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Cornish Assembly and Cornish Development Agency
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:34 pm    Post subject: Cornish Assembly and Cornish Development Agency Reply with quote

The Campaign for a Cornish Assembly and Cornish Development Agency

The Cornish Assembly is a proposed devolved regional assembly for Cornwall along the lines of the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly and London Assembly. Cornwall remains the only Celtic nation within the British Isles to have no form of effective self-government.

In the 1970s a political concept known as "devonwall" was introduced by the Conservative government - it was an attempt to link Cornwall and Devon together in an economic, political and statistical sense to form a "South West region". This involved combining and centralising (mainly in Devon) local government functions and services such as the police, ambulance, fire services and media output such as local TV and newpapers.

After the 1997 general election the Liberal Democrat party finally withdrew their support for the 'devonwall' process and they agreed with Mebyon Kernow that it undermined Cornwall's claims to European Objective One funding. Cornish demands for Objective One grant aid in the early 1990s for regeneration were often dismissed by Government officials as unrealistic and unobtainable but this ignored the fact that of the 56 most deprived areas in Devon and Cornwall, 51 were in Cornwall. Cornwall also had less than 70% of the average European GDP but these statistics were hidden when statistically Cornwall and Devon (with a higher GDP) were linked together. There were also claims that 'devonwall' was an attempt by politicians to hi-jack the Cornish Celtic identity.

In 1998 Cornwall was recognized by the UK Government as having "distinct cultural and historical factors reflecting a Celtic background", thus allowing it to be separated in a regional and economic sense from Devon. This fact underlines the importance of Celticity to Cornwall in recent years.

In July 2000 Mebyon Kernow issued the "Declaration for a Cornish Assembly".

"Cornwall is a distinct region. It has a clearly defined economic, administrative and social profile. Cornwall's unique identity reflects its Celtic character, culture and environment. We declare that the people of Cornwall will be best served in their future governance by a Cornish regional assembly. We therefore commit ourselves to setting up the Cornish Constitutional Convention with the intention of achieving a devolved Cornish Assembly - Senedh Kernow."

Three months later in November 2000 the Cornish Constitutional Convention was held with the objective of establishing a devolved Cornish Assembly. It's objective is "to establish a devolved Assembly for Cornwall (Senedh Kernow). The Convention is a cross-party, cross-sector association with a strong consensus of support both in Cornwall and elsewhere. It is not campaigning for any form of separatism or independence. The aim of the Convention is to establish a form of modern governance which strengthens Cornwall, her role in the affairs of the country, and positively addresses the problems that have arisen from more than a century of growing isolation and loss of confidence."

In less than two years, it had attracted the signatures of over 50,000 people, which is a little over 10% of the total Cornish electorate - the petition was stopped at this point as this was the suggested number required by the Government. This is the largest expression of popular support for devolved power in the whole of the United Kingdom and possibly Europe. A delegation led by the West Cornwall Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George and representatives of the Convention (Bert Biscoe, Richard Ford, Dick Cole, David Fieldsend and Andrew Climo Thompson) presented the declaration to 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 12 December 2001.


Following the "no" vote in the North East Assembly referendum in November 2004 the government decided against further referendums for elected regional assemblies. It did however say that it still believes "elected assemblies would give a voice to regions distant from Westminster and return power to local people from the non-elected bodies that oversee many services."

The argument for territorial devolution starts from the fact that the present system is unable to govern either effectively or equably. Its administration, based in one small corner of England, appears to view the other parts of England (as well as Scotland, Wales and Cornwall) as provinces of an empire. The devolution which Westminster has so far offered to England is regionalisation: a top-down division into administrative areas with fixed boundaries beyond debate. This is the opposite of regionalism: regions built on people's own sense of identity. It is unlikely that any regions will command widespread support and loyalty unless they have real powers and are accountable to the local and very local communities within them.


Currently the South West England Regional Assembly and the South West England Regional Development Agency have control over areas such as Cornish economic development, housing and strategic planning. The dominant Cornish political party, the Liberal Democrats, Mebyon Kernow and many Independents have called the SWRA and SWRDA "unelected, undemocratic and unaccountable quangos". Many English and other nationalities who have settled in Cornwall wish to see an assembly as some of these people identify closely with Cornwall and actually feel 'Cornish'. In 2002 the Government accorded official status to the Cornish language and Cornish ethnicity was recognised by the Government with a UK 2001 Census code of '06'. In February 2003 a Cornwall Council MORI poll showed 55% in favour of an elected, fully-devolved regional assembly for Cornwall and 13% against. (Previous result :46% in favour in 2002).


The campaign for a Cornish Assembly and Cornish Development Agency has the support of all five Cornish Lib Dem MPs, Mebyon Kernow, most Independents, Cornwall Council and over 55% of the Cornish public.

In 2001 Lord Whitty, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, in the House of Lords, recognised that Cornwall has a "special case" for devolution. (he also stated "it is intrinsic to the nature of our Union over hundreds of years that we have multiple political allegiances - we can be Scottish and British, or Pakistani and British, or Cornish and British and European").

On a visit to Cornwall former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said "Cornwall has the strongest regional identity in the UK." (talking about those areas so far without devolution)

There was much opposition to the original formation of the South West Regional Assembly with critics saying it is an unelected, unrepresentative and unaccountable "quango", and the area covered is an artificially imposed region and not natural. This opinion is based upon geography, arguing that having the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall in the same region as Gloucestershire would be comparable as linking London with Yorkshire. The feeling is especially strong in Cornwall where there are demands for a Cornish Assembly and Cornish Development Agency. There have been many complaints from Cornish people that once again Objective One investment will be managed from outside Cornwall, by the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), in Exeter and Bristol and Objective One administrative jobs should in fact be based in Cornwall. Cornwall is the only Objective One region in the UK and Europe where the project is administered from outside the region.

With limited public scrutiny and critical academic research on the Cornish Objective One project it is not known how much grant aid leaks out to organisations outside Cornwall. Also it is not known who fills the jobs created, whether they were resident in Cornwall or drawn in by the funding. No research has taken place into who benefits from Objective One funding. It has been claimed one effect has been to encourage unwanted grandiose schemes and a 'lifestye Cornwall' with a transformation of areas such as Padstow and St Ives into gourmet centres with an emphasis on leisure and up-market housing. On the other hand there are many non-tourist areas characterised by high unemployment, low incomes and deprivation.

The Lib Dem Cornish Manifesto of 2005 (the Lib Dems also control Cornwall Council) recommended supporting the Cornish Assembly and have called for a Cornish Development Agency. They stated that "The SW regional assembly is undemocratic and unaccountable. We believe Cornwall should be able to take decisions about local services locally, in our own elected assembly answerable to local people. Successive Governments have taken power away from Cornwall, giving them instead to unelected bureaucrats and quangos in the regions and Whitehall. The result is that local decisions which affect us are taken by people far away, WHO NEVER EVEN VISIT - LET ALONE USE - the local services, and are not answerable to the local community when things go wrong. A Cornish Assembly would be Cornwall's voice, with local knowledge to take decisions on local services. The system would be more effective and accountable"

From a House of Lords discussion 25th Jan 2007:-

Viscount Trenchard - “It is, of course, a fact that England and Scotland are side by side but I believe that since the Act of Union we are one nation, comprising two peoples, or indeed three or four peoples, and that is what has made us stronger. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, might wish to include the Cornish as an additional distinct people”

Lord McNally - “In fact, we have the most overcentralised government in the western world, and I hope that a number of my colleagues will develop themes in terms of the English regions, Wales and Cornwall.”

“Smaller minorities also have equally proud visions of themselves as irreducibly Welsh, Irish, Manx or Cornish. These identities are distinctly national in ways which proud people from Yorkshire, much less proud people from Berkshire will never know. Any new constitutional settlement which ignores these factors will be built on uneven ground.” (The Guardian, editorial, 8th May 1990)

In Oct 2007 Lib Dem MP Andrew George (MP for the West Cornwall and Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives) stated in a press release, "Just because the Government has approached the whole Regional Devolution agenda in entirely the wrong way, does not mean to say that the project itself should be ditched. If Scotland is benefiting from devolution then Cornwall should learn from this and increase the intensity of its own campaign for devolution to a Cornish Assembly."

A recent visit by Andrew George to Iceland brought into sharp focus his growing concern about the slide of Cornwall over the precipice into extinction. "Icelandic people are proud and distinctive. Their pride and distinctiveness is the bedrock from which they can concentrate on their priorities and on success. Since achieving independence from Denmark in 1944 this relatively poor island has become one of the wealthiest nations on earth. It has a higher Gross Domestic Product per person than not only the United Kingdom, but France, Germany and Japan as well. It has achieved low inflation and a high standard of living, the highest life expectancy of any nation in the world and enviable prospects for the future. And all this with a population of 270,000 - little more than half that of Cornwall (approx. 500,000)."

On Tuesday 17 July 2007, Local Government Minister John Healey MP announced Government plans to abolish regional assemblies. Functions of regional assemblies are planned to pass to Regional Development Agencies in 2010. The South West Regional Assembly is due to be replaced by the South West Regional Development Agency in 2010.

Speaking in the House of Commons in July 2007, North Cornwall’s MP Dan Rogerson challenged the Local Government Minister, John Healey, asking “Will he take seriously the aspirations of the people of Cornwall to have a greater say over their own affairs, especially given the ambitious proposals for a unified structure of local government in the area? Also, will he look again at the case for a locally accountable Cornish Development agency, in light of the important convergence funding from the EU?”

The Minister conceded that “Cornwall still faces some significant economic challenges” and said he would consider the need for a Cornish Development Agency alongside his decision on local government restructuring.

Andrew George MP said: "I’m optimistic that the Minister’s announcement will give us the future prospects to build a strong consensus, demonstrate Cornwall’s distinctiveness from the Government zone for the South West and then draw up plans so that we can decide matters for ourselves locally rather than being told by unelected grangos in Bristol and elsewhere.”

In December 2007 Cornwall Council Leader David Whalley stated “There is something inevitable about the journey to a Cornish Assembly. We are also moving forward in creating a Cornish Development Agency - we are confident that strategic planning powers will come back to us after the SW regional assembly goes.”

In 2008 Cornish residents are being sold, (seemingly against their will), a new brand of local government. Cornwall’s Liberal Democrat councillors have forged ahead with plans to create a unitary authority for the region, abolishing the six district councils. This, in essence, means that where there was once one democratically-elected member for every 3,000 residents, there will now be one councillor for every 7,000 people. A premise for a single governing body for Cornwall was that the new Cornwall Council would have greater powers, being granted more responsibilities from England.


This could have been an extremely welcome move. Money from Europe for Cornwall (Objective One money for Cornwall was estimated to be around £800 million) is controlled by the unelected English body called the South West Regional Development Agency based in Exeter. Cornwall had to apply to England for money it was already entitled to. With the next round of funding, Convergence Funding, (awarded because Cornwall is, despite after receiving all the initial funding, still one of the poorest regions in Europe) Cornwall will not be able to apply for that money - Cornwall will be told how to spend the money before it is released.

In reality, the One Cornwall Council ambition is based on a false promise. Westminster has ruled out any extra powers for Cornwall, the quangos will stay in place and Cornish money will never be managed by Cornwall. If anything, powers could be taken from a single Cornish body as it struggles to cope with the extra workload inherited from the district councils.

The seeds of discontent have been sown and it is the authorities that govern, manage and promote Cornwall who will determine what kind of organism these seeds will develop into.

Cornish Assembly website - Cornish Constitutional Convention

Devolution for One and All pdf

Online petition

Scots leader backs Cornish assembly

Government pressed on Assembly poll

Green Party call for a Cornish Assembly

Council Backs Campaign For Cornish Assembly

Mebyon Kernow mark the fifth anniversary of the 50,000 declarations

In Cornwall, 44% said they felt Cornish, rather than English or British.

The Cornish Assembly facts

Cornish Assembly petition

I think Prince Charles must have been educating his father in the beliefs of the folk who live in his Duchy...
The Duke of Edinburgh presented the Rev. Michael Bourdeaux, son of retired Praze baker Richard Bourdeaux and his wife Lillian. with the 1984 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion at Buckingham Palace. As Michael and his wife Lorna stood chatting to him, the donor of the award told the Duke this was the first time it had been presented to an Englishman.

"He's not an Englishman, he's a Cornishman" said the Duke !
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 Random Information. 
 1997 was the 500th anniversary of the An Gof uprising and a commemorative march (Keskerdh Kernow 500) was held, which retraced the route of the original march from St Keverne, Cornwall via Guildford to London. A statue depicting An Gof and Flamank was unveiled at An Gof's home town of St. Keverne and a commemorative plaque was also unveiled at Blackheath.  

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