There is no reason why our country cannot be a self-reliant prosperous nation; the Welsh people are not predisposed by way of education, outlook or aspiration to be a poor people. Yet if you listen to Labour in Wales we will always be poor, we will have few economic prospects beyond handouts and independence is unaffordable, etc. Like any simple untruth, keep it simple, repeat it often enough and people will start to believe it.
The fact that some parts of our country are suffering from a prolonged downward economic spiral that predates Labour in Westminster’s last period in power and the financial collapse should be noted. What our communities are facing now are the consequences of decisions generations of unionist (mostly Labour) politicians have consistently failed to make on behalf of Wales which are now impacting on our communities from one end of our country to the other.
Aside from the desire to make things better and the vision (something I believe that Labour in Wales is incapable of delivering) a Welsh government needs to have powers over our countries natural resources. We need to be able at a basic level to regulate, develop, control and own our sustainable energy (basically wind, water, wave and solar) resources. With the right leadership and some medium to long term thinking there is no reason why Wales cannot play a leading role in the development of a global low-carbon economy.
As a nation, when it comes to natural resources Wales is rich by way of comparison with some developing countries, our natural resources sustainably used could underpin a first class economy. The current devolution prevents a Welsh government from doing this even if it wanted too. Not for nothing was Water excluded specifically by the Labour in Westminster Government from the National Assembly’s powers and only energy projects up to 50MW (on shore) and 1 MW off-shore come under the control of the National Assembly.
We need a Sovereign Wealth Fund for Wales to make sure that the benefits of the green energy revolution stay here rather than feeding shareholder dividends in the city (and elsewhere) and are used to ensure that the people of Wales get their full share of the energy and wealth created. Such a fund could act as a guarantee for further borrowing and could build to be an impressive multi-million pound source of funding. Some of which could be used to offer loans for small micro-generation projects.
The way things work at the moment wind farm developments tend make token gestures towards feeding some of their subsidized profits towards local communities. At best this might be considered patronizing, especially as local communities (along with the Welsh Government) are effectively excluded from any meaningful participation in the planning process if the development is over 50MW in size.
One size does not fit all, our Communities should be able to develop and benefit from small scale renewable energy projects and regeneration projects in their own areas. If we do this right then we can develop more community leadership, grow local ownership of renewable energy projects and develop more cooperative models of ownership. People living in communities close to renewable energy installations should also receive the benefits of discounted energy and local dividends for community projects.
If we do this right then our communities and our country can become less dependent and we can become more self-reliant socially and economically, ironically Labour in Wales, who are part of the problem rather than the solution, would no doubt come up with reasons to oppose any of this. We also need to ensure that democratic accountability and planning gain is built into the energy development process and that our communities are able benefit from community beneficial energy projects.