A leading professor has suggested civil servants making Government policy across Whitehall are ‘blind’ to the need for rural development funding in the UK.
The researcher, who did not want to be named, made the remarks at a Cardiff agri-sustainability event this week.
Asked about the decreasing focus on Pillar 2-style funding in both the EU and the UK, the professor said British Governments of all colours had openly disagreed with the idea of rural development spending, naming David Cameron and Gordon Brown as two Prime Ministers who did not believe it was necessary.
“There are very different views across the UK about what rural development means and whether it has any importance”, the academic added.
“I would suggest there are people in Whitehall who do not believe in rural development because they do not believe there are rural issues or problems.
“The further you get away from London, the more rural development has a real meaning. If you go to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, it is a huge preoccupation.
“People want to see diversity and health in rural economies. In the uplands, the first thing people talk about is rural vitality and how they are worried the culture is falling apart and we need do more, but there is this blindness from Whitehall to it.
“The rural economy has been invisible in English politics for the last decade, whereas in Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland, the rural is very important and politicians would recognise it as such.”
Other attendees at the event agreed, suggesting it was worrying to see rural economies being treated in the same way as their urban counterparts.
The food and drink aspect of the Industrial Strategy was highlighted as an example of rural needs being ‘wrapped into’ urban economic policies.
But Charles Trotman, senior rural business adviser at the CLA, told Farmers Guardian rural development was recognised as ‘an intrinsic element of rural policy’.
“If the UK is to embrace opportunity in the post-Brexit period, the Government should adopt a more locally-led approach where the delivery of rural development is more attuned to the challenges faced locally”, he said.