Delight has greeted news that Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has today announced that the "proud history, unique culture, and distinctive language of Cornwall" will be fully recognised under European rules for the protection of national minorities.
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.
Speaking on a visit to Bodmin, Cornwall, Danny Alexander 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.”
Cornwall Council has welcomed the Government’s decisions, saying this means that Government departments and public bodies will now be required to take its views into account when making decisions.
Dick Cole, leader of Mebyon Kernow said: “This is a fantastic announcement for Cornwall. As the Leader of Mebyon Kernow, I am absolutely delighted that the Government has recognised the Cornish people as a National Minority and it is great to see that all the Celtic peoples of these Islands – the Cornish, Irish, Scottish and Welsh – afforded protection under the Framework Convention.
“I would also like to play a heartfelt tribute to everyone who played a part in the long running campaign to secure National Minority status.”
“It is with surprise and great delight that we heard today that the Government will fully recognise the Cornish as a national minority under the Framework Convention for Protection of National Minorities“ said Cornwall Council Leader John Pollard.
The main aims of the Convention, which was first ratified 15 years ago, is to ensure that the rights of national minorities are respected by combating discrimination, promoting equality and preserving and developing the culture and identity of national minorities. Three previous attempts to include the Cornish in the Framework Convention were unsuccessful; the last attempt was made in 2011.
The Council has stated its support for the Cornish as an ethnic minority in its Equality and Diversity Framework. A working group of Members and key figures within Cornwall has been working on the paper setting out why the Cornish should be recognised as a national minority.
One of the leading Members of the working group is Bert Biscoe who said “I very much welcome that the Cornish as a group can stand equally beside all other groups in British society”.
Inclusion in the Convention will:
• Recognise the distinctiveness of the Cornish and enhance the United Kingdom’s reputation as a country that celebrates and supports the diversity of its inhabitants.
• Further the economic interests, not just of Cornwall, but of the United Kingdom as a whole.
• Help strengthen the confidence of our young people that they are encouraged to identify with their cultural identity, and that this is valued by the rest of the country.
• Help strengthen the ‘Cornish’ brand and provide a mechanism whereby the Cornish can establish and strengthen links with other groups accorded similar status across Europe and around the world.
• Create stronger links between communities and a greater understanding of shared values to help create more vibrant communities than can shape their own future.
“National minority status will not initially bring any additional funding or powers to the Council or to Cornwall” said John Pollard. “We will need to work with partners to make this clear to people in Cornwall.
“However, 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” .
The Cornish language has already been recognised under European rules for minority languages. In March this year, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the Government would be investing a further £120,000 into the Cornish Language Partnership (MAGA) to promote and develop the language.
Communities minister 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 five next year.”