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Thursday, March 18, 2010

A failure on the Welsh Language?

Plaid Cymru cannot be used to being criticised over their stance on the Welsh language but I guess that is the downside of being in government. They have spent decades siding with Welsh language campaigners in complaining that government is not doing enough only to find the same criticism directed at them the moment they try to legislate.

A letter in this morning's Western Mail written by senior legal people sets out the case as to why the new Welsh Language Measure does not do what the Minister claims for it. The authors include His Honour Judge Dewi Watkin Powe and several senior lawyers and they are not happy:

on reading the Measure as it stands, it is fair to consider the extent to which those commitments will actually be achieved.

Take, first of all, the commitment to confirm official status for both the Welsh and English languages. In our view, this Measure does not, in its present form, fulfil this aim.

The Measure has been drafted in a way which assumes that the Welsh language already has some status as an official language.

We believe there needs to be a clear and unambiguous statement in law that the Welsh language is an official language in Wales in order to realise the Government’s objective. To date, no such statement has been made.

What then of the second commitment, to establish rights to receive services through the medium of Welsh?

The Measure, as drafted, allows for standards to be imposed on bodies in relation to their provision of Welsh language services.

However, despite planned sanctions for breaches, imposing standards in this way does not establish linguistic rights for individuals.

With regard to the third aim, that of establishing the post of Commissioner, the Measure is promising. The Measure would create the role of Commissioner, and would allow the First Minister to appoint someone to that role.

In our view, the Measure only partly meets the objectives outlined in the One Wales agreement. We fear the Measure will be less effective than it could be in terms of having a positive impact on the linguistic climate in Wales.

Legislation, after all, is not merely administrative. Legislation can also have a social and psychological effect and, as seen in other equality fields, laws can work as a catalyst for societal and attitudinal change.

Indeed, though weak, the Welsh Language Act 1993 achieved that.

We call on the Government of Wales to consider strengthening this Measure as the legislative process moves forward.

The Minister does not accept this criticism but he may find pressure growing as scrutiny and consultation develops. This is going to be a very interesting process.
Going off the point a bit; while agreeing with your Blog, but....

Should Judges and the such like be interfering in political matters?
Why not? They are voters like everybody else and in this case he is commenting on his area of expertise, the law.
What is your view on this Peter? The measure is certainly a joke, and Plaid Cymru politicians have betrayed their supporters, but what do you think? You were in Government once, I remember a certain Jenny Randerson as Minister for Culture, what did she achieve? Nothing! The British parties, and Plaid Cymru are a waste of time as far as the Welsh language goes, the language is dying before our eyes, it will be dead as a living community language within 20 years. Welsh is dying in the heartlands of Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Gwynedd. I have no faith in any politician or party. They have all let down the Welsh language. I am 30 now, and I know that before I die, the Welsh language will be dead as a living community language, unless people start taking the decline in the heartlands seriously. Are you willing to be the one to lead the charge?
I agree with the lawyers, the measure is inadequate. Jenny Randerson actually did a great deal to advance the Welsh Language at a time when we did not have law-making powers. She put together Iaith Pawb and invested large sums of money into community groups committed to advancing the language. I would say that is quite an achievement.
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