Is the Cornish Tick Box under threat?

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Report by Cornish Stuff editor Milo Perrin

This Friday, top officials from the Office of National Statistics visit Cornwall in response to the latest report from the Council of Europe on Cornwall’s National Minority Status.

The report, known as The Fourth Opinion, published in March, clearly states that Cornish people should be given a box to tick at the next census. Homepage

“The Advisory Committee calls on the authorities to take the necessary measures to include the possibility to self-identify as Cornish, through a ‘tick-box’ in the next census, and to facilitate the expression of self identification of any other group because data collection is relevant to the application of minority rights” says the Council of Europe report.

However, in the recently published Cornish National Minority Working Group Action Plan the stated position of the ONS is that we won’t get one. 

A response from Garnett Compton (Head of Census Statistical Design and Outputs, ONS) to Cllr Dick Cole (MK) confirmed the current ONS position that their will be no Cornish language tick-box or ethnicity tick-box in the next census.

Instead, the ONS has decided to continue with write-in option for the 2021 Census for Cornish within the ‘ethnicity’ and ‘language’ sections despite lobbying from CC for separate tick-boxes. The Council’s FCPNM Working Group believe it is inconsistent for the ONS to recognise the Cornish as a national minority but to conclude that no action is necessary.

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

There is hope that ONS officials will use their visit this week to announce a change of mind and give the Cornish the tick box that it is their right to expect.

An official at county hall told Cornish Stuff “The current position is as stated in the Action Plan. We have continued to press for a tick box for the Cornish on the 2021 Census, so the fact that the ONS has agreed to meet with us is both welcoming and encouraging. So I think it is fair to say that at this stage we remain hopeful”

Up til now Cornish people have had to tick the ‘other’ box and write in Cornish. Despite this inconvenience, 73,200 (14%) self identified as Cornish in the last census. It’s expected that the number would significantly increase if there was a tick box, as proved the case when introduced for the Welsh.

It is felt this figure greatly under represents the true number of Cornish.
There has been a year on year increase in Cornwall’s school Census with 51%
(January 2016) of students self-identifying as Cornish. It is believed this figure is
more representative of the potential number of Cornish in Cornwall.

The argument about who should be allowed to tick the box marked ‘Cornish’ is for another article altogether..

Census poster - A4.JPG
Guide to filling in the last census

The Council of Europe is a separate entity to the European Union and as such
Brexit will not have any impact on the UK’s continued support for the
Convention. The Cornish were awarded recognition by the UK Government under
the Framework Convention in April 2014.

Inclusion in the Framework Convention is supposed to ensure that the Cornish are afforded the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and the Irish. But is this happening?

In essence, this means that Government departments and public bodies will be required to consider the rights of the Cornish when formulating national and local policy.

However it hasn’t really got underway and this could be the fault of the administration at County Hall not giving it the support or attention it needs to be fully implemented.

Full Council agreed to continue the work of a Member Cornish Minority Working Group to ensure that the Council adheres to the provisions of the Framework Convention. This group comprises of  three Members of the council’s Constitution and Governance Committee, the Cabinet Member for Resources Bob Egerton (responsibility for Equality and Diversity) three Bards from Gorsedh Kernow (currently Ian Saltern, Will Coleman and Ed Rowe aka Kernow King) plus one Member from each Political Group.

It was noticeable at the last Constitution and Governance Committee that no hands went up when volunteers were called for to join the working group on the committee’s behalf. Not all political groups have appointed a member to the group yet either. There is no recognition of FCPNM on the Council’s new Leadership Board, or the LEP board and there was no mention of it at the lengthy post election press launch of the Council’s priorities. At the recent Heritage Kernow Forum council leaders and cabinet members were noted for their absence. It just doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the top of their agenda. At it’s worst point the attitude at County hall is that it’s a sideshow that ‘MK, Bert and that lot’ should be left to deal with.

However the Council says  actively supporting Cornish culture. One of the most high profileevents in 2016 was The Man Engine, part funded by the council. Over the summer, The Man Engine was visited by approx. 150,000 people in Cornwall.

Council hits back at latest claims by Cornwall’s MPs that the council is spending money ‘unwisely’ on Cornish culture.

As part of the Cornwall Devolution Deal, the Council established a Heritage
Board and Forum. This has opened the door for discussion among national partners on how to better recognise and appropriately manage the cultural distinctiveness of heritage assets within Cornwall. At the recent Forum it was suggested that the Council should adopt a Heritsge Growth Strategy akin to the much vaunted Environmental Growth Strategy for Cornwall announced earlier this year.

It has also been a challenging year for Cornish Language. 2016 saw the removal of
all Cornish language funding from UK Government. The Working Group,
economic development and partners lobbied UK Government for stable funding
for the language and devolution of powers to enable protection and use of the
Cornish language. The government responded that they have have set up the Cornish Cultural Fund (£50k per year for two years) and the council are welcome to use that to support the language if they want to.

This week Gorsedh Kernow has announced the results of 68 candidates who took their Cornish Language exams in June. “This is more than 20% up again on last year’s number of candidates who are learning and taking exams in our precious Cornish language, Kernewek and more than a 40% rise in the number of students taking their First Grade exams,” said Grand Bard of Cornwall Merv Davey, Telynyor an Weryn.

“The Council of Europe have recognised the Cornish people and the importance of our cultural assets, such as Kernewek, under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities ” continued the Grand Bard “and once again we call on HM Government to reconsider their cuts to Cornish language funding.”

Council officials point to some progress in adopting the principles of the FCPNM.
Arts Council England has now included support for Cornish culture and language as a specific objective within the Arts Council England Corporate Plan 2015-18. Furthermore, Devon and Cornwall Police are now collecting data on hate crimes and incidents against the Cornish. The Cornish are also included in the ‘We Say No To Hate’ crime campaign.

However, as recognised within the Council of Europe’s Fourth Opinion, there is
some way to go and a specific action rests with convincing the BBC and other
national organisations to recognise the Cornish in the context of the Framework


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