Wales: 'Lets tackle real Welsh issues, not safe ones'

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed May 2 13:18:15 UTC 2007

'Lets tackle real Welsh issues, not safe ones'

 May 1 2007

by Tomos Livingstone, Western Mail

WALES needs a more grown-up debate on the threat English in-migration
poses to the Welsh language in its heartland areas, the chair of the Welsh
Language Board said yesterday. Meri Huws said it was time to move on from
discussing safe issues and it was not enough to concentrate on simply
increasing the overall number of Welsh speakers. Her comments represent a
subtle shift in position for the Language Board, from the idea of a
Waleswide language policy to targeted help for the heartlands. Writing in
Welsh language current affairs magazine Barn, Ms Huws, a Labour Party
member, said Wales had moved on since the days when subjects like
emigration and immigration were things that people were too scared to

She said, The future of the Welsh language is not just a matter of
discussing safe things like bilingual signs and Welsh lessons for adults,
but there is also a need to consider demographic trends as well. The
timing of her remarks, just 48 hours before Wales goes to the polls, are
sure to raise eyebrows. The Language Board itself faces a shake-up in its
role after the election. In her article she said Wales should consider
economic development bodies for the language heartland areas similar to
those introduced in Ireland. Maintaining the percentage of people who
speak Welsh in the north and the west must be a priority in any attempt to
promote the language, she said.  Simply increasing the numbers across
Wales is not enough any more.

The introduction of specific policies for the languages heartland, with an
acknowledgment that migration is a problem, would prove highly
contentious, although popular with language campaigners. Last year an
exhaustive study of migration patterns was published by the Assemblys
statistics directorate, showing on average more than 48,000 move to
England each year, with nearly 60,000 coming the other way. Assembly
Finance Minister Sue Essex said in-migration was necessary to sustain the
population. In 2001 Plaid Cymru councillor Seimon Glyn caused a storm when
he suggested English migrants were a drain on resources.

Last night a Welsh Labour spokesman said, Labours view is that there is no
sustainable future for the Welsh language if it simply retreats to some
mythical heartland. He said Ms Huws was offering a very particular
analysis, certainly not the only analysis, and one which can clearly be


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