“Cornwall needs proper devolution, we need a national assembly or parliament like the other Celtic parts of the UK, like Scotland and Wales”
Cornwall councillor, Dick Cole.
Labour’s ‘pledges’ of the past
Prior to winning the general election Labour pledged “We believe in devolution to create economic powerhouses, not just in one or two parts of the country, but in every city and county region.”
In 2002, in order to further strengthen the case for Cornish devolution, Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, collected over 50,000 signed declarations supporting a Cornish Assembly.
The Labour government ignored those declarations.
In fact, Labour’s Regional Government White Paper made no mention of Cornwall at all. Instead, it enforced more centralisation of Cornwall through ‘Culture Southwest’, ‘Government Office for the Southwest in Bristol’ and ‘The Regional Spacial Strategy’.
All of which were assimilationist measures brought in by the Labour government which went against Cornwall’s interests and Cornish distinctiveness.
Labour Party Conference 2021
Labour’s current Shadow Communities Secretary, Steve Reed, who promises the ‘most radical programme of devolution our country has ever seen’ which merely echoes the ‘promises’ of the previous Labour government.
The latest Labour party conference included a speech by Cornwall’s Labour councillor Jayne Kirkham, that included ‘closing the second home loophole’ and mentioned Cornwall.
What councillor Kirkham’s speech didn’t include however, was the recognised identity of the Cornish people that have the same status as that of the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots and Welsh, and must have a similar devolved parliament for Cornwall. No mention either of the current high rate of inward migration to Cornwall, enabled by Westminster’s disproportionate housing targets imposed upon the nation of Cornwall that serves to marginalise Cornish people who are forced to leave Cornwall, their homeland. This effectively contravenes the Framework Convention of National Minorities that states Parties shall refrain from measures which alter the proportions of the population in areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities – in this case, the Cornish people.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, suggested that Cornwall could have an elected ‘regional’ mayor. Cornwall councillor Dick Cole, pointed out that “Andy Burnham is completely wrong to suggest that there should be a metro mayor for Cornwall, linked on a geographical basis with the English county of Devon. Cornwall needs proper devolution, we need a national assembly or parliament like the other Celtic parts of the UK, like Scotland and Wales. I would remind Andy Burnham that 20 years ago 50,000 signed declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly, which were totally ignored by the Labour Party at that time”.
What next for Cornwall?
From Professor Philip Payton’s ‘Cornwall – A History’:
More than forty years ago, Professor Charles Thomas warned ‘that Cornwall is approaching some sort of internal social crisis. It is increasingly difficult to be Cornish. It is correspondingly important for those who are Cornish and value their identity, to stand up and be counted . . . If we do not succeed, this little land of ours will end up scarcely distinguishable from the Greater London Area, with undertones reminiscent of Blackpool or Skegness’.
Some forty years later Professor Payton writes: ‘Cornwall’s countryside continues to disappear under concrete, brick and mortar, and as ever greater strain is placed on the provision of basic services such as schools and GP services observers are entitled to ask where will it all end’. We should also include the stresses added to Cornwall’s NHS and Adult/Social care services.
It’s clear the political parties of Westminster and their promises of devolution are no more than ‘localised devolution’ – England’s devolution. Certainly not a Cornish Assembly or parliament with the powers to take the decisions that affect Cornwall without interference from Westminster.
It’s vital now more than ever to protect Cornishness, Cornwall’s distinctiveness and basic services. To paraphrase Professor Thomas: It is important for those who are Cornish and value their identity, those who have moved to Cornwall and love Cornwall, to stand up and be counted.