Minority Status for the Cornish

After a long campaign and with three previous unsuccessful bids, the Cornish have been granted Minority Status under the EU Framework Convention of National Minorities. This is fantastic news, and credit should go to all those – it is a long list – who lobbied and never gave up. This is especially to my fellow Cabinet Member, Bert Biscoe who has been a leading part of the campaign for the last 20 years.

St Pirans

Under the status, the Cornish will be afforded the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and the Irish.  This means that Government departments and public bodies will be required to take Cornwall’s views into account when making decisions. The convention ensures that the rights of national minorities are respected by combating discrimination, promoting equality and preserving and developing the culture and identity of national minorities. 

inclusion in the convention will mean:

  • Recognise the distinctiveness of the Cornish and enhance the United Kingdom’s reputation as a country that celebrates and supports the diversity of its inhabitants.
  • Further the economic interests, not just of Cornwall, but of the United Kingdom as a whole.
  • Help strengthen the confidence of our young people that they are encouraged to identify with their cultural identity, and that this is valued by the rest of the country.
  • Help strengthen the ‘Cornish’ brand and provide a mechanism whereby the Cornish can establish and strengthen links with other groups accorded similar status across Europe and around the world.  
  • Create stronger links between communities and a greater understanding of shared values to help create more vibrant communities than can shape their own future.

Cornwall Council has stated its support for the Cornish as an ethnic minority in its Equality and Diversity Framework which can be found here.  This was strengthened in 2011 when the then Group Leaders endorsed the framework. More recently, a working group led by Cllr Bert Biscoe and Cllr Julian German and including Cllr Malcolm Brown, Cllr Dick Cole, Will Coleman, Maureen Fuller, Ed Rowe, Ian Saltern and Cllr Douglas Scrafton. Cornwall’s MP’s have also played their part in achieving this status. And therefore should be congratulated for their work.

Sadly, Minority Status does not attract – at the moment –  extra funding, but this excellent news should be celebrated for all those who have Cornwall’s best interest at heart.

The confirmation on Minority Status was set for the 24th with a Government Minister visiting Cornwall (surely not politicking so close to European and National Elections!) to deliver the message and was therefore embargoed till then – hence the timing of this blog and playing by the rules of honouring the embargo.

However in the age of social media, this story was first broke by a national; which sort of let the cat out of the bag and the embargo became nothing more than a word.

It is however, rather ironic the news of Cornish Minority Status broke on St George’s Day……

I will leave you with one further though and a question that attracts a different answer depending on who you ask the question to. What makes you Cornish? Birthright, or how you feel?


  • I think a “sense of place” works for me. I have a family made up of children, and a grandchild, who, due to different circumstances, could consider themselves born English, Cornish or Manx, but they, like me, have been profoundly affected by the emotional sense of place you acquire from living here for many years. And there are many types of Cornish; there are the Cornish who live by the sea, on or near the moors, in Clay Country, in the city and towns. I think it transcends ethnic inheritance or language, and I hope that people can see identifying themselves as Cornish to be a positive and inclusive thing, a joint commitment to make our shared community a better place.

  • Andy C

    Although I read your blogs with great interest I rarely take the time to comment. It is indeed great news that we Cornish have been granted minority status but to answer your question to be truly Cornish you should be born and bred in the county of Cornwall.

  • Roger Curnow

    I have a Cornish surname, born in Cornwall and have a lengthy Cornish lineage; for me that makes me Cornish.

    However, these attributes should not be seen as the ‘definitive requirement’ to identify as Cornish or a requirement for any other ethnicity. I know people who have come to Cornwall on holiday many times over the years and have now chosen Cornwall as their home.

    They feel an empathy with Cornwall; a sense of belonging that wasn’t present when they lived in England. As a family they are learning the Cornish language, passing their knowledge to their children, and described their ethnicity as Cornish on the 2011 Census. That is their right.

    Some years ago I made a grave error of judgement in asserting to a Cornishman, who was born in Devon, that he was English – I have never felt inclined to impose my assumptions of another person’s ethnicity since!

    Britain is multi-cultural and has been for centuries. Today, Britain’s national teams have a mix of ethnic/races who define themselves according to the country where they live and play for. The English national sides have players who are not of Anglo-Saxon decent; some not Caucasian – but they define themselves as English. That is their right.

    I would have no problem with Andrew putting a tick in the Cornish tick-box on the next census.

  • A question that people ought to stop asking. Does anyone ask an Englishman what makes him English? Or why is a Welshman Welsh? Why does it always have to be us to justify who we are? If a person says that he or she is Cornish, then that’s it. Full stop. They don’t have to justify it and no one has the right to ask them to.

  • For a look at National Minority status and what it really means,… go see my play ‘National Minority; which is touring Cornwall right now.

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