Kernow (Cornwall) will stage a rally on Saturday 8 July, celebrating everything about the nation’s history and culture. However, it will also have a bigger point: the question of self-determination for Kernow.
Kernow: not English – Celtic
Cornwall, as it’s called in English, was actually a Celtic nation in its own right. As the Ertach Kernow (Cornish Heritage) project wrote:
Up to the Norman Conquest Cornwall was in reality a quasi-independent principality only loosely tied to the rest of England with its borders set at the east shore of the River Tamar by English King Æthelstan in 936 AD. This separated Wessex and Cornwall and the river still forms most of the boundary between Cornwall and England today.
In other words, Kernow was not really much to do with England – and actually aligned with other Celtic nations like Scotland, Wales, and the Isle of Man. Then, in 1337 Edward III decided he wanted it, and forced the nation to be a royal duchy. So, Kernow ended up being part of the UK. However, the nation’s Celtic heritage has always been there – and in recent years more and more people have been engaging with the idea of Kernow as its own, distinct nation.
Mebyon Kernow is a left-wing political party in Cornwall. It says on its website that:
Mebyon Kernow believes that the historic nation of Cornwall, with its own distinct identity, language and heritage, has the same right to self-determination as other constituent parts of the UK, such as Scotland and Wales.
The party says this includes the nation having its own parliament. It notes that:
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Cornwall is alone amongst the Celtic nations in having no form of effective self-government. Government bodies, quangos and agencies which develop key strategies and policies are located outside of Cornwall and inevitably fail to recognise the strengths of Cornwall or understand the special needs of its communities.
Given what Westminster and national political parties have done to Cornwall, it’s of little wonder people think self-determination is needed.
Cornwall’s major problems (thanks to the English)
All Under One Banner (AUOB) Kernow calls itself:
a grassroots campaign movement formed to act as a catalyst to promote greater discussion of the future of Kernow.
Kernow faces major economic, social, and cultural issues affecting its people daily. Self-determination, to which Kernow has a historic right, will allow its people to revitalise democracy to address these issues, such as homelessness; hunger; the destruction of our towns, villages, and historic green spaces; a lack of meaningful jobs with a living wage; and others such as loss of support for our language and cultural programs.
The figures for Cornwall are stark. For example:
- One in five children are in poverty – with rates higher than the English average.
- The number of people needing emergency accommodation (that is, homeless or facing homelessness) has tripled in three years.
- From April 2022 to March 2023, the Trussell Trust gave out 36,000 emergency food parcels – with over 12,000 of those going to children.
Of course, this is not different to much of the UK. However, in Kernow it comes against a backdrop of its historical independence from England. This, coupled with the nation’s distinct cultural heritage, language, and rich history make the case for self-governance strong. So, AUOB Kernow are taking action.
Rallying for self-determination
The group will be holding a rally for Kernow on 8 July. People are invited to meet on Barras Street, Liskeard from 10:30am, with a rally starting starting at 11am. The group says the march will involve:
musicians and members of other organisations representing many issues and working hard to alleviate the challenges the people of Kernow face.
The rally is partly about celebrating the nation’s history and culture. However, it’s also about continuing the discussion around self-determination. The group said in a press release:
The outside promotion of Kernow as a holiday playground takes jobs and homes from local people and takes economic prosperity out of Kernow. It replaces true industry and commerce with low-paying temporary jobs for the tourist industry.
High streets no longer have shops to provide for the community’s needs but to cater to holidaymakers. Structural support is not sufficient to allow the people of Kernow to stay and support themselves or raise their families.
Once traditional and community-led, local events have been turned into commerce opportunities for outsiders. At the same time, the distinct identity of the Cornish people was declared under European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; yet its language and history are derided and erased in efforts to make Kernow seem merely a part of England. Greenfields and historical parks in towns and villages have been developed to allow second homes, empty most of the year, to predominate communities.
Breaking English shackles?
For its part, Mebyon Kernow is pursuing “meaningful devolution” of powers to a Cornish parliament, working “within the framework of the United Kingdom”. The party is specifically campaigning for:
The creation of a Cornish Parliament with powers equal to those of the Scottish Parliament, which would set the funding and policy framework for the majority of the public sector within Cornwall.
With 10% of the nation’s population identifying as “Cornish”, not “English”, there is a solid bedrock for the campaign for autonomy to grow off. The rally on 8 July will be a welcome step in that direction for those who believe Kernow should break the shackles of its English overlords.
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