We want to be just like Scotland, say Cornish nationalists
A CAMPAIGN for “historic Celtic nation” Cornwall to have devolution within the UK has been revived, with support from Welsh politicians.
Cornish nationalist party Mebyon Kernow is repeating its “ambitious” call for the area to have an elected assembly and, ultimately, devolved powers from Westminster, similar to those enjoyed in Scotland.
In a show of unity from across the Bristol Channel, Plaid Cymru has given the campaign its backing, with an early day motion (EDM) calling “for the formation of a democratically elected Cornish Assembly to take decisions for the benefit of the people of Cornwall”.
Ten years ago, 50,000 people in Cornwall – 10 per cent of the population – signed a petition supporting Mebyon Kernow’s aims. Party leader Dick Cole, a councillor, said members were now hoping to “breathe new life” into the campaign.
“What we are campaigning for is devolution within the UK and for powers similar to those of the Scottish Parliament,” he said. “We will campaign and campaign until we are successful.
“The previous Labour government spoke a lot about devolution, local control and democratic change. The present coalition government also speaks a lot about devolution, as well as localism. But these were, and are, hollow words as far as Cornwall is concerned. [Tony] Blair and [Gordon] Brown ignored calls for a Cornish Assembly, a situation that is being replicated by the present coalition government.”
Nationalists argue Cornwall should not be a county of England but rather a separate nation.
The EDM, which has so far been backed by ten MPs, also “expresses disappointment that the then government did not act upon the subject of the petition” a decade ago. It has been signed by four Cornish Lib Dem MPs, two from Plaid Cymru and three from Labour.
Jonathan Edwards, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said the campaign chimed with his party’s campaign for greater powers for the Welsh Assembly.
“The Cornish people feel they have a distinct national identity and that needs to be reflected,” he said. “If I was a unionist, what I would be putting forward would be a vision of a federal British state, with equal powers for each of the historic nations.”
A spokeswoman for the SNP said: “It is of course a matter for the people of Cornwall to decide upon future governing arrangements which best meet Cornwall’s needs and ambitions.”
Cornwall’s “Celti” cultural identity has been growing in prominence in recent years. Its language, Kernowek, has been undergoing a revival, with dual-language road signs an increasingly common sight and, in January 2010, the opening of a creche teaching young children the language.
The move to step up the devolution campaign comes weeks after Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, who was the country’s most senior civil servant, said holding the UK together would be an “enormous challenge”.
Sir Gus warned that the question of whether the UK stayed together would be a major issue in the years ahead. He spoke on the eve of his retirement at the turn of the year, as the SNP administration in Scotland committed to holding a referendum on independence before 2016.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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