Monday, 30 June 2008

leadership challenge over St Athan policy

The battle for the presidency of Plaid Cymru kicks off with the party’s three MPs leading the charge to dislodge Dafydd Iwan from the post. Dr Iwan, a keen advocate of Welsh Independence, will face a challenge from Plaid’s leader at Westminster, Elfyn Llwyd.

I am puzzled by the support of SCOTTISH First Minister Alex Salmond for Elfyn Llwyd’s. Mr Llwyd said the party “needed to be singing from the same hymn sheet”, suggesting there were differences between MPs and the presidency over the St Athan military base in the Vale of Glamorgan – supported by Plaid MPs but opposed by the party’s presidency.

Does Alex Salmond support the government policy made in Westminster to privatise military training? Would he support a policy which would hinder the future Independence of Scotland, I don't think so. I would be surprised that anyone who wants more independence for their country would submit willingly to a policy of intense militarisation and happily welcome the prospect of a regime like Burma for instance, on paying the right fees, get its soldiers trained here.
Would Alex Salmond agree with the MoD that the training of private contractors and foreign armies is actually about making a stable world for our children’s children?
Private Eye (no 1213) reports a confidential “post meeting readout” of deliberations, on the St Athan project, led by deputy chief of defence staff (personnel) Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson exposes “major AFFORDABILITY issues” requiring a “realistic contingency plan”

Hinting at serious difficulties on the deal, the “affordability gap” could not be disclosed even to the project board as it was too “sensitive”. More alarming still was a list of 15 significant risks with the project, training that fails to meet requirement of operational commands and is not of a sufficiently high standard.

Existing defence trainers appear unwilling to move to a new defence academy at St Athan, south Wales, from their existing bases (72% have said they won’t)

Certain risks are deemed “intolerable”. The scheme depends on missing millions from the sale of sites at Arborfield and Bordon where if planning permission for housing isn’t obtained soon, sites will be much less valuable, “impacting on the affordability of the project as a whole”.

New government accounting rules are due to bring PFI investments on balance sheet leaving the deal losing its off balance sheet PFI magic. The consequence of this would be to make the project unaffordable.

I wrote to Elfyn Llwyd and in Feb this year he replied rather unsatisfactorily; "Plaid Cymru recently debated St Athan in the context of its Defence Policy at National Council. After a very interesting and detailed debate it was decided that this would be a constituent of a conventional defence policy. My personal view is that, although Plaid is not a pacifist party many Plaid members hold that view. I am not a pacifist as such and believe that Wales should play its full part in defending as opposed to conducting any aggressive military policy."

He hasn’t raised this matter in parliament. He hasn’t raised any of the issues above despite him claim that he is anti privatisation at least.

No comments: