Cornish Assembly

A Cornish Assembly (Cornish: Senedh Kernow) is a proposed devolved law-making assembly for Cornwall along the lines of the Scottish Parliament, the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) and the Northern Ireland Assembly in the United Kingdom.

The campaign for Cornish devolution began in 2000 with the founding of the Cornish Constitutional Convention, a cross-party, cross-sector association that campaigns for devolution to Cornwall.

 In 2001, the Convention sent 50,000 individually signed declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street, during the then-government's attempt at introducing regional assemblies, however the call went unanswered. 

The act of turning Cornwall County Council into a unitary authority in 2009 was based on the idea that it would give Cornwall a stronger voice and be a "stepping stone" to a Cornish Assembly, and a "Government of Cornwall" bill was introduced to the UK Parliament in the same year by Cornish MP Dan Rogerson, but did not succeed.

Following the announcement of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, and with promises of more devolution across the UK from Westminster politicians, there were renewed calls for devolution to Cornwall.

In November 2014 a petition was launched on the government petitions website campaigning for a Cornish Assembly.

 A law-making Cornish Assembly is party policy for the Liberal Democrats, Mebyon Kernow, the Yorkshire Party, and the Greens.


Cornwall enjoyed a level of self-government until 1753 through its Stannary Parliament. 

The privileges of the stannaries were confirmed on the creation of the Duchy of Cornwall in 1337, and strengthened by the 1508 Charter of Pardon, which came after the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 was partly instigated by anger over Henry VII's overturning of stannary rights to wage war against Scotland

Laws and maps of the time mentioned "Anglia et Cornubia" (England and Cornwall). 

With the decline of the Cornish language blurring the distinction between Cornish people and English people in the eyes of central government, Cornwall began to be administered as a Duchy of England.

Cornwall County Council was created by the Local Government Act 1888. 

At the same time, the Celtic revival saw the emergence of Cornish nationalism. 

Although it was mainly concerned with culture in its early days, some inspiration was taken from the movements for Irish, Welsh and Scottish home rule, with a Cornish newspaper declaring in 1912, "There is another Home Rule movement on the horizon.

 Self-government for Cornwall will be the next move"

The Cornish political party Mebyon Kernow was formed in 1951, calling for greater autonomy in what it hoped would become a federal UK.

Post Second World War Cornwall became increasingly linked with Devon in an economic, political and statistical sense (more recently this process has become known as "Devonwall-isation"), symbolised by the merging of Devon and Cornwall Police in 1967. 

With entry into the European Economic Community and the prospect of receiving European development funds, there was mounting evidence that the unpopular Devonwall process significantly disadvantaged Cornwall. 

Devon's relative wealth overshadowed Cornwall's low GDP and high deprivation, meaning that the single "Devonwall" area did not qualify for EU funding.

 In 1998 Cornwall was recognised by the UK Government as having "distinct cultural and historical factors reflecting a Celtic background", paving the way for NUTS2 region status and allowing Cornwall's issues to become visible.

During the 1990s the pace of debate gathered parallel to discussions relating to National Minority status for the Cornish under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and recognition for the Cornish language within the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (both campaigns ultimately being successful). 

The calls for Cornish devolution also gained more widespread attention. 

In 1990, a Guardian newspaper editorial commented “Smaller minorities also have equally proud visions of themselves as irreducibly Welsh, Irish, Manx or Cornish. 

These identities are distinctly national in ways which proud people from Yorkshire, much less proud people from Berkshire will never know.

 Any new constitutional settlement which ignores these factors will be built on uneven ground.

Assembly campaign

In the late 1990s, devolution became a political issue in the UK with the creation of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly. 

Campaigners in Cornwall responded by campaigning for similar devolution in Cornwall, the Liberal Party called for a Cornish Parliament at the 1997 General Election, and in July 2000 Mebyon Kernow issued a "Declaration for a Cornish Assembly", which said:

"Cornwall is a distinct region. It has a clearly defined economic, administrative and social profile. 

Cornwall's unique identity reflects its Celtic character, culture and environment. 

We declare that the people of Cornwall will be best served in their future governance by a Cornish regional assembly. 

We therefore commit ourselves to setting up the Cornish Constitutional Convention with the intention of achieving a devolved Cornish Assembly - Senedh Kernow."

Three months later the Cornish Constitutional Convention (which had been meeting for some time as an informal discussion group) held its first open meeting to promote the objective of establishing a devolved Assembly. 

In less than two years, Mebyon Kernow's petition attracted the signatures of over 50,000 people calling for a referendum on a Cornish Assembly, which is a little over 10% of the total Cornish electorate. 

A delegation including MK leader Dick Cole, West Cornwall Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George and representatives of the Convention (Richard Ford, David Fieldsend and Andrew Climo) presented the declaration to 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 12 December 2001.

The Labour government did not respond to the petition, and continued to promote its own plans for regional assemblies, placing Cornwall within the South West region. 

The plans were put on hold when voters overwhelmingly rejected a regional assembly in the North East of England in 2004.

In 2007, the Labour government announced plans to abolish regional assemblies.

The then Cornish MP Dan Rogerson asked the government to look again at the case for a locally accountable Cornish Assembly and Cornish Development Agency, "in light of the important convergence funding from the EU". 

The same year, the then leader of Cornwall County Council David Whalley stated "There is something inevitable about the journey to a Cornish Assembly.

 We are also moving forward in creating a Cornish Development Agency - we are confident that strategic planning powers will come back to us after the SW regional assembly goes."

In 2008 Parliament agreed plans to create a unitary authority for Cornwall, abolishing the six district councils. 

Leaders at the time claimed that the unitary would provide a "single voice" for Cornwall to demand greater powers, and be a "stepping stone" to a Cornish Assembly.

In 2011 Bert Biscoe, of the Cornish Constitutional Convention, commissioned a researcher to visit Guernsey as part of the devolution campaign, to meet politicians and lawmakers and see if the island's system of government could be of inspiration to Cornwall.

The new Cameron–Clegg coalition government abolished the South West Regional Development Agency and replaced it with local enterprise partnerships.

 In 2014 the government announced plans to place Cornish EU funds into a nationally run programme, depriving Cornwall of its ability to allocate where the money goes. 

This decision was later reversed and Cornwall was granted the autonomy to manage its own EU funds.

In July 2015, Second Cameron ministry gave Cornwall Council powers over bus services and local investment, while indicating health and social services may integrate.

In March 2016 Mebyon Kernow launched a new document "Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall".