‘TOP PUBLIC BOSSES WOULD NEED WELSH’
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.’”