Wednesday 29 August 2018

And the Yarg is ... Cornish

My article in today's Cornish Guardian covers the recent decision by Waitrose to sort out the branding on their Cornish cheeses. It is as follows:

As a proud Cornishman, and someone who worked in agriculture during my teenage years, I believe it is important that produce from Cornwall is proudly labelled as Cornish.

Not only is this important for the confidence of our small nation, it could represent a significant boost to the local economy. It is right that this is increasingly being recognised by food producers, business people, economists and politicians.

The unitary authority’s “economy and culture strategy” for the period 2013-2020 rightly declares that Cornwall is “valued for its unique environment and culture together with its strong sense of community and identity.” It adds that we have a “world class brand” that needs to be enhanced and promoted.

I fully agree with such sentiments, and it saddens me how much Cornish produce – particularly on sale in large supermarkets – has had its providence hidden and is branded as “West Country” or British or even English.

It is true that this is not just a Cornish problem and there was outrage at this year’s Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, when the traditional Welsh branding in the food hall was replaced with British branding.

A prominent member of the Welsh Assembly, Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth, was quick to condemn the shift in emphasis.

In a statement that could equally be applied to Cornwall, he said: “Welsh branding is important. It adds value, shows where the food comes from, shows quality, pride and economic strength, and highlights that this food is specifically from Wales. This is the very best of Welsh food … and should be celebrated as such.”

I have chosen to focus on this issue so that I can congratulate those campaigners who have been lobbying Waitrose to use start using Cornish branding on its Yarg.

The supermarket has been using packaging for the two lines of Cornish cheese with a cross of St George. One campaigning news network told Waitrose: “The Cornish flag is a national flag. It already is recognised by customers, and you would have the approval of the Cornish people in using it to promote Cornish products.”

It is therefore good news that Waitrose has bowed to pressure from a range of representations and a social media campaign to give a commitment to change the English flag to a banner of St Piran within one month.

This is another small but very welcome victory that should encourage us to continue to put pressure on processors, retailers and supermarkets to do more to always celebrate Cornish produce in its labelling.

Sunday 19 August 2018

Please respond to consultation into police merger

My article is this coming week’s Cornish Guardian focuses on the so-called consultation into the proposed merger of “Devon and Cornwall” and Dorset police forces. It will be as follows:

The online consultation into the proposal to merge the “Devon & Cornwall” and Dorset police forces comes to an end on 27th August.

My opposition to the merger and the centralisation of public services into larger “south west” bodies is well known. It is my strong view that the Police in Cornwall need decent levels of funding, not a merger.

I have also been very disappointed at the biased nature of the consultation. The local Police and Crime Commissioner has claimed that she “is on the fence” about the proposed merger and yet she has been actively promoting material setting out “seven reasons to merge.” This has been widely shared on social media and elsewhere, and she also produced a video which really did lack balance.

There have also been numerous claims about the financial benefits of the merger but, at the same time, we have been repeatedly told that the business case had yet to be completed.

I think it is ridiculous and wrong that the consultation has been carried out in advance of the business case – which will nonetheless be ready for submission as part of the bid to central government, which is timetabled for mid October.

It has certainly made it all farcical at times. When the issue was discussed at a meeting of Cornwall Council on 10th July, I was among a range of councillors who challenged the merger. But many elected members were unhappy about the lack of information, while others – for political reasons – used the uncertainty to limit criticism of the Police Commissioner.

As a consequence, the Council voted to request further information along with an extension to the consultation which, to my knowledge, has not been forthcoming. It means that the consultation will be completed before the next meeting of Cornwall Council.

It was a similar scenario at the recent meeting of the advisory Police and Crime Panel, made up of councillors from across the force area, many of whom were unhappy with the lack of information. One even said: “It was a nice presentation with nice words, but are we wasting our time today, as we can’t scrutinise anything?”

It is my understanding is that they agreed to re-arrange the date of their next meeting at the request of the Police Commissioner, so they could get sight of the business case – a privilege not being extended to others.

Put politely, it is a less than satisfactory situation, but I would still encourage everyone to make their views known over the next few days. The online survey can be found at: