There would appear to be no shortage of goodwill towards the Welsh language within the Senedd, but the challenge of turning words into action remains. In our opinion the Cymraeg 2050 Action Plan raises more questions than answers and emphasises the urgency to act. Many of the goals and targets have been around since 2017 and point to an alarming level of delay. The work is complex and needs to be mapped out carefully, step by step, allocating resources and responsibility for each aspect of the plan. Again, it is pertinent to point out the need for a powerful Authority for the Welsh language to set a strategic direction and co-ordinate the responsibilities and contribution of each department, agency, and partner to this immense agenda.
The Welsh Language Minister has said that these are early days for the new Government and therefore there are, as yet few details. We would emphasise again that a strong Welsh Language Authority would lead to consistent and seamless policy development and action. This is what is currently missing and what is sorely needed.
Welsh-language movement Dyfodol I’r Iaith has backed a call by economist Gerald Holtham for policies aimed at encouragining young people to remain and work in Wales.
Dyfodol states, “The constant haemorrhage of young people from wales, especially from western areas, saps the energy of Welsh-speaking communities and undermines hopes for the revitalisation of the language.”
In article in Welsh language monthly Barn, Professor Holtham draws attention to the fact that Wales suffered a net loss of people aged 15-29 years between 2001 abd 2019. The total population increased by 107,000 over the same period through inward migration mainly of older people.
Says Dyfodol, “This imbalance is certain to be greater in the Western regions. We need robust, immediate action to stem the loss. That is why we support Professor Holtham’s call for implementing a package of measures to make Wales an attractive country for young people to live and create a livelihood, including:
- Further and higher education to be free for students who remain and work in Wales for five years after graduating
- Write off current debts for students who start a business in Wales, along with mentoring support”
Professor Holtham also calls for assistance for young people to obtain housing and to limit the growth of second homes to reduce the price of houses in districts like Gwynedd.
Concerning the Professor’s suggestion that young people from outside Wales should be attracted here to develop businesses Dyfodol recognises the economic case for this but insists support should be conditional on a commitment to learn Welsh, especially in the western regions.
Dyfodol also reaffirms its support for
- Establishing Arfor, a public Agency specifically for the West which would combine a sustainable development remit with language planning to grow the Welsh language
- Implementing the recommendation of the Seimon Brooks report on holiday homes
Dyfodol i’r Iaith has expressed its dismay at the Welsh Government’s Welsh Language Action Plan for the period 2021-22. Since the Government’s stated aim is to ensure a million Welsh speakers and increase its usage, the organisation believes that this document is totally inadequate: far too short on the essential requirements of vision, detail and finance. In the words of Dyfodol’s Chair, Heini Gruffudd:
“This is an Action Plan that shirks its responsibilities and reveals a woeful lack of ambition. The intention to “continue” working is stated repeatedly, with little explanation of how this will produce key outcomes such as transmitting the language within the home environment or increasing the use of Welsh within the community and the workplace.
In the same way, the response to the needs of Welsh-medium education is disappointing: the new Welsh in Education Strategic Plans have been postponed for another year and there is a failure to recognize the post-Covid opportunity to develop the education sector and recruit and train more Welsh-medium teachers.
The situation of the Welsh language needs more commitment than this: more strategic vison and positive actions. Indeed, it could be argued that this feeble document is an insult to all who support the language.”