The proposed 2011 census form has now been published, which gives the Welsh people its own tick box for the first time.
In addition to the separate Welsh tick box in question 15 – relating to national identity – there are two separate questions that relate to the Welsh language. Question 17 asks people `Can you understand, speak, read or write Welsh? (`tick all the boxes that apply)’ and question 18 asks `What is your main language? (Welsh or English)’.
The changes to the Census questions come after a hard fought campaign by the Welsh in 2000/1, when it was announced that in the 2001 Census there would not be a separate Welsh tick box. Many thousands of Welsh people refused to fill in the 2001 census forms and a political party was even set up – Cymru Annibynnol, the Independent Wales Party – that campaigned specifically on the issue.
The Cornish however will not have their own tick box, despite fighting hard over the last ten years for the Office of National Statistics (ONS) – who produces the census forms in consultation with the government – to include one. The ONS have told the Kernow Branch of the Celtic League, who have been among the most outspoken campaigners for a separate tick box for Cornwall, that Cornish people can tick the `other’ box and write in `Cornish’ for the national identity, ethnicity and language questions and still be counted. Cornwall Council has even stated that, unlike in 2001, they will help to publicise this option throughout Cornwall, but the extent of this remains to be seen.
It seems likely though that as a result of separate national identity tick boxes being included on the form, that Cornish people will more naturally opt to tick the `other’ box and write in Cornish, compared to 2001. In the 2001 census over 37000 people registered as Cornish even though very little publicity was made available to the public regarding this option. Many people in Cornwall have stated that they will refuse to fill out the 2011 census if a separate tick box is not made available for `Cornish’, despite a legal obligation and the threat of persecution. The form is estimated to take an hour to fill out.
Scotland and the north of Ireland have their own equivalent organisations to the ONS, but will nevertheless have to undertake a similar census under UK law at the same time.