Cornish people want parity with Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish, urging ministers to follow up on official minority status
They may have a proud history and vibrant culture, but there is one thing the Cornish people are missing out on that their Celtic cousins already enjoy – a tickbox in the census for England and Wales.
A delegation from Cornwall council is taking its campaign for such recognition to Westminster on Wednesday, arguing that at the next census its people ought to be able to identify themselves as Cornish with a flick of the pen.
To an outsider it may seem trivial, but to many people in Cornwall a specific tickbox would be a sign that Cornwall was being given the same respect as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Councillor Dick Cole, who was representing Cornwall council at a meeting with representatives of the Office for National Statistics and other officials, said the issue was an important one.
“The Cornish were officially recognised as a national minority more than three years ago but so far there has been nothing tangible to accompany this declaration,” he said.
“It is time that the government backed up their fine words with action and we will continue to make the case for Cornwall at every opportunity.”
In 2014 the UK government announced that the 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. The news was widely celebrated across Cornwall.
But earlier this year the British government was criticised by the Council of Europe for not doing enough to address the cultural needs of communities in the far south-west of Britain.
The council’s advisory committee monitoring the protection of national minorities criticised UK ministers for cutting funding for the Cornish language, and suggested they work harder to devolve power and raise the profile of Cornish life.
At the 2011 census other Celtic nations were given a tickbox but the Cornish had to tick “other” and write “Cornish” in. According to the ONS, 14% of people in Cornwall did this.
Cole, leader of the party Mebyon Kernow, which campaigns for a national assembly for Cornwall, said it was impressive that so many people had taken the initiative and identified as Cornish, but that if there had been a specific tickbox the number would have been much higher.