The future of Cornwall’s rural and coastal communities are under threat from urban-based government, inappropriate farming and fishing policies from the EU and the financial muscle of the supermarkets. Job opportunities are still limited, the number of rural village shops and post offices has fallen markedly in recent years and young people are being forced out of their home towns and villages because of the inflated price of housing.
Farming and fishing are in crisis. Both the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy have not worked and need to be consigned to the dustbin of history.
The CAP has failed farmers in less favoured areas, specifically supported grain production at the expense of livestock and made agriculture unpopular in the eyes of many people. London governments also need to recognise that agriculture is more than just another industry. Farmers are responsible for the protection and enhancement of the countryside and the well-being of rural communities. But the BSE crisis under the Tories and foot and mouth under Labour shows how central government does not understand the needs of rural areas.
Many farming enterprises have been driven to ruin while the supermarkets and their suppliers are using their virtual monopoly of the market to push down the prices of goods from primary producers, wrecking the viability of family farm after family farm. Elected governments cannot stand aside and do nothing. They must use their muscle to press supermarkets to pay fair prices for produce that they resell. Mebyon Kernow is committed to legislation and windfall taxes on this issue.
The countryside needs action and investment to prevent the break-up and amalgamation of farms. MK is committed to defending small and medium sized units as family farm units, and support packages to encourage the entry of young people into farming.
The Common Fisheries Policy has failed to safeguard the local industry, with the interests of Cornish fishermen squandered as a bargaining chip at the roulette wheel of negotiations between the member states. The number of local fishermen has fallen drastically and the whole fabric of communities such as Newlyn have changed beyond recognition.
If there is to be a future for the Cornish fishing industry, there can only be one realistic way forward. There must be a regional fishing policy, hammered out by delegates sent by fishermen from all parts of Europe, with each region having control over its own fishery. The fishermen of Cornwall must have direct representation when stock management issues are discussed and decided.
Decisions must be fashioned by those areas affected, not imposed on communities by distant governments.
MK is also committed to setting up a well-funded body to investigate ways of increasing the amount of processing of fish taking place in Cornwall.