I, like many I suppose, found myself nodding along in agreement with Andrew George's recent press release -CORNWALL: A NEW BEGINNING?
Full of what seems like common sense and sound reasoning it certainly has something for everyone:
•One Strong Voice - The new authority structure makes Cornwall one of the largest rural councils in the UK; representing more than half a million people and a very significant region of the country;
• Support from other “stakeholders” - The private and voluntary sectors can be mobilised in support of a strong and more ambitious vision for Cornwall;
• Institutional Structures - Although still weak, Cornwall has more coterminous institutional structures responsible for delivering public services than many other areas, from the Primary Care Trust to the Sea Fisheries Committee, etc.
• European Recognition - Objective 1 and now Convergence Region, etc.
• Cultural Recognition - Cornish language specified within the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages, etc, and Cornwall leading a proposal to the European Commission to develop the concept of “Regions of Culture”. The boost of Cornwall’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site is also significant here.
• Cultural bodies - Cornwall is an acknowledged member of the pan-Celtic community with Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany and the Isle of Mann. We also have a rich population of associated institutions such as the Cornish Gorsedd, etc.
• Strong Cornish Identity/Brand – Both culturally and commercially the Cornish brand is recognised, is strong and growing with increasing use and recognition of the St. Piran’s Flag and a strong and positive regional recognition of the place through its produce - pasties, cream, ice cream, etc.
• Strong environmental sector – Cornwall has an abundance of successful and renowned environmental management and technological organisations and businesses including the recently established Environment and Sustainability Institute at the Combined Universities in Cornwall which is now one of the top climate change research centres in the world.
• Strong modern image – For young people as the “happening” surf capital of the UK and as the home for go-ahead enterprises, through such successful initiatives as the Eden Project.
• Creative/Dynamic – Increasingly recognised as having a strong and successful creative industries and a place receptive to genuine vision and dynamism, particularly in the private and voluntary sectors.
• Resilient traditional industries – In spite of the problems faced by the fishing industry Newlyn is still the most important fishing port south of the Scottish border and Cornwall has the second largest pasture land in the country.
• Unique Constitutional Position - The Duchy of Cornwall is the only place in the country where the soil is owned by someone other than the Crown. The intestacy and foreshore laws are different and the basis of the Stannaries has never been abolished. The potency of this has never yet been explored in the context of mainstream public service and democratically accountable institutions.
• High Sheriff of Cornwall – Cornwall is the only place in the UK where the Sheriff is appointed by someone other than the Monarch and who swears allegiance to both the Monarch and the Duke of Cornwall.
• Pre prepared case – Cornwall has its own well established “Constitutional Convention” with a pedigree of well considered and presented case papers.
• Sub National Review – Treasury recognises that Cornwall is a unit of economic integrity.
• Multi Area Agreements – The Government is now developing an agenda which allows places like Cornwall to build a case for the negotiation of devolved powers.
From pan-Celtic campaigners and Cornish constitutionalists to the business community and voluntary sectors. The world and his dog get name checked.
The door is opened to all sections of the Cornish movement and then some. Following such a call for unity I'm left asking myself why Mebyon Kernow can't put out a press release like this? But there we go perhaps that is the point. Mr George is not a Cornish nationalist, first and foremost he is a Liberal Democrat. A party that has had total control for a while now but what have they done with this power? I read his excellent essay but find it hard to reconcile with his party affiliations. Do we really want the Unitary Authority dominated by Lib Dems in the same way that the old council was? Have our Lib Dem MP's been stalwart supporters of Cornish devolution and national recognition?
Right words Andrew. Wrong party. Needless to say I would probably dance for joy in the streets if he left his party, ran as an independent and concluded an electoral pact with MK and the Greens, but I think career considerations will quash such ideas.
So it has to asked is Andrew George using his party as a vehical for the Cornish nations aspirations or is he using the language of Cornish nationalism to get elected? Look at the track record of the party that he claims to be a "proud" member of and then make up your own mind.
Personally I think it's time for a BIG change.
Just some after thoughts but who exactly is Andrew addressing with this letter? The hard working Cornish movement who have been suggesting much of what he writes about for years, or his own half-arsed Lib Dem travelling companions who have ignored much of what we have been saying?
Does Andrew think that the current Lib Dem council hegemony are the best team to bring about his wish list? Do you? What about our MP's? Hard workers for their particular constituencies no doubt, but as a group, totally lacking in any coherent vision for Cornwall. Who better than a group of 5 MP's covering the entire Duchy to push our little nation forward, but what have they done? What coordinated strategy have they followed?
Will I be accused of "nosediving into narrowly focused recrimination, backward looking blame and petty point scoring" because I think the Lib Dems, along with the other mainstream English nationalist parties, are the least likely to realise your dreams Andrew?