Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Short report on visit of the Advisory Committee (Framework Convention)

Today, I had the privilege to meet the Advisory Committee from the Council of Europe, which was visiting the United Kingdom to assess how the British Government and other bodies were adhering to the various articles of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

It is, of course, the first visit of the Advisory Committee since the Cornish were recognised under the auspices of this Framework Convention in April 2014.

In the morning, the delegation met with about a dozen representatives of Cornish language and cultural groups.

I attended the afternoon session, when they met with representatives from Cornwall Council. These included officers with responsibility for areas as diverse as equality, culture, the Cornish language and planning; the leader of the Council John Pollard; other elected representatives who serve on the Council’s working group on the Framework (Bert Biscoe, Julian German, Ann Kerridge and myself) as well as Ed Rowe and Ian Saltern (who also serve on the working group).

It was a positive meeting and the participants were very honest about what has transpired over the last two years.

We repeatedly made the point about the limitations of the political set-up in Cornwall, compared to Wales and Scotland which obviously have their own governments. It was also noted how central government often has a blindspot when it comes to Cornwall.

Issues discussed included education, the Cornish language and the uncertainty around central government funding for the language, the inclusive nature of Cornish society, the need for meaningful devolution, the lack of respect for Cornish territoriality and the threat of a cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency.

The Advisory Committee were very engaged with the issues raised in our session and clearly had a very strong commitment to cultural diversity and the rights of national minorities.

I do remember that one of the members of the Advisory Committee stated that the Framework Convention needed to be mainstreamed into all aspects of Cornish Society.

This is a strong message which, I believe, was welcomed by all present, and I sincerely hope that the outcome of the visit will help build momentum in terms of progress for the Cornish national minority.

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