People used to be ashamed to say they came from Cornwall... not any more

Minority status is in the bag. Now the fight is on to secure devolution. But not everybody sympathises with the separatists’ campaign

For the Cornish nationalists gathered excitedly at Truro County Hall yesterday, there was only one topic of political conversation: what now?

The canteen and meeting rooms didn’t quite have the buzz of the Westminster Village, but after 20 years of campaigning, the representatives of the people west of the River Tamar were celebrating the declaration that the Cornish were a national minority, just like the Scots, Welsh and Irish.

At the centre of the action, inside the drab, concrete council building, which some hope will become the heart of Cornish autonomy in the future, Dick Cole, the leader of the Cornish nationalist party, Mebyon Kernow, was busy working the small crowd.

“This week’s victory is historic news and a step towards Scottish-style devolution after donkey’s years of campaigning,” he told The Independent over coffee and a bacon roll between meetings.

Archaeologist and county councillor Dick Cole isn’t your average party leader. He survives on his modest council allowance, his party has less than 600 members, and he turns up to meet me in a shaggy woollen jumper, not a smart suit.

The land of pasties and St Piran is some 200 miles from the Westminster bubble, though, and Cole’s passion for Cornwall is clear: “People see Cornwall as a place from travel shows or the travel and property supplements of the Sunday newspapers, but there’s real poverty here.”

“There’s more to Cornwall than the glossy lifestyle world of surfing and holiday cottages, there’s a lifestyle of struggling going on here. This victory not only means we can celebrate what’s great about Cornish culture, tourism and business, but also look towards looking after ourselves.”

He is, of course, talking about Mebyon Kernow’s call for a Cornish assembly, along the lines of the Scottish model with tax-raising powers. Mebyon Kernow stops short of calling for independence, but wants an assembly to counter what Mr Cole calls the “centralisation on the overheated South-east and London”.

It’s a big call for a minnow of a party, but it’s supported by others in the area, including independent councillor Julian German, who also represents the Cornish Language Partnership, a body dedicated to promoting the Cornish language. Like many local politicians in the area, Mr German has long called for a protection status for the Cornish.

“If you look at all of the academic criteria of becoming a nation, then Cornwall passes all of them. We have a shared identity, a shared history and a common culture.” Mr German tells me as he and local Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson come and join Mr Cole for a round of celebratory backslapping and handshakes.

Beyond the council building – where Mr German and Mr Cole break off to advise a council official on a Cornish translation for a dual-language road sign – only 84,000 people out of half a million residents of the county declared themselves as Cornish in 2011, while there are just 557 declared speakers of the ancient language.

Mr Rogerson says that this will change: “The negativity of declaring yourself Cornish is well and truly a thing of the past. Now young people are proud to be Cornish.”

One proud Cornish youngster is barmaid Megan Job, 19, who works at the Old Ale House pub in central Truro, where on Thursday evening Cornwall’s “proud day” was the only topic of discussion.

“Of course I’m proud to be Cornish. We say it’s only four degrees of separation down here. Everybody knows everybody,” she tells me over a pint of local ale. “I like the idea of supporting Cornish being taught in schools. I know it has no use at all in the outside world, but it’s important to celebrate our way of life.”

Others in the bar are slightly more cynical. John, who didn’t want to give his surname, as he works with several proud Cornish nationalists, said: “You don’t hear Cornish being spoken in the street in Truro. In fact, the Cornish are  quite diluted, as so much property has been sold to people coming in to retire  who made their money in the Home Counties”.

Enjoying the sunshine in Truro yesterday afternoon, retired nurse Jackie Hollingsbee, 66, who can trace her Cornish lineage to the 16th century, welcomed the protections the Cornish nation will now enjoy, but “hates to think it will mean more money going towards the teaching of the language”.

She said: “We really do feel like the forgotten county down here, cut off at the end of the train line and forgotten about by London when it comes to healthcare and services. Getting those sorted is far more important than an assembly or the language.”

Back at County Hall, Dick Cole is determined to change that but admits “devolution is process, not a one-off event”. Mr German agrees, adding:  “You’d struggle to find anyone in Cornwall who really wants to be independent. We couldn’t survive.”

Others, such as local councillor and musician Bert Biscoe, look to the example of Wales and to the European Union, rather than Scotland and full independence.

“I’m not a Cornish nationalist, I’m a man of Cornwall and I look forward to a Cornwall with its own assembly that’s proudly part of Great Britain,” he tells me in his study, which is packed full of books on Cornish history and culture.

He does still have one bone of contention with the “London media”, though, and it’s the depiction of a Cornish campaigner recently in the BBC comedy W1A. He says: “It’s easy to laugh at the Cornish, and we should have a sense of humour, but just repeating old stereotypes of loony nationalists is pretty mean-spirited.”

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Support Technician (2nd Line / Server Support) - Bedford

£24000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: 2nd line IT Support Techn...

Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified science t...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments