Thursday, 4 December 2014

Letter to leaders of Westminster parties

Following the publication of the Smith Commission, which proposes significant additional powers for the Scottish Parliament, I have written to the leaders of the largest Westminster parties.

Extracts are as follows:

I believe that the recent independence referendum has been good for British democracy, and it is to be welcomed that there is a growing debate about the future governance of the whole of the United Kingdom.

We believe that there is certainly a desperate need to address the unequal constitutional relationships between the various nations and regions of the UK, as well as the centralising influence of London and the South East of England.

Ed Miliband has stated that “devolution is for everyone,” while David Cameron has pledged “a balanced settlement – fair to people in Scotland, and … to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.”

Indeed, many politicians are now talking about devolution or new democratic settlements for the “four nations” of the United Kingdom.

Kirsty Williams of the Welsh Liberal Democrats has talked about "four distinct nations” with their “own ambitions, own needs and own outlooks." Nations, which she said, all needed a “place at the table.”

Gordon Brown has spoken of the specific rights and needs of the “minority nations” of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. He has also expressed his concern at the “disregard” shown to the “smaller nations” of the UK by Westminster Governments.

However, when it comes to democratic reforms, it seems that the three largest Westminster parties all have a blindspot in terms of the historic nation of Cornwall and our call for greater self-government through a National Assembly of Cornwall.

It seems that – to many – we are the invisible nation that cannot be mentioned.

I am also extremely worried that much of the debate around devolution is not actually about democratic devolution at all, but the reform of local government and the localisation of some economic and political powers to unelected and unaccountable bodies.

There is significant support for the creation of a National Assembly of Cornwall. I would remind you that, in December 2011, 50,000 declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly – collected in less than 18 months – were presented to 10 Downing Street. It is our view that these declarations continue to represent a great statement of intent from the ordinary people of Cornwall about the need for meaningful democratic devolution.

I would also inform you that an opinion poll undertaken by Survation for a research and film documentary project at the University of Exeter (Penryn) recently sampled 500 voters in the Camborne and Redruth seat, which found that (i) 60% of voters supported the devolution of more power from Westminster to Cornwall, with only 19% opposed, and (ii) 49% of respondents supported the creation of a Cornish Assembly (similar to that in Wales) with 31% against.

I would therefore appeal to you to ensure that, in future discussions about the governance of the UK, you will strive to deliver a comprehensive new democratic settlement for Cornwall, that matches those being achieved in our sister nations of Scotland and Wales.

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