Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
Today at the Urdd National Eisteddfod in Carmarthenshire the Commission for Welsh-Speaking Communities will be publishing its Position Paper. The Paper sets out the Commission’s initial findings and summarises the discussions on evidence collected by the Commission in the year since it was established.
I created the Commission following the publication of the Second Homes: Developing New Policies in Wales report. The report highlighted the structural changes our Welsh-speaking communities are facing as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Commission will help us develop future policies for maintaining our language in communities traditionally regarded as its strongholds.
The Commission consists of ten independent members and is chaired by Dr Simon Brooks.
The Position Paper also responds to the 2021 Census results which showed a decline in the number of people able to speak Cymraeg across most of Wales. The decline was most evident in areas considered to be the Welsh language heartlands. This is of particular concern, as its future as a community language is seen as vital in ensuring the long-term future of the language across Wales.
I welcome the Commission’s Position Paper and I wish to thank Dr Brooks, and the members of the Commission for producing a comprehensive report. The paper shows that detailed discussions on important issues regarding the sustainability of our Welsh-speaking communities has taken place. I am also aware that the Call for Evidence held earlier this year has generated a significant response—from almost 200 individuals and interested parties. The evidence has fed into the Position Paper and I’m grateful to everyone for taking their time to respond to the Call for Evidence.
The Commission has looked closely at the challenges we’re facing as we work towards Cymraeg 2050: a million Welsh-speakers. To enable our Welsh-speaking communities to thrive, we must safeguard the sustainability of our communities by offering good job opportunities and a supply of housing that is affordable to buy and rent.
The Position Paper does not propose policy recommendations, instead, it presents the Commission’s preliminary findings and conclusions. It will be used to direct the next phase of the Commission’s work as it considers specific policy areas in more detail.
The Paper outlines the need for targeted policy interventions in some parts of Wales to support and maintain Welsh as a community language. To do this it suggests that the Welsh Government and local authorities could designate ‘areas of higher density linguistic significance’. These are areas where Welsh is considered to be under pressure as a community language. The concept of designating areas of linguistic significance is not a new one, but the Commission feels that designating and defining areas of linguistic significance is an important consideration in order to develop policies that could provide a stronger foundation for our language to thrive in these communities.
I have been clear, as is the Commission, that the objective is not an attempt to create protected areas similar to the Irish Gaeltacht model. Rather, the concept is to support and maintain our language in certain areas where there are higher densities of Welsh speakers by developing socio-economic and sociolinguistic policy interventions.
Following the publication of the Position Paper I’ll be holding a series of discussions—the first will be with a group of young people at the Urdd National Eisteddfod today.
The Commission for Welsh-Speaking Communities will publish a report in August 2024. This report will provide policy recommendations to the Welsh Government.