Current Affairs Politics

The Cornish Win Their Fight For Recognition

Penn an Wlas - Land's End, Cornwall

Congratulations to the people of Cornwall on the success of their long campaign to win official recognition from the British government for their status as a distinct national minority on the island of Britain. The announcement today means that the Cornish will see the granting of regulatory standing for their identity, language and culture by the British state. From the Guardian newspaper:

“The land to the west of the Tamar river was a jubilant place to be after the government announced that the Cornish are to be recognised as a national minority for the first time. Dancing was promised on the streets of Bodmin, poetry (in Cornish, of course) was being recited – and a fair few pints of good old Cornish being downed in celebration.

The announcement came from Whitehall, more than 200 miles away. The chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said it meant Cornish people would be classified under the European framework convention for the protection of national minorities in the same way as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish [ASF: that would be the Irish in the British Occupied North of Ireland, of course].

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.”

The 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 5 March next year.”

After the celebrations are over, the politicians – both in Cornwall and on a UK level – will work out the ramifications of the status.

The development may earn the Lib Dems some credit in Cornwall, one of their heartlands in recent years but a place where the Tories will hope to make gains at the next general election. Last month, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said the government would be investing a further £120,000 into the Cornish Language Partnership to promote and develop the language.

The North Cornwall Lib Dem MP Dan Rogerson was keen to make a political point out of it, saying: “Today’s announcement means that the Cornish will finally be recognised as one of the constituent peoples of the UK alongside the Welsh, Scottish and Irish.

The news does not mean that Cornwall is breaking away from Britain, but it was welcomed nevertheless by Mebyon Kernow, which is campaigning for a Cornish national assembly.

Its leader, Dick Cole, said: “This is a fantastic announcement for Cornwall. 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 – are now afforded equal protection under the framework convention.”

Cornwall council says the announcement means the Cornish will be afforded the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and the Irish. [ASF: Again, that would be protection for the Irish who unfortunately continue to live under Britain’s colonial rule on our island nation. History and geography is never a strong point in Britain. And that “protection”? They are still waiting for it…]

Britain’s recognition of the Cornish people will take place under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, an international treaty agreed to by some 39 nation-states of the Council of Europe. The campaign is now on to win recognition from France for the people of Brittany!

11 comments on “The Cornish Win Their Fight For Recognition

  1. Now they can be officially be treated as second-class citizens, rather than just informally, as has been the case for the past several hundred years.


    • Okay, I have to give you that one 😉

      Yep, it’s more symbolic than anything else but in British/English popular culture the Cornish being recognised as a separate people has had a big impact. To say that English people are unhappy with the decision is to put it mildly. But the Lib-Dem party, the minority partner in the British coalition government, has a strong base in Cornwall and has been one of the main drivers of this decision. They need the votes in Cornwall if predictions of an imminent electoral meltdown across Britain turn out to be accurate.


  2. I can’t see independence happening but maybe a local assembly within a future ‘English’ state maybe?


    • A separate Cornish assembly is the immediate objective, for MK and others at least. Lib-Dems lukewarm, Tories and Labour actively hostile.


  3. Cornish is spoken by 600 or so people lol.


    • Jānis, why the “LOL”? It is a language that was driven to the point of extinction and people are trying to revive it. Surely that is a positive thing?


      • It all depends what you mean by ‘revived’. Cornish is available as a ‘taught language’, there are materials and classes available and people learn it out of interest. However it isn’t a community language, and surprisingly over the 100 or so years of the so called ‘revival’ (an dasserghyans kernewek) no one has ever tried to re-establish a community or geographical heartland. Although to be fair, from time to time clusters of speakers have accidently arisen (e.g. a couple of families within walking distance) but these have always been very fragile, as soon as someone moves house or a marriage breaks up or whatever they’re finished. I mention this because there’s a danger that Welsh (or even Irish???) could end up in the same situation as their heartlands continue to erode. A taught language is a bit like an endangered species kept going by captive breeding after its natural habitat has been destroyed.


  4. Point of information: The Land’s End / Pen an Wlas sign you feature was repainted with the Cornish language version obliterated prior to it featuring in the Olympic Tourch run, presumably because this very modest show of national/cultural difference offended the spirit of Britishness and unionjackery the government were desperate to promote.


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