Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Duchy, Republic and republicanism in Cornwall

The campaign group Republic is launching a campaign to abolish the title and estates of the Duchy of Cornwall, this is of prime importance to Cornwall. As we know Duke Charles Windsor is one of the biggest landowners in Cornwall, as well as this he has a multitude of rights, privileges and perks that places him in the position of sovereign of Cornwall. Since the position of Duke of Cornwall was created in 1337, successive Dukes have used incomes from Cornwall and in particular mineral rights from the mining industry to build a massive property portfolio that spreads far beyond Cornwall. Suffice to say Charles Windsor is where he is now and rich as he is now as a result of monies raised west of the Tamar. The future of the Duchy of Cornwall and it's Duke should be decided by the people of Cornwall.

The Republic campaign blasts the office of Duke as 'arcane, archaic and unfair', I certainly have no problem with this assessment. I greatly agree with the Republic's logic. The days of monarchy have passed, people of great power and influence in a democracy ought to be elected and accountable to the people who pay their wages. Further the taxpayer can ill afford to subside others lavish lifestyles especially when they are already extravagantly rich. It sticks in my throat that taxpayers money gets siphoned off for the royals at the same time as the NHS is being sold off as unaffordable and there are recruitments freezes and redundancy drives for teachers, policeman and servicemen.  In my household if we were hard up, I'd be thought of as an idiot if I stopped spending money on food and clothes for my family whilst still spending money on ultimately pointless luxuries such as jewellery and foreign holidays, I don't see why this logic hasn't yet penetrated the thick skulls of Westminster.

The Republic group wants to abolish the Duchy of Cornwall and for that money to be 'nationalised' into the treasury. So rather than a millionaire earning an extra £17.8 million a year, this would be spent on essential public services. Republic have put forward this plan:

The campaign calls for stewardship of the estate’s land and property to be transferred to the Crown Estate or a separate board of fully accountable commissioners, with its net profit passing directly to the Treasury for the benefit of all taxpayers.

A good plan, it is a textbook case of nationalising assets, however I think it does Cornwall a disservice and neglects to recognise that Cornwall has provided for centuries the economic backbone of the Duchy estate as it is today. It may sound a crudely simple thing to say but the Duchy would be nothing without Cornwall and this should be recognised if the title of Duke is abolished. As an alternative I would suggest that lands in Cornwall should be gifted to Cornwall, either to Cornwall Council or hopefully to a Cornish assembly. So the considerable landholdings, farms, quarries, beaches and rivers would be run and administered from Cornwall and any profits made reinvested here. This would mean that the considerable holdings outside of Cornwall would be lost to us but we would go a long way to getting back some of the toils of our mining ancestors.

Of course the other big question raised by the prospect of abolishing the Duchy, is what does this mean for Cornwall's constitutional status? It would also break the line of rule through the Cornish kings, Saxon and Norman Earls and English Dukes...

This is Cornwall story on Republic's campaign
Webpage on the Republic site for the anti-Duchy campaign