28 Medi 2017
A little over a year ago on the ‘Maes’ at the National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny, the First Minister and the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language launched a consultation on the Welsh Government’s draft new Welsh Language Strategy. The consultation ended on 31st October 2016. The previous strategy, A living language: a language for living 2012-2017 (PDF 800KB) officially came to an end on 31 March 2017.
As the Welsh Government’s consultation process was coming to a close, the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee (CWLC Committee) began work on an inquiry into the Welsh Government’s draft Strategy – ‘A million Welsh speakers by 2050’. The Committee took evidence, both written and orally from a number of witnesses, including the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language. The Committee published its report and recommendations (PDF 672KB) on 18 May 2017.
The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee Report
The Committee’s report included 23 recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider before publishing its final strategy. Many of the recommendations concerned the need for greater clarity on targets, milestones and resources required to fulfil the aims. The report also emphasised the need for the final strategy to pay greater attention to how language use could be encouraged in communities across Wales, as well as the need to support private sector businesses to develop their Welsh language provisions.
The Welsh Government in their response to the Committee Report accepted 15 recommendations in full, two partially, accepted five in principle, and rejected one.
Recommendation 7 asked the Welsh Government to respond specifically to Mudiad Meithrin’s assessment than an additional 650 new ‘cylch meithrin’ groups would be needed to support the strategy. The Welsh Government accepted the aim of supporting the need for additional nursery provision, but did not recognise the figure presented by Mudiad Meithrin.
The Welsh Government’s Work Programme 2017-2021 which accompanies the final Strategy states that it aims to provide additional Welsh-medium childcare places through the Welsh Government’s 30 hours of free early education and childcare for working parents. The Welsh Government states that it aims to support an “expansion by 40 nursery groups, targeting areas where work on the Childcare Offer shows there is limited provision”.
The Final Strategy: Cymraeg 2050 – A million Welsh speakers
On 10 July 2017, Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language published the Welsh Government’s final strategy – Cymraeg 2050 – A million Welsh speakers.
There are two striking aspects to the Strategy compared to previous Welsh language strategies. Firstly, the Welsh Government’s vision for the Welsh Language – a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Previous strategies generally focused on creating the ‘right conditions’ for the Welsh language to grow and flourish, with modest targets for growth in numbers of Welsh speakers and its use. Iaith Pawb (PDF 1.2KB), the first strategy of its kind had measures aimed at achieving the following by 2011:
- the percentage of people in Wales able to speak Welsh has increased by 5 percentage points from the figure which emerges from the census of 2001.
By the time the 2011 Census results were published, the percentage of Welsh speakers had actually fallen 1.8 percentage points to 19 per cent of the population. The successor strategy, A living language: a language for living provided broader, more aspirational targets, for instance:
- an increase in the number of people who both speak and use the language;
- more opportunities for people to use Welsh; and
Appearing in front of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on 14 September 2016, Alun Davies provided an explanation for the Welsh Government’s target for the Welsh language:
I thought it was extremely important that we set an ambitious target, because we have been using all sorts of different wordings—we want to see the language ‘prosper’, and so on…I do think we need to change the way that we support and promote the Welsh language. That isn’t going to happen unless we set a target, and set an ambitious target.
The second striking aspect of the strategy is the period of time afforded to achieve the target. This is a long term strategy, one that will take a generation to fulfil. It will, according to the Minister, require a change of approach, and calls for ‘wide-ranging changes’:
Through challenging ourselves as a Government, as an Assembly and as a nation—come to an agreement on the Welsh language: an agreement that we want to see the Welsh language being part of our daily lives in all parts of Wales. That means a change in approach, and we have to change that approach.
An opinion article for Golwg magazine (20 July 2017) was somewhat sceptical however of the length of time afforded to the strategy:
Nid wyf yn cofio darllen dogfen gan unrhyw Lywodraeth yn hawlio fod modd gosod cyfeiriad maes polisi am y 33 mlynedd i ddod.
(I don’t remember reading a document by any Government claiming it is possible to set the direction for a policy area for the next 33 years.)
Only time will tell if Cymraeg 2050 will sustain the full course, although it would be a reasonable expectation that a strategy with a 33 year shelf life will be subject to updating, revision, or indeed, replaced by a future Welsh Government.
Article written by Osian Bowyer, National Assembly for Wales Research Service