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Cornish National Minority

On 24 April 2014, the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a national minority.  This was under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM).

The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish now affords them the same status as;

  • 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."

National minority status will help to address negative attitudes to being Cornish;

  • 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.  As well as establish links with other groups holding similar status across Europe and around the world.

The Council of Europe's Framework Convention

The FCPNM is one of the most comprehensive treaties. It is 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.  This is 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 FCPNM Advisory Committee.

We have produced a bite-sized guide.  This explains what recognition of the Cornish as a national minority means in the context of the Framework Convention.

Compliance with the Framework Convention

Compliance with the Framework Convention is monitored by the Council of Europe. Signatories to the treaty must submit reports every five years.

To date the UK Government has complied with five reporting cycles. The Cornish were recognised as a national minority in the Government's fourth compliance report.  This 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.

How do we support and promote the Framework Convention?

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.  They have also been working hard to encourage the UK Government to fulfil its responsibilities.  This is so that the Cornish are treated equally with other Celtic nations.

Public bodies have been reviewing their policies, procedures and responses to the Cornish.  This is 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.  The group will focus on Cornish Minority Status and compliance with the Framework Convention.

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

The timeline

  • Announcement by Danny Alexander – 24 April 2014
  • Government consultation on the Council of Europe Compliance Report – August to October 2014
  • Ratification by the Council of Europe – March 2015
  • The Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.  They published its Fourth Opinion on the United Kingdom in March 2017
  • This Opinion was further strengthened by the resolution on the implementation of the FCPNM. This was adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on 7 February 2018
  • Cornwall Council's submission to the UK Government Fifth Cycle Report on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities – May 2019
  • Cornwall Council Submission To Communications Select Committee
  • Census 2021 and Cornish National Minority 
  • Cornwall Council's 2021 update to the UK Government Fifth Cycle Report

Exiting the EU

In June 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU.

This caused concern among some community groups.  This was about whether the Council of Europe's protection of national minorities would still be upheld after the UK leaves the EU.

The 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.  It 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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