Ifan Morgan Jones
Perhaps we now know why the UK Government is so insistent on a ‘Prince of Wales Bridge’ – because it seems that the plan is for Prince Charles to visit Wales much more regularly.
Thinktank Gorwel has been weighing up the benefits of a new Royal residence in Wales.
Let’s face it, anything that promises to boost the Welsh economy, as they claim, is worth serious consideration.
However, a Royal residence would likely face the same problem as the bridge. Which is that people think there are far more important things to be worried about, and spend money on, than Royal extravagance.
With a new Royal residence likely to cost hundreds of millions, and require further millions in upkeep, how can the cost be justified when Wales is in such need of spending in other areas?
After all, the Royal Family isn’t a private business. It’s publicly funded and so any new royal palace would ultimately be paid for by the taxpayer.
Wales is the poorest nation in north-west Europe and nearly a quarter of the people here live in poverty.
What Wales needs is spending on projects, such as good quality transport infrastructure, which will boost the private sector and create good quality jobs.
What kind of message will it send if the UK Government gives the OK to a new palace for Prince Charles in the heart of Cardiff but can’t find the cash to electrify the railroad to Swansea?
The report suggests between £765,000 and £3.6m annually could be generated in tourism income.
But into whose pockets will that money go? Will it stay in Wales or be taken away by the Royal Family to keep its other houses in good nick?
And will it simply draw revenue away from the 100s of castles and other historical sites already in existence in Wales?
The report suggests that 100 new jobs would be created. Tourism does create jobs, but not good quality ones. The north-west is a hive of tourism but also has some of the lowest wages in Wales.
Also, why does the report suggest Cardiff as the location? If we must have a Royal Residence, why not take it out of Cardiff, which is already the engine room of the Welsh economy, and put it in an area that is struggling economically?
Economics aside, the decisions to locate a new Royal Residence in Wales would also run up against political and cultural barriers.
The report suggests that the City Hall in Cardiff could be adapted into a Royal residence. But the City Hall is a historic symbol of democracy and Wales, not royalty.
It’s notable that the Welsh Assembly was refused permission to use City Hall as its Senedd and had to set up camp down in the Bay instead.
What would it say about us as a nation that the symbol of our democracy was banished down to the Bay but the Royal family is then invited into the heart of our capital’s civic centre?
The report also suggests there would be political benefits to placing a new Royal Palace in Wales. But since the Royal Family are supposed to be politically neutral, it’s difficult to imagine what they might be.
It goes without saying, but the plan would be deeply divisive for cultural reasons as well. Unlike Scotland, Wales was conquered and our own native Royal Family deposed, and republicans haven’t forgotten this.
Whatever happens, the UK Government and Welsh Government should note the backlash to the Severn Bridge name-change.
The people of Wales want to have a say, one way or another. They are no longer happy for their benevolent betters to decide things for them.
The Royal, top-down, ‘we know best’ way of doing things is going out of fashion.
Any kind of new Royal Residence imposed on Wales – a big, costly palace created at public expense in a nation where 200,000 of children live in poverty – is going to face a big backlash.
As the Severn bridge debacle showed, Charles isn’t as popular as the Queen. If he thinks he will be welcomed by adoring crowds, he needs to think again.
And his PR team need to think about this one much more carefully than they did about the bridge.