Govt Criticised by National Minority Report –  should be Tick Box on Census, No Devonwall, proper devolution and cash for language 

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The people who monitor how the government is doing since they gave us National Minority status have issued their first report – and as expected the Govt have been heavily criticised when it comes to Cornwall

The Opinion was produced by Advisory Committee from the Council of Europe which visited the United Kingdom in March 2016 to assess how the UK Government and other public bodies are complying with the “Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities”.

It is the first Opinion on the Framework Convention published since the Cornish were recognised as a national minority in April 2014.

MK Leader Cllr Dick Cole has described the findings of the report as being of “far-reaching significance.”

The report:

  • Recommended that central government reconsider “the decision to cut all funding for the Cornish language in view of the disproportionate impact such a measure will have on the delicate process of revitalising a minority language when access to other public financial resources is limited.”
  • Raised concerns that the present constitutional set-up mitigated against Cornish recognition as “Cornwall is grouped together with Devon and other counties in the Southwest region …”
  • Says the Devolution deal we’ve got isn’t up to much and calls for proper devolution to Cornwall
  • Called for a Cornish “tick-box” on the 2023 census.
  • Called for a “dialogue with representatives of the Cornish minority to ensure that cultural policy is developed in a way respectful” of its traditions and identity.
  • Recommended that the BBC Charter be revised to safeguard broadcasting in minority languages and to “introduce BBC support for the Cornish language.”
  • Suggested that the UK Government “consider the possibility of adopting a Cornish Language Act.”
  • Recommended that the authorities “engage in a dialogue with the Cornish minority … to allow for a more systematic provision of teaching in and of the Cornish language.”
  • Criticised the ongoing review into parliamentary constituencies at Westminster which would adversely affect the Cornish national minority – basically saying Devonwall should not happen.
  • Called for the creation of an “institutional presence for Cornwall” at the British and Irish Council (which presently includes the representatives from the UK and Republic of Ireland, plus the governments of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.”

One of the “Recommendations for immediate action” – which  is what the new £100k Culture Fund is an answer to is to
“Take all necessary steps to ensure access to the linguistic and cultural rights to the Cornish minority, in particular by reconsidering the decision to cut all funding for the Cornish language”

It criticises the so called Devolution Deal given to Cornwall as insufficient:

“The (devolution) deal does not delegate tasks or powers in the areas of education and language revitalisation, the two most important issues to the Cornish people”, according to the Advisory Committee’s interlocutors. “In spite of its title, it is questionable if the agreement devolves any independent powers to the Cornwall Council. The Advisory Committee realises that it is a first step, but it urges the UK Government to continue the process, especially by expanding the deal to include education and language revitalisation”

Also published today was the UK Government’s comment on the Opinion Report, but it ignored all the recommendations which related to the Cornish. In a 30 page document we only get a couple of paragraphs – they say they’ve just given £100k for a new “Cornish Culture Fund” and that Cornwall Council is in charge of it’s own budget so if it wants to spend more on the Cornish Language it can do, if it chooses.

 

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Cllr Dick Cole stated:

“The UK Government’s recognition of the Cornish through the Framework Convention was a landmark decision, but the Opinion demonstrates that the Cornish are not being treated in the same manner as the other national minorities within the UK such as the Scots and the Welsh.

“The Opinion shows a great deal of empathy and understanding for the situation in Cornwall, for which we are grateful. But we are bewildered at the response from the UK Government, which fails to address the recommendations produced by the Advisory Group.

“We would challenge Cornwall’s MPs and the UK Government to show due respect to Cornish culture and identity by supporting all the recommendations contained within the Opinion, wholeheartedly and without reservation”

Row erupts over our MPs attitude to Cornish Culture and how to spend £100k – Grand Bard: “I’m not entirely impressed…”

The Council have also issued a statement this morning

“We welcome the findings of the report from the Council of Europe which recognises the importance of Cornwall’s unique culture and heritage and sets out a series of clear recommendations for the UK Government on how to meet its legal obligations to protect Cornwall’s cultural identity.

The Cornish are recognised as a national minority under the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which provides protection for many aspects of cultural identity, including the Cornish language.

The Opinion Report published today was compiled by the Council of Europe following their review of the UK Government’s Compliance Report, submitted in 2015. This was the first Compliance Report to include the Cornish as a national minority. The Council provided UK Government with material to inform the Compliance Report and hosted a visit by the Advisory Committee from the Council of Europe in March 2016. This was part of a week long tour to see the progress which is being made by the UK Government in implementing the provisions of the Framework Convention.

The Opinion Report raises serious concerns over the way in which the UK Government is currently meetings its legal obligations, particularly with regard to support for the Cornish language, and calls on the Government to take all necessary steps to ensure access to the linguistic, cultural and human rights provided by the Framework Convention to the Cornish minority.

Sarah Newton on Devonwall … and more! Extraordinary attack on “Cornish Nationalists” from Truro MP

We are aware that the Council of Europe Opinion Report was sent to the UK Government some time ago to enable it to prepare a formal response to the findings.  Unfortunately, while Ministers chose to share the Opinion Report with the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Ireland prior to today’s publication, they did not provide a copy to Cornwall. We are disappointed by this further evidence of discrimination which meant that we were unable to influence the Government’s response or prepare our own response to the findings or recommendations.

The Opinion Report sets out a number of specific recommendations related to Cornwall, the majority of which we have already been pursuing with the UK Government and other national bodies.  These include calling on the Government to review its decision to cut funding for the Cornish language, and taking action to include a Cornish tick-box in the next census and revise the BBC Charter to include the Cornish language in the list of minority languages.

Although the Government’s Response does comment on a small number of the issues raised by the Council of Europe, it fails to address the majority of its recommendations.  We note the Government’s previous comment on the creation of the Cornish Culture Fund and the offer to work with the Council and partners to build on the devolution deal.  However, while we welcome the announcement of funding to help promote Cornwall’s cultural distinctiveness over the next two years, we are very disappointed with the small amount of funding they are providing.

Furthermore until last year the Government, which has recognised the Cornish language as a British minority language, had provided up to £150,000 a year to support the Cornish Language but then made the decision to stop this funding suddenly.

Cornwall Council is committed to ensuring the Cornish can access the linguistic and cultural rights accorded by the Framework Convention.  In 2015 we set up a Cornish Minority Working Group which produced an Action Plan to support this work.

Specific achievements to date include:

  • Raising awareness of the Cornish National Minority in Cornwall among both local partners and community groups, and national organisations, including the Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Royal Institute of British Architects, through presentations, workshop and attendance at festivals and events such as the Lowenda Perran Festival.
  • Commitment to develop an e-learning package on Cornish identity, language, culture and history for Council staff and promoting the use of the Cornish language in email signatures, presentations and letter templates
  • Raising awareness of the need to monitor Cornish identity among public and third sector organisations, with Cornish identity now recognised and monitored by the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust.
  • Establishing a new Heritage Board and Forum as part of the Cornwall Devolution Deal to help manage the cultural distinctiveness of heritage assets within Cornwall.
  • Supporting projects to promote Cornish culture, with the Man Engine seen by more than 150,000 people during his tour of Cornwall last year.
  • Lobbying the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for Cornish to be given the same access to media as other protected national minorities by the BBC
  • Formally adopting a Cornish Language Strategy and Plan to promote and incorporate Cornish at the Council and among partners.  Recent actions include establishing Akademi Kernewek to research the language and publish a new online dictionary and commissioning Golden Tree to provide teacher training in six schools in the Penzance Area so they can offer Cornish language teaching.
  • Opposing the creation of a cross border MP constituency that would threaten Cornwall’s historic border

Following today’s publication we will be considering the detail of both the Opinion Report and the Response from the Government before making a formal response to both publications.

In the meantime, while we remain disappointed with today’s Response from the Government , we are committed to working with our MPs and Ministers to find solutions to the concerns raised in the Opinion Report and turning the recommendations into reality.”

Read the full thing here

National Minority Report

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