‘TOP PUB­LIC BOSSES WOULD NEED WELSH’

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - DAVID WIL­LIAMSON Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor david.wil­liamson@waleson­line.co.uk

SE­NIOR pub­lic of­fice hold­ers would be re­quired to learn Welsh un­der pro­pos­als launched by Plaid Cymru lead­er­ship can­di­date Adam Price to pro­tect the fu­ture of the language and the rights of those who speak it.

The Car­marthen East and Dine­fwr AM was brought up in an English­s­peak­ing home but learned Welsh at the age of 13. He now wants a pro­gramme rolled out across gov­ern­ment to strengthen the language skills of the pub­lic sec­tor work­force.

His pol­icy pa­per on the Welsh language sets out pro­pos­als so that the “main pub­lic of­fice hold­ers are able to com­mu­ni­cate with cit­i­zens in Wales’ two lan­guages”.

In lo­cal gov­ern­ment, this would in­clude the head of paid ser­vices and the chief ex­ec­u­tive; the cor­po­rate di­rec­tor with re­spon­si­bil­ity for hu­man re­sources; the ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor and the di­rec­tor of pub­lic ser­vices.

He states: “There should there­fore be a spe­cific re­quire­ment on the hold­ers of such ma­jor pub­lic ser­vices po­si­tions to have bilin­gual skills, or a com­mit­ment to ac­quire them, to al­low them to meet the le­git­i­mate aim of com­mu­ni­cat­ing di­rectly with the peo­ple they serve in a du­al­lan­guage na­tion. If they do not pos­sess those skills when ap­pointed to the post, the pub­lic ser­vices should pro­vide them with sup­port and time to ac­quire those skills within a rea­son­able pe­riod of time.”

He ar­gues that “in other coun­tries, of course, there is a con­ven­tion that those who carry out other pub­lic func­tions such as scru­tiny or head of the ju­di­ciary are able to com­mu­ni­cate in the of­fi­cial lan­guages of the coun­try”.

Mr Price has put sup­port for an in­de­pen­dent Wales at the heart of his lead­er­ship bid and he makes the case that “in­de­pen­dence is nec­es­sary to en­sure the pros­per­ity of the Welsh language”.

A fur­ther pri­or­ity is the es­tab­lish­ment of the first Welsh medium fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion col­lege in the south east. He also pro­poses “an in­ten­sive Welsh learn­ing mod­ule as a par­al­lel, op­tional course for those stu­dents un­der­tak­ing a de­gree in Welsh uni­ver­si­ties”.

In ad­di­tion, he wants to see an “Ar­for De­vel­op­ment Agency” in West Wales, which would be “mod­elled on the old Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Board for Wales, but with dual em­pha­sis on language and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment”.

Mr Price said: “By putting in place a pro­gramme of imag­i­na­tive and sub­stan­tive language poli­cies for ev­ery step of the jour­ney to­wards in­de­pen­dence – and af­ter­wards – we can en­sure that the Welsh language un­der­pins the New Wales that we want to cre­ate. The Welsh language is also one of our most valu­able strengths in re­la­tion to Wales’ cul­tural iden­tity and it is not a hin­drance in any way to de­velop the po­lit­i­cal and con­sti­tu­tional iden­tity of Wales.

“The poli­cies of our gov­ern­ment should re­flect that re­al­ity and cel­e­brate it.”

He ar­gues that now is the time to “de­velop prin­ci­ples about the types of ba­sic lin­guis­tic com­mit­ments that an in­de­pen­dent Wales could guar­an­tee to its cit­i­zens and em­bed in a writ­ten con­sti­tu­tion.”

Jeff Jones, the for­mer Labour leader of Brid­gend coun­cil, doubted the pro­posal to re­quire se­nior lo­cal gov­ern­ment fig­ures to learn Welsh would work.

He said: “He’s play­ing to a very small au­di­ence and there­fore he is try­ing to per­suade them, ob­vi­ously, that he is the more Welsh of the three can­di­dates. As John McEn­roe would say, ‘you can­not be se­ri­ous...’

“I mean, it’s just not pos­si­ble. The Welsh language will sur­vive and thrive when peo­ple who don’t speak Welsh look on it in a very pos­i­tive light.

“If you start telling peo­ple you must do things, then they say, ‘No, you don’t tell me what to do.’ It’s coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

“And, at the end of the day, most peo­ple would say, ‘Look, if they speak Welsh, great, but I want the best per­son for the job; I’m pay­ing their wages through my coun­cil tax.’”

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