Monday, 12 December 2016

Today is the 15th anniversary of the 50,000 Declarations at Downing Street

Fifteen years ago today(12th December 2001) I was part of a delegation which presented 50,000 declarations demanding a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street.

I am extremely proud to have authored the actual declaration, which had been launched by Mebyon Kernow on St Piran’s Day in 2000.

The declaration was clear and forthright.

It stated that: “Cornwall is a nation with its own identity, culture, traditions and history” while noting that it suffers “severe and unique economic problems.”

In addition, the declaration stated that “important decisions about our future are increasingly taken outside of Cornwall” and concluded that “the people of Cornwall must have a greater say in how we are governed … we need a Cornish Assembly that can set the right democratic priorities for Cornwall and provide a stronger voice for our communities in Britain, in Europe and throughout the wider World.”

In a period of less than twenty months, teams of volunteers under the inspirational leadership of Paddy McDonough visited town after town, setting up street stalls and getting the individual declarations signed.

It remains a truly amazing achievement that over 50,000 people – more than 10% of the adult population of Cornwall – signed the declaration in such a short period of time, and it is my view that these declarations continue to represent a great statement of intent from the ordinary people of Cornwall.

But as we look at what has happened since 2001, it is clear that the aspirations of the 50,000 signatories have been badly undermined by the Westminster parties.

It is nothing short of disgraceful that Tony Blair’s Labour Government (which supported devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) dismissed the declarations in an off-hand manner and refused to even consider representations for greater powers for Cornwall.

Instead the Government, in tandem with the Liberal Democrats on the old County Council, pushed through the centralisation of local government in the face of massive opposition. They even had the brass neck to promote the creation of the unitary authority by using the language of devolution.

And now, we even have a Conservative Government further undermining democracy and the very territoriality of Cornwall with their plans for a cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency and regionalisation based on an anomalous “south west” region.

Over the last 15 years, I have certainly heard much talk about devolution, local control and democratic change from the political establishment in Westminster, but it has all been “hollow words” as far as Cornwall has been concerned.

To the politicians who serve in this present Government and those who served in previous administrations, I would say it is obvious that Westminster does not know what is best for Cornwall. And it is time that they gave due regard to the 50,000 declarations and backed meaningful democratic devolution to the historic nation of Cornwall. 

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

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