The results of the 2011 census suggest that the Welsh Labour Government is failing in its Welsh Language Strategy as the number of people who speak Welsh has fallen in the past 10 years.
The statistics released are very disappointing and clearly decisive action needs to be taken.
The Welsh Labour Government’s Welsh language strategy was to focus on increasing the number of Welsh speakers – something it has categorically failed to achieve. Sadly, this is yet another example where the Welsh Labour Government is good at delivering strategies, but not so impressive at actually delivering on the outcomes.
Whilst recognising that as Welsh speakers we have an individual responsibility towards the language, it is particularly worrying to see a decline in the number of people speaking Welsh in the western heartlands. There are obviously issues surrounding economic development in those areas and the availability of work for young people and their families. I very much welcome the formation of the task group which is to consider the links between the Welsh language and economic development. Nonetheless, I still have serious concerns that the Welsh Government is completely bereft of ideas about how to address the issues which communities in these areas face.
Whilst there are encouraging signs regarding the number of young people who can speak Welsh, there are also numerous concerns that need to be addressed with regards to education. The Welsh Government needs to be looking at how effective second language provision is in our schools. It is surely not right that students who have a GCSE in the Welsh language are unable to speak Welsh with any confidence when they leave school. There is evidence of local authorities who are unable to keep up with the increasing demand for Welsh language education which the Assembly is currently debating. In the east of the country, many families who want to bring their children up to speak Welsh are still being denied that right.
The Welsh Government must be looking at ways that it can support people so they can conduct their everyday lives through the medium of Welsh. The Welsh language is an integral part of the diversity and cultural identity of Wales. We need to be ensuring that anyone who wants to speak the language is given the encouragement, confidence and opportunity to do so.