Devolution is coming to Cornwall, how you vote on thursday will have a huge effect on how ambitious our settlement will be
Devolution is an idea often talked about and little understood. What does devolvement mean? What will change?
The simple answer to all these questions is a "great deal", the complicated one "that's up to you?"
In the last year or so all of the political parties have addressed the issue of Cornish devolution.
The Liberal Democrats talk of devolution on demand, unfortunately unlike say Netflix, there is no preview button. They have committed to a Cornish assembly (rather vaguely and half heartedly it must be said). They've also pledged to reduce the number of politicians in Cornwall. So they both want more powers to Cornwall Council with less councillors. Bigger budgets and responsibilities with less, oversight, scrutiny and accountability, a true example of Cleggism, being neither liberal nor democratic....
Cornwall Council have the most enthusiastic campaign, the Case for Cornwall. Which has it's merits, it's well presented and has some support in the council. Probably a bit dissapointing for the council that no political party at this general election has come out in support of the campaign. Which is odd as most candidates in Cornwall speak in favour of it and could have taken up this document to champion.
Meanwhile Mebyon Kernow have a policy document, Towards a National Assembly for Cornwall. It has been widely consulted on and spells out what powers we think Cornwall needs. It is by far the most ambitious in the powers and responsibilities it calls for.
My argument is this, devolution will be a huge issue with the next government. Whichever of the coalitions takes office, power will be devolved. What shape that will be and how effective that could be in forging a better Cornwall, is undecided.
Parties will offer various pitches about how this election is crucially about tuition fees, austerity, climate change, the NHS, the economy, housing, low wages. I've heard all my fellow candidates utter these things. They've made some very good arguments. Clearly explained the problems of these things and why they're such vital issues.
My counter argument is this, yes we must address these vital issues and now, of course we must. However, rather than fight a pitched battle here and a pitched battle there against the entire government system. Vote for MK and push with us for devolution for these vital issues to Cornwall. So the people we need to influence, to change policy, live among us and are elected by the people and held to account by them. So we can look to a future where the privatisation of public services is a Cornish decision. So the definitions of affordable housing and actually building some genuinely affordable housing, is not ruled out by a ministerial decree. So we can have the tools to fix our communities by dealing with second homes. So we can have buses that work in unison with trains, where we can adjust our fares and timetables without meeting central government disapproval. So we can finally have the tools to deal with the problem of being one of the least economically productive parts of Europe and actually improve the Cornish economy.
It's obviously up to you how you vote on May the seventh. Do be wary though, that devolution will be a massive issue and it will be led by MPs. My view is we need to be ambitious with the future. We need to aim higher and get the most powers and control over funding that we can. If you vote for Mebyon Kernow candidates on thursday you will be voting for the most ambitious people determined to win the most powers, freedoms and funding from central government.