Thursday, 12 August 2021


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian newspaper is as follows:

Throughout my adult life, I have been involved in numerous campaigns for Cornwall to be a political, economic and cultural unit in its own right. But the political establishment, big business, and even many local councillors, have been vigorously pursuing a regionalist agenda in which Cornwall is submerged within “Devonwall” or “South West” bodies.

We have often been told that Cornwall's interests are best served by merging Cornwall into larger areas and that it would boost Cornwall’s clout. In my opinion, it is the reverse that has actually happened.

I remember how business and some media interests came together at a conference in Newquay in November 1987, called at the behest of the Duke of Cornwall, to allow the proponents of “Devonwall” to push a proposal for a Devon and Cornwall Development Company. It was followed, in the early 1990s, by the Westcountry Development Corporation.

Similarly, when the Conservative Government established Training and Enterprise Councils in 1990-91, the opportunity to create a much-needed Cornish-based institution was lost. Instead, a giant Devon and Cornwall TEC was formed.

The election of a Labour Government in 1997 did not change things. Calls for a Cornish Development Agency were ignored and a SW regional development agency – stretching from the Isles of Scilly to Swindon – was created. An unelected regional chamber for the “South West” followed along with a top-down spatial strategy that proposed truly unsustainable levels of house-building.

It has been little different under the Tories since 2010. For the last five years, their MPs, plus public bodies and businesses, have been pursuing the concept of a “Great South West,” which covers Cornwall and the English counties of Devon, Dorset and Somerset.

Recent newspaper reports now claim that the Government wants to merge the Great South West join together with another central government construct called the Western Gateway, which covers Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, Swansea and Cardiff.

Businessman Mark Duddridge, a prominent supporter of the Great South West which diminishes Cornwall, declared – without any sense of irony whatsoever – that it would be hard for “our Cornish voice “ to be heard “if we have something that reaches up to Gloucester and South Wales.” He has also made the fanciful claim that “we have tried to get the Great South West recognised as a region … everyone in the Great South West wants that to happen.”

I would respectfully say that that is simply not true. All this talk of a Great South West and a Western Gateway is a nonsense. It is Cornwall, as Cornwall, that needs to secure the tools to be able shape its own future.

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