Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Operation Trelawny - 15 years on

I have neglected to upload my most recent articles in the Cornish Guardian.  The article in the edition dated 3rd July, addressed the announcement that Cornwall will qualify for the next round of European funding. It was as follows:

It is fifteen years ago, this month, that one thousand people marched across the Tamar Bridge, symbolically blocking one of the main entranceways into Cornwall. Known as “Operation Trelawny,” it was the last significant event organised by the pressure group Cornish Solidarity.

The main campaigning plank of the Solidarity movement was the demand for Cornwall to receive European funding to help boost Cornwall’s ailing economy. It was clear to most people that Cornwall should qualify for the funding because Cornwall’s gross domestic product (GDP) was less than 75% of the EU average.

But Cornwall missed out on funding in 1992/1993, when a previous application for has been made on a “Cornwall and Devon” basis.

At this time, Cornwall’s GDP was around 76% of the EU average, which could have triggered many hundreds of millions of pounds of structural funding. But because Cornwall was linked to Devon, the joint figure for GDP came out at 83%.

Cornwall therefore lost out, but Merseyside and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland – with a GDP of 79% of the EU average – won the higher levels of financial support.

Fortunately for the Cornwall, in the late 1990s, the campaign to disaggregate from Devon for statistical purposes was successful. Significant investment was secured and, from 1999 onwards, our local communities, institutions and businesses have benefited from a range of funding programmes including Objective One and Convergence.

The investment certainly helped to boost the local economy and underpinned a number of key projects such as the Combined Universities. And for a number of years, Cornwall’s economy was growing at a faster rate than other regions – albeit from a much lower base.

But that has changed. The most recent figures show that the Cornish economy has struggled during the recent economic downturn. Cornwall’s GDP is now slipping back at a faster rate than other parts of the UK and we also have a lower economic output than Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as some regions in Romania and Bulgaria.

It is therefore very good news that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will receive further European investment of over €500 million between 2014 and 2020, and we need to maximise the benefit of this money.

That should mean central government also prioritising investment in Cornwall – as one of its two poorest regions – but it is frightening to know that the cuts are taking millions and millions out of the local area, and weakening its economy.

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