Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Saturday, 16 October 2010
Thank you for contacting True Wales.
True Wales is a grassroots movement, established, funded and run entirely by ordinary, working people who are not well known and who came together two years ago because of a shared deep concern about the growth of nationalism and the slide towards independence since the inception of the National Assembly for Wales.
Our movement originated in the South Wales Valleys. It sprang from an article written for the Western Mail by Helen Mary Jones AM in which she argued strongly for Welsh Independence, and also coincided with the launch of the All Wales Convention. True Wales now has members/supporters in most areas of the Principality. We have raised awareness of our campaign by meeting people across the length and breadth of Wales, collecting signatures for our petition and distributing our leaflets. We have reached out to people via the website, written articles, lobbied politicians and submitted evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, the Lords Constitutional Committee and the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. We have also had meetings with the Electoral Commission, and our spokespeople regularly appear on BBC and ITV political programmes.
You have asked specifically whether True Wales has a position on Welsh language provision. It was decided at the outset that our prime objective was to secure a 'No' vote in the referendum which will decide whether direct law-making power should be devolved to the Welsh Assembly, and to do that, we would need to reach out to all the Welsh people, whichever language they use. We do have some Welsh-speaking members, and I would say that all of us have great concerns about the manner in which WAG prioritises our precious resources.
We have just taken delivery of our second batch of leaflets and are busy ensuring that they are distributed in all areas of Wales. I have attached a copy of the leaflet which encapsulates what the campaign is about (you will need to scroll down to view the second page). I have also attached a copy of our latest Press Release which was issued to counter criticisms of our campaign in a recent speech made by the First Minister.
We hold regular strategy meetings each month. I have attached a membership form should you wish to help our campaign in any way (membership is free at the moment), and a copy of the petition form. There is also the on-line petition at: http://www.petition.fm/petitions/truewales
If you wish to know more about True Wales I would be happy to give you a call to chat further.
Thank you again for your email.
I look forward to hearing from you.
True Wales Secretary
Monday, 11 October 2010
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
Thank you for your letter. I took an interest in your reasoned points, to which I would like to respond.
Your fundamental question was why the Conservative Party aspires to a bilingual Wales. From this standpoint you wondered how policies to create a bilingual Wales might be compatible with a commitment to the Union. You also argued that funds spent on the Welsh language could be better used elsewhere.
I can say at the outset that the Assembly group is committed to a bilingual Wales. This is more than merely an attempt to shed an old reputation. We value the heritage of Wales. The ability to speak more than one language, especially at an early age, can excite the mind and open one to different cultures and people and to new experiences. English and Welsh are languages of our country and each language gives Wales strength. Welsh is one of the oldest living languages in Europe and makes Wales distinct, and therefore attractive to visitors. English is a world language, and the ability to speak it fluently gives Welsh people a competitive advantage in the world.
There is an issue of fairness also. A great proportion of the people in Wales would like the choice to speak Welsh in every day life. A recent report by Consumer Focus Wales found that 80 per cent of the people it surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that services should be available in Welsh. These services will not generally be as well used as services in English. Simple mathematics guarantees this. But I believe Welsh services should be available. It is a Conservative principle to give greater freedom and choice.
I do not agree that spending on the Welsh language is necessarily ‘nationalist baggage’, as you said. The growth in bilingual and Welsh medium schools in recent history has been driven by parental demand – by individual parents and guardians - and not by remote policymakers. Only recently in Cardiff, we have seen that parental pressure has driven the creation of a new Welsh medium school in Canton.
However, none of this dilutes the commitment of the Welsh Conservative Assembly Group to the Union. We value our British institutions, the British commitment to fair play and democracy, and the languages of Wales and Britain. But the constituent parts of the Union are united, not merged, and there is room for difference. In fact, I believe the strength of Great Britain over the years has been the ability to accommodate tradition with change.
The existence of the Assembly has not altered the Conservative Party’s position on Welsh. The Party has been a great friend of the Welsh language. (Lord) Wyn Roberts, a Minister in the Thatcher Government, described the Welsh Language Act of 1993 as his ‘proudest achievement’. The Party was also responsible for the creation of the Welsh fourth channel, S4C. The Welsh Conservative commitment to bilingualism continues this tradition.
In my article, which you quoted, I discussed in some detail some of the reforms Welsh Conservatives are trying to enact. The group in the Assembly is concerned with fundamental issues: our economy, the education system, our health service and achieving true devolution of power back to the public. These are all Conservative priorities. And I trust this letter has adequately described why Welsh Conservatives count achieving a bilingual Wales as a worthy aim.
Nicholas Bourne AM
Leader of the Opposition
National Assembly for Wales
The only major point from my original letter not addressed was the impact and fairness of making Welsh compulsory in education, but other than that this presents pretty clearly the principle behind our support for Welsh and also explicitly states support for the Union (O'Neill pointed out that the original article that prompted my letter contained not one reference to it). I'd like to publicly thank Mr Bourne for taking the time to respond to my letter.