Thursday, 10 March 2011

Is the Welsh Language about to go the way of education and the economy?

I spent this morning at the Welsh Language Board "Welsh means Business" conference in Cardiff.

It is the first of their events that I have been to and I was very impressed by the work they are doing.  It is clear that they are making progress in getting Welsh businesses to use more of the language, this has got to be a good thing.

I was surprised therefore to find that the Board is to be replaced by a Welsh Language Commissioner, and some of its functions are to be absorbed into the Welsh Assembly Government.

We witnessed the "bonfire of the Quangos" several years ago where bodies such as the WDA, ELWA and the Welsh Tourist Board were absorbed by the Assembly.

Since that happened the Welsh Economy has fallen further behind the rest of the UK and Welsh education standards are at an all time low.

This may be a coincidence but I fear that the problem may be caused by the lack of accountability that being hidden within the Welsh Assembly Government brings.  If the Welsh Language Board is also lost the same way I am concerned that the excellent progress made over the last 20 years could be lost.

I appreciate that the commissioner could improve things but it is not the way to encourage small businesses to use the Welsh language.  Businesses will react far better to the carrot (such as a discount on business rates for adopting the Welsh Language Board Policy) than the stick which is ultimately what the commissioner will wield.

A far better option would be to allow the Welsh Language Board to remain and continue its work with business but have a separate commissioner who can further the good work that has been done in the past and focus on non compliance by the public sector.

It is disappointing to see Plaid Cymru pushing this forward, and they seem desperate to be seen to be doing something.  They should heed the saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it".

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your sentiments, Harri.

    In 1993 I was amongst those who condemned Bwrdd yr Iaith as an unnecessary quango; dreamed up by wicked Tories as a way of deflecting contentious language issues from politicians.

    On the whole I now think that the Bwrdd has proved itself to have been a faithful servant to the language and that my doubts and criticisms were unfounded.

    I support the establishment of a Language Commissioner, but having served the language in a much better than expected way, I think that the lingo quango should continue!