(Title Image: via Wikipedia)
Yesterday, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.) held a short debate on the economy of rural Wales and how it is to be best promoted.
Rural Wales – which Angela poetically described as a “sweeping canvass that underpins our nation and defines our borders and identity” – was said to be home to 33% of the Welsh population and the way of life can be very different there than the rest of the country. Government policy was often too focused on large urban areas and one-size-fits-all policies on education and health often don’t work in the countryside.
“All of us weigh up many factors when deciding where to live and those who want to live in rural areas are often prepared to compromise, to accept that jobs might be harder to get, that services might be a bit further away, that schools might be smaller, that we won’t earn as much or indeed, have so many opportunities to spend what we earn and that our way of life does cost a bit more. But Welsh Government is now asking us to compromise too much.”
– Angela Burns AM
She was pleased a tourist tax was rejected by the Welsh Government, but field sports often make a big contribution to the rural economy and the Welsh Government’s recent announcement of a pheasant shooting ban on public land was being driven by urban lobbyists. She now feared for angling, as there’s often “a tussle between canoeists and anglers” and canoeists are a “vocal lobby”.
Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East) called for improved infrastructure, while Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) called for an end to cuts to subsidised bus routes. Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery) demanded the Welsh Government do more to support businesses which are affected by their decisions and to recognise the true consequences of their policies.
Replying on behalf of the Welsh Government, Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn (Lab, Delyn) said she disagreed with some of Angela’s points but accepted it was “passionate and eloquent”. She focused in particular on the support rural-based businesses had already received from the Welsh Government as well as the importance of future-proofing the rural economy.
“We also know how in today’s world that availability of digital infrastructure is hugely important to businesses and communities in rural areas and these areas often face specific challenges with that. Since its inception in 2013, Superfast Cymru has invested over £82 million to provide access to fast fibre broadband to over 280,000 properties across the predominantly rural areas of Carmarthenshire, Powys, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Anglesey.”
– Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn
The Minister also stressed how important it was to properly support the rural economy after Brexit, as rural Wales has been a major beneficiary of EU funding, which will need to be replaced.