Remember to vote Rural on Thursday “With the General Election now imminent, it still seems that the important issues are being obscured by the noise over who’s going to work with who in a hung parliament and what the effect of the SNP’s influence on governing the whole of the UK will be. “The general economy, the NHS, education and defence are of course all key issues and do get debated, along with immigration, but many of the key issues important to Cumbria appear to have slipped off the agenda of some of our parliamentary candidates. In this most rural of rural counties It has been disappointing to see some election literature making no mention of what is important to us locally. “Cumbria’s landscape is a key factor in our county’s future success, not only drawing in visitors and investment but providing products and services such as food and forestry, flood alleviation and clean air and water. Our physical landscapes and waterways have been sculpted and managed by generations of farmers and land managers, but changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) mean that large areas managed for environmental purposes will lose funding. Getting the balance right between food production and the environment is critical and potential candidates must be able to demonstrate an understanding of this complex relationship. “We want them to develop better policies to deliver the three main goals outlined in Friends of the Lake District’s manifesto. 1. Better Landscapes for all. Protecting and enriching the cultural landscapes of Cumbria is vital to our future. But the countryside has never been more vulnerable. It takes only months to create poor or inappropriate development that undoes the work of centuries. 2. Prosperous rural communities. Cumbria’s economy depends on Cumbria’s environment. We need a “cultural revolution” that recognises the role of the farming community and supports them as managers of the countryside and providers of the diverse ‘services’ it gives to us all. But we also need other rural enterprises, fitting together to maintain balanced and prosperous landscapes and communities. 3. Better funding for the countryside. We have a collective duty to care for the cultural landscape of Cumbria. Scenery, wildlife, our built heritage and our history need safeguarding and care. This demands support from the wider community and action by qualified and dedicated public authorities. “Many people seem to think that if their particular constituency is a safe seat, there is no point in voting. But in this Election at least, with no clear majority of MPs being forecast, the parties may use the number of votes cast to claim the moral high ground. “Rural voters may be in the minority, but this time our voices may count”. Douglas Chalmers, Director, Friends of the Lake District.