• November 26, 2013


The Kernow Branch of the Celtic League have sent a letter to Eric Pickles MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government calling on him to recommend the inclusion of the Cornish as a distinct group under the terms of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

The letter campaign forms part of a much longer campaign that the Branch has been involved in since the Framework Convention was launched fifteen years ago. The Branch has been active in raising the issue again in recent weeks since delegates passed a resolution reiterating the call for inclusion at the Celtic League AGM in Cymru/Wales in October 2013.

Since October the Branch has set up a Facebook campaign group, which has attracted almost 1000 members in less than two weeks has is pursuing a letter writing campaign calling on members of the League and interested parties to write to their MP’s asking them to call on the UK government to include the Cornish.

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the launch of the Framework Convention and a high-level round-table event was hosted by the Council of Europe (CoE) in Brussels to mark the occasion. The Kernow branch were active in lobbying participants who attended the CoE event to raise the issue of the Cornish and yesterday (25th November) a member of the House of Commons asked the government when the Cornish will be officially recognised. In response the government minister who responded said that the matter is being “considered” and the decision will be made public in their report in May 2014.

Only 52,800 people in Cornwall (10% of the population) describe their national identity as Cornish with a further 20,400 people stated Cornish plus another identity, putting the total figure at 73,200 or 14% of the total population, according to the 2011 Census data.

The full text of the letter sent to Pickles by the Branch can be found below.

“The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
SW1E 5DU November, 2013

Dear Secretary of State

Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities: The Cornish People

At the Annual General Meeting of the Celtic League held in Pontypridd, Cymru from the 25th to 27th October, 2013, the following resolution was adopted:

(In Cornish) An Cuntelles Kemyn Bledhennek-ma a dhaslever y gry war an Governans Brettannek rag an Cuntelles An Clos Ewropek Rag An Defens A Lyharyvow Kenedhlek, bos gorrys dhe dus a Gernow
(In English)

This Annual General Meeting reiterates its call on the British Government for the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities to be applied to the Cornish people.

Both Labour and coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat governments have long denied the Cornish people this right to full recognition as a national ethnic minority and to afford them the protections offered by the Convention. No good reason has been given for this refusal, which is both discriminatory and sorely disadvantageous to an ancient people.

In fact, the only reason which has been given is bizarre, notably that the Cornish have no race relations case law. On the other hand, several applications under that law have been refused a hearing by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the grounds that the Cornish people are not recognised as an ethnic minority – an engineered situation in which the Cornish people are simply not being permitted to win.

The situation is all the more unacceptable when it is acknowledged that several minorities included on the Convention by the UK Government also have no extant race relations case law. Clearly, prejudice is being brought to bear against a single indigenous minority.

That the Cornish people are a distinct ethnic group is indisputable. Their history, culture and native language, not to mention Cornwall’s unique constitutional status, differ markedly from any other group, minority or otherwise, in the UK. At the 2011 Census, 73,200 people distinguished themselves as Cornish, rather than British or English, in spite of not being afforded a specific tick-box. In 2011, 41% of Cornish schoolchildren similarly registered as Cornish in the local PLASC survey.

Recently, results from the 8-year genetic survey, entitled “The People of the British Isles” published findings. Carried out by Oxford University under the auspices of the Wellcome Trust and headed by Professor Sir Walter Bodmer, this has determined that the Cornish people form a notably distinct group. Professor Peter Donnelly, a chief geneticist in this project has stated that: “The people in Cornwall form a genetically distinct group, different from people in Devon.” The project believes that the Cornish are a “relic group” directly descended from the very first re-colonists of a totally depopulated Britain after the final glaciations 11,500 years ago, an ethnic antiquity only shared by people in western Wales.

Genetics to one side, it is fully accepted that there is a basic human right for individuals to self identify as they wish. Hence, many others in addition to the above choose to identify as Cornish just as some newcomers to other places lawfully choose to identify with the local indigenous population.

The case for full acknowledgement of a distinct Cornish ethnicity, and full inclusion of the Cornish people in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities could not be clearer. Nevertheless, the UK Government has taken a stance which is both severely prejudicial and of great disadvantage to the most ancient of people in this island.

We call upon you to allow an unconditional inclusion and protection of the Cornish people on this important Convention.

We have also circulated copies of this letter to Constituency MPs in Cornwall calling for their support.

Yours faithfully”


Facebook: Recognise the Cornish as a National Minority –


For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
General Secretary, Celtic League
M: 07787318666

The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

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