Towards independence for Cornwall?

Last week, there was a “generally warm welcome” when the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, announced that Cornwall would become an officially recognised minority community, along with Wales, Scotland and Ireland, says Brian Groom in the FT.

Independence for Cornwall, population 536,000, looks distant; but Cornish campaigners “hope it will be a stepping stone” to a devolved assembly.

Andrew George, the Lib Dem MP for St Ives, said the idea of a Cornish assembly, operating within the UK, but with enhanced decision-making powers, was “desirable and achievable within my lifetime”.

Cornwall’s new status won’t have much practical effect, says Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph. Much of it is “just a dodge to get larger Whitehall and EU subsidies” (implying “greater dependence, not proud independence”).

Also, “whenever a ‘national minority’ is given special legal status, a small attack is made on our common citizenship”. Cornwall has a “distinct history of which it is justly proud”, but so do many counties.

Obviously, “another well-known national minority”, the Liberal Democrats, are eager to hold on to their three remaining seats in Cornwall, but “that is no reason to let race politics spread to England”.

This move is about our future, says Petroc Trelawny, also in The Daily Telegraph. Cornwall has the weakest economy in the country; giving its people a real sense of identity can only help it to develop.

“Offered the choice between the increasingly random concept of the United Kingdom, or a progressive micro-region with a motivated, enthusiastic workforce, it’s clear what most investors will plump for.”

It is a “goodwill gesture, unlikely to fan the flames of the minuscule Cornish independence movement”. But it is welcome for commercial reasons, and for the “sense of fresh pride” of the Cornish.

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