Monday, 10 March 2014
It is my understanding that, at their Spring Conference in
(8th March), Liberal Democrats voted to devolve powers to Cornwall.
Their press release states that:
“It is now Liberal Democrat party policy to introduce a ‘Devolution Enabling Act whereby legislative devolution is available to
(recognising its historical, cultural and linguistic claim to autonomy).’
“It would allow
to demand and negotiate a package of law-making powers that would be
transferred from Westminster to Cornwall.
A Devolution Enabling Act would also allow London
and other areas in England
with a population of a million people or more to bid for their own law-making
assembly if they wanted to.”
This is an interesting development, though the Liberal Democrats have been here before.
The Lib Dems contested the 2005 General Election and Cornwall County Council elections with a Cornish Manifesto, which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly. And upon winning control of Cornwall County Council that year, they published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office. The Lib Dems did not take this pledge forward and instead pushed through the centralisation of local government in
Mebyon Kernow will be putting pressure on the Liberal Democrats on this issue in the coming weeks and calling on them to fully back MK’s campaign for a National Assembly for
with powers broadly equivalent to the Scottish Parliament. Cornwall
Posted by Dick Cole at 16:04
The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has today entered the debate on Scottish independence calling for, in the words of the BBC, a “move away from a centralised British system” to “one where nations shared power, risk and resources.”
Gordon Brown has apparently put forward six proposals, which have been reported as follows:
constitutional law to set out the purpose of the UK
as pooling and sharing resources for the defence, security and well-being of
the citizens of all four nations.
A constitutional guarantee of the permanence of the Scottish Parliament.
A new division of powers between
and Westminster that gives Holyrood
more powers in employment, health, transport and economic regeneration.
A new tax sharing agreement that balances the commitment of the
UK to pool
and share its resources with the need for accountability to the electors in all
the places where money is spent.
New power-sharing partnerships to address shared problems on poverty, unemployment, housing need and the environment.
A “radical” transfer of powers downwards from
and Edinburgh to local communities.
From my perspective, it is disappointing that a senior Labour figure – who was in government when over 50,000 declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly were presented to Tony Blair – is talking about the “defence, security and well-being” of the “citizens of all four nations” – meaning England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and, once again, ignoring calls for the devolution of greater powers to Cornwall.
Posted by Dick Cole at 14:28
In Saturday’s edition of the Western Morning News, there was an extremely positive editorial comment about MK’s campaign for a Cornish Assembly. For those that didn’t see the article over the weekend, it was as follows:
Most people “east of the border” – as well as residents of
itself – may have been baffled by Mebyon Kernow’s St Piran’s Day call for a
What can possibly be gained by creating a fresh tier of administration just five years after the establishment of the unitary authority?
But the truth is that despite its best efforts to be a one-size-fits-all super-authority, Cornwall Council remains deeply unpopular. Whether these criticisms are justified is almost beside the point: the reality is people feel it is neither representative, accountable or financially efficient.
The idea of a national assembly for
is nothing new, having been discussed for more than a century. In 2000, when
50,000 people signed a petition calling for an assembly, the move was supported
by every MP in Cornwall, as well as
Cornwall County Council, the district and borough councils and 28 town and
parish councils. It even became a Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge – but we
have come to learn how flimsy they can be.
Perhaps the first reaction to the proposal is: “Surely
is too small.” But with a population of 536,000, Cornwall
is larger than Iceland,
Luxembourg and Malta,
as well as numerous other semi-autonomous regions across Europe.
The second consideration might reasonably be cost. However, assembly supporters can produce figures to show that by abolishing a large number of unelected bodies and ensuring much of the business of government currently administered in
and London is done in-house, it
could actually cost less and create well-paid Cornish jobs in the process.
Under MK plans published in its consultation document, Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall, such a body would control the majority of the public sector, including the NHS and education.
We should not be afraid of looking at alternatives. What MK is suggesting is not some didactic pie-in-the-sky ideology, but simply the possibility of a pragmatic solution to an unpopular status quo. The purpose of its consultation document is to place the idea on the table in the hope that it will be discussed openly and maturely as part of a fact-based debate.
All of us are tired of the cynical rhetoric of
politicians. The least we can do is give the idea of a Cornish Assembly a fair
and unbiased hearing. London
Posted by Dick Cole at 14:15
Sunday, 9 March 2014
My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian will, rather unpredictably, focus on MK’s latest campaign initiative in support of a Cornish Assembly. The preview is as follows:
On St Piran’s Day, Mebyon Kernow launched a new publication titled “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall.”
The document sets out how the devolution of significant political powers to
bringing the majority of the public sector under local democratic control,
could work for our local communities.
The document dispels the common misrepresentation that such an Assembly would somehow be independent of the
clearly stating that “it would be an integral and empowered part of the
governance of the United Kingdom.”
It also dismisses the claim that devolution equates to nothing more than local
Devolution has already led to the establishment of a Scottish Parliament, Assemblies for
and Northern Ireland,
as well as an Assembly for London. These
devolved institutions have certainly grown in stature and authority in recent
years, and constitutional change is rightly rising up the political agenda.
But the reality for the people of
is that democratically elected and locally accountable politicians presently have
limited say over vast amounts of public expenditure in our area.
Make no mistake, the
Kingdom – even taking into account the
devolved administrations in Scotland,
Wales and Northern
Ireland – is an over-centralised state,
dominated by London and the South
East of England.
The Coalition’s Business Secretary Vince Cable has even warned that
London was fast
“becoming a giant suction machine draining the life out of the rest of the
I believe that the unequal constitutional relationships between the various parts of the
need to be addressed, and action taken to combat the centralising influence of London.
I also believe that there should be a respectful and wide-ranging debate about the future governance of the whole of the
Kingdom, with our call for a National
Assembly of Cornwall at the very heart of that debate.
If you want to find out more, MK’s new document can be downloaded from www.mebyonkernow.org or a paper copy requested from MK, Meridian House,
Truro, . Cornwall,
MK is seeking the views of local residents and there is a consultation period until
2014. Comments on the document can be sent to the above address, or
by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Dick Cole at 22:34
Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Last week, I agreed to join the Board of the St Piran Trust which is masterminding the present re-excavation of St Piran’s Oratory near Perranporth.
I could not think of a better place to be this St Piran’s Day and, following the launch of “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” in
I joined the volunteers on the site of the dig.
It is great to see this great building being uncovered once again, and the members of the St Piran Trust should be congratulated for their tenacity over the last fifteen years, in negotiating with a range of statutory bodies, to ensure that the excavation could take place.
Let us hope that this excavation is the first step towards the full re-emergence of this most iconic structure, a vital element of
historic past and also a significant symbol of Cornishness today and into the future. Cornwall
Posted by Dick Cole at 20:53