Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Today's article in the Cornish Guardian: The Framework Convention

My column in today’s Cornish Guardian reports back of the recent visit of the Advisory Committee to consider compliance with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The article is an extended version of an earlier blogpost, but is here for the same of completeness.

The article is as follows:

In April 2014, the UK Government bowed to years of pressure and recognised the Cornish people through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Without doubt, it was a landmark ruling that the Cornish should be afforded the same protections as the other Celtic peoples of these Islands, namely the Irish, Scottish and Welsh.

But it must be said that many people in Cornwall, myself included, remain frustrated that central government has not been more proactive in acting on the various “articles” of the document.

It was good that, last week, the Advisory Committee from the Council of Europe visited the United Kingdom to meet with politicians, cultural activists and others (from Cornwall, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) to assess how the UK Government and public bodies were adhering to the Framework Convention.

The Committee were in Cornwall on Wednesday 9th March.

In the morning, the delegation met with about a dozen representatives of various Cornish language and cultural groups; and in the afternoon they met with representatives from Cornwall Council.

This afternoon session was attended by council officers with responsibility for areas as diverse as equality, culture, the Cornish language and planning; as well as a number of elected representatives (Council leader John Pollard, Bert Biscoe, Julian German, Ann Kerridge and myself) who serve on the Council’s working group on the Framework, along with Ed Rowe and Ian Saltern.

Cllr Bert Biscoe, who was the principal driving force behind the campaign for some twenty years to secure this recognition for the Cornish, took the opportunity to thank the Advisory Committee for its past assistance and support, when he and others were making representations for national minority status.

The afternoon session 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 and significant powers to act on the behalf of their residents.

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

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

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 for all aspects of Cornish identity, culture and language, as well as political progress for Cornwall and its people.

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