OPEN LETTER TO ALL MPs FOR CORNWALL
From Craig Weatherhill 14th July 2013
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities: The Cornish People.
I am writing to all MPs of Cornish constituencies to request their aid in pressurizing central government to end its sustained refusal to include the Cornish people on this important Convention.
Both Labour and coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat governments have long denied the Cornish people this right to full recognition as a national ethnic minority, and to afford them the protections offered by the Convention. No good reason has been given for this refusal, which is both discriminatory and sorely disadvantageous to an ancient people.
In fact, the only reason which has been given is a classic “Catch-22”: that the Cornish have no race relations case law. On the other hand, several applications under that law have been refused a hearing by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the grounds that the Cornish people are not recognised as an ethnic minority – an engineered situation in which the Cornish people are simply not being permitted to win.
The situation is all the more unacceptable when it is acknowledged that several minorities included on the Convention by the UK Government also have no extant race relations case law. Clearly, prejudice is being brought to bear against a single indigenous minority.
That the Cornish people are a distinct ethnic group is indisputable. Their history, culture and native language, not to mention Cornwall’s unique constitutional status, differ markedly from any other group, minority or otherwise, in the UK. At the 2011 Census, 73,200 people distinguished themselves as Cornish, rather than British or English, in spite of not being afforded a specific tick-box. In 2011, 41% of Cornish schoolchildren similarly registered as Cornish.
Recently, results from the 8-year genetic survey, entitled “The People of the British Isles” published findings. Carried out by Oxford University, under the auspices of the Wellcome Trust and headed by Professor Sir Walter Bodmer, this has determined that the Cornish people form a notably distinct group. Professor Peter Donnelly, a chief geneticist in this project has stated that: “The people in Cornwall form a genetically distinct group, different from people in Devon.” The project believes that the Cornish are a “relic group” directly descended from the very first recolonists of a totally depopulated Britain after the final glaciation 11,500 years ago, an ethnic antiquity only shared by people in western Wales.
The case for full acknowledgement of a distinct Cornish ethnicity, and full inclusion of the Cornish people in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities could not be clearer. Nevertheless, the UK Government has taken a stance which is both severely prejudicial and of great disadvantage to the most ancient of people in this island.
May I call upon you as an elected representative of the Cornish people to lobby the Home Secretary and his Office to end their prolonged stance against the Cornish case, and to allow an unconditional inclusion and protection of the Cornish people on this important Convention?
Craig Weatherhill (Mr) Newbridge, Cornwall