Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Unlike some of the subjects I wrote about yesterday, that perhaps the convention might mean this or that, in terms of education it's very clear, Article 12 is categorical:
The Parties shall, where appropriate, take measures in the fields of education and research to foster knowledge of the culture, history, language and religion of their national minorities and of the majority.
In this context the Parties shall inter alia provide adequate opportunities for teacher training and access to textbooks, and facilitate contacts among students and teachers of different communities.
The Parties undertake to promote equal opportunities for access to education at all levels for persons belonging to national minorities."
I do think Cornish education has come on a great deal since I was in school. There have been changes and local history has a much more prominent place. Which I think is greatly beneficial, because the history of your community has more bearing on where you live, why culture and festivals are the way they are and of course why the economy is the way it is.
Where does the Cornish story in history fit in to the history of England? well it doesn't fit in that well. This is one of the reasons we are different. The history of the English people, begins with the Anglo Saxon invasions, the formation of a unified kingdom from the seven kingdoms that were, before England ever existed. Various battles with the Vikings and the Danelaw. At this time the Cornish were already resident in Britain and descend from the ancient Britons of course the stories intertwine but there are different dynamics. For the English this was the founding moment in the history, their Plymouth Rock if you will, but for the Celts like the Cornish this was a much different story, one of invasion and the loss of traditional lands, Plymouth Rock was taken from us.
Even further back in Roman times, Cornwall was at the very periphery and traces of the Romans West of the Tamar and indeed West of Exeter are very few and far between. Whereas what is now England was heavily influenced by the Romans, forts and roads etc the same is not perhaps true in Cornwall. These are the kind of things that the teaching of history in Cornwall needs to address to be complaint with the FCNM.
But the FCNM means that history has to be taught differently and indeed subjects have to include Cornish beyond history. Explicitly stated is culture, language and religion as well. It remains to be seen how this might fit in. It seems to me Religious Education should include the reformation in Cornwall and it's negative effect on Kernewek. The later non conformist denominations. Language is of course the big issue, perhaps we might see the Cornish GCSE reinstated and the language offered as an option alongside French, German and Spanish.
Many have dismissed the recognition of the Cornish as tokenism an empty gesture. But these are the kinds of people that really need to have a good look at the Convention and what it actually entails. As I wrote yesterday perhaps for the first time the Cornish will receive protections under the Equality Act, perhaps housing policies will have to change and access to Cornish language media. The point of this blog was to highlight some of the aspects of history and how education now needs to change to incorporate the Cornish story into teaching. It wasn't meant as a definitive guide to Cornish history, I didn't even touch upon the industrial revolution in Cornwall, the governmental arrangements of the Stannary Parliament and the Duchy, the rebellions of 1497 and 1549 or even Cornwall's unique part in the 'English' Civil War. There are huge ramifications just for the subject of teaching history, what will or won't be included. How much of Cornish history is needed "to foster knowledge" of the national minority? This seems like the perfect opportunity for education matters to be devolved to Cornwall. My view is that recognition under the FCNM is a long drawn out and hard fought victory. It is historic and momentous in itself but it can promise so much more. There sits before us a can of worms, with hard work the lid has already been forced off, with more hard work we can pick up this can turn it upside down give it a good shake and get the most out of this for Cornwall as possible.
As a footnote it's also worth considering other mentions of education in the Convention:
Within the framework of their education systems, the Parties shall recognise that persons belonging to a national minority have the right to set up and to manage their own private educational and training establishments.
The exercise of this right shall not entail any financial obligation for the Parties."
The Parties undertake to recognise that every person belonging to a national minority has the right to learn his or her minority language.
In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial numbers, if there is sufficient demand, the Parties shall endeavour to ensure, as far as possible and within the framework of their education systems, that persons belonging to those minorities have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority language or for receiving instruction in this language.
Paragraph 2 of this article shall be implemented without prejudice to the learning of the official language or the teaching in this language."
Monday, 28 April 2014
Of course I must echo Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole in saying this is fantastic news, but I also agree with Andrew Long when he said:
‘It is excellent news Government are finally recognising something the European Union have recognised for years and the Cornish have known for generations.’
On the Cornish Times website.
What is the Framework Convention?:
Fantastic, historic, momentous, groundbreaking there are certainly a plethora of positive descriptions that could be given. But what is the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities? In short it's an agreement between the states of Europe to protect identities of peoples in the aim of creating and ensuring harmony. As the preamble explains:
"Considering that the upheavals of European history have shown that the protection of national minorities is essential to stability, democratic security and peace in this continent;
Considering that a pluralist and genuinely democratic society should not only respect the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of each person belonging to a national minority, but also create appropriate conditions enabling them to express, preserve and develop this identity;
Considering that the creation of a climate of tolerance and dialogue is necessary to enable cultural diversity to be a source and a factor, not of division, but of enrichment for each society;"
This is not something emanating from the European Union, it is from the Council of Europe and it is up to members of the council to decide whether to implement it. This map from wikipedia goes some way to illustrating how the Framework stands across Europe:
Thursday, 17 April 2014
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Despite press releases claiming disappointment on losing the grant funding and vague commitments to the future of the sea lido. Unfortunately this was not backed up by match funding in the last round of grants. Enthuastic rhetoric aside the reality was an immensely short sighted approach by Cornwall Council, spurning a large amount of money by not adding in some of their money a grant application that was destined to fail.
Save our lido! #Penzance #Jubileepool pic.twitter.com/i3J9QLIfEjThe petition seeks a new approach where a successful bid for grant funding can be achieved by Cornwall Council putting money in as well. Please sign this, we need to pressurise Cornwall Council (and Cornwall Councilors) that people do want the pool and it needs to be funded. Please sign here.
— Rob Simmons (@cernyw) March 18, 2014
I still have doubts, not to whether Scotland will succeed or build a better society as an independent country. But to what a yes vote, or indeed a no vote, means for the Rest of the UK and particularly here in Cornwall. Will a rump UK be more open to the idea of Cornish devolution? or will the opposite occour and devolution be seen merely a stepping stone to independence and fought bitterly? What will public opinion and the political classes make of the Scottish decision, will there be a tide of defensive English patriotism manifested in reinvigorated centralism?
My fears for the RUK aside Alex Salmond convinced me a yes vote is the right thing. I sat and watched his conference speech the other day, after enduring two typically right wing Farage v Clegg debates, it was a welcome and refreshing change. No blaming migrants for all societies ills nor an undue focus on what costs how much, nor whose jobs rely upon what. It was a refreshing look at what the future could be, what kind of future people would like to see. How to make life fairer for people how to get women a fair deal in the workplace, how to drive up the minimum wage. A welcome speech not of nationalism or patriotic fervour but one of hope, optimism and daring to dream of a better society.
Watch that speech here:
So why my title, how has Alex Salmond underestimated the YES campaign? Well I think he fails to grasp that when one side loses the other side wins it. As much as Better Together is scare mongering and generally negative about the future. Or as the First Minister aptly put it in the speech:
This is true but it's also about the hope and promise of the yes campaign. The political system in the UK is broken there is no doubt. The majority feel disenfranchised and don't turn up on polling day. Governments of all the big three parties have pursued policies in face of public opposition. The capital continues to grow and attract the most investment yet elsewhere enjoys enjoys no such privilege. They have presided over a deplorable MP's and Lord's expenses system. Billions spent on Trident despite austerity. Public services are sold off to privatisation. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow and has done for a long time. Whilst the minimum wage barely rises and we've seen recently nurses have no or little pay rise. At the same time as MP's are looking forward to a 11% pay rise. The list does go on and I don't mean to do down Britain, there are some great things, there are some great people but the top of the hierarchy, the establishment, among the politicians there is a real stink. It is little wonder that the yes campaign can claim to be better, to be more uplifting and optimistic, to increasingly win over voters.
It is little wonder the positive case for the union has been so had to make. That the no campaign relies upon senior politicians rather than a grass roots campaign. It's a really hard argument to make a positive case for the Westminster political system and it is little wonder yes is doing so well and even with the might of unrivaled media attention the no campaign flounders.
I sincerely wish the people of Scotland well in their decision. If I lived there, and after months of careful consideration, I would vote yes without a shadow of a doubt. It is my hope that if Scotland does vote yes that the Westminster bubble is well and truly popped and that the political establishment take a long hard look at themselves. I Hope they borrow some of the optimism and foresight north of the border and think how the RUK might be better and how this broken political system can be fixed, for all our sakes.
Thursday, 10 April 2014
Tuesday, 8 April 2014
What does Cornwall have to do to get noticed?
Or does Labour have some unannounced prejudice for Cornwall not having more political power and jobs?
Sunday, 6 April 2014
There was supposed to be a bedroom tax rally in Penzance, on saturday just passed to coincide with the UK wide day of action. But due to the wet and windy weather and the fact it relied on street theater the organisers, Cornwall Anti Cuts Alliance, decided to call it off. Which was unfortunate as the Tory and Lib Dem government need pressure from every corner of the UK to stop this horrible and pointless policy. Anyway I was as PPC for the St Ives constituency was (possibly) going to give a speech.
Here it is:
Dydh da Pensans
Here we are marking the 12 months anniversary of the bedroom tax. 1 whole year of a policy that is unfair, does not work and brings shame to the Conservative party and their Liberal Democrat allies.
The statistics are clear, despite the rhetoric, that this would be helpful to the needy, that it would incentivise people to downsize, this has not happened.
A recent BBC survey revealed that 6% of tenants have been able to move, downsize and avoid the bedroom tax.
That is, 94% of people have been punished by the bedroom tax for simply living in their own home.
The Tories and the Lib Dems argue that it is not a bedroom tax, that it is not a tax at all. Although bedroom tax has resonance. What the government call it, describes exactly what it is. They call it the under occupancy penalty.
And a penalty it surely is, that same BBC survey revealed that 3% of victims of the bedroom tax have been penalised so severely that they are now facing legal action including eviction.
28% of tenants have been penalised so severely that they find themselves in the unenviable position of falling into arrears for the first time. It is clear that this is a policy that is not working and penalises unnecessarily.
During the recent floods, or to be more accurate when they reached the Thames valley. The Prime Minister declared: “We are a wealthy country”.
He quite rightly stated that if people’s homes were being effected by floods, the government would help. That the state would step in, use taxpayers money to protect people in their homes. To make their lives more bearable.
But yet this logic, this compassion, this admittance that the UK is wealthy, does not seem to apply to people in social housing. Far from “money being no object” every penny is squeezed out from the poorest in society.
The United Kingdom is wealthy, no matter what the Tories, Lib Dems and their austerity agenda would like us to believe.
The collective heads of Westminster are buried deep in the sand if they believe penalising people is justified.
We need to send a clear message to London that we’ve had enough of the bedroom tax. That the lie we need to penalise the poor, is a shameful lie in a wealthy country. I urge you all to pressurise the government to challenge MPs to talk to people effected by bedroom tax, challenge them to look deep into their own souls and try to find some morsel of compassion. So they too can see that the right and proper thing to do in a wealthy country, is abolish the awful bedroom tax.
Statistics taken from this BBC article.