Sunday, May 20, 2007

The New Welsh Language Act

One policy that the new Assembly Government will be committed to is a new Welsh Language Act. This will be one of the policies that makes a statement that things have changed. But it will need to be carefully handled. And one of the joys of being a blogger is that I can give advice - even if nobody wants it.

A commitment to early action is crucial to reassure Plaid supporters that the Rainbow Coalition is 'a risk worth taking' for them. But it is just as important to reassure people that what they will see as a Plaid-led Government is not going to impose unreasonable language demands on everyone who lives in Wales ( and many people will think and fear this).

Over recent months my party supported a new Welsh Language Act - even if I was not entirely clear in my own mind what this meant in practice. I'd like to see some form of external 'review and recommend' group set up with a tight timetable - rather like last year's Clos Stephens review into the arts. It would be a smart move on Plaid's part to give a high profile in this exercise to well known non Plaid people, such as Deleth Evans, Ron Davies and Lisa Francis - if any of them were interested. We need to make sure the new Welsh Language Act is something that fosters unity in support of the language. There is potential for disunity on this issue - which the new Government should try to avoid if at all possible.


Welsh Spin said...

Is there ever !!!

The essence of the Cymdeithas plan is to impose the existing WLA to all workplaces in Wales! I fail to see how in practice the Tories could ever go along with any such notion.

Glyn is probably right that it will be 'commissioned' off into the long grass, but it will return because it is totemic to Plaid's grassroots.

Marcusian said...


You have hit the nail square on the head here, there is a massive division on many of things being pushed by the Plaid pressure groups. I live in Torfaen, work in Newport where 9% of people speak welsh, we simply could not cope on all levels with compulsion of businesses to offer welsh. I cannot see how a nice little right-wing business party such as the tories would ever compel businesses to do that?

The problem for many in english speaking Wales is that they see the raising of the languages profile as Tokenistic, Leisure centre ladies say 'bore da' before going 'Good morning', Bilingual signs saying the same bloody thing when there isnt a welsh word for the place etc...Compulsion by the welsh language act will only harden many peoples attitude to the language...We cannot begin to implement the measures Cymdeithas want without a huge increase in Welsh Speakers. Plaid will lose all support in English speaking areas, thats is they have any left after going into government with you guys! haha...

I am glad you have raised these fears...

Martin Eaglestone said...

If Plaid agree some "review" group then it might indicate they are putting the health of the rainbow above their own priorities.But surely their activists, at least in Y Fro Gymraeg, see such an issue as a call for legislative action - the new powers will require use - not reviews.

One of several topics on which Bourne's warm, but weasel, words may now face a severe test in the heat of rainbow negotiations.

Bwganbrain said...

My greatest fear for the Welsh Language Act is the impact on business and small ones in particular.
Costs are difficult to substantiate for translation services and continual updating etc and many businesses will simply not be able to afford bilingualism.
Enforcing Welsh language adoption will potentially cost job creation or security and I cannot see that as a price worth paying.
If the idea of a commission comes into play then it must consider the needs of business very carefully.

bethan said...

I understand what you are suggesting, Glyn but I don't see the point of a coalition if the parties can't work together on this. You can't create a separate review group for everything- that smacks of Labour's task and finish groups.
The Tories, if in coalition, will have to be bold enough to support a New Welsh Language act and the responsibility that it takes to deliver it. Any New Act must also incorporate the private sector. Do the Tories acknowledge that?

hedd said...

"we simply could not cope on all levels with compulsion of businesses to offer welsh"

Before Marcusian and the rest of the New Labour faithful get too worked up, what about reading the content of Cymdeithas yr Iaith's proposal for a Welsh Language Measure?

1+2, The Welsh Language is noted as a native language of Wales and should be given Official status.

3, Giving everyone in Wales the Right to Services in Welsh. BUT this is not a blanket policy for Wales, it would depend on the number of persons employed by the service provider; the location of the service provider; the linguistic nature of the area served by the service provider; the nature of the service users; the nature of the services provided.

New Welsh Language Council would determine the basic minimum standards for all services to be approved by Welsh Ministers.

Read the following for further info:

Glyn Davies said...

welsh spin- I don't think Plaid can let this go to the long grass - but they will have to be very careful about how they handle the imposition of responsibilities on the private sector. I have always said that a successful future for the Welsh Language depends on the goodwill of non Welsh speakers.

Martin - I see a review as helpful as long as it has clear direction and a tight timetable.

Bethan - I wasn't thinking of the Tories in this instance. It just seems to me that the coalition should demonstrate a concern for the impact of change on private business. It would damage a Plaid led coalition if a new Act was brought in that seemed rushed and having no regard to the economy. I do not know what the Assembly Conservaive Group think of this issue - but I certainly accept that a strenthening of the position is needed.

In general, I believe that there is a commitment to a new Act - and I also think that the three coalition partners could agree if proposals are based on careful consideration and research. Bethan's sort of approach will make any new act a divisive issue - when it needn't be.

bethan said...

Bethan's sort of approach will make any new act a divisive issue - when it needn't be.

I have to disagree. I didn't say that it should be rushed through. Of course there would need to be work done on this. Surely this would be done through new Government areas as proposed in our Manifesto? Also, much of the work has already been done by the Welsh Language Society in drafting an Act. This cannot be ignored.

Of course, one would need to consult stakeholders and so on so as to make any new Act viable.

Glyn Davies said...

That's more like it. Sort of language that makes a cross party deal workable.

Marcusian said...


its not the act i am against, just the compulsion element. Your comments have put some of my mind at rest, although it will never be enough cymdeithas' plans. 9% of people of speak welsh in newport, i would contend many of them arent exactly bursting at the seams to see the welsh language extended in every nook and cranny of welsh life. The rainbow must remember that many people are not interested in the language...

!I have always said that a successful future for the Welsh Language depends on the goodwill of non Welsh speakers.!

Spot on Glyn, as an english speaker who is getting up to speed with welsh, i think Cymdeithas must take their time on this. four fifths of people do not speak cymraeg- many of them view the language as not important. Goodwill is growing though...

Anonymous said...

Welsh is a beautiful language, but if it means the less capable applicant gets the job because he/she is a Welsh speaker, this country won't thrive.