This week I was given a copy of a letter from Conservative MP for North Cornwall, Scott Mann, sent to one of his constituents. He’d been asked ‘what are you doing to uphold protected minority status’ [for the Cornish]?
Scott Mann’s reply included these words:
“It is early days in the process of leaving the EU, but the continuation of national minority status will no doubt be discussed between Cornwall’s MPs and the Government to see if it will remain in place.”
‘To see if it will remain in place’??? This raises a number of very serious questions. First, national minority status for the Cornish was a result of the UK Government signing up to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 2014. This is a Council of Europe convention. It has nothing to do with the European Union. Brexit will have no effect on it.
Is Scott Mann unaware of this? Such a level of ignorance on the part of someone entrusted to vote on Brexit on our behalf is deeply disturbing to say the least. It has worrying implications for the issue of the quality of parliamentary representation we ‘enjoy’ in Cornwall.
Second, Scott Mann went on to assert that the Convention is “not related to housing or development policy”. This is not the case as Article 16 demonstrates. But the possibility (admittedly remote) of Cornwall’s councillors starting to use it to demand fairer treatment clearly concerns him. In another part of the letter he plainly states “housing growth in Cornwall is a good thing”.
Whatever is going on here? Why raise the possibility that minority status might not “remain in place”? What are Cornwall’s six Tory MPs planning to talk about with their ministers? Are they quietly seizing the opportunity to urge the Government to pull out of the Convention? Is this an attempt to extricate themselves from the embarrassing commitment to grant the Cornish a status equal to the Scots and Welsh, a commitment that so far they have made no sign of honouring?
Many will no doubt see this as further evidence of the renewed Tory offensive against Cornish rights. It comes hot on the heels of centralised planning rules that lock us into unsustainable growth in order to feed external demand, the first cross-border parliamentary constituency in 800 years, renewed devonwall initiatives, the insulting devolution ‘deal’ of 2015, cutting funding for the revived Cornish language, attacking representative democracy in Cornwall. It’s beginning to look very much like a concerted plan to ensure the Cornish are safely consigned to the dustbin of history.