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Responsibility for promoting Cornish language should be in Cornwall, UK Government told

31 Mar 2021 4 minutes Read
Porthysek in Cornwall. Photo by Greg Willson on Unsplash

Richard Whitehouse, local democracy reporter

The Government has been told that it should give responsibility and provide funding for the promotion of Cornish to Cornwall and Cornwall Council.

The Council Of Europe has made the recommendation after reviewing what action had been taken following a previous analysis of how the UK Government had fared in fulfilling its role in protecting national minorities.

It had previously criticised the Government for not doing enough to promote the Cornish and protect the Cornish language.

And the latest review, published yesterday, has again criticised the UK Government for a lack of action.

To try and address the issue the Council of Europe has recommended that the Government devolve all responsibility and provide funding to Cornwall and Cornwall Council so that it can fulfil the requirements as set out in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM).

The UK Government recognised the Cornish as a national minority in 2014 putting Cornish in line with other national minorities such as Welsh, Irish and Scottish.

But many people and organisations in Cornwall, as well as the Council of Europe, have been critical of the lack of support and funding which has been provided by the Government to ensure the promotion and protection of Cornish language, heritage and culture.

The Council of Europe has said that Cornwall Council should be allowed to join the British-Irish Council to help with the promotion and protection of Cornish interests.

But in its latest report it states: “The United Kingdom authorities continue to state that Cornwall Council cannot be represented as a member on the British-Irish Council, as it is not a devolved nation, but that it continues to have observer status and is formally represented by the British Government.”

‘Ad hoc’

The report also says that the UK authorities say they are providing funding to support Cornish – highlighting that the Government provided £150,000 in 2019/20 to Cornwall Council for Cornish language projects. However it also highlights that no funding was provided in 2020/21. The Council of Europe said that this shows the need for regular and sustainable funding.

It also states: “In statements submitted to the Committee of Experts, representatives of the Cornish speakers point out that whilst Cornwall Council was responsible for Cornish language protection and promotion, the specific funding necessary for successfully carrying out those responsibilities was not provided. Some representatives also pointed to a decline in the use of Cornish in public life as a result.

“On funding, representatives pointed out that the previous funding provided had been maximised in terms of outcomes, but that without subsequent sustainable support, much of the progress that the previous grant achieved would be lost. Other representatives also highlighted that the sustainability of any measures taken remains in question as long as funding is on this ad hoc basis, and that membership of the British-Irish Council should still be considered for Cornwall Council.”

‘Independent’

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts said there was a need for the Government to devolve responsibility to Cornwall Council.

It said: “The Committee of Experts regrets that Cornwall Council has not had further responsibilities devolved to it. It considers that devolving these responsibilities would also provide greater clarity to the local authorities as to their role in protecting and promoting Cornish, and would offer the opportunity to set out the measures to be taken across different fields in order to promote the use of Cornish.

“Further responsibility could also be given through the British-Irish Council, to allow Cornwall Council to fully benefit from the experience and expertise of the devolved nations. The Committee of Experts welcomes Cornwall Council’s open approach to taking responsibility for the protection and promotion of Cornish, as it welcomes the fact that Cornwall Council consulted representatives of Cornish speakers during the drafting of its section of the UK’s submission.”

In conclusion the report states: “The Committee of Experts maintains its view that the United Kingdom authorities should proceed with the formal devolution of responsibility, along with clearly defined and delineated measures for the protection and promotion of the Cornish language, to Cornwall Council.”

And adds: “Moreover, this should include specific and dedicated funding for such measures as are defined, which should be sustainable and regular, allowing for progressive action to maintain the revitalisation of Cornish, and depoliticising the issue of the promotion of Cornish.

“Equally, the measures and funding provided should be reviewed regularly in consultation with Cornish speakers in order to ensure they continue to meet identified needs. The UK authorities should again consider giving Cornwall Council a more active and independent role in the British-Irish Council.”

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