"THE FUTURE of Cornwall's position in the UK is to be debated at a high powered conference this weekend.The Cornish Constitutional Convention will look at how the c*unty can deliver public services and how best it can govern its own affairs.
Among those taking part in the debates will be MPs Andrew George and Sarah Newton who will spell out their views on how the c*unty will fare in the new political landscape. They will also describe their aspirations regarding devolution and the next decade. Also taking part is Mike German, former deputy First Minister of the Welsh Assembly who will discuss the realities of devolution, and Kevin Lavery, Cornwall Council's chief executive, who will give an appraisal of ambitions, objectives, opportunities and challenges.
Alec Robertson, the leader of Cornwall Council, will give a video clip offering his perspective on the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Opening the discussion will be Truro City and Cornwall councillor Bert Biscoe.
The conference, which marks the Convention's tenth anniversary – takes place at Cornwall Council, C*unty Hall, Truro, on Saturday, from 10am to 1pm. The meeting is open to all. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org "
" The Cornish Constitutional Convention first met in July 2000. Somebody from the Campaign for English Regions (based in Newcastle) made a speech in Launceston. He told the audience that Cornwall would be included in the proposed South West, and a democratically elected regional assembly would be set up. He said we had no choice and asked us to join him in bringing this great project to fruition. The reaction was mixed. Many people very much liked the idea of regional devolution. It chimed with what they had been working towards for many years. I recall Paul (now Lord) Tyler rushing home and dusting off a pamphlet he'd written in about 1962.
Some didn't like the idea but assumed it would happen because the new Government was all-powerful and driven by radical reforming zeal. One thing bonded us – that, if there were to be regions, then the only region for Cornwall was Cornwall.
With the Assembly came the Regional Development Agency. Cornwall had invested much energy in promoting the Cornish Development Agency. We had extricated ourselves from our uncomfortable, counterproductive 'marriage' with Devon in 1997, and had won Objective 1 as a result. As we were embarking on that programme we were clear in our ambition, confident in our ability and, of course, driven by our innate knowledge and intuition that Cornwall is different and needs to be positively recognised as being such.
Within a year a campaign had really got moving. Teams of young people were gathering signatures on a petition originally launched by Mebyon Kernow and taken on, in partnership, by the Convention. By Christmas 2001 we were standing on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street to deliver an audited petition of 50,000 names. This remains by far the biggest expression of public support for regional devolution from anywhere in Britain.
The Convention had become a partnership of all shades of political opinion, and was influencing public opinion to such an extent that by 2003 a MORI poll undertaken for Cornwall County Council indicated that 55 per cent of the Cornish population favoured devolution to the Cornish Assembly. The Minister of State, Nick Raynsford, came to Cornwall and met the Convention's leaders. The atmosphere was most cordial.
Andrew George MP was (and remains) Vice-Chairman. The campaign was conducted on two 'fronts' – in Cornwall, winning support, developing the proposal, creating the groundswell, and in Westminster and Whitehall, intervening in parliamentary debates, asking ministerial questions, increasing awareness of the opportunity for the Government that, in devolving to a small but well-defined and tenacious region, Cornwall could lead the way and also repay the investment. Mr George has played a well-crafted, sophisticated and effective role in Parliament and has achieved two things – firstly, a broad awareness of the Cornish case, and secondly, a question in the heart of Government that has led to the possibility of a Cornish Assembly never having been dismissed or crushed.
Eventually, the North East referendum ended the Prescott project. It was a hard-fought battle and Mr Prescott was a strong, pugnacious leader of his cause. The Cornish question muddied his water and affected the outcome of his venture by raising important questions about what makes a good region. We challenged the idea that, to be effective, a region had to be 'of a certain size'. At all times, although robust and often, in a parliamentary sense, quite rude, Mr Prescott was always fair, courteous and committed to his line. He is not, as some claim, a mortal enemy of Cornwall and does not sit on the sidelines orchestrating vengeful denigrations of Cornish identity and integrity, as he is sometimes accused of doing. Mr Raynsford was consistently and quietly helpful, as were others both in Parliament and elsewhere.
There have been many highlights, and many people have contributed selflessly to achieve Cornwall's objective. There is still a strong, enduring sense that we will achieve the Cornish Assembly because, in the world in which we now live, with quickly developing technologies, major global environmental challenges, new social structures and values, and a stronger than ever recognition of the intrinsic value of minority cultures, identities and 'national' geographies, Cornwall's case makes more, not less, sense.
In 2004 Mr Prescott was replaced by David Miliband. At Cornwall County Council the Liberal Democrats won an overall majority. The Convention, rekindling the debate about regional devolution, published a pamphlet, 'Devolution's Future'. The foreword was by Tim Williams, Mr Miliband's adviser. Within weeks David Miliband was in Cornwall talking to leading Cornish councillors and officers. He said: "When I offer the opportunity to restructure local governance then don't be afraid to ask for what you really want!" Everybody in the room thought: 'The Cornish Assembly – it's a goer!'
David Whalley was, by then, leader of the council. When the new initiative materialised, as Miliband said it would, Mr Whalley decided to not work in partnership with the district councils. Secondly, he did not heed Miliband's words but instead asked for a unitary authority. His bid very clearly said that it would provide the first definite step towards the Cornish Regional Assembly. At no time has anybody in the Government or Civil Service gainsayed that assertion, and it is enshrined within the Cornwall (Changes) Order 2008. The Convention played a central role in the early stages of putting together the Cornish case. Another pamphlet was published after the new council was established. This describes how the new electoral arrangements and institutional structures can be quickly and easily translated into those necessary for the Assembly.
The new council is moving forward in its development with vigour. It is not universally popular but is winning respect and confidence as it develops. It is making mistakes, but it is also getting many of the new opportunities and challenges right.
The unitary council is a key institutional development towards the Cornish Assembly. It aspires seriously to gathering powers from national and regional centres, of taking responsibility for Cornwall's economic, social, cultural and environmental destiny, of making business-rooted, persuasive cases for incorporating Cornwall's health service institutions and structures, and of making new arrangements regarding policing, emergency services and other public services.
As we enter our second decade the Cornish Constitutional Convention can look back and reflect that we have stuck to our cause, we have moved national discussion forward, we have stamped our case into the minds of those who shape and deliver national policy, and we have maintained a positive, cheerful personality. The campaign is not a nationalist or politically biased campaign. It is inclusive, serious about improving conditions and prospects for all those living in and doing business with Cornwall. It is convinced of the justice and the common sense of its objective, and is in it for the long haul.
This Saturday, I will be attending a Conference marking the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Cornish Constitutional Convention.
I was one of the three founders of this organisation and its Vice-chairman for the first few years. I have not been directly involved for a number of years, because I disagreed with its subsequent direction. This was particularly around the time of the “unitary council” debate, when the divisions between “local government” and “regional / national government” for Cornwall were unforgivably blurred by too many.
The Western Morning News is presently running a series of articles from Convention Chairman Bert Biscoe and, I have to say, I am more than a little annoyed. One quote from Bert, which has appeared in both yesterday’s and today’s paper, said:
“The campaign is not a nationalist or politically biased campaign. It is inclusive, serious about improving conditions and prospects for all those living in and doing business with Cornwall.”
As the Leader of Mebyon Kernow, I am offended by this statement. It is simply unacceptable for Bert Biscoe to, once again, imply that those of us who are happy to describe ourselves as Cornish nationalists, are somehow not inclusive.
I am extremely proud of the fact that MK is an inclusive and welcoming political party, that is campaigning for devolution to the historic nation of Cornwall (which obviously makes us nationalists) and a better deal for all the people of Cornwall. Or to paraphrase Mr Biscoe, we are “serious about improving conditions and prospects for all those living in and doing business with Cornwall.”
For the record, given that so many MK members have campaigned so hard for devolution to Cornwall during the last decade, I would like to put it on record that I am disappointed that a representative of MK has not been asked to address the conference.
The speakers will be Kevin Lavery, the Chief Executive of Cornwall Council, Conservative MP Sarah Newton and the Conservative leader of Cornwall Council Alec Robertson, Lib Dem MP Andrew George and Lib Dem Welsh Assembly member Mike German."
Perhaps hatchets will be buried by July 24th and the spirit of 'Onen hag Oll' reign supreme?
Another terrific article in the WMN today in the lead-up to Saturday's Conference - Devolution Would Bring Long Term Benefits:
Cornwall needs to formulate its own spatial strategy, to calculate its needs for housing, employment space, infrastructure and investment. Most importantly, we need to redraw the balance between the value of our land as our key agricultural and destination resource, and the use of land for development – the accepted formula is changing quickly. We need the toolkit to safeguard our land – it is in the UK national interest to do so. Cornwall needs to be arguing its corner, bidding, achieving and regenerating itself. Only then, in the emerging world of flexibility, excellence, pursuit and transfer of knowledge, exploration of creativity and environmental responsibility, will Cornwall be able to raise GDP, to be productive in sustainable and fulfilling ways.
Team Kernow, I seem to recall that the guy from the north east constitutional convention was surprised and not a little worried when he realised the opposition to a south west regional assembly. Like so many of these people from 'up country' they did not do their research. There were only a few poeple in Cornwall who wanted a south west assembly. Candy Atherton was on their executive group although did not have the balls to advertise the fact in Cornwall. A MORI opinion poll found that 55% of the elecorate in Cornwall wanted a Cornish Assembly. Only 12% wanted a south west regional one. Dave Doyle from the St.Austell Labour party was another enthusiast for a south west assembly. An unreasonable individual who couldnt face democratic facts. See, I am striggling with names and TK gives this element too much credit.
On a visit to Cornwall last week David Milliband was asked about a Cornish Assembly. He (staggeringly) said that hge did not know the difference between that and a unitary authority. Amazing for a suposed intelligent man and the history of what he said in 2004.
Finally, my understanding is that Dick Cole and Phil Rendle walked away from the Convention a few years ago. MK and non MK people collected the 50,000 signatures which achieved supporters from across the political and organisational spectrum.
Zennorman wrote:On a visit to Cornwall last week David Milliband was asked about a Cornish Assembly. He (staggeringly) said that hge did not know the difference between that and a unitary authority. Amazing for a suposed intelligent man and the history of what he said in 2004.
Scotland got its Parliament and Wales its Assembly through having Nationalist parties who grew strong and won Parliamentary seats at the General Election, so much so that Westminster could no longer dismiss them as minor protest parties. Now contrast that with Kernow, how many votes did our Nationalist Party gain at the last General Election? - I haven't got the exact figure to hand but believe it was in the region of 8,000. It's little wonder that Westminster is not bothered and we will never get an Assembly until we show, at the ballot box, that we have the numbers to upset the Status Quo.