Hold That Door


Last week, the London regime finally bowed to pressure to recognise the Cornish as a national minority under the relevant Council of Europe agreement.  Or tried to, not very hard.  The official press release talks about having to ‘modify’ the application of the European convention to accommodate the idea of a national minority – the Cornish – existing, on their home ground, within some other nation’s territory – England.  It’s an unsustainable solution that defies the logic of language – the cornu-wealasare the Welsh of the far west and thus their land of Cornwall, by definition, cannot be part of a modern England that doesn’t invite itself to be denounced as imperialist.

Cornwall’s achievement attracted huge goodwill from many quarters, tinged with sadness that several of those who fought most tenaciously for it died in recent months without seeing their life’s work crowned with success.  Others, for some reason, seemed aggrieved, as if their own lives are diminished by joys they do not comprehend.  ‘Cornwall is NOT a country.  End of.’  Well, no, start of, actually.  Recognition will now be the thin end of a wedge to be driven as a stake into the centralist heart.
Are we next in line?  Cornwall now joins Scotland as evidence that the tectonic plates of UK constitutional politics are on the move.  The idea that recognising the Cornish is some clever gambit to see off Scottish independence, showing how a multi-nation UK can exist successfully, is one that spectacularly misses the point.  Concessions are accumulating precisely because the UK doesn’t work and because that fact is being grasped ever more widely.  Channel 4 even produced a map, with a bizarre interpretation of Wessex that managed to exclude both Wantage and Winchester.  The Southern Daily Echo grabbed a few quotes, then took them out of context to fit the already-written headline.  For now, the hacks are getting it a bit muddled, in a sometimes comical way.  It’s all new to them, this freedom thing.  Come to this blog if you want a proper explanation.
Wessex is a region.  It’s not a nation and so cannot benefit directly from ideas about national minority status.  That’s not to say though that we can’t manage our own affairs as well as any Celtic nation can manage theirs.  Better government is better government, whatever you call the area governed.  So in that sense, we hope very much that Cornwall will hold the door open, first for the recognition from above that we exist and that our existence entitles us to fair treatment, then for the recognition from below that, at the end of the day, we need recognition from no-one, just the self-will to cast off the deadening London yoke.

4 comments on “Hold That Door

  1. May 15, 2014 MawKernewek

    http://www.gov.uk/government/news/cornish-granted-minority-status-within-the-uk

    "The government’s approach to the Framework Convention is to be modified.." – and then it doesn't say how. The cynic in me is thinking they're trying to put in caveats which reading between the lines mean they don't intend to actually implement the provisions of the Convention.

    Reply
  2. May 15, 2014 David Robins

    The full sentence is: "The government’s approach to the Framework Convention is to be modified to recognise the unique position of the Cornish as a Celtic people within England."

    This can mean (a) modified to include the Cornish alongside the Scots, Welsh, Irish; or (b) modified to recognise the Cornish but only as a Celtic people within England, not within their own country as the others are.

    I think the second is more likely, because the 'modified' approach helps London explain why the Cornish weren't included at the outset. If you look at it from a common public sector viewpoint – that governments don't make mistakes, they only adjust policy in the light of changed circumstances – the concession can be explained away as a halfway house. Recognition, but not necessarily the whole deal, especially as regards the 'Cornwall is in England' line.

    Reply
  3. May 15, 2014 MawKernewek

    So do they mean recognition only in theory, not as far as affecting anything concrete, like devolution of public services, management of EU funds from Cornwall rather than UK government quangos, etc?

    Reply
  4. May 15, 2014 David Robins

    It's the Cornish that have been recognised, not Cornwall. So devolution isn't necessary in order to comply.

    It might mean more cash for the Cornish language and culture but it's very difficult to identify anything concrete.

    I think the main advantage it provides is as evidence in any future court cases about anti-Cornish discrimination. But each of those battles will need to be fought individually on its merits.

    The text of the Convention and its Explanatory Report can be viewed here:

    http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/157.htm

    Reply

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