Cornwall has long been a marginalised part of an over-centralised state. It is well known for low pay and chronic out-migration, while the Cornish economy continues to lag behind that of the rest of the United Kingdom. Our gross domestic product per head is only 62% of the UK average.
These economic problems are accompanied by population growth as fast as, or faster than, anywhere else in Britain. This inevitably means rates of consumption of our natural environment that are clearly unsustainable. Cornwall is unique in this combination of development pressures and chronic economic problems, but policy makers ignore this uniqueness and Cornwall does not have the institutions to remedy the problems it faces.
The situation is made even worse by the policy failure of the ‘south west’ project. This imposed merger of Cornwall in south west economic agencies has failed to solve Cornwall's economic problems, failed to produce the policies needed for distinct problems and failed to defend the interests of the Cornish economy. Instead its spokespersons merely repeat the same lame and simplistic 'policies' - build more roads, accommodate more in-migrants, attract more tourists.
Continuing these policies, as well as locking us into a peripheral economy over-dependent on tourism and producing insecure and fragile employment opportunities, also leads in the long term to unacceptable environmental degradation.
The benefits of the south west policy are felt east of the Tamar. Jobs are exported eastwards, as big businesses based in Plymouth and Exeter guarantee their market base. In the 1980s and 1990s, Cornwall lost millions of pounds of potential grant aid because it was tied to Devon and not recognised in its own right and now even control of the emergency services has been centralised away from Cornwall.
In March 1999, due to the continuing structural decline of the local economy, Cornwall was belatedly awarded Objective One status. But even this programme is still being controlled from outside Cornwall. MK is committed to Cornish democratic control over this funding and the future direction of the Cornish economy.
Cornwall needs its own Development Agency, which if funded on a parity with the Welsh Development Agency, would represent a fresh start for Cornwall. Such funding would begin to recompense Cornwall for the damage caused in the twentieth century through regarding Cornwall as England's resort periphery. Such a CDA would be responsible for all the current functions at present dispersed among a confusing number of south west agencies. Above all, unlike the current quangos, it would be democratically accountable.
Accompanying a CDA there must be a range of Cornwall-based institutions including a Cornish Training and Skills Council and a Cornish Small Business Service to work in partnership with the predominantly small and medium sized businesses of Cornwall, a properly funded, independent and locally accountable Cornish University, European regional status and devolution of political decision-making to a Cornish Assembly. With these institutions in place Cornish communities will have the tools needed to confront the global economy. Without them Cornwall will become a leisure backwater, a place of early retirement, yet blighted by poverty, with an increasingly tawdry and ruined environment and a lost heritage.
These institutions would be geared to mobilise indigenous resources, support existing businesses and agriculture and fishing, develop maritime communications, manufacturing industry and local economic activity.
Mebyon Kernow believes that economic regeneration for Cornwall has two main parts; first, the development of indigenous enterprise to build a strong self-reliant economy and second, appropriate, environmentally acceptable inward investment. We believe that the local economy must be developed in a sustainable way, to create the foundation for both a strong, thriving and self-reliant community and an ecologically sustainable economy