Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
Unsurprisingly, if regrettably, the Natural Resources Wales (NRW) board this week bowed to the pressure from its political masters in the Labour Government in Cardiff and agreed to implement a ban on game shooting. I wrote in the summer about the extraordinary intervention of the Welsh Minister for Environment, Hannah Blythyn, into the review of shooting on publicly owned land in Wales.
The process has been a shambles, and a costly one at that. The review commissioned by NRW, which it was subsequently instructed to ignore, cost £40,000 alone. It has also dragged the reputation of NRW, which was already facing a range of challenges, further into the gutter.
It is the politics of this, however, which is truly insane. As the report we produced with the Fabian Society last year made so abundantly clear Labour has a ‘rural problem’, yet in order to win a parliamentary majority in Westminster and Cardiff it needs to make inroads into rural constituencies. That report could not have been clearer that the pursuit of an animal rights agenda is detrimental to the Labour vote in rural areas yet Labour politicians continue to pursue such ridiculous policies.
Rural Wales has some of the lowest average incomes in Northern Europe, and shooting is one of the few sectors showing serious growth in the Welsh rural economy. Thousands of real jobs in rural Wales rely on shooting, an activity which we now know the Labour government does not support because of “ethical issues”. Of course this is unjustified, and there is more than a whiff of prejudice, but it will also alienate very large numbers of rural voters. Dyfed-Powys police force has the highest proportion of gun owners in the whole of the UK, and North Wales is not far behind. I cannot imagine that many of those people will be rushing out to vote for a party that has “ethical issues” with their way of life.
Ironically on Monday we will be hosting a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference entitled ‘Does Labour speak for rural Britain?‘ where I am sure the approach of Welsh Labour will be a hot topic.
Follow me at @CA_TimB