Over the last few weeks the Liberal Democrats have started to campaign on the issue of Cornish devolution. Various pleas have gone around to mount a campaign and lately even a survey on people's ideas. My plea here is for them to stop reinventing the wheel and work with the campaign Mebyon Kernow already have. Over the last year MK have campaigned on the issue of a Cornish Assembly, we've held roadshows, got petitions signed, talked about it in the press, launched a consultation document, posted about it online and a whole host of other things. Why start a ground up campaign, when there is a body of work already there? Especially as the need to make a case to government is now, if Cornwall is to gain devolution the case needs to be made very very soon.
I know the Lib Dems have officially joined Cornwall Council's campaigns to get more powers transferred to the local authority. To beef up local government. But I think many in the Liberal Democrats know in their heart of hearts that Cornwall Council struggles with the power it has. It is widely seen as distant and too centralised to adequately represent all of Cornwall at the same time. It's relationship with the towns and parishes is already strained and Cornwall needs local government reform. I know Liberal Democrats agree with me on this, I've read your election leaflets, tweets and spoken to many of you about it.
Besides which there is a distinct lack of ambition with these plans, slightly more say over this and that won't change a great deal. Whereas MK is calling for government departments, quangos and other public bodies to be devolved. We don't want a token power here or there, we want the power to make decisions and the people and offices moved here into Cornwall that will carry out this change. As a nice aside we would then with devolution take jobs the Cornish taxpayer already pays for and bring them back here, more jobs west of the Tamar.
The Liberal Democrats passed a Cornish Assembly as party policy back in March and no further work has been done on this. It is clear to me that the central leadership of the party are happy to play with idea but they will not bring it forward themselves. I'm trying to appeal to some of you so I'm sorry to be blunt but the chances of both the Lib Dems being in government again after the next election and the party leadership then pushing it onto the agenda are very slim. This is a unique opportunity and may not present itself again for a long time. I do think many grass roots Lib Dems in Cornwall are sincere about the need for a Cornish Assembly and don't want to rebrand Cornwall Council a Cornish Assembly, any more than I do. I appreciate no one wants to break ranks and disagree with the Cornwall Council group's policy of localism in conjunction with the Independents. But you don't really want that any more than I do. You voted at conference for a Cornish Assembly not this hotch potch of localism masquerading as proper devolution.
There is two things that need doing, firstly the argument to the Cornish public needs making, consensus needs to be built. Secondly the hands of those in Westminster need forcing. If the Lib Dems in Cornwall present ideas like Mebyon Kernow's devolution document with public support to local councillors and MPs they and the leadership will have to support it. Cameron will have to follow suit. The Tories in Cornwall have a poor understanding of devolution and thus a weak argument. This great demon of an 'expensive layer of bureaucracy' they so fear, already exists in Whitehall. A strong and wide assembly campaign can easily dismiss the notion we shouldn't move jobs and public spending west of the Tamar for fear of upsetting ministers.
The timetable for getting a proposal before government is tight, if the promises both made to Scotland and by Cameron are kept to. Plans need to be before government in a matter of weeks. If we don't get bespoke plans before government we will end up with whatever they think adequate and probably, what they offer everyone else. Which will no doubt be along the lines of what Cornwall Council is proposing. Or even worse perhaps they will offer us an elected mayor and rename us a city!
The time has come for Cornwall to take matters into our own hands. For the decisions crucial to us, to our environment, our people, our economy to be made here in Cornwall not 300 odd miles away. That process can start now with working together to get decent devolution on the agenda. I heard -for the first time in a long time- a Lib Dem saying on the news that the party wants a federal United Kingdom. Lets see Cornwall playing a full part in that federation.
The Cornish Assembly document is here
Please if you know a Lib Dem, forward to this to them or at least convince them to be bold and brave on this issue.
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