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Sign language given formal status in Scotland

Sign language given formal status in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament has unanimously passed a law to give British Sign Language (BSL) the same legal protection as a language as Gaelic.

In emotional scenes in the Holyrood debating chamber last night, Labour MSP Mark Griffin’s BSL (Scotland) Bill received the backing of all political parties in a move welcomed by deaf campaigners.

The new law will mean the Scottish Government and relevant public authorities will be required to develop a BSL national plan setting out how they will improve access to information in the language.

Griffin said the bill had been a personal mission after hearing stories of his great grandparents, two of whom were deafblind.

“I am under no illusion that the bill is anything other than a starting point. It is the starting point for a continuous cycle of improvement in access to services for BSL users. It aims to raise awareness of the language, highlight gaps in provision and identify and enable the sharing of good practice,” he said.

The British Deaf Association (BDA), who has been involved in the development of the legislation, hopes it will inspire other nations in the UK to do the same.

 “I am proud, as a Scottish person, to see my country leading the way in making the first ever BSL Act in the UK. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to implement this and hope the rest of the UK follows suit,” said BDA Community development manager Avril Hepner.

BSL is used at home by more than 12,500 people in Scotland, and contains regional variations and dialects.

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