The Scottish people have made a momentous decision. Like many people I am pleased and relieved that they have decided to stay with us. Our nations have worked and suffered together to build the strong and compassionate Britain that we are all lucky to live in. As a passionate democrat I was delighted by the high percentage of people voting and after such an impassioned campaign, I hope and pray for a period of peaceful reconciliation.
As we watch another Celtic nation decide on its future relationship with the British state it is right to consider Cornwall and our future. Predictably supporters of a Cornish Assembly are jumping on the independence bandwagon. Like the Cornish Assembly campaigners I believe that Cornwall is special and has a unique history, language and culture. However I don’t believe that we need to create a costly, new institution to express our identity. Do we really need a Cornish Assembly to be proudly Cornish?
What we do need is more decisions about Cornwall being made in Cornwall. Our Duchy is a distinctive place, with distinctive needs. Distinctively Cornish solutions are needed. This is why at the last election I stood on a manifesto that promised ‘Power to the People’, proposing a devolution to powers from Westminster to people and communities around the UK. I have been pleased to help deliver some of these powers to Cornwall.
The controversial regional spatial strategy imposed by the Labour Government on Cornwall has now been scrapped and Cornwall Council set free to create a Local Plan that delivers the right level of housing for the Duchy. Now Cornwall Councillors have to crack on and get it right! Neighbourhood Plans, like the one I am working with Truro City Council and Kenwyn Parish Council on, are enabling communities to come together to chart the future of their area. NHS commissioning decisions are now being made by local GPs at NHS Kernow, and after determined lobbying of Ministers the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership now has new flexibility and local control over £500 million of taxpayer funding to help Cornwall’s economy grow and prosper.
There is much more to do and so long as I am an MP I will be making the case for further devolution of power and responsibilities to people and communities in Cornwall, England and the UK. I believe that, had national politicians listened more carefully to Scottish people and more meaningful devolution been given to Scotland earlier, calls for independence would have lost a lot of their potency.
The Referendum campaign has opened a very important debate about the fair allocation of funding for public services in the UK. This debate will provide me and colleagues with a great opportunity to raise the issue of the funding Cornwall receives for our public services. While I have been pleased to have started the process of closing the funding gaps, securing a three above inflation for Cornwall’s NHS and a £75 increase in school funding for Cornish child, there is more to do and I will make the most of this opportunity to secure a fair deal for Cornwall.
Over the months ahead as we debate the new relationships of our family of nations that makes Great Britain, I hope the LibDem/Indie Cornwall Council leadership stop misrepresenting the relationship it has with the democratically elected British Government, stops misrepresenting the financial challenges it faces and confidently seizes the new opportunities it already has to work in partnership with our local public services, businesses and the wider community to innovate, save money, improve services and increase prosperity.
We do not need a tokenistic institution to tell us something we know well enough already, that we are Cornish and proud of it; what we need are LibDem and Indie Cornwall Councillors to work positively with the can do people of Cornwall, empowered and supported by the resources and inclusiveness of a united Britain.