Council disappointed at Government ‘discrimination’

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Cornwall Council has welcomed the findings of a report from the Council of Europe which recognises the importance of Cornwall’s unique culture and heritage.

The opinion report published today (March 9) 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 report was compiled by the Council of Europe following its review of the UK Government’s Compliance Report, submitted in 2015, which 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 last year. 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.

In a statement issued today, Cornwall Council said: “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 the Council has 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,” said Cornwall Council.

“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.

“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.”

A Government spokesman told Business Cornwall: “We’re supporting the further development of Cornish culture and heritage, including with more than £800k funding since 2010. This complements Cornwall’s core spending powers of £1.7 billion over the next four years.”