Fifteen years ago today (12th December 2001), a delegation presented 50,000 Declarations demanding a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street. To mark this anniversary, the Leader of Mebyon Kernow has challenged Westminster political parties to back “meaningful democratic devolution to Cornwall.”
Cllr Dick Cole, who authored the original declaration, said:
“It remains a truly amazing achievement that over 50,000 people – more than 10% of the adult population of Cornwall – signed the declaration in such a short period of time, and it is my view that these declarations continue to represent a massive statement of intent from the ordinary people of Cornwall.
“But it is nothing short of disgraceful that Tony Blair’s Labour Government (which supported devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) dismissed the declarations in an off-hand manner and refused to even consider representations for greater powers for Cornwall.”
Cllr Cole also condemned the failure of subsequent administrations to act on the aspirations of the 50,000, adding:
“Over the last 15 years, I have certainly heard much talk about devolution, local control and democratic change from the political establishment in Westminster, but it has all been ‘hollow words’ as far as Cornwall has been concerned.
“Instead of democratic devolution, we had the centralisation of local government with the creation of the unitary authority and the loss of political power to unelected and unaccountable bodies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership.
“And now, we have a Conservative Government that is further undermining democracy and the very territoriality of Cornwall with their plans for a cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency and regionalisation based on an anomalous ‘south west’ region.”
Cllr Cole has written to the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition challenging them to back “meaningful democratic devolution to Cornwall.”
He concluded by saying: “Westminster does not know what is best for Cornwall. And it is time that the political establishment gave due regard to the 50,000 declarations and agreed to work with local communities to deliver meaningful devolution to the historic Celtic nation of Cornwall.
The “Declaration for a Cornish Assembly” was launched on St Piran’s Day 2001 by Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.
The wording of the declaration was as follows:
“Cornwall is a nation with its own identity, culture, traditions and history – it also suffers severe and unique economic problems.
“Important decisions about our future are increasingly taken outside of Cornwall and such decisions are often inappropriate or even contrary to the needs of our local communities.
“Scotland now has its own Parliament and Wales its own Assembly – but Cornwall has been ignored. We have had the artificial ‘south west’ region foisted upon us.
“Cornwall has had to accept second best for too long.
“We, the People of Cornwall, must have a greater say in how we are governed. We need a Cornish Assembly that can set the right democratic priorities for Cornwall and provide a stronger voice for our communities in Britain, in Europe and throughout the wider World.
“I support the campaign for a Cornish Assembly.”
In a period of less than twenty months, teams of volunteers under the inspirational leadership of Paddy McDonough visited town after town, setting up street stalls and getting the individual declarations signed.
A total of 50,546 people – more than 10% of the adult population of Cornwall – signed the declaration.