Independence Index

Your in-depth guide to Welsh independence.

Assembly

The latest news, debates and reports from the Senedd. (Fourth Assembly stories are under 'Archive').

Bridgend

The major local political stories and developments from Bridgend county.

Laws

We gave AMs law-making powers; this is what's being done with them.

Committee Inquiries

Detailed scrutiny of how Wales is being run. (Fourth Assembly inquiries are under 'Archive').

Vice Nation: Sex

How could an independent Wales deal with issues surrounding sex?

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Vice Nation - Sex VI: Sex Education

(Pic : junkee.com)
It's inevitable that at some point – whether you're a teacher or a parent/guardian - you have to teach children about sex. But once "the talk" is over and done with, there needs to be an ongoing process of discussing issues around sex and relationships that the education system and parents are perhaps failing to do adequately.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Vice Nation - Sex V: Sexual Health

(Pic : trendycrunch.com)
Like anything involving contact with bodily fluids, there's always some measure of risk attached. This is going to be a pleasure to bring to you.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Vice Nation - Sex IV: Prostitution

(Pic : ozy.com)

Oh boy. Well I had to come to it eventually (excuse the pun). For perhaps the first time I'm genuinely worried about how this is going to go down (excuse the pun again) because I have a sizable audience of women (40%+) for a political blog....though probably not for much longer.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Vice Nation - Sex III: Pornography

(Pic : pornsfw.com)

It seems you can't escape it nowadays: tits, arse and muff everywhere. Since the internet revolution we've entered what you could consider the "Golden Age of Pornography"....in terms of availability anyway. But there's always a dark side and those unintended consequences present ongoing challenges to decision-makers and society generally.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Vice Nation - Sex II: Sex & Crime

(Pic : Telegraph)

There are a number of criminal offences relating to sex, some of which are considered the most beastly and serious crimes imaginable.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Vice Nation - Sex I: Consent

(Pic : Gair Rhydd)

Although not necessarily a vice, sex has always been closely linked with politics as a moral yardstick, whether that's "fornication" in the pre-enlightenment ages, the spread of AIDS in the 1970s and 1980s right through more modern issues like same-sex marriage, teen pregnancy and gender identity.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Born That Way

(Pic : salfordstudents.com)

Earlier today the Senedd marked LGBT History Month for the first time via the latest member's debate.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

FMQs: No Love Lost



The increasingly fractious row over Carmarthenshire Council's decision to make Llangennech School Welsh-medium-only continues. Plus, other questions on climate change, scams/cold calling and the Welsh Government “leaning” on lobbyists and the Third Sector.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Bridgend Budget 2017-18





Bridgend Council's (BCBC) budget – the final one before the local elections in May – is to be discussed by the cabinet tomorrow, with the council due to vote on it at a later date.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

We need to talk about dog shit

(Pic : wow-webmagazine.com)

It'll be hard to find anyone who doesn't think it's disgusting, and it's about time something was done about it.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Bean Flicking Triggers Charity Collapse



This is the story of the collapse of three of Wales' leading Third Sector organisations.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Committees Bite Size #2: February 2017


Here's my second summarised round-up of some of the Assembly's committee inquiries over the last few months, including: domestic violence, the National Infrastructure Committee, the state of broadcasting, statutory advocacy services for vulnerable children and implementation of the new National Curriculum.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

FMQs: Teachers, Llangennech & Bridgend Ford



A refreshingly Brexit-light edition of First Minister's Questions this afternoon.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Should politicians shut up?


Despite the disproportionately high salary, subdued fame and power, being a full-time politician serves as a backhanded karmic punishment for narcissism.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

How will Brexit impact Wales?

(Pic : BBC Wales)
After 6 months of evidence-taking, the Assembly's External Affairs Committee recently published its report on the implications of Brexit (pdf). It's not light reading, but whether you voted for Brexit or not you deserve to be told what's happening behind the scenes.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Senedd Watch - January 2017


  • UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, confirmed the UK will leave the EU single market (aka. “Hard Brexit”) with a UK-EU deal to ensure “free trade”, maintenance of the UK-Irish common travel area and relevant customs agreements.
    • The First Minister repeated calls for Wales to retain “full and unfettered” access to the EU single market post-Brexit during a three-day trade mission to Norway. He said, "Failure to maintain full access, free of tariffs....could make....securing investment more difficult."
    • Jonathan Edwards MP (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) described the possibility of “Hard Brexit” as the “greatest job-killing act in Welsh history”. Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), didn't believe Wales would suffer serious economic damage.
    • The Farmers Union of Wales warned that a post-Brexit free trade agreement between the UK and New Zealand could “price Welsh lamb off the shelves”. Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) said farmers had to “stay positive” and see that Brexit could present opportunities.
    • On January 24th, the Supreme Court ruled the UK Parliament must vote to start the Brexit process (activate Article 50) after the UK Government lost their appeal against a High Court judgement in December 2016. A “Brexit Bill” was introduced on January 26th.
    • The Supreme Court also ruled the devolved administrations do not need to be legally consulted on Article 50. Counsel General, Mick Antoniw (Lab, Pontypridd), defended the £84,000 cost of the Welsh Government's legal challenge because, "The voice of Wales within the UK constitution is priceless."
    • The Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru launched a joint white paper on a post-Brexit plan, Securing Wales' Future, which proposed: continued participation in the single market, free movement for immigrants with a job and guarantees on post-Brexit funding.
    • The Assembly's External Affairs Committee report into the implications of Brexit recommended the Welsh Government provide their evidence base for their white paper, and that they press the UK Government to ensure Wales has a presence in negotiations involving devolved matters.
    • At a meeting of the UK's Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) in Cardiff on January 30th, the Prime Minister promised there would be no roll back of devolved powers. The First Minister described the talks as “constructive”, but warned that the devolved administrations need to be listened to.
  • DrugAid Cymru said deaths relating to heroin were expected to rise in 2017 due to increased strength/purity and a large number of users who are unknown to services. They joined calls to introduce rooms to allow addicts to inject under medical supervision.
  • An all-party group of Westminster MPs suggested Wales-only rules on immigration could be “considered”, based on a model in Quebec. The UK Government said in response that different rules for different nations could cause confusion for employers. Steffan Lewis AM (Plaid, South Wales East) argued for a Welsh visa system to recruit health workers.
  • Minister for Lifelong Learning & Welsh Language, Alun Davies (Lab, Blaenau Gwent), announced regulations that introduced standards for Welsh language public services will be reviewed saying, “They can be too complicated at times, both the process of designing and implementing."
  • Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) recommended Tata Steel employees reject a tabled pensions deal – part of a package to secure the medium-term future of the company's plants. He described the deal as “opportunistic”, saying the company has used the 2015-16 crisis to “pressure workers”.
    • Unison criticised what they described as “political interference” in the ballot process, with a union official quoted as saying, “There are personal decisions to make but also the future of the steel industry to consider. We'd like politicians to keep their opinions to themselves for the time being.”
  • Landlords called for the Welsh Government to remove an additional 3% levy on stamp duty for buy-to-let purchases under the proposed land transaction tax. The Residential Landlord Association believe it will push up rents and doesn't take into account refurbishment investments.
  • The final budget for 2017-18 – the result of an agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru - was passed by the National Assembly by 27 votes to 17 with 8 abstentions on January 10th.
    • Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli) warned against“pork barrel politics” with budgets hinging on local deals and agreements at the expense long-term planning. Adam Price AM hit back, accusing AMs of “sneering” at budget deals that help often neglected parts of Wales.
  • A UK Government-backed review supported the construction of a £1.3billion tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, believing it would make a “strong contribution” to the UK's energy supply and presents a “significant economic opportunity”.
  • The UK Government announced Severn Crossing tolls will fall from £6.70 per crossing to £3 for cars, vans and small buses when the bridges transfer to public ownership in 2018. Options being considered include a free-flowing £1.50 each-way toll (tolls currently only apply westbound) and toll-free use between 10pm and 6am.
    • Mark Reckless AM (UKIP, South Wales East) argued that clauses in previous legislation meant the imposition of tolls post-public ownership was “unlawful”. He called for the Welsh Government to consider a legal challenge. Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), said the decision to continue tolling was “baffling”.
    • Conservative economy spokesperson, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), accused the Welsh Government of “hypocrisy” for not actively considering scrapping Cleddau Bridge tolls after Pembrokeshire Council decided to maintain the tolls in May 2016.
  • The National Assembly approved a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) for the Wales Bill on January 17th by 38 votes to 17. The Act will change the devolution settlement and devolve income tax-varying powers without a referendum. Plaid Cymru and UKIP voted against; the former because of concerns over rolling back powers, the latter because of the removal of an income tax referendum.
  • The Welsh Government introduced the Trade Union Bill on January 17th, with the aim of reversing measures in UK law which place limitations on strike action and require heightened monitoring of union activity. The UK Government warned that industrial relations law was non-devolved.
  • Estyn's annual report said teaching standards were the weakest aspect of education in Wales, with teaching “good” or “better” in only a minority of secondary schools. Also, in a third of primary schools more able children underachieved because the work wasn't challenging enough. Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor) said, “I remain committed to the ambition of providing all teachers and leaders with the right skills and knowledge.”
  • Senior civil servant, Dr Manon Antoniazzi, was appointed Chief Executive of the National Assembly, replacing Claire Clancy in April 2017. The Llywydd, Elin Jones (Plaid, Ceredigion) said, "I'm delighted....Manon has accepted the challenge to lead the organisation through the next phase of our development....I would also like to thank Claire....for the outstanding leadership she has provided over the past ten years”.
  • The Senedd unanimously backed a motion calling for the UK Government to launch a public inquiry into the 1970s-80s contaminated blood scandal, which affected 273 people in Wales. Patients with blood disorders were infected with hepatitis C and HIV after American suppliers failed to screen blood batches for disease, with successive UK governments denying any responsibility.
  • A Royal College of Paediatrics report said poverty was the biggest threat to childrens' health in Wales. The report's author stressed the need for public health messages on smoking, alcohol and diet get through and that adequate resources were provided.
  • The Welsh Government published a white paper on new proposals for local government reform, which included lowering the voting age to 16, further consultation on introducing single transferable vote for local elections and regional collaboration between local authorities.

Projects announced in January include: The launch of “lunch and fun” summer holiday clubs in deprived parts of Wales; £4million to improve school results in science and technology; the launch of an £80million “new treatments fund”; £31million towards maternity service improvements in Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil and a £36million fund to reduce infant class sizes and raise standards.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

FMQs: Trump Ban, Cancer & Tidal Lagoons



For most of this afternoon's FMQs, you would think you were following a parliamentary session in an independent country: foreign policy, condemnation of foreign governments, state visits, discussion of immigration, how to win the battle against Islamic State – and Carwyn Jones was using the language of a Prime Minister, not a regional premier.

Monday, 30 January 2017

City Deal, Porthcawl Resort & Business Hub

(Pic : Institute of Welsh Affairs)

Bridgend Council (BCBC) and its cabinet will be meeting again this week to discuss various reports. Here's another round-up and they're all economy-themed this time.