NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
In 1497 Mychal Josef an Gof and Thomas Flamank marched to London with thousands of other Cornish people in armed revolt over what were perceived as unfair tax rises that the King of England had imposed on the Cornish to pay for his war with Scotland. The outcome of the protest for An Gof and Flamank was the death penalty, but their Cornish rebellion had culminated in a pitched battle on Blackheath in London that has been remembered for over 500 years.
This week’s budget from the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has seen another unfair tax being potentially imposed on the Cornish, which affects the very food that Cornwall is famous for and a veritable symbol of Cornishness itself. Cornish people are incensed by the Chancellor’s intention to impose a 20% VAT tax on pasties – Cornwall’s national dish – in what has already become known as the ‘pasty tax’.
Last year the European Commission awarded the Cornish pasty the much coveted protected geographical indication (PGI) status, which means that Cornish pasties cannot be called ‘Cornish’ unless they have been made in Cornwall. The award was the culmination of a long term campaign of which the Kernow branch of the League was part. Now with that particular campaign won, a new campaign has been set up to protect the status of the pasty as a food of the people, rather than of the rich. The Exchequer’s plans to increase VAT on hot take away food to 20% – which is likely to increase the cost of the pasty by a fifth of its current cost – means that what has been the staple diet of many ordinary Cornish people for generations could become more of a luxury food item in the future.
A group has been set up on Facebook that has attracted thousands of members calling for people to get behind the campaign calling on the Exchequer to dump the tax. The group is calling on people to sign an e-petition to the Government, which already has almost two thousand signatures. The Facebook site points out that as well as being a well-recognised symbol of Cornwall, the pasty is “a key part of our manufacturing economy and thousands of people in Cornwall are employed either directly or indirectly by the pasty industry.”
Campaigners argue that the proposed tax will not even bring in revenue for the hundreds of firms in Cornwall that sell pasties, but the proceeds will go straight to the UK Government coffers in an attempt to help pay for England’s enormous budget deficit.
Even some Cornish Members of Parliament of Exchequer Osborne’s own Government oppose the tax. Member of Parliament Andrew George MP told his colleagues that he will fight “them on the beaches” to oppose the tax.
Whether over 500 years later the Cornish will rise up in revolt against England to protest against another unjust tax remains to be seen. But what is for certain, like An Gof, Flamank and hundreds of their compatriots, the Cornish won’t go down without fighting for this one either!
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