Friday 28 August 2015

Scotland : Rise : Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism

Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr welcomes the new RISE organisation in Scotland as part of the new Scottish Political Renaissance and sends greetings from Welsh Socialist Republicans to their meeting on Saturday.

Your organisation in Scotland inspires us to continue our struggle for a Welsh Socialist Republican Congress as a vehicle to unite the Left in Wales and to open the road to the National and Social Liberation of the Welsh Nation.

Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr 
28th August 2015

SCOTLAND’S new left-wing electoral alliance is to be called RISE, the Sunday Herald can reveal
The grassroots anti-austerity movement, anchored around the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Scottish Left Project (SLP), has been taking shape over the last eight months under the nickname the Scottish Syriza.

However it will be be formally launched as RISE, which stands for Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism, in Glasgow next Saturday.

Up to 1000 activists are expected to attend the Marriott Hotel for the event, which will include more than 30 speakers and examine policies for next May’s Holyrood election.

Among those taking part will be representatives from Syriza, Spain’s Podemos movement, Quebec Solidaire and Black Lives Matter, plus Independent MSP Jean Urquhart, German MP Andrej Hunko of the Left party Die Linke, and Mike Small, founder of the Bella Caledonia blog.

There will also be a message of support from veteran journalist Tariq Ali.

Describing itself as “Scotland’s Left Alliance”, RISE will field candidates exclusively on regional lists, from which MSPs can be elected with as little as 5.2 per cent of the vote.

As part of an electoral pact to maximise the chance of socialist MSPs being elected, the SSP will refrain from standing candidates, giving RISE a clear run.

The umbrella model is based on Syriza in Greece, which was formed in 2004 as a coalition of 13 radical groups, including Maoists, Trotskyists, feminists and environmentalists.

The Respect element of RISE refers to equalities - it has no links to George Galloway’s party.

The new name, with its whiff of revolution, is intended to catch the attention of voters drawn to the Left in response to the Tory government, but who doubt the commitment of Scottish Labour and the SNP to radical change.

SSP co-convenor Colin Fox, who hopes to be a RISE candidate, said even if Jeremy Corbyn became the next UK Labour leader it would not fundamentally change the party.

“I fully expect Labour’s existential crisis to deepen whether Jeremy Corbyn wins or not. He does not support independence or further powers for the Scottish Parliament. That offers very little to attract the progressive left opinion that’s gathered round the SLP.

“If Corbyn becomes leader he’ll also be a prisoner of the right wing of Labour from day one. They’re already orchestrating a coup against him.

“We’ll be looking to take the fight to the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon says they’re against austerity and privatisation, but they have a different track record. The SNP is no place for a socialist.”

Trade union activist Cat Boyd said: “We want ordinary people in Scotland to have a voice against the onslaught of austerity, against the erosion of our trade union rights and against the unchallenged privileged and power of the few who think they have the absolute right to rule.”

Playwright Alan Bissett said he was "really excited" about RISE, adding: "The left had been struggling until the injection of energy and momentum from the referendum, when working-class and young people started to engage with politics. A pro-Yes voice, to the left of the SNP and Scottish Labour and committed to the working-class, should be a prerequisite of our parliament.”

Refugee rights campaigner Pinar Aksu added: “This fresh approach will provide a voice that will put people at the forefront, not the corporate interests which dominate our society.”

RISE organiser Jonathan Shafi, who also co-founded the Radical Independence Campaign in the referendum, rejected the suggestion that Syriza’s current problems and splits showed the Left’s high hopes in Scotland were doomed.

“Greece actually underlines the need for similar left movements to develop in northern Europe to provide support to other governments of the radical left - to prevent them being isolated.”

Source : Sunday Herald


Tuesday 11 August 2015

Welsh Mercenaries in History : "He's fought the wide world over,he's given blood and bone. He's fought for every bloody cause except his bloody own"

Following the recent British celebration of the Battle of Waterloo in Wales when the despicable beast of Trinidad  Sir Thomas Picton was lionised as a hero we now  have Agincourt celebrations this October 2015 and a celebration based on Shakespeare's falsification of history about the extent of Welsh involvement.

Alun Rees's  poem tells below us more about our Welsh history than the falsifications around Sir Thomas Picton and the upcoming Agincourt celebrations this October.



Taffy is a Welshman,
Taffy is no thief.
Someone came to Taffy's house
and stole a leg of beef.

Taffy made no protest,
for he doesn't like a row,
so the someone called on him again
and stole the bloody cow.

They stole his coal and iron,
they stole his pastures, too.
They even stole his language
and flushed it down the loo.

Taffy is a Welshman,
Taffy is a fool.
Taffy voted no, no, no
when they offered him home rule.

Six days a week upon his knees
Taffy dug for coal.
On the seventh he was kneeling, too,
praying for his soul.

And now the mines are closing down
and chapel's had its day,
Taffy still lives upon his knees,
for he knows no other way.

Now sometimes Taffy's brother
will start a row or so,
but you can bank on Taffy:
he doesn't want to know.

For when they hanged Penderyn
he had nothing much to say,
and when Saunders Lewis went to jail
he looked the other way.

Taffy is a Welshman
who likes to be oppressed.
He was proud to tug his forelock
to a Crawshay or a Guest.

They give him tinsel royals,
so he has a pint of beer,
and sings God Bless the Prince of Wales
as he joins the mob to cheer.

Now Taffy is a fighter
when he hears the bugle call.
Name any war since Agincourt:
Taffy's seen them all.

He's fought in France and Germany
and many another land;
he's fought by sea and fought by air
and fought on desert sand.

He's fought for many a foreign flag
in many a foreign part,
for Taffy is a Welshman,
proud of his fighting heart.

He's fought the wide world over,
he's given blood and bone.
He's fought for every bloody cause
except his bloody own

So, Was The Longbow Really Welsh?

In a word: no. The Welsh archers at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt were paid mercenaries, shooting English longbows; no longbows were ever commissioned from Wales. The scaled up 6' longbow was developed in England, between 1300 and 1320, in a large-scale English Army context.

The draw-weight power of the small but strong South Welsh bows must have been one of the influences that inspired a scaling up of the English bow; quite possibly it was picked up by the elite Cheshire archers while on service in Wales with Edward I.

The adoption of the springier self-yew bow stave in the 1290s (not a Welsh thing) will have improved the efficiency of Edward I's English Army arrowstorms, and must also have been a great facilitating factor in scaling up to the 6' longbow.

The young King Edward III will have seen the new longbow in the 1320s and will have seen in it the power that would enable him to take on the heavily armoured French knights, and the weapon around which he could build his battle strategies, to give the longbow its legendary battle-winning success.

Legend has given high prominence to Welsh archers for forming the backbone of the English armies in its victories over the French at Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415). However, with more accurate historical records available these days, it turns out that the factual numbers are not quite so romantic.

There was a sizeable Welsh archer presence at Crecy, but not a majority: Edward III's army totalled about 13,500, of which about half were archers; 4,500 English and 2,000 Welsh. At Agincourt in 1415, following Owain Glyndwr's Welsh Revolt of 1400-1410, not many Welsh were taken to France at all: of the 6-7,000 archers in Henry V's army at Agincourt, recruitment records show that only 400 were Welsh.



A free company (sometimes called a great company) was a late medieval army of mercenaries acting independently of any government, and thus "free". They regularly made a living by plunder when they were not employed; in France they were the routiers and écorcheurs who operated outside the highly structured law of arms.[1]

The term "free company" is most applied to those companies of soldiers which formed after the Peace of Brétigny during the Hundred Years' War and were active mainly in France, but it has been applied to other companies, such as the Catalan Grand Company and companies that worked elsewhere, such as in Italy[2] and the Holy Roman Empire.

The free companies, or companies of adventure, have been cited as a factor as strong as plague or famine in the reduction of Siena from a glorious rival of Florence to a second-rate power during the later fourteenth century; Siena spent 291,379 florins between 1342 and 1399 buying off the free companies.[3]

The White Company of John Hawkwood, probably the most famous free company, was active in Italy in the latter half of the fourteenth century


The year in which Owain entered the service of the king of France is uncertain. Froissart claims that he fought on the French side at the Battle of Poitiers, but there is no other evidence to support this

He was however deprived of his English lands in 1369, suggesting he was in the service of the French as leader of a Free Company when the period of truce between France and England following the Treaty of Brétigny ended and hostilities resumed in 1369.

His French name was Yvain de Galles (Owen of Wales).[2]

Owain's company consisted largely of Welshmen, many of whom remained in French service for many years.[3]

The second in command of this company was Ieuan Wyn, known to the French as le Poursuivant d'Amour, a descendant of Ednyfed Fychan, Seneschal of Gwynedd under Owain's ancestors Owain also received financial support while in France from Ieuan Wyn's father, Rhys ap Robert While in French service Owain had good relations with Bertrand du Guesclin  and others and gained the support of Charles V of France.[3]

Welsh soldiery and longbowmen who had fought for Edward I in his campaigns in North Wales remained armed and sold their services to Norman kings in their battles in Scotland at Crecy and Poitiers. Ironically, the Norman attempt to conquer Wales set in train events which reignited Welsh identity and raised up new Welsh military leaders such as Owain claiming descent from the ancient Princes of Wales.

In May 1372 in Paris, Owain announced that he intended to claim the throne of Wales.

He set sail from Harfleur with money borrowed from Charles V. Owain first attacked the island of Guernsey, and was still there when a message arrived from Charles ordering him to abandon the expedition in order to go to Castile to seek ships to attack La Rochelle.

Owain defeated an English and Gascon force at Soubise later that year, capturing Sir Thomas Percy and Jean de Grailly, the Captal de Buch. Another invasion of Wales was planned in 1373 but had to be abandoned when John of Gaunt launched an offensive.

In 1374 he fought at Mirebau and at Saintonge. In 1375 Owain was employed by Enguerrand de Coucy to help win Enguerrand's share of the Habsburg lands due to him as nephew of the former Duke of Austria.

However, during the Gugler War they were defeated by the forces of Bern and had to abandon the expedition.

In 1377 there were reports that Owain was planning another expedition, this time with help from Castile. The alarmed English government sent a spy, the Scot Jon Lamb, to assassinate Owain, who had been given the task of besieging Mortagne-sur-Gironde in Poitou.

Lamb gained Owain's confidence and became his chamberlain, which gave him the opportunity to stab Owain to death in July 1378, something Walker described as 'a sad end to a flamboyant career'.[2] The Issue Roll of the Exchequer dated 4 December 1378 records "To John Lamb, an esquire from Scotland, because he lately killed Owynn de Gales, a rebel and enemy of the King in France ... £20".

With the assassination of Owain Lawgoch the direct line of the House of Cunedda became extinct.[4] [1] As a result, the claim to the title 'Prince of Wales' fell to the other royal dynasties, of Deheubarth and Powys.

The leading heir in this respect was Owain ap Gruffudd of Glyndyfrdwy, who was descended from both dynasties.[2]

Owain Glyndwr
Prince of Wales
Lord of Glyndyfrdwy and of Cynllaith Owain



With defeat at home, the Welsh infantry retained and increased their place in the heart of the Royal armies, Lodwyk van Veltham wrote of Welshmenn serving in Edward 1st Army in Flanders in 1297in the very depth of winter they were running around bare legged.

They wore a red robe. The money they recieved from the King was spent on milk and butter.They would eat and drink anywhere. I never saw them wearing armour.

Their weapons were bows and arrows and swords. They had no javelins. They wore linen clothing. They were great drinkers ..Their pay was to small so it came about they took what did not belong to them.

Welsh mercenaries remained however, disobedient and riotious soldiers, on one occasion almost killing Edward 1st himself in a camp dispute in Scotand. Undisiplined in combat Welsh Mercenaries often murdered rather than captured opponents with ransom value. They would not have received the reward themselves, so it was only natural to kill someone who had just been trying to kill you.

The gradual rehabilitation of the Welsh Gentry helped restore their descipline, as the Welsh Soldiers only really obeyed their own native officers.


Wednesday 5 August 2015

We can win if we struggle : Carn Meini and the Battle of Preseli by Brian John

Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr republishes this account of the Battle of Preseli by Brian John as another one of our unknown victories, the recent victory of the people of Llanllwni and those on the Mynydd y Gwair outside Swansea are other recent victories in the Welsh Land Struggle.
Do not expect to find our victories chronicled -  the chronicle only record our defeats - our victories give us confidence and courage for our future and that is why they get erased from history.

It is the task of Yr Aflonyddwch Mawr to recover the real history of Welsh People's Struggle

It's not often realised that after the Second World War the War Office made a proposal to take in 58,000 acres of land -- encompassing virtually the whole of the Preseli upland area -- as a military training and bombing range. This caused an immediate and virtually unanimous reaction from all sections of the community in Pembrokeshire -- and the campaign to save the mountain was referred to as "The Battle of the Preselau" by author Hefin Wyn in a book published a couple of years ago.
The campaign united the Welsh and English speaking parts of the community, and it was multi-faceted, with economic, political, social, religious and ethical arguments all thrown in the direction of the War Office by community leaders.

In situations like this, with a whole community feeling itself under threat, every possible argument is rehearsed and brought to bear on "the enemy." The politicians in Westminster must have been amazed by the vigour and the sophistication of the "Save Preseli" campaign. In this, a number of very prominent pacifists took a leading role, and many nonconformist religious leaders not only thundered from their pulpits but became involved in lobbying and protest activities. They stressed the importance of Preseli as a cultural and spiritual heartland of Wales, and demanded that the establishment of a firing or training range would be not only disrespectful to Welsh heritage but also sacrilege of the most abominable kind.

It was therefore not surprising that one of the arguments brought forward was connected with the supposed sanctity of the mountains as a whole but also Carn Meini in particular. The ideas of HH Thomas came in very handy indeed. a great quantity of purple prose landed on the desk of Prime Minister Attlee -- with frequent references to Carn Meini, the bluestones, and Stonehenge.

The land was referred to over and again as "sacred" and words that crop up over and again in the correspondence include "heartland", "sanctity" and "sacrilege." The mountain around Carn Meini was a cradle of civilisation, a prehistoric cathedral, a treasure trove of antiquities, a place of mysticism and tranquillity, of spiritual regeneration and wonderment.

Wonderful stuff -- and it did the trick. The plans for the military range were abandoned, and the Army moved to Castlemartin and the Brecon Beacons instead, where there was much less opposition.

So we must, I suppose, be grateful for the manner in which the ideas about the sanctity of Carn Meini played a part in saving the uplands for us to enjoy in perpetuity, as commons and as wild places.

But none of this should blind us to the fact that we are talking here about a full-blooded community campaign and about strategy and tactics.

To a degree, the campaign was cynical in that it "pretended" a sort of reverence for eastern Preseli that I do not believe has ever been there in reality.

In the years 1946-1948 the ideas of HH Thomas were given a massive boost, and the thesis that the Eastern Preseli Hills are "sacred" really dates from that time.

 All very handy indeed, when Profs Darvill and Wainwright came along looking for their bluestone quarry and for something to show that there was a spiritual or even religious reason for the carrying of lots of bluestones from here to there.

Monday 3 August 2015

Who really Owns Scotland : Aristocrats, tycoons and billionaires by Gordon Blackstock and Andy Wightman


A major investigation by The Sunday Post has laid bare the 30 aristocrats, foreign tycoons and charities who own the largest chunks of the 19.5 million acres that make up the country.

It found Danish retail magnate Anders Povlsen, 42, has increased his portfolio to more than 170,000 acres – the equivalent of 265 square miles.

The acquisitions have seen the father-of-four, who is worth almost £4 billion, cement his place as the third-biggest private landowner in Scotland, behind charity the National Trust of Scotland and hereditary peer the Duke of Buccleuch.

If he continues buying estates at the same pace he is likely to top the list within a decade.
Incredibly, there is no definitive register to show who owns what in Scotland.

However, research by Andy Wightman, an expert who has spent decades investigating land ownership, has revealed Povlsen has been buying up vast swathes of Perthshire, Inverness-shire and Sutherland since 2006.

The latest accounts for his Scottish conservation company, Wildland Ltd, set up in 2012, show his firm has now invested £81 million in Scottish estates and land, up from £65m in 2013.

Just 432 individuals – like Povlsen – own more than half of Scotland’s non-public land.

In European countries like Norway – a country seven times the size of Scotland – there are only 23 estates bigger than 10,000 hectares. In Scotland there are 144.

In Povlsen’s native Denmark, where he still lives, people are limited to only being able to buy 620 acres of rural land and must live in the country if they wish to buy a holiday home.

Officials for the businessman, who inherited a Danish fashion empire from his parents at 28, confirmed his firm now held 170,000 acres in Scotland.

They’ve previously argued Polvsen is driven by a fierce love of the countryside and conservation and point to the successful running of the estates he’s already bought in Scotland.

Some critics have speculated the retail magnate is investing in wild land because it can be passed on without attracting inheritance tax in his homeland.

Law lecturer and land reform expert Malcolm Combe said: “If companies like Google and BAE established such dominance in their field, they would find themselves falling foul of EU competition rules.
“But the same isn’t true over our land.”
Mr Combe was part of the Land Reform Review Group set up by the Scottish Government in 2012 to look at “radical” proposals and changing the country’s land ownership model. Their proposals led to the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill, which was published in June.

It is now working through the Scottish Parliament and includes plans to end tax relief for shooting estates and force the sale of land if owners are blocking economic development. It also includes proposals to clarify information on who owns the land.

The Scottish Government also hopes to put a million acres of land into community ownership by 2020. Opponents say the bill is an attack on the rich.

Samantha Cameron’s stepfather, William Astor, the 4th Viscount Astor who owns the Tarbert Estate in Jura, called the reforms a “Mugabe-style land-grab” and questioned whether estate owners were being targeted “because we don’t sound Scottish”.

In February, Richard Scott – the 10th Duke of Buccleuch and Scotland’s biggest landowner with 241,887 acres – announced he would slim down his estates within 10 years.

He said the move was down to his “absolute dismay” at the SNP’s land reform plans.

But the Scottish Government has rejected claims land reform measures will be unfair, insisting it believes “fairness, equality and social justice are connected to the ownership of land in Scotland”.

High time for land to be divided up fairly

By Andy Wightman, land campaigner

Scotland has one of the most archaic systems of land ownership anywhere in Europe.
Not only is land ownership concentrated in very few hands but more than 90% of Scotland’s land is not subject to any tax.

There are no rights of inheritance of land and land in Scotland is an international commodity traded on the world market to anyone who wants to buy it.

Owners are under no obligation to reveal their identity, to live on the land or to be subjected to any scrutiny.

The Land Reform Bill is therefore very welcome.

It is part of a wider process of reform that includes changes in local property tax, inheritance law, management of the Crown Estate and the rules governing private rented housing.

How land is owned, used and governed is vitally important to the well-being and prosperity of everyone – particularly those who, because of inflated land values, cannot afford the basic human right of a home.

Land is a finite resource and should be owned and used in the public interest for the common good.
For centuries, the ownership and control of Scotland’s natural resources was in the hands of a small elite.

Vested interests in finance, property and land still promote the idea that change that has long been normal across continental Europe is somehow extreme and dangerous in Scotland in the 21st Century.

Fortunately, Scotland is now alive with ambition to build a fairer and more equal society.

Land reform has the opportunity to unlock the potential of Scotland’s people if they are given a meaningful and equitable stake in the ownership, governance and wealth of urban, rural and marine Scotland.

This is a wide and ambitious agenda.
It is urgent and it has only just begun.

Scotland’s landowners

1 Richard Scott, Duke of Buccleuch – Buccleuch Estates Limited’s 241,887 acre holdings includes Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries and Galloway.

2 National Trust for Scotland – 192,000 acres across Scotland that includes Culzean Castle in Carrick, Ayrshire and Brodick Castle in Arran.

3 Anders Povlsen – Fashion tycoon’s 169,695 acre land includes 43,000-acre Glenfeshie estate in Inverness-shire.

4 RSPB – 125,858 acres of land includes the Forsinard Flows nature reserve in Caithness and Sutherland.

5 Bruce Murray, Duke of Atholl – Through Trustees of Atholl Estate the 12th Duke of Atholl runs the 124,125 estate around Blair Castle, Perthshire.

6 Alwyne Farquharson – The Invercauld Trust run Captain Alwyne Farquharson, who is in his nineties and lives in Norfolk, own 120,685 acres around Braemer Castle in the Cairngorms.
7 British Alcan Aluminium Plc – Mining firm own 117,249 acres around Fort William.

8 Ian Ogilvie-Grant, Earl of Seafield – Owns two main chunks of land around Cullen and at Strathspey that make up his 95,815 acres.

9 Gerald Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster – Prince William’s godfather and the UK’s biggest landowner owns 94,817 acres in Scotland including the Reay Forest Estate in Sutherland.

10 Robert and Philip Fleming – Banking family who included Bond creator Ian Fleming own 92,141 acres including traditional sporting estate, the Black Mount Estate near Glencoe.

11 Elizabeth Sutherland, 24th Countess of Sutherland – 94-year-old Elizabeth Millicent Sutherland-Leveson-Gower’s Dunrobin Castle is just north of Golspie in Sutherland and part of 87,898 acre holding.

12 Paul van Vlissingen’s family – The Dutch entrepreneur and philanthropist’s family own 87,066 acres including Letterewe estate at Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands.

13 Donald Cameron – The clan Cameron’s 76,881 acre estate includes area around Fort William. A prophecy holds that the Camerons will keep their land as long as there is snow on Ben Nevis.

14 “Mr Saleh” – Reclusive Malaysian-based businessman – who has never been identified – owns 71,383 acre land including Glen Avon Estate in Moray through firm Glenavon Ltd and Braulen Ltd.
15 Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen – The billionaire grandson of the inventor of Lego owns 69,845 acres over several Scottish estates including Strathconon in Ross-shire through Kirkbi Estates Ltd.

16 Fergus Granville – The 54-year-old cousin of the Queen inherited the 62,200 acre North Uist estate in the Outer Hebrides from his mum Countess Granville in 2004,

17 Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum – 61,961 acre Killilan and Inverinate Estate in the north-west Highlands owned by ruler of Dubai’s Guernsey-based firm Smech Properties Ltd.

18 Applecross Estate Trust – Charity run by the The Wills Tobacco Family who owns 61,609 acres including 28,000 acres on the Isle of Bute.

19 Her Majesty the Queen – Her world famous Balmoral retreat is set on a sprawling estate in Aberdeenshire and part of 61,507 acres she owns in Scotland.

20 Baroness Nancy Drummond Willoughby – 80-year-old’s 60,939 estate run by the Drummond Foundation and Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Trust Ltd includes Drummond Castle in Perthshire, used in Rob Roy film.

21 John Muir Trust – UK conservation charity own 60,44 Scottish acres and care for landscapes including Ben Nevis.

22 Mount Stuart Trust – Charity body who run large 56,772 acre estate on Isle of Bute through Bute Estate Ltd.

23 Mr X – Mysterious Panama-based firm called Compania Financiera Waterville who owns 56,510 acres including around Drumochter in Highlands.

24 Sir Guy Innes Ker, Duke of Roxburghe – Huge 55,136 acre estate includes Floors Castle near Kelso.

25 Charles Pearson – His family own seven estates spread over 55,051 acres in Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire.

26 Edmund Vestey – 54,754 –

27 John MacKenzie – Owner of Gairloch and Conon Estate in Highlands runs to 53,625 acres.

28 Colin Campbell, 7th Earl of Cawdor – Have 52,960 acres mainly around Nairn.

29 Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll – The family 51,667 acre seat includes Inveraray Castle, Argyll.

30 Alastair Morrison, Baron Margadale – The Islay Estate Company Ltd, headed up by Baron Margadale own 51,563 acres including a third of Islay.