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Cornish National Minority

On 24 April 2014, the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a national minority under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM). The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish now affords them the same status as the UK's other Celtic people – the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.

Being recognised as a national minority means that the Cornish have "the right to express, preserve, share and develop their distinct culture and identity."

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National minority status will help to address negative attitudes to being Cornish which for many years, have affected how Cornish people of all ages feel and act – in the workplace, in engagements with public institutions (including schools, colleges, NHS), in social situations and in cultural exchanges. It will give Cornwall’s young people more confidence and encouragement to identify with their cultural identity. It will also help promote and strengthen the ‘Cornish’ brand and establish links with other groups holding similar status across Europe and around the world.

The Council of Europe's Framework Convention

The FCNM is one of the most comprehensive treaties designed to protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. The UK Government became a signatory to the treaty on 1 February 1995. The treaty was ratified on 15 January 1998 and came into force on 1 May 1998. Parties to the Framework Convention undertake to "promote the full and effective equality of persons belonging to minorities in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life together with the conditions that will allow them to express, preserve and develop their culture and identity".

In early 2014, Cornwall Council produced a paper summarising why the Cornish should be recognised as a national minority. In the autumn of 2014, the UK Government requested that the Council of Europe update the Framework Convention. The decision to recognise the Cornish was welcomed by the FCNM Advisory Committee.  

Cornwall Council has produced a bite-sized guide explaining what recognition of the Cornish as a national minority means in the context of the Framework Convention. 

Compliance with the Framework Convention is monitored by the Council of Europe, and signatories to the treaty must submit reports every five years. To date the UK Government has complied with four reporting cycles. The Cornish were recognised as a national minority in the Government's fourth compliance report which was submitted to the Council of Europe on 26 March 2015. A Council of Europe delegation visited Cornwall in March 2016. In February 2017 the Council of Europe published its Fourth Opinion compliance report, followed by a UK Government commentary.

The UK Government is currently compiling its fifth cycle report. The Cornish National Minority Working Group has provided the Government with its input

Whilst the onus is on the UK Government as signatory to the treaty, Cornwall Council does all it can within the context of limited resources to promote compliance.

Cornwall Council and its partners have been working hard to raise awareness of the Cornish as a national minority and to encourage the UK Government to fulfil its responsibilities so that the Cornish are treated equally with other Celtic nations. Public bodies have been reviewing their policies, their procedures and their responses to the Cornish to ensure that a level playing field exists for them in comparison with other minority cultural groups.

Cornwall Council's Constitution and Governance Committee has appointed a Member-led Cornish National Minority Working Group to focus on Cornish Minority Status and compliance with the Framework Convention.  

Five years on from recognition, much has been achieved in Cornwall, but there is still more to do.

In June 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU. This caused concern among some community groups about whether the Council of Europe's protection of national minorities would still be upheld after the UK leaves the EU.

Cornwall Council contacted the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government on these questions. On 13 February 2017 they confirmed that:

"The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is a Council of Europe instrument, and has nothing to do with the European Union. The UK ratified the Framework Convention in 1998 and this will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU."

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