Monday (24 April 2023) marks the ninth anniversary of the Cornish being recognised by the Government as a national minority which means that the Cornish have the right to express, preserve, share and develop their distinct culture and identity.
Initiatives and achievements since 2014 include promoting the Cornish language through “Go Cornish“, the development of Curriculum Kernewek to raise aspiration and achievement for young people by using Cornwall’s past to celebrate the present and build aspirations for the future, hosting the first ever UK National Minority Summit, and the opening of Cornwall’s state-of-the art archive centre, Kresen Kernow, which houses the world’s largest collection of historic records, books, maps, and photographs relating to Cornwall.
Cornwall Councillor Dick Cole, Chair of the Council’s Cornish National Minority Working Group said: “Everyone who identifies as Cornish has the right to have their nationality recognised, and we’ve been working hard with limited resources to raise awareness of the Cornish as a national minority.”
National minority status means that the proud history, unique culture, and distinctive language of Cornwall are fully recognised, and it affords the Cornish the same status under the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as the UK’s other Celtic people: the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.
The 2021 Census saw a substantial rise in the number of people identifying as Cornish, even without a Cornish ‘tick-box’ as one of the listed options for people to choose when answering the ‘national identity’ question. People who wished to identify as Cornish had to tick ‘other’ and either type-in or write-in ‘Cornish’ in their Census return.
Dick Cole said:
“We campaigned for the ONS to include a Cornish ‘tick-box’ but were not successful. However, the data that shows that 108,860 people made the conscious decision to write-in Cornish on the 2021 Census, compared to 83,499 in 2011 – this is a powerful statement of the strength of our national identity.
“This will further strengthen our resolve to press the ONS to include a Cornish ‘tick-box’ in the next Census, and more immediately, request all Government departments and agencies to include ‘Cornish’ as an identity option on all official forms.
“While much has been achieved since 2014 there is still more to do including pressing Government for the rights of the Cornish to be protected in legislation under the race element of the Equality Act 2010. The UK government must fulfil its responsibilities so that the Cornish are treated equally with the other Celtic nations.”
Cornwall Council Leader, Linda Taylor welcomed the achievements of the last nine years and said that Cornwall would continue to press for greater recognition as a distinctive minority group within the UK and beyond.
Linda Taylor said
“In the last nine years, thanks to initiatives like the Cornish Embassy bus and the ‘Go Cornish’ initiative in schools, we have been able to raise awareness and help many communities celebrate and take pride in Cornish culture and heritage.
“The Council’s new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy agreed earlier this year, also commits the organisation to representing the rights and interests of the Cornish as a recognised national minority.
“Our status as a national minority under the Framework Convention should afford the Cornish the same recognition as other Celtic nations, and as a proud member of the Cornish National Minority Working Group, I will continue to press for this to ensure that all public bodies have better information when making decisions that affect Cornwall. To that end, as a result of our negotiations on the proposed Cornwall Devolution Deal, I’m pleased that the Government’s recently published draft Media Bill includes Cornish as a recognised regional or minority language alongside Welsh, the Gaelic language as spoken in Scotland, Irish, Scots and Ulster Scots”.