Welsh: A language for an Independent Wales Since its inception, Plaid Cymru has insisted that there is a future for the Welsh language. As we build the case for Welsh independence, we must also plan to ensure that the Welsh language is an integral part of our vision for a future Wales where Welsh is a ’normalised’ language used in all domains of life. Fifty years ago, Saunders Lewis said in his radio lecture Tynged yr Iaith ('Fate of the Language') that the future of the Welsh language could not be secured if national freedom was prioritised over linguistic freedom. He was concerned that the politics relating to the language would be side-lined if constitutional issues were brought to the fore of Plaid Cymru’s programme. We have seen major constitutional changes in recent years. However, as far as the Welsh language is concerned, we have not progressed as much as we would have liked. Saunders’ questions remain today: will the Welsh language become a symbolic language in the future, instead of a working, living language? Plaid Cymru could not and should not accept such a situation. We must be clear: Wales will not be free until our language is also free – Cenedl heb iaith, Cenedl heb galon ('a nation without a language is a nation without a heart'). But the quest for Welsh independence cannot be separated from the quest to make the Welsh language thrive. We want everyone to participate in the building of an independent Wales and in safeguarding the Welsh language. The journey ahead will be both challenging and exciting because everybody in Wales has a contribution to make: the building of our country, like the growing of our language is part of a common, shared heritage and interest. Only in an independent and decentralised Wales can the best conditions be created for the Welsh language to thrive. We want it to become as easy to use Welsh in Wales as it is to use English now. We want real independence so that we can protect the things that matter. The much-needed plan to regenerate the Welsh economy must go hand in hand with a plan to regenerate the Welsh language. Sustainability must apply in all its forms: economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and linguistic/cultural sustainability. The Welsh language must form a central part of sustainable communities. The Welsh language belongs to everyone in Wales. Great strides have been taken to demonstrate that the language is not exclusive. Everyone who wants to should be able to learn. Being able to speak more than one language (as do the vast majority of the world’s population) helps encourage mutual understanding. This is one of the many and varied reasons why so many parents choose to send children to Welsh-medium schools. All of our children should have the opportunities that come with having two languages. We strongly reject assertions that the Welsh language and language politics is a matter for an élite or minority. And we refuse to accept that the Welsh language is some sort of ’problem, or a separate or add-on policy matter. And we must never forget that it was deliberate policy and propaganda from government and those in authority that led to generations deciding to not pass on the Welsh language
to their children. To increase the numbers of people using Welsh, policy levers across a variety of policy fields must be used. The solutions lie in strengthening the economy, in providing affordable housing and in providing public services through the medium of Welsh. Welsh speakers should have a right to expect that their language is respected and promoted in Wales. If not here, where? Plaid Cymru wants to see a Wales where difference and diversity in all forms are enjoyed and celebrated, and we promote this. We reject prejudice on all grounds. At one time, it was acceptable to discriminate on the grounds of sex or race or disability. Thankfully, such discrimination is outlawed now. It is now time to look at the Welsh language through the same ‘discrimination’ prism. Welsh speakers should have a right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of language. Services should be provided in Welsh without the service user having to make what is all too often seen as an ‘unreasonable demand’. It is no surprise demand for utility bills, for example, in Welsh remains low if they are not available automatically and if people have to jump through hoops to get them. If people are to use Welsh, they need to be encouraged and empowered to do so. The barriers that prevent use have to be removed. A research-informed language plan should ensure that linguistically unsustainable decisions are avoided. Investment in research will ensure that investment in measures to support language use can be put to best effect that we spend on what we know works best in the different parts of Wales. Addressing migration The census results will provide cause for celebration and concern at the same time. We can celebrate success in creating a future for the Welsh language and for giving it a relevance in the 21st century that fifty years ago, people feared it wouldn‘t have. Yet on the other hand, it will cause concern because of the continued decline in the number of communities where Welsh is the primary language of communication. Continued decline is inevitable unless an alternative course is planned for. Migration from Welsh speaking communities will continue as long as there are limited economic opportunities in or near to those communities. A strategy to increase the numbers of Welsh-medium jobs in or near Welsh speaking communities is a necessary part of any Welsh economic plan.
Below is a breakdown of the annual turnover of Welsh speakers (statistics provided by the Welsh Language Board):
Wales is currently losing 3,000 Welsh speakers per year. This is clearly not sustainable. Our economic plan and policies in relation to training and economic regeneration policy must include measures which will ensure a prosperous future for the Welsh language. The vast growth in demand for Welsh-medium education will create a new generation of Welsh speakers. However, there are many factors which will influence language choice at a day to day/community level. A lot of work has been carried out by committed people to provide leisure and social opportunities through the medium of Welsh, which has helped to provide opportunities for people to use Welsh. But we need so much more. Put simply, people have to have jobs. The lack of jobs, the lack of ownership and control over our natural resources, ever deepening cuts and fear of degeneration in our communities gives little hope of a viable future. Lack of hope results in the best and brightest leaving. The future of the language is linked to economic forces. If left to the market, those forces will act against the interests of the Welsh language. Intervention is necessary to give a level playing field to the Welsh language. The Welsh language strategy addresses:
The number of children attending Welsh-medium education
The informal use of Welsh by children and families thanks to programmes and initiatives such as ‘Twf’
Promoting the use of social Welsh and creating opportunities for use the language: though Mentrau Iaith, the Urdd etc.
All of this work is important but it is not enough. An updated strategy must also consider the economic value of the Welsh language and the extension of its use in the workplace. The Way Forward Plaid Cymru should set up a group to report back within six months to consult on the policy ideas outlined in this paper as well as any others that can from the basis of a plan to revive the use of Welsh as a community language. This can be done through: 1. The creation of a Welsh-language Labour Market. 2. Expanding the work of the Mentrau Iaith, converting them to social enterprises. 3. Reforming the planning system through the promotion of a Sustainable Communities Bill. 4. Increasing the number of local authorities who internally administrate through the medium of Welsh. 5. The development of a digital industry through the medium of Welsh. 6. Investing in adult learners. 7. Creating a research 'think tank' to provide an evidence base for language planning and expenditure. A Welsh-language Labour Market A Welsh language labour market could be created by: •
mapping existing demand/job and training opportunities by bringing together the various relevant organisations and agencies to aim to ensure all vacancies can be filled.
identifying opportunities in sectors not traditionally associated with the Welsh language e.g. outdoor industry, green energy, tourism, digital industry, conservation, police, health services.
identifying the gaps in service provision in Welsh speaking communities and in public service provision and then working to develop opportunities for Welsh speakers to fill those gaps: e.g. childcare, translation, youth workers, health workers, police.
Raising the status of the Mentrau Iaith so that they can properly work with other partners to plan and deliver services to meet the gaps/needs identified.
Welsh-medium jobs stand a better chance of being created if there is a labour market plan. In addition to the ideas outlined above, consideration should also be given to moving large institutions, like for example, S4C or the headquarters of the new language commission into areas where a high proportion of people use Welsh. The Mentrau Iaith must aim to consider expanding their work to address the link between the economy and the Welsh language. The ideas in the 'Greenprint for the Valleys’ for new social enterprises could be supported and nurtured by the Mentrau Iaith. There has been a significant increase in the availability of courses through the medium of Welsh in schools and the new Coleg Cymraeg is increasing provision at an University level, which is all positive. However, big gaps remain within the Further Education sector. A new push on vocational skills would help to enable young people to remain in their community. Young people who move away to university are more likely to stay away than those who follow less academic, more vocational courses. Measures to encourage use, increased competence and confidence in the use of Welsh in service industries in particular could be the catalyst needed to improve the use of Welsh in the workplace, especially within small local businesses. The Welsh language Labour Market would contribute towards the mainstreaming of the language into our plans for the economy. The Welsh-medium education strategy must become more comprehensive and it must aim to achieve economic outputs: •
We should work to ensure that people who receive a Welsh medium education should be encouraged to take up posts where Welsh is required so that they can continue to use Welsh after leaving school/college.
We should aim for an increase in Welsh-language skills amongst the population
We should build more and stronger Welsh-medium networks across the country.
We could develop the Mentrau Iaith to make them more sustainable by enabling them to support the start-up and on-going support for new social enterprises.
We could set targets for the improvement of the provision of Welsh-medium services across all sectors.
Sustainable Planning Processes Having a job is critical. So is having somewhere to live. Securing enough affordable homes is of great importance. Having to remain in the family home or move away are the options
most young people are faced with in many Welsh-speaking communities. Housing has to be planned carefully in a way which is sensitive to the linguistic profile of the communities affected. Population growth figures in many areas are based on unsustainable assumptions that undermine Welsh-speaking communities. Local need must be given greater priority, as it is in places like the Lake District. A system driven by the investment interests of private developers will always prioritise profit margins over social considerations. That is what has to change. Council Tax on second homes should be increased to discourage holidayhome ownership in Welsh-speaking communities. Preventing over-development Many local authority Local Development Plans allow for the over-development of areas along the England/Wales border to provide cheaper housing for people currently living in towns and cities across the border in England. Large unaffordable ‘executive’ housing developments are designed to encourage further in-migration to Wales from those towns and cities and these large population shifts will not be sustainable, neither will they help to develop a fairer housing situation. The Welsh Government, local councils and housing associations should focus all efforts on ensuring the provision of an adequate supply of affordable homes (in whatever sector). The role of Government in language planning The Welsh Language Board will be disbanded on the 31st of March and a new system will take its place. The new Welsh Language Commissioner has a powerful role. A great number of the Welsh Language Board’s previous responsibilities will be transferred to her, while others will be transferred directly to the government. Ministers and civil servants now have responsibility for language planning including responsibility over the Mentrau Iaith, community development, grant allocation for promoting Welsh, promoting the use of Welsh in education and a great number of other key areas that will require creativity, innovation, vision and momentum. Ensuring democratic accountability for this work marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Welsh language policy. Under my leadership, Plaid Cymru will challenge the government to ensure that the new system operates in a way which is driven by long-term planning as well as an understanding of the urgency of the situation. How will they mainstream the Welsh language across all sectors of government? A ‘British’ civil service which is institutionally at best indifferent to the Welsh language or, at worst, actively hostile will present its own set of challenges, though most of these can be overcome with the right training. We will make every effort to make the new system work in a positive way for everyone involved and most importantly the Welsh-speaking public. However, we won’t hesitate to challenge or be critical and demand change if people‘s needs fail to be met. The internal administration of Welsh Local Authorities - Ynys Môn, Ceredigion, Sir Gâr Local Government exists to provide a range of public services to people living in their local area. In areas where Welsh is spoken by high numbers of people, it is vital that services
are provided by Welsh speakers. Gwynedd council has shown the way by providing an excellent working example of what can be done. by administering its work through the medium of Welsh. Internal Welsh administration not only benefits Welsh-speaking citizens in Gwynedd but also provides work opportunities for Welsh speakers and those who are willing to learn. With political determination, this practical example of good economic and linguistic planning could be replicated in other areas of Wales. Ynys Môn, Ceredigion and Sir Gâr councils could be the next authorities to make such a transition. Welsh-medium Digital Industry The current Westminster coalition government has acted against the interests of the Welsh-language broadcasting industry. The broadcasting industry has a deep and direct impact on the Welsh language and its status in Welsh society. We must continue to press for the complete devolution of powers over broadcasting in Wales as a matter of priority. There has been insufficient investment in the Welsh-medium communications sector. There are a number of concerns about the future of Welsh-language local radio stations, for example, as licenses are awarded without including conditions around linguistic provision. More investment and better planning/regulation would help on this front. Local initiatives - communities creating their own channels of communication - should be actively supported and moves to decentralise communications out from Cardiff should be actively encouraged. Further steps to support and promote Welsh through the new Welsh medium digital industry can be taken by: •
Promoting courses which provide digital skills through the Mentrau Iaith/Mentrau Cymunedol (community initiatives).
Ensuring that the public sector digital commissions are procured from companies which are based in Wales. Steps should be taken to avoid the situation of the .cym domain name arising again in future.
Working to increase the availability of Welsh-language open source software Sponsoring cross-disciplinary meetings to encourage innovation and creativity and further development of the sector.
A Think Tank for the Welsh language Fantastic work has been achieved to date by many language planners over many years and this work must grow and develop further. There is insufficient research on the nature and use of Welsh in different areas of Wales, making the task of language planning very difficult. Without knowing how people use Welsh or how they conceive of their 'communities' we cannot make informed decisions about the optimum way to spend any public investment to benefit the Welsh language. A think tank should be established to pull together all available research and build on it. The think tank could also offer its services and experience internationally to regions and nations where local languages are under threat. Investing in Learners
Increasing the number of people who use Welsh must include more opportunities for adults to learn. Currently not enough adult learners reach fluency in Welsh. It is highly unlikely that the situation will improve without much more investment and support to the teachers and the volunteers who work hard to teach Welsh to people in communities across Wales. Conclusion Wales has a unique and special language which should be treasured and celebrated. The Welsh language must be an integral part of Plaid Cymruâ€™s vision for an independent Wales and it must be a central part of the debate that takes us down the path towards freedom for Wales.