would note down my thoughts about the ridiculous nonsense that has been talked about over the last few days, mainly from the English media.
In Wales, only 15% of the media that we receive on a daily basis is what you would call solely Welsh media, the rest comes from Fleet Street and the grandmasters of the English media system, even Scotland has three daily nationals- the Western Mail has a circulation of circa 34,000; dreadful isn’t it? So imagine my absolute frustration when I picked up the Daily Mail yesterday morning and read the words “tuition fees apartheid” to describe the decision of the Plaid-Labour government to not burden Welsh students with a lifetime’s worth of debt, like the Fib Con Dem government in London are.
The Daily Mail’s article is a fine example (I shouldn’t be at all surprised by the tripe they have reported) of this narrow minded approach to devolution, or undecided lack of education towards what a devolved administration is.
Over the years, decades and centuries, Wales has contributed more than it’s fair share into that large pot of money in Whitehall that made the United Kingdom a global superpower, through work and toil of slate, coal, steel, copper and tinplate to name but a few. These kind of actions made the UK the global powerhouse that it once was, and to an extent still a financial powerhouse today (or up there and there abouts).
But one thing any English (and I stress English not British as that’s what they are) media outlet has to understand is that devolution is here to stay, and that they have to get on with it and respect it. Devolution wasn’t some sort of whimsical policy thought of up by Blair, it was from years of campaigning, two referendums (in both Scotland and Wales) and the sovereignty of the people of those nations deciding that they want devolution. And here we are now, the one time that the English media actually pick up on what happens in the other nations we accused of creating apartheid on a policy issue- apartheid is a disgusting word and the connotations it conjures shouldn’t be used in any way shape or form….but then again this is the Daily Fail.
The Welsh Government as well as the Scottish Executive decided to pursue a policy for higher education which would ensure that it’s students are protected from the harsh realities of a lifelong debt, then that’s our decision. People from the Daily Mail and Kelvin Mackenzie are the ignorant type who still feel they have control over the states that exist within a United Kingdom, but get used to life of devolution.
The wider UK state doesn’t have that kind of control over Wales anymore. We have dealt harsh blows over the previous months and years including the lack of Barnett reform, no electrification of the Swansea-London line (which leaves on a par with Albania as the only country without any electrified rail in Europe), a cut of £1.8billion to the Welsh budget over the next four years and a Secretary of State who’s not even from a Welsh constituency. But if we decided so spend our budgets (which we earn through tax and are under funded by £300m a year) then on free prescriptions, free bus passes for older people, EMA and a fee remission grant for higher education students, then so be it. I will not apologise for living in a country and supporting a government which defends and looks after the people it needs to in society. What you do in England is your business, just leave us to our own stuff.
When I get back to Wales, I will be purchasing up the entire housing stock in Swansea and Cardiff University areas whilst awaiting the influx of “Welsh residents” with surnames such as Tarquin and Esquire, but until then I am stuck on a slow train on a non-electrified line to London. Oh the irony!