Thursday, 1 May 2014

CORNISH STATUS

Cornwall has always held a special place within the UK. We are proud of our culture and history and in recent years there has been a strong revival of interest in both the Cornish language and a growing number of people celebrating St Piran's day in March.

Last week, the government added another string to our bow when the Prime Minister announced that Cornwall would now be added to the list of national minorities alongside Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on the Framework Convention submitted to the Council for Europe. Although we shouldn't get carried away by the implications of this decision, it is recognition of Cornwall's historic, special status inside the UK.

Never before has this country had a Prime Minister with such a strong affinity for Cornwall. When asked about British cuisine last week, David Cameron cited the Cornish pasty. He has been to Cornwall every single year since becoming Prime Minister which must be a first for any Prime Minister. Last year he visited Frame Homes in Redruth to see some of the world class manufacturing in this part of the world. He has not always been lucky with the weather but has promised to return again this year. However, most of all, he has a Cornish daughter, Florence Endellion, which just might have been a decisive factor behind his decision last week.

There will now be debate about what happens next. I hope we will use this new designation to celebrate Cornwall's self confidence and distinctive identity within the UK. There will be those who seek to use it as a means to encourage separation and division but we should not allow our pride in our Cornish identity to be used to fuel negative and antagonistic attitudes towards the English. After all, we are all British and we all form part of the same British nation. There will also be those who will now call for a new Cornish Assembly to be built but I do not think it is right to have the cost of another tier of politicians in yet another parliament.

Last weekend we all celebrated Trevithick Day, despite the rain. Richard Trevithick was Cornwall's greatest inventor but he also looked out to the rest of the world. He spent much of his career working around the country bouncing ideas off other leading engineers and he worked abroad for many years. He was Cornish but took huge pride in what he contributed to the industrial revolution in Britain. As we consider what this new recognition means, we could learn from Richard Trevithick.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.