Monday 23 October 2017

Campaigners for Cornish devolution determined to win more powers for Cornwall

Mebyon Kernow
Pic: BBC
Mebyon Kernow Pic: BBC

Rod Minchin

With Scotland saying No to independence, campaigners for Cornish devolution are determined to win increased powers for Cornwall.

Cornish party Mebyon Kernow is fighting for the creation of a National Assembly for Cornwall.

Its leader, Councillor Dick Cole, challenged David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to support the creation of an Assembly and called for a "mature" debate on the future of the UK.

He said: "Mebyon Kernow wishes to repeat its call for a mature, respectful and wide-ranging debate about the future of the whole of the UK, all its constituent parts and how they are governed - with Cornwall at the heart of that debate.

"The people of Scotland did not vote for independence, but the No vote was underpinned by promises of additional powers for the Scottish Parliament from David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

"The three leaders of the Westminster parties claim that a 'stronger Scottish Parliament' would actually strengthen the basis of the United Kingdom.

"This has huge constitutional significance and it would now be hypocritical for Cameron, Miliband and Clegg to deny the opportunity of devolution to Cornwall through its own National Assembly.

"Now is the time for the people of Cornwall to speak up and demand a new democratic settlement, which takes power from Westminster and brings it home to Cornwall."

Andrew George, the Lib Dem MP for West Cornwall, said the devolved powers on offer to Scotland should give encouragement to Cornwall to make a bid of its own.

"All parties now acknowledge the benefits and opportunities of allowing the nations and regions of the UK to manage their public services and shape their futures whilst releasing themselves from the dead hand of micromanagement from Whitehall," he said.

"If Scotland and Wales can be offered further powers then Cornwall must be next in line. After all, Cornwall is already recognised as a distinct region for economic development purposes, as a separate people and for its distinct language.

"After all, who is best placed to decide how Cornwall's housing stock and development plans are best managed? Inspectors in Whitehall or democratically elected representatives in Cornwall?

"Who is best placed to manage Cornwall's health and social care? Health Managers in Whitehall and Leeds or the people, patients and clinicians of Cornwall?

"Who is best placed to decide how Cornwall's economic development aid is spent? Ministers and mandarins in Whitehall or the business leaders, workers and elected representatives of Cornwall?"

Mr George, who has long campaigned for more powers to a Cornish Regional Assembly and is a founder and vice-chair of the Cornish Constitutional Convention, added: "It's quite clear that Cornwall can and should have more of a say in its future management.

"It is not about cutting ourselves off, but cutting ourselves in to the celebration of diversity in the UK and the strengthening of its devolved regional apparatus of Government."

Councillor John Pollard, leader of Cornwall Council, said he would be asking the Government to give Cornwall more freedom to manage its own affairs.

"Over the past few weeks we have seen the Government offer sweeping new powers to Scotland," said Mr Pollard.

"At the same time ministers are doing deals with cities to give them more powers. We want the same freedoms for Cornwall.

"Not only are we a distinct region with a single Local Enterprise Partnership and a single health commissioner covering Cornwall, we were recently granted National Minority Framework Status because of our unique culture and heritage.

"Last month we successfully persuaded the Government to let us decide how to spend the funding we receive from Europe and we now want to build on this success to see more powers transferred from Whitehall to County Hall."

Mr Pollard said he also wanted a "sensible" discussion with the Government on how the new system would work without creating an "additional layer of bureaucracy".

"We don't want to see the 'cities' system imposed on Cornwall - this is not a case of a single devolution model fits all," he said.

"We know that Cornwall is unique and we need to ensure that we work with the Government to create a model which is right for us."

He added: "We don't want the way we spend our money and deliver services to people in Cornwall to be dictated by the Government - we want to make our own decisions.

"Cornwall has a proud history of standing up and fighting for what it believes in and we are determined to take advantage of this moment and shape our own destiny."

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