Welcome to Dragon’s Tale brought to you by your Director for Wales, Rachel Evans
Spring is in the air, the nights are drawing out and the political party conferences are in full swing. I launched our Manifesto ahead of the Welsh Assembly elections which has had a great response to date. Our Wales award winners are on their way to Westminster to fly the Welsh flag and the daffodils have held back as best they could ready for a spring flush.
2016 has been busy so far, but it’s all good. There is so much to be done, so many challenges lay ahead but there will also be times for great opportunities for our countryside, for congratulations and celebration. I look forward to your company on the road to protecting and promoting rural life in 2016.
The Wales final of the Countryside Alliance Awards was held at the National Assembly for Wales on the 9th of February 2016. The event, which received cross party support from Assembly Member’s was a huge success and the awards were presented by the Deputy Minister for Culture Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates AM.
The winners representing Wales at Westminster in April are:
Local Food – Charcutier Ltd, Llanelli. The Highly Commended award in this category went to Llangollen Brewery.
Village Shop / Post Office – Siop Gymunedol Pwllglas Community Shop, Ruthin. The Highly Commended Award in this category went to The Parson’s Nose Village Stores, Dingestow.
Butcher Award – Martin Player High Class Butcher, Whitchurch, Cardiff. The Highly Commended Award went to Bethesda farm Shop, Narberth.
Tourism Enterprise – Really Wild Food and Countryside Festival, St Davids (photographed with Ken Skates AM). The Highly Commended award in this category went to Cwmcrwth Farm and Holiday Cottages.
Setting out the rural goal posts for the National Assembly for Wales Elections
The National Assembly for Wales Elections are coming up in May and questions are already being fired at prospective candidates vying for the seats in Cardiff Bay. The Countryside Alliance has launched its manifesto listing several key issues we would like to see addressed in the next assembly. Headline subjects are digital communications, food and farming, rural services, rural communities and countryside management – each with three calls for action and all vital for a vibrant, thriving countryside.
Access to high speed and reliable broadband connectivity varies widely across Wales but it is vital to our increasingly online lives. Our nation has become obsessed with food, cooking and eating home grown foods with low food miles but procurement of Welsh produce is sporadic and more needs to be done to encourage a consistent take up.
Rural services hold communities together but many residents of rural towns and villages across Wales do not have access to basic services and goods, which affects quality of life and deters enterprise and potential jobs growth. Of course, as our rural services dwindle so do our communities and we call for the rural proofing of all government policies to prevent the increasing isolation of villages and market towns.
We ask a great deal from our natural resources. Our countryside underpins our tourism sector, is a place of recreation, a larder and, as importantly, a place of work. Our landscape has been shaped by man over many centuries and our countryside and wildlife need on-going management.
Our manifesto will give prospective Assembly Members much to think about I am sure, and I look forward to engaging with them on the various issues raised within it. But it will not be a tick box exercise. The next National Assembly for Wales intake will most definitely need to be reminded of the needs of rural communities across Wales and the Alliance is in the perfect position to do just that.
Members should also look out for our Spring magazine (out in early March) which contains contributions from the rural spokesman from the four main parties. Llyr Gruffydd of Plaid Cymru, Rebecca Evans of Welsh Labour, Russell George of the Welsh Conservatives and William Powell of the Welsh Liberal Democrats have all written for the magazine so please read their thoughts in order to assess which party offers you the rural Wales you want to live and work in.
Party conference season is underway in Wales and the Countryside Alliance has been the only rural organisation in attendance to date. We have already hosted fringe events at the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Welsh Labour conferences on sustainable access to land and water. Assembly Members, candidates and stakeholders discussed whether more public access is needed in Wales or whether the Welsh Government should make better use of existing access arrangements.
In Cardiff, the Welsh Liberal Democrats Environment Spokesperson, William Powell AM, was joined by fellow Assembly Member Aled Roberts AM and Councillor Elizabeth Evans who is also standing as a candidate in the Assembly elections (all pictured). As well as the fringe event, our Director in Wales, Rachel Evans obtained a firm commitment to oppose open access from the Welsh Liberal Democrats Leader, Kirsty Williams AM.
In Llandudno, the meeting at Welsh Labour involved Assembly Member Jenny Rathbone AM, Welsh Access Officer at the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), Elfyn Jones and Councillor Alex Thomas who is also a prospective candidate in the Assembly elections.
Both events generated good discussion about the need to balance access to the countryside with the needs of those who have the task of managing and making a living from it. There was a particularly strong contribution from the angling community with many pointing out the potential dangers that open access of rivers would have on fishing.
The Countryside Alliance will also be the Plaid Cymru and Welsh Conservatives party conferences next month and will host further fringe meetings. It is a costly exercise to be at conferences but it is absolutely vital that rural issues are discussed and the Alliance is the only rural organisation representing your interests at the conferences. If you would like to support the Alliance please contact Rachel directly [email protected]
Firearms Directive – lobby your MEP
You may have heard about the proposed amendments to the EU Firearms Directive and the potentially adverse consequences for legal firearm users in the UK. This might seem technical and obscure, but it is of vital importance to anyone who shoots. We have been working hard to get our views across to the Home Office, MPs and MEPs, making sure everyone is aware of the negative impacts these proposals could have on the shooting community. For example, it is painfully obvious that restricting the use of firearms by under-18s will have no effect on reducing terrorism, but will leave our children without the shooting opportunities that many of us enjoyed growing up, and make it harder for people to get into shooting.
We need to show our strength in numbers to ensure these proposals have no effect on law abiding firearms owners in the UK. As such we are asking that you follow this link and register your disagreement with the proposed amendments. Your views will be sent directly to your regional MEPs, and you should expect a response.
I have already seen correspondence from Derek Vaughan MEP stating that Labour MEPs will support the new directive. I would be interested to hear if any of our members have managed to persuade any MEPs representing Wales to support the amendments put forward.