Sunday, 20 August 2017

Keeping up the pressure for a Cornish tick-box

In this coming week's Cornish Guardian, my article reports on the recent meeting between Cornwall Council and officials from the Office of National Statistics. It will be as follows:

Earlier this month, prominent officials from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) visited Cornwall to meet with representatives of the unitary authority.

The visitors included the Acting Director for the 2021 census, the ONS’s Head of Census Statistical Design & Outputs, and a senior research officer; and the main focus of the meeting was to discuss our demands for a Cornish tick-box on the next census.

In the last census in 2011, the question on national identity gave a choice of five tick-boxes: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and British. There was also an “other” box, which invited people to “write in” their nationality.

In the event, a total of 73,220 residents of Cornwall described themselves as Cornish, which equated to 13.8% of the overall population. On a local basis, the top five parishes for self-identification were St Dennis (22.0%), St Hilary (21.6%), St Wenn (21.4%), Carharrack (21.3%) and Warleggan (21.3%); the lowest was Botus Fleming (4.0%).

It is impressive, and significant, that nearly 14% of people in Cornwall took the initiative to self-identify as Cornish in the 2011 census but, if there had been a tick-box option, the number of people registered as Cornish would undoubtedly have been considerably higher.

This can be shown by what has transpired in Wales. In 2001, there was no Welsh tick-box on the census, but 14.4% of residents in Wales self-identified as Welsh using the “other” option. A decade on, the inclusion of a tick-box option in the 2011 census meant that 66.6% of people in Wales expressed their national identity as Welsh – a greater than four-fold increase.

In its initial feedback, the ONS indicted that they were not minded to include a Cornish tick-box in the 2021 census but, at the recent meeting, we made a strong – and I would say unanswerable – case for parity with other UK nationalities.

We pointed out how, since the last census, the UK Government had recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, affording them the “same status” as the “UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

We reminded the ONS that, in their Opinion Report, the Council of Europe has made a specific recommendation that a Cornish tick-box be included to ensure compliance with the Framework Convention. And we made it clear that by excluding a Cornish tick-box from the 2021 census, the UK authorities would be actively discriminating against the Cornish national minority that they themselves had formally recognised in 2014.

The discussions with ONS are ongoing and Cornwall Council is preparing additional briefing information for the organisation. I will report back again soon on what progress is made.

No comments: