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The UK Left on Cornwall

Just a few responses from the UK left on the Cornish question.


Thank you for your email and sorry for the slow response. Compass does not at this moment in time have a policy on Cornish independence, however we do believe in as much devolved decision making and democracy as is possible. But we don’t have a policy on Cornish independence. However we do fully support the freedom of information act. I have to be honest I am not sure that Compass is best placed to advance your cause on this matter however. We are a small London-based pressure group with limited resources. However we will soon be publishing the final volume in our programme for renewal ‘democracy and the public realm’ and I think there may be further opportunity when that is published, for you to push and bring to people’s attention some of the issues you have raised below, which fundamentally I think are probably linked to democracy more than anything. You might also like to view Progress’ 100 days project and submit a policy along the lines you describe below.

Many thanks for emailing us and good luck in your campaigning.

Best wishes

Compass - direction for the democratic left
Southbank House
Black Prince Road
London SE1 7SJ
T: +44 (0) 207 463 0633
M: +44 (0) 7900 195591

Respect - the Unity Coalition

Respect Press Office: press@respectcoalition.org

Big questions. As I'm married to a woman from Cornwall I am pretty circumscribed! It's not something we have ever debated but I'd hazard that all forms of local and national identity are worth preserving and encouraging. The more involvement in democracy the better. Although there are surely enough countries in the world now to be going on with.

That's my personal view.

Communist Party

Dear Comrade

Thank you for your enquiry as to our policy concerning devolution to Cornwall. The Communist Party has long recognised that Britain should be a country comprising of four nations, England, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. Indeed within our own party Cornwall is recognised as a Nation (rather than region of England) in the same way as Scotland and Wales is. We are in favour of devolution of powers away from Westminster to National Parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. We are not however in favour of the breaking up of Britain into four seperate countries. I hope this clarifies our position.

Yours in Solidarity

CPB Party Centre

Communist Party of Britain Marxist-Leninist

Sut mae rwyf yn siarard Cymraeg ond serch hynny rwyf i yn rhan of. Not sure about your familiarity with other Celtic languages but that first bit was in Welsh and said “how do you do ...I am Welsh speaker but I am nevertheless a member of the CPBML. We would vigorously opposed to the EU project which is not about independent nations but a charter for capitalism..I could send you a useful recent publication from Trade Unionists against the EU constitution which sets out these arguments..and as regionalisation is the other side of the EU coin we would also oppose Cornish devolution. (again we have a useful pamphlet ..although rather old by now). There is more that unites the working class from Shetland to Cornwall than divides us and none of this is incompatible with speaking Cornish or enjoying Cornish literature etc. The sooner we do something about EU policy on Fishing and agriculture the better it will be for the people for Cornwall and the rest of us.

Socialist Party South West

Thank you for your letter which raised some stimulating points about the question of Cornwall and the issue of nationality more generally. Our party has always had a principled approach to the national question, recognising that it can never be applied in a mechanical way, but must be seen primarily from the viewpoint of those who feel oppressed, whether materially or mentally.

We base ourselves on Lenin's writings, which identified 3 strands to the national question, common territory, common language and common culture. He stressed however that in each circumstance we should examine concretely which of these factors are at play and in what combination. For instance it is possible to characterise both the Basques and the Serbs as nations and support their right to self-determination. In the first case it is straightforward enough to say that on the basis of a shared territory, unique language and identifiable culture, the Basques should be granted not only the fullest autonomy, but be allowed to secede from Spain should the majority of Basque people desire it. But in relation to the Serbs the situation is more complicated than seems to be the case upon a cursory glance. Clearly they are an "old" people who are definable according to language, culture and tradition. However beyond the territory that is Serbia proper lies a Diaspora of Serbs, some living in Bosnian enclaves, some in Croatia. They too demand independence, but as was shown in the early 1990s, this yearning for a greater Serbia led to the horrors of ethnic cleansing and all-out war. Can we support their right to self-determination? What would this mean in reality?

We saw in the nightmare of the war that gripped ex-Yugoslavia, how apparently dormant national antagonisms can flare up under circumstances of heightened social and political tension. Because of the failure of capitalism to resolve the national question, which properly speaking is a task that it needed to deal with at the dawn of its political rule through the creation of nation states, we have in the 21st century a pock-marked landscape of national antagonisms that threaten to boil over again and again. Compared to when Lenin wrote, the situation today is much more complicated.

Resolving the situation in the north of Ireland, or Israel/Palestine, is precisely so difficult because you have two peoples fighting over a common territory. To casually support self-determination in the north of Ireland is a meaningless and very dangerous concession to green liberalism. It is an abstract slogan. Under capitalism the Protestants will never be persuaded to enter a united Ireland that they believe will be a Catholic hegemonist state. Equally the Catholics reject the imprisonment of Stormont and the narrow sectarianism of loyalist politicians.

What is needed is a programme and analysis that starts from the premise that we need to build workers' unity around common arenas of struggle. This too has to be our departure point for an analysis of the contending forces in Israel/Palestine. While we uphold the Palestinians' right to a secure homeland and self-determination, we cannot simply say that the state of Israel must be removed from the equation. Israel is a concrete reality and has been for 60 years. In that country as well, despite the dead hand of Zionism, there are workers who understandably would ask whether or not we supported their rights too.

Once we start sloganising without examining concrete complexities, we invariably fall into the trap of taking sides. This is not a position that Marxists can justify.

We are for the right of nations to self-determination. Fine, that's our starting point. Where the issue of nationality is not paramount, we do not talk it up, but neither do we fall into the trap of believing the issue is dormant for ever. But because we are for the right of nations to self-determination, this does not mean we are advocates for secession and the creation of ever more nation states. As an English socialist I uphold the right of Scots to secession should the majority desire it. I will still argue though that the most fundamental task facing both English and Scottish workers is uniting against the corroding forces of global imperialism.

I would be happy to send you more material on the national question and our analysis, but to move on to your specific questions now. Do we support devolution for Cornwall? I think there is a very powerful argument for this. As to whether we would inscribe such a demand prominently upon our banner that would depend upon the degree to which it was a burning issue. We recognise the specialness of Cornwall and particularly its language and it goes without saying that we are in favour of taking all steps necessary to protect the language. We have little confidence in bodies such as the Council of Europe, but in the same way as we support the right of any minorities to learn and practice their language, so too we would be responsive to any measures that were designed to defend the Cornish tongue.

Marxists are internationalists by nature and outlook. Capitalism in its most ugly form stirs up national tensions and uses them as cloaks with which to more effectively conduct its plunder of the working class. We cannot wish away national sentiment however. It is rooted in the past and so long as nation states continue, there will always be those who identify themselves according to race, ethnicity and nationality before seeing themselves as workers.

We have to try and separate out what is progressive from what is reactionary in the national question. Ireland will only be genuinely able to unite when we have secured socialism. So too in the Middle East where the overriding task is to build workers' unity in order to overthrow a system that holds all the peoples - Arab and Jew alike - in chains.

Therefore for us, a correct approach to the national question may determine whether we can gain an ear, or whether we'll be seen as just another set of outsiders. Treading a careful path between the mines laid by the national question in all its forms is not only necessary but crucial. Against national oppression. For the right of nations to self-determination, including secession if a majority desire it. For workers' unity against ethnic divisions fostered by capitalism. For a socialist world federation these brief remarks are but a starting point for developing our position. I hope you will find them useful and will excuse the many gaps that lack of time has made necessary. For a fuller explanation of our position, write to our national office and order some literature and also consider coming to our annual education weekend, Socialism 2005, which is being held in London on 12/13 November and will contain workshops on the national question.

Yours in Solidarity,

Robin Clapp

Socialist Party South West


The Killing of Cornwall

The Killing of Cornwall

Kevin Cahill of BusinessAge magazin investigates.

October 2001

Cornwall is, by general agreement, one of the wildest and most beautiful areas in Britain. It is many people’s favourite holiday destination for that reason. However, no visitor can miss the essential poverty of a county that was once the heart of Britain’s non-coal mining industry, and that had a Parliament and a mint long before the rest of the country.

The county chief executive Peter Davies paints a stark picture of the Cornish economy on the Cornwall county website in August 2001. He says that, ‘Earning rates in Cornwall are between 17 per cent and 25 per cent below the equivalent Great Britain average. The total earnings figure for Cornwall is 24 per cent below the average. No other county in Great Britain has lower adult earnings levels than Cornwall ... And the earnings gap has increased over time. In 1981 Cornish earnings were 16 per cent below the Great Britain average, whereas they are now 24 per cent below.’

Bluntly put, Cornwall is getting poorer by the day. Why?

One very simple and easily provable answer is because the Government in London is raping the county fiscally. Out of a tiny gross domestic product of £3.6 billion, the Government takes over £1.95 billion in taxes, and puts back into the county less than £1.65 billion, a gap of over £300 million. That latter sum, by itself, all but completely explains the increasing pace of impoverishment in Cornwall. That and the banks and insurance companies.

On the back of the government take, the insurance companies absorb about £200 million of Cornwall’s capital each year and most of them put nothing at all back by way of investment. The banks and building societies soak up what is left of Cornwall’s inadequate capital and at most put back 70p for ever £1 they take in deposits. At least that’s what Nigel Blandford, a senior executive of Cornish Enterprise and former Lloyds branch manager in Cornwall thinks. The real situation is much more likely to be that of the Ghana Syndrome, described by Martin Vander Weyer in his book ‘Falling Eagle,’ about the decline of Barclays Bank, published last year.

‘In Ghana, Barclay’s Bank (DCO) held £17 million of deposits but lent only £3 million back to local customers, the balance being largely deposited with head office in London.’

Cornwall is, in effect, a disguised colony of London’s Treasury in financial terms.

Does London know this? Indeed, with over £309 million of EC investment promised over the next six years, to be matched by £428 million of investment from the UK, do Gordon Brown and his Treasury team actually have any idea what is going on in Cornwall? Do they know if this investment will work?

BusinessAge asked the Chancellor’s office for a breakdown of the tax take in Cornwall, and the Exchequer input to the county, by way of grants and other financial assistance. The Treasury spokesman told BusinessAge that they had no regional figures at all. ‘We do not have such statistics’ he said.

This may of course, explain why not only Cornwall, but much of the rest of the country outside the Home Counties is in the state it’s in. So without the Treasury’s help, BusinessAge constructed the attached table, which gives a rough idea of why the EC grant will have almost no impact, and certainly no enduring impact. Worth about £122 million a year for six years, the EC money still leaves a gap of £178m out through which is flowing the only possible source of regeneration in Cornwall, which is its own capital. Taken together with the insurance companies and banks, the capital ‘leak’ is probably around £500 million.

Despite the Treasury’s position on its deficit of regional information, BusinessAge was able to construct the attached table from figures obtained from within the Government machine, albeit with extraordinary difficulty. Most government press offices in London, such as Customs & Excise and the Inland Revenue had no idea they had regional figures, never having been asked for them, they said. Mind you, given the picture which emerges, and it clearly applies to many other counties besides Cornwall, that is what they would say, isn’t it?

The sources of the figures are explained in the notes below the table. In summary, the five largest taxes on the national tax roll, PAYE, NI, VAT, Corporation Tax and fuel duties, when applied to Cornwall yield the exchequer a total of £1.5 billion. This is 42 per cent of Cornwall’s GDP of £3.6 billion. (This figure is probably understated by at least £1 billion) The other taxes take that figure to £1.95 billion, 54 per cent of the county GDP. By themselves those figures mean nothing. They assume significance only when matched by the money sent back to Cornwall by the exchequer. This comes to around £1.651 billion. A healthy county economy might be able to stand that kind of mismatch between ‘take’ and ‘give’, but Cornwall, with the rest of its capital going out via the banks, building societies and insurance companies, and overall the victim of a total collapse of its original industrial/mining economy, simply plunges into the kind of situation so clearly shown in the recent and continued decline of the average wage.

In a recent interview with BusinessAge, Albert Reynolds, the Irish Taoiseach from February 1992 to December 1994, on whose watch the extraordinary current Irish boom began, told the magazine that the Irish boom came from ‘cheap money and lashings of it’.

Reynolds had secured a final massive grant of about £5 billion from the EC in 1992 and this is what he was talking about. But the entire sum is actually less per head than the money now being targeted at Cornwall. The EC grant to Ireland amounted to £1,385 per head of the Irish population. The Cornish input is £1,488 per head.

The core difference between Ireland and Cornwall is that, economically speaking, Ireland is a relatively closed system whereas Cornwall is not. Taxes raised in Ireland mostly stay in Ireland. Taxes raised in Cornwall go out of the county and are not replaced on a scale whose bottom line impact is visible in the poor and declining average wage in the county. Over the six-year term of the EC grant, which will deliver £737 million to the county, the exchequer will remove more than twice that sum.

For that reason, there is no chance that Cornwall will ever emulate its Celtic cousin across the Irish sea, until its capital base is rebuilt and that won’t happen until the gap between the tax ‘take’ and the exchequer ‘give’ is at least neutralised and better still, reversed.


Figures below are from Government departments as indicated. Treasury claims to have no regional figures for tax take. Estimates based on figures from various Government agencies.

Tax and Revenue taken from Cornwall by Central Government

Income tax £418m
According to table3.13 of the Inland Revenue stats (1996/1997 latest available), there are 204,000 taxpayers in Cornwall, paying an average of £2050 each in PAYE.
Corporation tax £201m
The average paid by a UK business is £13,723. This is multiplied by the 19,147 businesses in Cornwall.
CGT, Inheritance tax and stamp duties £63m
The national per capita payment is £183. Multiplied by 495,000 for Cornish population.
VAT £360m
The average payment for each VAT registered business is £22,560 multiplied by 16,000 Cornish businesses registered for VAT.
Fuel taxes £225m
This figure is based on the average of 50p duty paid on the 450m litres of petrol and diesel sold in Cornwall each year.
Tobacco, alcohol and gaming £112m
Based on the per capita yield of these taxes which is £228, multiplied by the Cornish population of 495,000.
Air passenger tax Figures not available
Vehicle taxes £34m
Based on the national average of £155 per vehicle on the road multiplied by Cornwall’s 220,000 registered vehicles.
Business rates £121m
Based on national average of £6320 per business multiplied by Cornwall’s 19,147 businesses. Social Security contributions (NI) £307m
Crude figure based on a per capita formula supplied by the Inland Revenue. Inland Revenue cannot supply specific data.
Council tax £113m
Based on the national average payment per house of £550, multiplied by Cornwall’s 205,000 houses.

Total £1.954 billion

Returned to Cornwall by Central Government

Grant to CC £266m
The Government makes two grants, a revenue support grant of £146.7m and a £120m grant from the national non-domestic rates pool – see business rates.
Farming subsidy 66.5m
MAFF estimate of £100 per acre all subsidies direct and indirect. Cornwall has 665,516 agricultural acres and 6630 farms. Does not include BSE and F&M compensation.
Central government staff/armed services salaries £10 Estimate.
No figures available from central govt or Cornwall CC.
Heritage grants £25m (est.) Estimate.
No figures available from central govt or Cornwall CC.
NHS est. staff costs £373m Figure supplied by Dept of Health, Bristol for year 2000. Unemployment payments £22m Figure supplied by Dept of Social Security 2001.
Social Security payments £400m Figure supplied by Dept of Social Security 2001.
Includes all payments except pension and unemployment pay.
Roads £42m Estimate from Cornwall CC budget 2000/2001 and Highways Dept Railways £30m Estimate from Railtrack but no precise figures available.
State retirement pensions £417m Figure supplied by Dept of Social Security 2001.

Total £1.651 billion

You can read more from Kevin Cahill at:

Who Owns Britain and Ireland: http://www.who-owns-britain.com/

Who Owns the World: http://whoownstheworld.com/

The Cornish Democrat would like.............

So apart from a proper dialogue between all the Cornish groups in the Duchy (if only) who else would I like to see talking?


When we see organisations like the Celtic league, Federal Union of European Nationalities, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation, European Free Alliance, Centre for World Indigenous Studies, Intergroup for Traditional National Minorities, Constitutional Regions and Regional Languages etc one can only hope that Cornwall is properly represented and that all these groups cooperate to the maximum. National minorities and regional identities of the world unite! Union is strength!

Cornish transnationalism

A maximum effort to maintain cultural links with the diaspora around the world and to interest new generations of the diaspora in their Cornish cultural heritage has to be a good thing for the homeland. Cultural exchanges and kids’ links like pen-pal systems are not so expensive now with the internet.

Multicultural and minority dialogue

A national minority that feels threatened by the national majority but which must integrate newly arrived minorities is a subject worthy of study. I believe wholeheartedly in multicultural exchange and dialogue between national minorities / English regional identities on the one hand and new minority groups on the other.It’s the way of the world, immigration is a fact and can be a source of innovation and strength if properly handled. I would welcome descriptions such as Black Scottish, Asian Welsh, Cornish Muslim and Chinese Yorkshire man even Anglo-Cornish. Such discourse between the new minorities and the grass roots organic national and regional identities of these isles could be, in my opinion, a much more effective form of integration. I would like to see a Cornwall where people are proud to say ‘I’m a Cornish Muslim’ ‘Black Cornish’ etc. A Cornwall where people are proud of their Celtic Cornish home but also free to maintain their own identities could only be a good thing. What do the Celtic league and Celtic Congress do to reach out to other minority groups and look for common ground and inter-cultural exchange?

Common ground

Where this exists between the Cornish movement and other pro-democracy groups in the UK, such as England Devolve, the Greens or Talk Democracy, then efforts should be made at cooperation and an exchange of ideas.

Economic nationalism

Open dialogue with Cornish and others businesses and lobby them with regard to the Celtic Cornish brand. There are loads of 'Celtic' shops around the UK and France and Spain that should stock Cornish produce.