A letter has been leaked to the Celtic League from the Chief Executive of Cornwall Council urging the government to recognise the Cornish as a national minority group under the terms of a Council of Europe Convention.
Cornwall Council Chief Executive, Kevin Lavery, says in his letter to the Department of Communities and Local Government – sent on 19th November 2009 – that:
“Cornwall Council firmly believes that the UK Government should recognise the Cornish as a national minority under the terms of the Framework Convention.”
Mr Lavery goes on to say in the letter that:
“[Cornwall] Council believes that the Government’s current restricted interpretation is discriminatory against the Cornish and contradicts the support it gives to Cornish culture and identity through its own departments.”
Mr Lavery’s letter was sent in response to an invitation for comments on the draft 3rd UK compliance report by the Department of Communities and Local Government to the Council of Europe (CoE) on the inclusion of the Cornish under the terms of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM).
The Department of Communities and Local Government forwarded its draft report to the CoE in February 2010, but with no mention of the Cornish. It is expected that the CoE will comment of the draft report in June 2010.
The full text of the letter Mr Lavery sent is set out below:
Race Equality and Diversity Division
Communities and Local Government
5th Floor, Eland House
Dear Mr Harris
Council of Europe Framework Convention For The Protection of National
Minorities: Draft 3rd UK Report
I am writing in response to your recent invitation for comments on the draft of
the 3rd UK report.
Cornwall Council firmly believes that the UK Government should recognise the
Cornish as a national minority under the terms of the Framework Convention. It
supports the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention’s view that “the
Government should consider supplementing its current criterion based on
recognition as a “racial group” in case law with other criteria to ensure that
an equitable approach …is pursued” (Second Opinion 6 June 2007 para 13). The
Council believes that the Government’s current restricted interpretation is
discriminatory against the Cornish and contradicts the support it gives to
Cornish culture and identity through its own departments.
I should point out that since 1 April 2009 Cornwall has a unitary council and
therefore the council’s views have added democratic legitimacy which I would
urge you to acknowledge.
In support of the Council’s request that the Cornish are recognised as a
national minority I wish to draw to your attention recent developments in
Cornwall that have been supported by the Government.
Firstly, as documented in previous reports, the UK Government in 2002 recognised
the Cornish language under Part II of the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages. In support of this recognition and the responsibility of
the Government under the Charter, the Department for Communities and Local
Government has funded the language work with an annual direct grant. This grant
has been increased substantially in recent years and, with additional council
resources, supports Maga, the Cornish Language Partnership, which is
successfully driving development of the language in the community.
Secondly, the Government, through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport,
supported Cornwall’s bid for World Heritage Site status for Cornish mining,
which was successfully achieved in 2006. This is a significant accolade not
simply for mining per se, but for its effects on landscape and culture, not just
in Cornwall but around the world as Cornish emigrants spread the innovative
technology and structures. This whole process created a Cornish Diaspora, which
remains very strong today and reinforces the distinctiveness of the Cornish
Thirdly, there is a growing acceptance by the Government, through the Office of
National Statistics, of the value of providing the opportunity for people to
register their nationality as “Cornish” in the national census. In 2001, a
“write in” code was available and discussions are continuing about the wording
of the 2011 census. The council has a policy to include a “Cornish” tick box in
its own ethnic monitoring forms, which in itself creates the expectation that
this will be the norm among local residents.
Finally, as a result of the Government’s promotion of local strategic
partnerships, the council has been instrumental in bringing all the Cornish
cultural organisations together as “Bewnans Kernow” (meaning “Cornish Life”), a
cultural partnership represented on the Cornwall Strategic Partnership. Bewnans
Kernow was only established earlier this year, but it is developing a strategic
vision for Cornish culture, and will provide an increasingly powerful voice for
the sector. It has already given its total support to Cornwall’s promotion of
the concept of a European Region of Culture (to complement the quadrennial
European City Of Culture) and for Cornwall to be the first such designation.
Once again, this emphasises the distinctiveness of the Cornish identity.
These four cases should leave you in no doubt of the council’s determination to
promote and celebrate Cornish culture which is derived from the long and
distinctive history of the Cornish. It is clear that the Government has
recognised this in recent years by the support it has given to key projects.
This support has been crucial, and can be seen as tacit agreement of the Cornish
as a minority worthy of support. This appears to be at variance with the
Government’s stated wish to apply the Framework Convention to national
minorities as defined by “racial groups” within the meaning of the Race
The Council urges you to reconsider this decision and to recognise Cornish under
the Framework Convention. We would be happy to be involved in a dialogue
between the Government and the Cornish people to review compliance in respect of
This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary
Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information