Celebration as Cornish granted national minority status in Britain

Governmentannouncement giving the people of Cornwall the same recognition as the Irish, Scots and Welsh leads to dancing in streets

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 9:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 12:49am


Cornish people were dancing in the streets as they celebrated the British government's announcement that they are to be recognised as a national minority for the first time.

"I think it's a very important day for Cornwall," said Bert Biscoe, an independent councillor and a long-time campaigner for the status.

"Up to now we have been an invisible minority. This makes us visible. We've long been regarded as an eccentric add-on. I think this gives us an opportunity to gain more dignity, more respect."

The announcement came last week from London, more than 300 kilometres away.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said it meant Cornish people would be classified under the European framework convention for the protection of national minorities in the same way as the UK's other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.

Alexander said: "Cornish people have a proud history and a distinct identity. I am delighted we have been able to officially recognise this and afford the Cornish people the same status as other minorities in the UK."

The communities minister, Stephen Williams, said: "This is a great day for the people of Cornwall, who have long campaigned for the distinctiveness and identity of the Cornish people to be recognised officially."

After the celebrations are over, it will be up to politicians - both in Cornwall and on a UK level - to work out the ramifications of the status.

Biscoe said it would help Cornish bodies when they applied for grants from UK organisations.

It might, for example, be easier for Cornish groups to apply for arts funding for specific Cornish projects. Biscoe said it should also make health statistics relating to Cornish people clearer.

The grand bard of Cornwall, Mo Fuller, welcomed the news with a Cornish phrase,
Gwyn agan bys, meaning the world is a wonderful place.

"We have been working for this recognition for our nation for years. We understand how distinctive our culture is - the world outside doesn't always."

Fuller, a retired teacher, said it was particularly good news for the young people of Cornwall.

Fuller added: "I've been brainwashing children for 40 years about Cornishness and I sometimes think they didn't know what I was going on about.

"To be recognised like this is important for them. It means they'll be able to tick the box for Cornish in the next census with pride. I'm as high as a kite. I'm in my Cornish tartan and will be having a great day."

The news does not mean that Cornwall is breaking away from Britain. But despite that, the announcement was welcomed by the Mebyon Kernow party, which is campaigning for a Cornish national assembly.

Its leader, Dick Cole, said: "This is a fantastic announcement for Cornwall. I am absolutely delighted that the government has recognised the Cornish people as a national minority."