Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A power-house democratic body for Cornwall

My column in tomorrow’s Cornish Guardian will be as follows:

I have campaigned for devolution to Cornwall for my entire adult life and I will make no apology for covering this important issue for the third consecutive week.

In 1997, when he launched his Government’s plans for a Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar stated that the aim was for a “fair and just settlement for Scotland within the framework of the United Kingdom.” He added that it would “strengthen democratic control and make government more accountable.”

In the same year, the Welsh Secretary Ron Davies argued that the creation of a Welsh Assembly would “give the people of Wales a real chance to set their own priorities” and to provide “leadership to reinvigorate all aspects of Welsh life and culture.”

I believe that Cornwall also needs a “fair and just settlement” as described by the late Donald Dewar, and a powerhouse democratic body that can provide the real leadership outlined by Ron Davies.

That is why I want to see a democratically-accountable National Assembly that can set the funding and policy framework for the majority of the public sector within Cornwall.

And following the NO vote in the Scottish referendum, the leaders of the three largest London-based parties have all been talking about devolution, but I have been extremely disappointed by the responses from local representatives of the largest Westminster parties.

The Conservative Party and the Labour Party have already set out their opposition to a Cornish Assembly.

Tory MPs such as George Eustice have begun to scaremonger, releasing statements about “more politicians,” a “waste of money” and “flash new parliament buildings.”

Candy Atherton meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the Cornwall Labour Party, said that a Cornish Assembly would just be “another layer of bureaucrats.” That must be somewhat galling for those Labour MSPs and AMs serving in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly – their national legislatures – to be described as “bureaucrats.”

I am disappointed at their lack of ambition and I am confident that a National Assembly would be good for Cornwall’s democracy and its economy.

The present reality, as I see it, is that the Westminster Parliament retains control over most political decisions of real significance. Local government makes up only a portion of the public sector, and central government continues to remove power and financial resource from Cornwall Council, transferring influence to unelected bodies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership.

A National Assembly of Cornwall would be ceded powers from central government and would also reclaim powers exercised by a wide range of other unelected bodies. Likewise, many civil servants based in places such as Bristol and London would not be necessary. Professionals dealing with, for example, Cornwall’s environment, emergency services and principal highway network, would be based in Cornwall – creating many new jobs and boosting the local economy.

No comments: