Economy vital to Welsh language heartlands

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Sep 22 15:03:35 UTC 2008

Economy vital to Welsh language heartlands

Sep 22 2008 By Alun Davies and Nia Griffith

A decade ago Welsh Labour summed up its policy on the future of the
Welsh language with the words : Dim gwaith: dim iaith. It is still
true today.
The future of the Welsh Language and, importantly, the future of Welsh
speaking communities depends on the economic vitality and well-being
of those communities. It is the economic foundation of communities up
and down Wales that breathes life into the social, cultural - and
crucially linguistic - fabric of these communities. This is a
distinctive Labour message and voice that has been missing in the more
recent debate on the future of the language.

This week Welsh Labour is launching three policy documents that will
kick start the consultation for our 2011 Assembly Manifesto. In these
documents we are going back to our roots - Dim gwaith: dim iaith
should once more be the building block on which future Welsh Labour
policy is built. It is time to offer and articulate not only this
message that places the needs of ordinary, Welsh speaking communities
at the forefront of our thinking - but to also remake and drive
forward Labour's commitment to a new future for our language.

This message is long overdue. All too often the debate on the language
has been hijacked by lawyers and lecturers - with the ordinary
Welsh-speaking communities left out of the debate and the vision. As a
result we have had a debate that has been negative and sterile - and
far removed from the reality of life for most of us who speak and use
the language every day. For Labour the consequence has been that we
have been in power but have not always led the debate.

It is time for this to change.

As the Welsh Assembly Government prepares to legislate on the language
it is time that we listened to those at the heart of the community;
those who use the language every day on the street. There has been
much progress over the last few years, for example through Iaith Pawb,
which we have cause to celebrate. But a new debate and a new
prospectus for the future are needed today. As a party we need to look
more deeply at the situation of the language in working communities of

The case we need to make does not dilute our collective commitment to
the Welsh Language Legislative Competence Order which the Assembly
Government will publish shortly. This is a commitment we made at our
Special Conference last year and it will continue to stand. But our
commitment to One Wales doesn't mean that we can duck the harder
long-term challenges we face.

We, and many other Labour representatives represent many of those
areas that make up the heartland of Welsh speaking communities. We
represent people who can see for themselves that the prosperity of
their neighbourhoods directly affects its social, cultural and
linguistic vitality. These are the same people that rightly look to
Welsh Labour to offer the policy solutions to these trends.

The starting point for this debate is to recognise that these problems
are real and pressing. The next step is to ensure that the particular
needs of these communities are addressed through the investment and
political commitment that Labour in the Assembly has demonstrated with
the announcement on the economic regeneration of Welsh-speaking
communities at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff earlier this summer.

We must make a reality of our 100% commitment to a strong future for
the Welsh language in our heartland communities. The targeted
investment in jobs and skills, diversifying local economies and
supporting the grassroots activities which sustain the fabric of these
communities will underpin the future strength of the language
throughout the whole of Wales.

Secondly we must expand the opportunities that everyone has to learn
the language. For the many, not the few should apply equally to this
debate as it does in public services and the economy.

Thirdly we need to look at how we meet the rising demand for Welsh
medium education throughout the whole of the education system and
assess whether it is delivering the outcomes we want to see. We should
be asking the question of whether what works in South East Wales is
what will work in East Carmarthenshire or West Denbighshire.

And finally we need a clear statement that we are in this together. A
real partnership at all levels of government is needed to deliver the
changes we want to see. We know the positive difference that
Communities First or European Structural Funds can make. But what
contribution could be made through the UK Government's welfare reform
proposals for example. A strong Labour partnership could provide the
momentum and really deliver the change we need to see.

The Welsh language is not a political football and this is not an
attempt to make it one. Now though is the time to make a clear, Welsh
Labour message on the Welsh language. It should be about practical
action and not posturing. It should be about the many and not the few.
And it should be about forging a new consensus which recognises that
the language belongs to us all.

Alun Davies is Welsh Labour's Heritage spokesperson and Assembly
Member for Mid & West Wales.

Nia Griffith is Labour MP for Llanelli.
N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list