Tuesday, 17 May 2011

One Wales: The Good...

Now that it has come to an end, I’d like to think that the successes and failures of the One Wales period can be dissected a little more objectively than has tended to happen to date.  Supporters of the agreement tend to see only the good, whilst opponents see only the bad; and whether people want to rush into another similar agreement or not seems to depend on which side of that argument they find themselves.  In real life, there were some things that were good, some things that were bad, and some things which were downright ugly.
I’ll start with some of the good points, although this is not intended to be a comprehensive list.  And I make no apologies for looking at the issue from the standpoint of my own political outlook.
One of the things most frequently bandied about was that the hospital rationalisation programme of the previous Labour government was halted.  Technically, this actually happened before One Wales was agreed, so it isn’t a direct result of One Wales.  But One Wales would have been impossible without it, and Labour could read that writing on the wall.
I felt that one of the most positive things about One Wales wasn’t an outcome as such, it was the detail in which the programme was defined.  There is often a world of difference between what a party says in a manifesto and what it does once elected; the discipline of having a detailed written programme, which was essential to any decision by Plaid to enter coalition, gave a road-map to the government for a four year term.  It’s something that perhaps even single party governments might learn from.
The reports of the Holtham Commission were hugely significant.  Although Plaid had been banging on about the unfairness of Barnett for years, the reports of the Commission finally convinced the other parties.  Labour’s argument that it wasn’t necessary to do anything about it earlier because the squeeze didn’t apply when the settlement was generous might be technically correct, but it sounded a bit like saying that we didn’t need to fix the hole in the roof because it wasn’t raining.  Holtham changed the basis of the debate – in Wales, at least.
The calling and winning of a referendum on Part 4 of GOWA was undoubtedly a huge plus for the agreement.  I’ve noted before that the Lib Dems could legitimately claim a certain amount of credit for that, albeit by accident, but it was One Wales which delivered, and delivered handsomely.  The result has created a quite different sort of Assembly in Cardiff, and gives Wales a new basis for moving forward.
There can be little doubt that the Welsh Language Measure steered through by Alun Ffred was a major piece of legislation.  Sure, it doesn’t do everything that some of us would like, and there’s more to be done, but surely no-one can really believe that we would have had anything like this Measure without One Wales.
Some of the strategies produced by One Wales, such as on energy and the environment are extremely far-reaching.  The government took huge strides forward in recognising the importance of lowering Wales’ ecological footprint; and related to this was the switch in emphasis within the transport programme from road-building to public transport.  All of this creates a sound foundation for the future.
But not everything was perfect…


Anonymous said...

I'd like to add:

Plaid's insistance on the English Language National Theatre. Something which is now getting coverage and publicity.

The development of Welsh language education - partly down to Leighton Andrews (Labour) and also Plaid pushing and normalising the agenda. The Coleg Cymraeg (Coleg Ffederal) at last having legs after years of the 'can't do' attitude of Labour etc. is another case in point of Plaid changing the atmosphere of govt.

Alun Ffred pushing for the Welsh dimension to Welsh history and Welsh historical sites is another.

It was a good, solid, contructive govt. My fear is we'll have 5 wasted years now of pretty well nothing of note being achieved. Just keeping it steady. Celebrating mediochrity of ambition under Labour.

John Dixon said...

Thanks for that. I didn't set out to make it a comprehensive list, but I'd agree with the additions you list bar one. I've posted on Welsh-medium education previously; the words are great, but, from a Carmarthenshire viewpoint at least, the action did not live up to the words.

Anonymous said...

also, several key A470 road improvements, thanks to Ieuan - Cross Foxes, Cwmbach Llechryd, Porthmadog (ok A487, but still north south)