Reframing language law in Wales
A need for clarity, consistency and compliance in Welsh Language regulation.
By 2008, Welsh language policy was failing to deliver consistent bilingual public services in Wales. Research at the School of Welsh helped UK and Welsh Government policy-makers understand the weaknesses and inconsistencies of the then language regime.
Creating a new regulatory regime
Our researchers identified five problems with the Welsh Language Schemes, set up by the Welsh Language Act 1993.
They found there was lack of institutional capacity and resources to deliver bilingual services; lack of buy-in from senior management; inconsistent adherence to fixed deadlines for remedial action; insufficient internal communication of policy objectives and poor monitoring of implementation and updating of the language schemes.
To inform the development of new legislation and an alternative language regime, the team systematically researched best practice elements of other UK policy fields and international experiences. This involved interviewing senior civil servants, national and local politicians, legal advisers, language officers and academic specialists.
Research also involved closely examining language rights and the office of Language Commissioner in Canada and Ireland as well as the language regulatory systems in Catalonia and the Basque Country.
Changing the law
The research was key to informing policy change in four main areas: legislative responsibility for the Welsh Language; replacement of Language Schemes with a set of new Standards; introduction of a Welsh Language Commissioner; and the National Assembly for Wales' own bilingual operation.
The research was critical to devolving legislative competence for Welsh language policy from the UK Parliament to the National Assembly for Wales in 2009. Following this, the Welsh Government committed to a series of Welsh Language Standards as a replacement for the Language Schemes and passed an Official Languages Act pertinent to the operation of the National Assembly itself. On April 1, 2012, the new Welsh Language Commissioner replaced the Welsh Language Board.
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