A proposed members’ bill urging greater transparency from ministers over efforts to promote British Sign Language (BSL) has been put out to consultation.
Labour MSP Mark Griffin has called on the Scottish Government to prepare and publish strategic plans detailing their progress in promoting the language nationwide.
Relevant public authorities north of the Border would also be required to develop detailed action plans for submission to Scottish ministers on measures taken regarding BSL should the proposed private members’ bill come to pass.
The launch of a consultation today comes two years on from a previous attempt by former Labour MSP Cathie Craigie to guarantee BSL equal status to English and Gaelic.
Under the proposals now being advanced by Griffin – the youngest MSP in the history of the Scottish Parliament at the age of 26 – the Scottish Government would create a designated, or lead, minister for BSL who would report to the chamber at least twice each parliamentary session.
A duty on public authorities to develop action plans identifying how to increase awareness of BSL will encourage bodies to improve service provision and become more alert to the needs of deaf users, said Griffin.
According to the consultation document published this morning, up to 6,000 deaf BSL users are estimated to exist in Scotland, while some 850,000 individuals suffer from some level of hearing loss.
It added: “The proposed Bill is based, in many respects, on the model of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, which also includes a strategy for promoting, and facilitating the promotion of the use and understanding of a language. While in the case of Gaelic a Board prepares the national plan, in the case of BSL this would be the responsibility of the Scottish Ministers.
“It is hoped that an advisory board would be established, made up of BSL and hearing people, with an understanding of the language, to advise and assist the designated Scottish Minister.”
A three month consultation period running until the end of October has begun.