Friday, 19 September 2014

Tories oppose a Cornish Assembly

This morning, I took part in a short debate at the Radio Cornwall studio about the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum and, obviously, the impact on the wider UK. Also involved was Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton and academic Dr Joanie Willett.

We are hearing David Cameron and other Tories talking about the decentralisation of political powers, but 
Sarah Newton made it clear that she opposes a Cornish Assembly.

Sarah Newton and I did not agree on a single thing during the debate. I have since read an article on her website, which set out her perspective on devolution which I found perplexing in the extreme.

She wrote:

“As we watch another Celtic nation decide on its future relationship with the British state it is right to consider Cornwall and our future. Predictably supporters of a Cornish Assembly are jumping on the independence bandwagon. Like the Cornish Assembly campaigners I believe that Cornwall is special and has a unique history, language and culture. However I don’t believe that we need to create a costly, new institution to express our identity. Do we really need a Cornish Assembly to be proudly Cornish?

“What we do need is more decisions about Cornwall being made in Cornwall. Our Duchy is a distinctive place, with distinctive needs. Distinctively Cornish solutions are needed. This is why at the last election I stood on a manifesto that promised ‘Power to the People,’ proposing a devolution to powers from Westminster to people and communities around the UK. I have been pleased to help deliver some of these powers to Cornwall.”

The list of examples that she gave in her article included the ability to agree a Local Plan that delivers the “right level of housing for the Duchy,” which is not what is happening in practice because of the interference of central government, changes to the National Health Service, and that the unelected Local Enterprise Partnership has a “new flexibility and local control” over aspects of Cornwall’s own European funding!

These are not good examples of democratic devolution and I am saddened that she chose to describe a Cornish Assembly as a “tokenistic institution …”

Her talk of the unique history, language, culture and distinctiveness of the Celtic nation of Cornwall merely masks her refusal to treat Cornwall as a meaningful political entity in its own right, just as her empty promises of “Cornish solutions” and “Power to the People” obscure the fact that the Conservative Party is a London-centric party, more concerned about “English-only” votes in Westminster than democratic devolution to Cornwall. 

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