Plaid Cymru Debate: A Million Welsh Speakers

Jul 5, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business | 0 comments

Plenary Wednesday 05 July 2017

16:58:58

Spoken Contribution – 16:58:58
Watch this contribution on Senedd TV | View this contribution in the Record of Proceeding document

Thanks to Plaid for bringing today’s debate. As Assembly Members we do need to support effective measures to bolster the growth of Welsh, and we in the UKIP group do endorse those aims. I listened to Sian Gwenllian’s opening remarks, and I agree with her that we need to put an onus on safeguarding Welsh in its heartlands: the idea of taking measures to keep jobs in those areas and stop outmigration in what she termed the areas where Welsh is the language of daily communication. And, of course, Adam Price was emphasising the economic aspect and he also spoke about a west Wales region and possibly treating the Welsh-speaking westerly parts of Wales as a separate entity in some measures of economic thinking. I think there may be some merit in that. So, I think that there are positive ways in which we can encourage Welsh, and I think that what Adam and Sian seemed to be emphasising about the westerly regions being at the heart of the matter, I believe that to be the case, myself. Of course, there are pitfalls when you try to transfer policies through the whole of Wales and I think there are potential problems when you come up with the issue of compulsion.

So, if we refer to the recent example that we debated a few weeks ago of the Llangennech school saga, there was plenty of evidence that the majority of the community there was against the proposal to turn a dual-stream primary school into a Welsh-medium one. Now, you could argue, as Simon Thomas did at the time, that the decision to do that was in compliance with Carmarthenshire County Council’s own WESP, but you could also observe that the plan, in its application in Llangennech, did not seem to have much of a local mandate behind it. We do talk about localism in this place, and there didn’t seem to have been much localism in what was happening in Llangennech. So, I think that sometimes, when compulsion is involved, measures can actually turn out to be counterproductive.

Somebody mentioned here yesterday when we were talking about taxation—I think it was Huw Irranca-Davies—that we have to be very careful as legislators in not creating unintended consequences. By trying to push Welsh-medium schools through force, I believe that you could sometimes work against a target of creating 1 million Welsh speakers. This aspect was recognised by the Llanelli MP Nia Griffith when she expressed her fear that if the school involved were to go over to being Welsh medium, that many parents might simply switch their pupils to an English-medium school, even if this meant moving home. This would tend to defeat the purpose of increasing participation in Welsh. So, Nia Griffith, in this instance, may have identified the possible unintended consequence.

So, to summarise, I agree with the economic ideas about the westerly areas, but I think, as a general principle, we need to make available the opportunity of speaking Welsh to those who wish to do so, but to force Welsh onto people who don’t want to may be counterproductive.