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No to Great South West
As senior politicians from across the United Kingdom have grappled with the Covid-19 crisis, there has been a significant focus on the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The Governments of Arlene Foster, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford had the ability to make their own decisions about the response to the pandemic, and chose divergent, more cautious, paths than Westminster.

There has even been much discussion about the so-called “four-nation approach.”

In terms of Cornwall, there has been a formidable effort to keep people safe, but our politicians have had less scope to deliver bespoke controls for our area, though the leader of Cornwall Council and others have lobbied central government quite extensively about what would be best for Cornwall.

Looking to the future, I would like to see a Cornwall that is able to speak up for itself and take more of the political and economic decisions that matter.

Sadly, central government is encouraging MPs, councils, businesses and unelected Local Enterprise Partnerships to promote a policy direction and brand for something called the Great South West, in which Cornwall and Cornish distinctiveness would be hidden.

I understand that a meeting was held a few days ago in which various influential individuals came up with a series of proposals which include the promotion of the Great South West as a “powerhouse brand” for investment and trade, as well as the creation of a tourism zone and a productivity deal for the same amorphous Great South West area.

For decades, central government, big business and unelected quangos have vigorously sought to impose such a “South West,” “Westcountry” or “Devonwall” policy solution on Cornwall. We have been told that this will boost Cornwall’s political and economic clout but it is my view that, in practice, the reverse has happened. We have lost out time and time again, because we lack visibility when we are submerged within artificial regional constructs.

As the leader of Mebyon Kernow, I am committed to continuing to campaign for meaningful devolution to Cornwall. But I am under no illusion about the task which faces us because of the UK Government’s unwillingness to treat Cornwall in a similar fashion to the UK’s other Celtic nations.

Indeed, it is telling that on 6th May 2020, the National Assembly of Wales was renamed as Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliament, to better reflect the law-making and tax-varying powers it has gained since it was set up two decades ago. On the very same day, the Westminster Parliament refused Cornish people the simple dignity of a nationality tick-box on the 2021 Census.

(This will be Cllr Dick Cole’s article in the Cornish Guardian on 1st July 2020).
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Published on 4th July 2020.

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