According to Heini Gruffudd, Chair of the lobbying organisation, Dyfodol i’r Iaith;
“We need to establish a virtuous circle of factors which will support the increasing use of the Welsh language in all aspects of everyday life.”
This is the challenge the organisation has set for the Welsh Governments as they work towards a Welsh Language Bill to support the aim of creating a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Dyfodol has been pressing the need for a powerful arms’-length body to provide a lead on policy matters and be responsible for a strategic overview of promoting the language, and feel that there are some welcome developments within the current consultation document.
The organisation is at pains to point out however, that any new structures and plans must be funded adequately. All Government Departments (particularly Education) must accept their role in contributing to the success of the Welsh Language Strategy, in terms of budget and commitment.
Just as importantly, expertise in language planning needs to be developed within the Welsh Government and the new Commission, if effective and coordinated structures are to be established to drive forward the agenda.
While welcoming many of the latest recommendations, and particularly the extension of statutory powers to the private sector and the duties on language planning; nevertheless, Dyfodol warns:
- That establishing one body (the ‘Commission’) to unite the work of regulating and promoting the language is not an ideal response. These two elements require different approaches, and if the intention is to press ahead with one body, then care must be taken to ensure that the regulatory work is in no way diluted.
- To ensure a strong independent voice, we would argue that the Regulators, rather than the Government should have the power to set standards, publish guidelines, and codes of practice.
- The Commission will need to take on a strong coordinator role; to advise the Government and ensure that various projects work together in synergy.
- Raising awareness of the value of the Welsh language is key to ensuring the success of the work, and academic research is needed into how best to share this message with the various sectors and the public.
- We welcome the intention to revise the Welsh language standards, but in the meantime, care should be taken that this change in no way undermines the functioning of present arrangements.
- We would favour a more flexible complaints process, which would allow a fast-track approach or a thorough investigation, where appropriate. We also feel that that the fine o £5,000 for failure to comply is far too low.
- We warmly welcome the proposed language planning duties, and believe that such duties are essential if we are to ensure a cultural shift. More detail is needed regarding their legal power over the coming months. We would also press for an additional duty to ensure an environment that favours the Welsh language; this would ensure an obvious visual and community presence for the language,