There has been shock and outrage at the news announced yesterday (21st April) that Central Government is to end its funding of the Cornish language.
Whilst this is, unquestionably an era of having to review all financial outgoings within Westminster due to the ongoing austerity measures of the Treasury, there is the fact that the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which the Government announced in 2014 that Cornwall was now part of, calls for the protection and support of an indigenous language.
Two of the areas of this document which most explicitly refer to indigenous language are below:
Article 5, paragraph one states: “The parties undertake to promote the conditions necessary for persons belonging to national minorities to maintain and develop their culture, and to preserve the essential elements of their identity, namely their religion, language, traditions and cultural heritage.”
Article 14 Paragraph Two states: “Parties shall endeavour to ensure, as far as possible…persons belonging to those minorities have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority language or for receiving instruction in this language.”
This seems to be not just a blatant disregard to the Framework Convention which the Coalition Government, with great fanfare brought Cornwall into, but also yet another total misunderstanding of how the Framework affords Cornwall and the Cornish special protection. Another example of a lack of comprehension by David Cameron’s government is shown in the continual rumours of parliamentary boundary changes leading to a ‘Devonwall’ constituency, which goes completely against Article 16 of the Framework Convention.
The response to the announcement has been, as you would expect fierce: Julian German, the Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Culture, said “The Cornish language is a great source of pride for Cornwall and is part of what makes Cornwall and the Cornish unique. Over the last five years use of the language has increased and this is reflected in street names, signage and on mainstream and social media. Just as importantly, it supports our local and visitor economy as the increase in the use of the language in marketing and tourism has proved. The Government’s decision not to support Cornish with any funding whatsoever goes against the international agreements they have signed up to and that makes no sense at all. Cornwall has received funding from Government for a number of years and all we asked for was to continue at this level of funding.The Prime Minister makes a point of telling us how much he loves Cornwall and the Devolution Deal highlights the Government’s recognition of our unique culture and heritage. However, when it comes to backing those statements up, the Government just doesn’t deliver for Cornwall.”
Mebyon Kernow councillor Loveday Jenkin has remarked: “In 2002, the Cornish language was recognised through the Council of Europe’s Charter for Regional and Minority Languages and, in April 2014, central government also recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.Through these treaties, central government gave a commitment to support Cornish identity, culture and language.It is therefore absolutely shameful that they have pulled the plug on vital funding for the language, reneging on their obligations, and showing their total disrespect for Cornwall’s national language. It is also extremely sad that local Conservative MPs, some of whom even took their parliamentary oaths in Cornish, have failed to fight for the language. I would appeal to all supporters of the language to lobby central government and local MPs by writing hundreds and hundreds of letters to them – all in Cornish!”
A petition has already been launched on the UK Parliament and Government website, and it has gained almost 1,500 signatures already – but far more are needed. You can sign the petition here: Cornish Language Funding Petition