Party For Cornwall Demands Recognition of Cornish as a National Identity in the UK Census - Cornish Language Provisions Sought

Given the recent UK recognition of the Cornish Nation the next logical step is devolution for Cornwall following the lead of the Celtic nations of Wales and Scotland. In an open letter posted to the website of Mebyon Kernow (The Party for Cornwall) the party’s leader, Cllr. Dick Cole, has called on the UK census authorities to allow Cornish as an option for ethnicity and national identity in keeping with the status of a recognised minority.

 In 2014 the UK government recognized  that the Cornish will join the Irish, Scottish and Welsh as a Celtic national minority group within the UK. The recognition, under the terms of the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, goes some way to protect and promote the rights of the Celtic peoples and has been long campaigned for in respect of the Cornish since the Framework came into effect in 1998.

From the Mebyon Kernow website we have the following: “ Mebyon Kernow exists to win greater recognition for the historic nation of Cornwall and the rights of its people. It is leading the campaign to win greater powers for Cornwall through the creation of our own legislative Cornish Assembly. MK members work hard to protect Cornwall’s unique identity, its language, traditions and its distinct constitutional position. They have been instrumental in numerous campaigns including those for increased signage in the Cornish language, and for the Cornish people to be protected through the Framework Convention on National Minorities.”

Below find the full text of the Open Letter to the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) on the questions relating to Cornish ethnicity and national identity:  

Mebyon Kernow demand Cornish Tickbox on 2021 Census

On behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, I have responded to an Office of National Statistics (ONS) consultation about the content of the 2021 census. 

The representation was as follows:

“The 2021 Census – Initial view on content for England and Wales” – consultation

I am writing on behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall (MK) concerning the above consultation. In particular, we wish to focus our representations on the initial view of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on the questions relating to ethnicity and national identity; namely that they be included, unaltered, in the 2021 census. 

MK is extremely disappointed that the ONS has failed to include the option of Cornish within the relevant tickboxes, even through the Cornish were recognised as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in April 2014.

The ONS will recall that the Government, in making the announcement, stated:

“The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

This was a landmark ruling, which it would be unjust and illogical for the ONS to ignore. It is clear to us that the ethnicity and national identity questions on the 2021 census must therefore treat the Cornish in the same manner as the “UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

National identity

In the 2011 census, question 15: “how would you describe your national identity?” there were six tickboxes: “English,” “Welsh,” “Scottish,” “Northern Irish,” “British,” and “Other, write in …” It is our view that, now the Cornish are recognised as a national minority, the question on national identity in the 2021 census should include a tickbox for “Cornish.”


In the 2011 census, question 16: “what is your ethnic group?” included the option of “English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British.” It is our view that, now the Cornish are recognised as a national minority, the question on ethnicity in the 2021 census should also acknowledge those individuals who wish to record their identity as Cornish. 

MK would further add that in the 2011 census a total of 83,499 people from across Cornwall, England and Wales, used “write in” options to self-identify as Cornish. Within Cornwall itself, 73,200 people described themselves as Cornish on the form, equating to 13.8% of the population. This is comparable in statistical terms to the 14% of people in Wales who wrote-in Welsh in the 2001 census, prior to the inclusion of a “Welsh” tickbox in 2011.

It is our view that the case for a tickbox for “Cornish” is overwhelming. It would provide parity between all national minorities within the United Kingdom and give greater value to the overall statistics. 

Cornish language

Mebyon Kernow notes that the ONS is also stating that, in Wales, it intends to collect information on the usage of the Welsh language. We are disappointed that there are no proposals to include a question on the usage of the Cornish language in Cornwall.

We would point out that the Cornish language is protected through the auspices of the Charter for the Protection of Regional and Minority Languages, and it would therefore be illogical not to collect data relating to the language.

Further information

We believe that the points we have raised need to be addressed and would be willing to arrange a delegation to meet with representatives of the ONS to discuss the issues in more detail.


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