I read with interest a feature by Rhisiart Talebot (West Briton 3rd February 2011), concerning the Devon & Cornwall Police’s refusal to use bi-lingual signage across Cornwall and, in particular, at Camborne police station.
The Cornish language is a hugely important part of Cornish heritage and culture. Recently the status of Cornish was reclassified by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), who recognised that the language was not `extinct', but 'critically endangered'.
Due to a lot of hard work from a wide range of organisations and individuals the Cornish language is being revitalised and is beginning to thrive once more. There are increasing numbers of classes and students and Skol Veythrin Karenza, Cornish language preschool, celebrated its first anniversary last month showing that learning Cornish is being enjoyed by children.
Cornwall Council has a bespoke policy regarding the promotion of the Cornish Language, part of which includes ensuring that new street name signage is bilingual and replacing other signage with bilingual versions as the need arises. As an elected authority the council presumably reflect a general desire of the people of Cornwall for the Cornish language to be promoted and encouraged.
The question that I feel that Devon & Cornwall police have to answer is why they are unable to help Cornwall to promote its language, heritage and culture? This is essentially the question that Mr Talebot asked of them and it was a question they declined to answer directly.
Instead a ‘corporate’ answer was given which involved irrelevant discussions of cost and diversity. It was made clear that the senior management of Devon & Cornwall police (supposedly a public body existing to serve the people of Cornwall) had no intention of supporting Cornish heritage and culture.
The dissembling explanation citing cost and the fact that no legal duty existed, requiring the use of bilingual signage, was used to mask the simple and very basic political decision - not to support Cornish culture.
It might be argued that, as well as there being no legal requirement for Devon & Cornwall to help to promote Cornish heritage, neither is it their job to do this. Well, if that is the case, then why not just say so?
Perhaps it is not possible for them to be honest in this way because it would lead to ordinary people questioning why a public service body chooses not to serve the public on more than one level?