The state has an undue influence over all aspects of Welsh life. Its financial size and dominance in Wales mean that, through employment, government grants and contracts awarded to the private sector, and the appointment of key individuals to jobs, committees or advisory positions, both local and national government in Wales can successfully quieten or silence critical voices. It can lead to a culture of conformity where people are unwilling to publicly question or discuss a whole range of issues. It is something that should give us all concern, as so often these are the very voices and conversations we so badly need to help shape a successful and dynamic Wales.
For Wales to become a great nation we are going to have to look at new, innovative ways of doing things, particularly in the area of public services, whether they be delivered by local or national government. Far too often Wales has embraced a “not invented here” approach and the negative consequences are plain for us all to see. We need to realize that a nation that embraces sound practice from elsewhere in the world is courageous and confident, not weak.
Both education and the NHS in Wales have serious issues, but these can be solved if we have the will to do so. If we do not embrace the realities of the situation and bring about fundamental change then we really will have intractable problems. Other countries have coped with similar issues and we need to look to them for possible solutions, even if those solutions fail to comfortably fit within existing party political policy. Many of our politicians really care about Wales and we need to give them permission to get on with their jobs. Currently too many of our best politicians and civil servants are constrained by the demands of compliance to a particular party political viewpoint. We also need to give them permission to adapt to or try new approaches, and risk making mistakes. We need to look at what works for the people of Wales rather than just what is convenient for Welsh politicians and Welsh civil servants.