"The Nineteenth century saw a great Springtime of Nations as the revolutions of 1848 saw new countries created the length and breadth of Europe. In our world today we are now seeing our own Spring Awakening with people and cultures that have long been dormant and subdued asserting their right to exist, their right to dream." Adam Price MP
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
The Boundary Controversy
Cornwall - from Ray Bell
Click to enlarge
Most English, and most Scots for that matter, are not aware of Cornwall as anything but an English county… albeit a picturesque one, with a large tourist industry. Home Counties Metroprovincials may find it hard to think of it as anything else, if indeed they do at all. Their image of it is perhaps mirrored in film, somewhere between the inbred horror of Straw Dogs, the windswept menace of Rebecca and the couthy surf & turf of Doc Martin (not the "bovver boots"). But as always none of this reflects the reality of Cornwall, that something very different lies across its border, and that its border is a very old one indeed.
The Cornish border is a very old one. Older than Scotland’s in fact, more stable than that of Wales. And in all three cases, we’re talking of borders which have lasted much longer than just about anything in central or eastern Europe – most of the borders there date back a few decades, that of Cornwall goes back a thousand years. While the Welsh border has been especially fluid, with Monmouthshire going back and forth, and Wales losing the likes of Oswestry, Ludlow (home of Owain Glyndwr) etc, Scotland’s own border has fluctuated between the Ribble and the Forth over the centuries. In the meantime, the Cornish border has stayed where it is on the River Tamar. Until the advent of the railway and bridges, the firth of the Tamar made Cornwall a virtual island, with only a small range of hills joining it to Devon in the north. While Plymouth sees the Tamar for the excellent harbour it is, the Cornish view it much as we view the Tweed, the visible division between Cornwall and England. Even on the bridge crossing the Tamar, the Cornish "différance" is driven home by its bilingual welcome sign.
The uniqueness of Cornwall is further driven home by the fact that its “welcome” sign is bilingual. Not a single Cornish MP actually backs the boundary change.
The British State is no stranger to border controversies, in fact it has created some of the world’s most notorious ones. Kashmir, Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine are all creations of British pen pushers. Numerous examples litter Africa and Asia, from Biafra to Kurdistan. One of the usual arguments against Scottish independence is “we all live on the same island”. Well, it never stopped the British dividing the neighbouring one up. And if geography is so important, why is Berwick (on the north bank of the Tweed) supposedly in England? (Strangely in none of these boundary changes is England the loser. Unless we count Monmouthshire, and even that’s a debatable one.) Or for that matter what about Hong Kong, Gibraltar and the Falklands – all of which have no real geographical link with Britain except access by sea?