Thursday, 28 December 2017

Report on visit to London to push for tickbox

My report on my recent visit to the ONS policy forum to lobby for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census has appeared in this week’s Cornish Guardian

It is as follows:

On Wednesday 13th December, I was privileged to represent Cornwall Council at a Population and Public Policy forum in London. The event was organised by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to discuss the nature of certain questions on the upcoming 2021 census.

Topics included ethnicity / national identity and I was tasked to make the case for a Cornish tickbox, which followed a meeting with senior representatives from the ONS in August. Officers at the unitary authority have also submitted further documentation making the case for inclusion in the census, which is presently being considered by the ONS.

In my contribution to the London meeting, I reminded everyone present that, in April 2014, the UK Government had recognised the Cornish as a national group through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; and that it was stated the Cornish would be treated in the same manner as the “UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

I suggested to the seventy-plus delegates that it would therefore be inequitable if the Cornish – unlike the other national minorities – did not have a tickbox.

In addition, I thanked the ONS for their time but did it in Cornish and, surprisingly, for an event concerned about matters of identity, it was the only time that a language other than English was used!

In one presentation, it was confirmed that more than fifty groups had made representations on related matters, and I was particularly impressed by the strong attendance by members of the Sikh community at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre.

These included Preet Gill MP, chair of the All-Party Group for British Sikhs, who recently wrote that a Minister from the UK Government had told her they had an “open mind on the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the 2021 census.”

Their campaign is certainly very cohesive and effective. An adjournment debate is planned in Westminster, and the ONS have had meetings with academics and organised interviews with leading members of the Sikh community, plus a targeted online survey, to understand the need for statistics about the Sikh community.

Interestingly, in 2011, a total of 83,362 individuals self-identified as Sikh in the Cornwall, England and Wales census – a total similar to those who “wrote-in” Cornish (83,499) in the absence of a tickbox.

I therefore find it frustrating that the ONS has not been equally proactive in support of the Cornish case – especially as it is more than three years since official governmental recognition.

Looking forward, there is much campaigning still to be done, and it is my hope that Cornwall’s six MPs will follow the example of Preet Gill MP and get actively involved in lobbying the Government and the Office of National Statistics for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census.

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