Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A new democratic settlement for Cornwall

My column in today’s Cornish Guardian addressed the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum. It was as follows:

In last week’s column, I considered how the referendum on Scottish independence could have significant constitutional implications for the whole of the United Kingdom. And it already seems to be happening.

The people of Scotland voted NO to independence by a margin of 55% to 45%, and there is already considerable debate about the degree to which that NO vote was underpinned, or even guaranteed, by promises of additional powers for the Scottish Parliament from David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

The head of the Better Together campaign even acknowledged that, as a consequence, there was a “cry for change,” which was likely to be “echoed in every part of the UK.”

And speaking immediately after the result was announced, David Cameron himself told the assembled media at 10 Downing Street that it was “time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward.” He added that a “vital part … will be a balanced settlement, fair to people in Scotland, and importantly, to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.”

Depressingly, though somewhat predictably, the Westminster establishment immediately descended into disarray. The leaders of the three largest London-based parties publicly disagreed with each other about what they had actually offered the people of Scotland.

The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, has already accused them of “tricking” voters, while pledging to “hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the ‘vow’ that they made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland.” He further offered the view that the “real guardians of progress are not the politicians at Westminster … but the energised activism of tens of thousands of people who I predict will refuse meekly to go back into the political shadows.”

Many Westminster politicians are talking about devolution or new settlements for the “four nations” of the United Kingdom. But they seem to have a blind spot for that other unmentioned nation – Cornwall – whose people were recently recognised as a national minority.

It is my hope that the people of Cornwall will come together and speak up to demand a new democratic settlement, which takes significant political and economic powers from Westminster and brings them home to Cornwall.

I want to see a powerful legislative Assembly, though I acknowledge there may be many different views about what is best for Cornwall. But let us look at all the options and ideas, and let us attempt to mirror the recent debate in Scotland which was, in Alex Salmond’s words, a “triumph for democracy.”

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