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Independence would boost wealth of the Westcountry

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 05, 2013

By Tony Maskell

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Following your editorial and front page story, November 23, about the South West losing out to Scotland on central government spending per head of population, maybe we should begin an independence movement of our own.

But the problem with Devon and Cornwall is that we have been pleased to accept relatively easy money from holiday makers and their successors who buy second homes and/or retire here. That leaves us with too high a proportion of economically inactive people who are likely to cost more to look after in their declining years particularly if, on retirement, many of them had moved a long way away from their families and friends. This trend also puts up the cost of housing for possible incoming business people who could have helped rebuild our economy, if they had not chosen to move into nicer, less expensive houses, elsewhere.

Another snag is our relaxed atmosphere which is less conducive to money-making than, say, in London whence so many of our ambitious young people move, leaving their parents without proper family support. So, the state picks up the job, does it badly, and is now trying to pass it on to cash-strapped local councils which also made the mistake of depending too much on central government money. I think councils should set, collect and keep all their local business rates to revive their blatantly lost interest in their local economies.

We do need more money, but most government money is ephemeral, reversible, comes with strings and has a deadening effect on anything that is remotely productive or exciting. We could do a lot better generating more wealth from local resources with the added value from processing, packing and delivery adding to local prosperity. A lot of local fish goes straight to France and Spain, as landed, with the minimum amount of added value staying here, while other fish goes to Grimsby for processing before being sold in the South East. Cornwall used to grow a lot of cauliflowers until the Brittany cauliflower growers decided to take the Cornish farmers' market, which they did by chartering a ship to bring their cauliflowers to England. That was the beginning of Brittany Ferries.

Devon and Cornwall are resource-rich and all kinds of business could be started here, if only we chose to stand on our own feet. But unfortunately, most of our over-institutionalised best brains get qualified and look for the safest jobs, thereby taking work away from their less intelligent peers who have to start their own businesses or go on the dole. But, if we could persuade the best brains that they would have a lot more fun, and probably more money, starting new businesses everyone could be a lot better off. I am certain if and when resources, markets and brains could be got together, as day follows night, the finance would follow, probably from several competing sources all begging to get involved, like the very best ideas on Dragons' Den.

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