Raise the Baner Perran high Cornish people! A millennium after we were subsumed defacto into the English state and 15 years since efforts began to have us formally declared a distinct people, Cornish are to be recognised as an official “national minority” in the UK and Europe.
The Government announced on Thursday 24 April, 2014 that the Cornish are joining the Scots, Welsh, and Irish as official members of the UK’s Celtic minorities. The decision is a victory for campaigners who have long insisted that, beyond its confected media image as the motherland of the pasty and clotted cream, and holiday lets, Cornwall has a indigenous distinct people, with a language and culture worthy of formal recognition.
The status of a national minority group, made under a European convention to protect them, means that the Cornish now have the same rights and protections as the more established members of Britain ethnic mix.
The Chief Secretary to the UK Treasury, Danny Alexander, making the announcement in Bodmin today, said: “Cornish people have a proud history and a distinct identity. I am delighted that we have been able to officially recognise this and afford the Cornish people the same status as other minorities in the UK.”
The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish. For the first time the government has recognised the distinctive culture and history of the Cornish.
The ruling is the culmination of a long battle to assert a distinct Cornish identity which saw 84,000 people declare themselves “Cornish” in the 2011 Census following a campaign for the designation to be counted from write ins on the form. A further 46 per cent of pupils in Cornwall’s schools described themselves as Cornish in a 2013 school survey – up from 34 per cent four years earlier, and a 92% increase in 7 years.
The Cornish language, was legally protected under a European Charter in 2002, is also enjoying a robust revival, with 557 people claiming the Celtic language as their main language.
Teaching of Cornish has received limited government funding again last month, when the UK Depurty Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, pledged a paltry further £120,000 to promote and develop the language. Such measures as book publishing and an internet-based radio station have been crowd-funded by the Cornish people.
The first officially recognised Cornish language crèche opened in 2010 and dual-language street signs are now becoming more common throughout the country. Its three MPs from Cornwall swore their oath in Cornish when elected to Parliament in 2010.
Campaigners said they were delighted by the move, which comes after the submission of two formal reports to Westminster seeking minority status and many years of formal lobbying. It is the buiding block for the next step in the battle for identity and self-determination for Cornwall, and the Cornish.
Officially the UK signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 1995 and ratified it in 1998.
The broad aims of the Framework Convention are to ensure that the signatory states such as the UK respect the rights of people belonging to national minorities, undertaking to combat discrimination, promote equality, preserve and develop the culture and identity of national minorities, guarantee certain freedoms in relation to access to the media, minority languages and education and encourage the participation of people belonging to national minorities in public life.
The UK government’s approach to the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention is to be modified to recognise the unique position of the Cornish as a Celtic people.
It is ‘without prejudice’ however as to whether the Cornish now meet the definition of “racial group” under the Equality Act 2010, as only the courts can rule on that – it is only a matter of time and money.
UK Communities Minister, for England and Wales, Stephen Williams said: “This is a great day for the people of Cornwall who have long campaigned for the distinctiveness and identity of the Cornish people to be recognised officially.
“The Cornish and Welsh are the oldest peoples on this island and as a proud Welshman I look forward to seeing Saint Piran’s Flag flying with extra Celtic pride on March 5 next year.”
Cornwall Council unitary authority ‘Leader’ John Pollard said: “There are obviously significant benefits for Cornwall in being included within the framework convention, which is worth celebrating, and I pay tribute to all those who have worked tirelessly over many years to achieve this status.”
He said national minority status would not initially bring any additional funding or powers to the council or to Cornwall.
Dick Cole, leader of the Cornish political party Mebyon Kernow, which campaigns for a separate national assembly, told The Independent newspaper: “We are absolutely elated. The fact that Cornish culture, language and identity is now formally a national minority on a par with the Welsh, Scots and Irish is fantastic. We shall savour the moment.”
Gwir! One and all will savor the moment.
Wednesday 23 April 2014