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Celtic Cooperation and the West Lothian Question

The General Secretary of the Celtic League has written to Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council to enquire what level of cooperation exists between it and the Breton Regional Council.

The letter from the GS follows a visit last week of the First Minister of the Welsh Senedd (Government) to reaffirm the 'special relationship' that exists between Wales and Brittany. The full text of the letter is set out below and has been copied to Minister Edwina Hart from the Welsh Senedd for their interest.

Councillor Leader Alec Robinson
Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council
28 June 2011

Dear Councillor Leader Alec Robinson

Memorandum of Understanding

I am writing to ask if Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council has considered the possibility of agreeing a 'memorandum of understanding' between Cornwall and Brittany in much the same way as Wales and Brittany signed such a memorandum in 2004.

You may be aware that last week (24th June 2011) Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones visited Brittany to talk at the Breton Regional Council, where he reaffirmed his administration's intention for continued cooperation between Wales and Briitany, while at the same time identifying other areas where cooperation could be further developed, such as in the field of climate change. Monitoring the effects of climate change I believe is an area of interest to Cornwall Council too and with the location of the United Nations CLIMSAT centre in Brittany, it may be mutually beneficial if a closer relationship was forged in this area.

With Cornwall and Brittany being in such close geographical proximity and the many existing cultural and linguistic links between the two areas, would it not be pertinent to formalise this relationship further with a 'memorandum of understanding'?

With regard to Wales, can I ask what level of cooperation is undertaken between Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council and the Welsh Senedd (Government)? I am aware that Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council has 'observer status' on the British Irish Council and that some forms of cooperation between Wales and Cornwall is inevitable in this regard, but what other measures of cooperative work is undertaken between the two administrations?

Also I would like to know who the Lys Kernow/Cornwall Council representative is on the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), which I understand Cornwall Council to be a member of? I have copied Minister Hart from the Welsh Senedd into this correspondence, because I believe she may be able to give some indication about how the relationship between Wales and Brittany was initially formalised and any potential areas for further cooperation between Wales and Cornwall in the future.

Many thanks for your consideration in these matters.

The UK Government has announced that later this year a commission will be set up to consider the 'West Lothian' question and whether the influence of Scottish and Welsh Members of Parliament (MP's) should be restricted on matters that effect only England.

Since the devolution of Scotland and Wales unionist Members of Parliament (MP's) in England have complained about their colleagues from Scotland and Wales being able to vote on matters that only effect England, whereas English MP's have not been able to exert the same influence on matters that effect Scotland and Wales. The 'West Lothian question' was a term coined by former unionist Labour MP Tam Dalyell in the 1970's who claimed that if devolution ever occurred it would lead to what he thought to be an unfair advantage for Scottish and Welsh MP's over their English counterparts.

Since the announcement of the plan to form the commission by the Conservative Party, some Labour unionists are expressing concerns about how this development would affect the current Union between these countries. Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain was reported in the Western Mail newspaper on Tuesday (28th June 2011) that:

"The whole principle that underpins the Parliamentary system in the UK is that all MP's have equal status. If Welsh and Scottish MP's were not allowed to vote on matters that superficially seem only to relate to England, that principle would no longer apply and MP's representing seats in Wales and Scotland would have an inferior second class status."

Mr Hain also claimed that the Conservative Party was prepared to allow the development because they knew that if votes were restricted it would severely weaken the power of Scottish and Welsh Labour MP's within the UK, adding:

"If that happened, there would be no question of any MP from Wales or Scotland ever becoming Prime Minister again."

At the same time Mr Hain said that he was opposed to a Parliament for England:

"There are around 50 million people in England and 10 million people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. If therer were a Parliament covering the whole of England, we would have a very imbalanced constitutional settlement that in my view would be unsustainable.

"I am extremely concerned that David Cameron has a ruthless agenda that is not about what is best for Britain, but what is best for the Conservative Party" In pursuing this agenda, the Tory-led Government risks breaking up the UK."

It must not be forgotten that the UK Labour Party is heavily dependent on voters in Scotland and Wales and without their support it is unlikely that the Party would win any general election in the UK. If voters in Scotland and Wales felt that the influence of their parliamentary representative was being restricted, then it would be interesting to see how that would affect the way they vote in general elections. It would therefore be extraordinary if it turned out that the UK Conservative Party, which champions itself as the defender of the Union, was in fact a catalyst in its speedy demise.

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
General Secretary
Celtic League


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

TEL: +44 (0)1209319912
Mobile: +44 (0) 7787318666
Email: gensec@celticleague.net

Internet sites here: Celtic League - News Group.

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