Members of the Scottish BSL National Advisory Group, students from Heriot Watt and other members of the Deaf community joined MSP’s in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon (March 23rd) for a debate on the consultation process related to the first ever draft BSL National Plan for Scotland.
The debate was led by Mark McDonald, the MSP for Aberdeen Donside who is Minister for Childcare and Early Years and also the Scottish Minister with responsibility for British Sign Language (BSL).
It is a requirement of the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015 for Scottish Ministers to prepare and publish BSL national plans every six years.
Mark McDonald told the chamber that the aim of the plan was to “make Scotland the best place in the World for people whose first or preferred language is BSL to live, work and visit”
McDonald told Parliament that for the last 12 months, members of the BSL National Advisory Group (NAG) have been working together to help develop Scotland’s first draft BSL National Plan. The NAG is made up of Deaf and Deafblind BSL users and parents with Deaf children, working alongside representatives of public bodies which will have to implement the BSL (Scotland) Act.
He outlined the ten areas that will frame the long term goals of the draft plan:
Public Services (as a whole), Early Years, Education, Post-School Education, Employment, Health, Mental Health and Social Care, Transport, Culture, Leisure, Sport and the Arts, Justice and Democracy.
The draft plan covers the Scottish Government and over 50 national public bodies that Scottish Ministers have responsibility for and it will cover the next six years to 2023. The draft plan contains more than 50 actions in all.
Mark Griffin MSP who led the BSL Bill through the Scottish Parliament said: “I think the plan will meet and exceed expectations when it is implemented.”
Griffin took the opportunity to blame inadequate language skills of teachers for the poor attainment of Deaf pupils and school leavers and welcomed the initiative of the plan to address this.
Last night (March 22nd) Minister McDonald attended the first of around 30 consultation meetings to be held across Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s consultation on the Draft Plan opened on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 and will run for three months until Wednesday, 31 May 2017.
Responses to the consultation will be published in Summer 2017 and will then help to inform the development of the BSL National Plan, which will be published in October 2017.
The Bill for the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015 was passed by the Parliament on 17 September 2015 and received Royal Assent on 22 October 2015.
About the BSL National Advisory Group
The BSL National Advisory Group is made up of ten Deaf people whose first or preferred language is BSL, one Hearing parent of a Deaf child, whose first or preferred language is BSL, one Scottish Government representative and nine Public Body representatives who have to implement the BSL (Scotland) Act.