British Sign Language (BSL): National Plan 2017 to 2023

Plan setting out actions to help ensure deaf and deafblind BSL users are fully involved in all aspects of daily and public life.

Ministerial Foreword


I am Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside and Minister for Childcare and Early Years. As the Scottish Minister with responsibility for British Sign Language ( BSL), I am delighted to introduce Scotland’s first BSL National Plan, which I am confident will make a difference to the lives of D/deaf and Deafblind BSL users across Scotland.

Throughout the plan, we refer to ‘ BSL users’. This covers all people whose first or preferred language is BSL, including those who receive the language in a tactile form due to sight loss.

BSL is a language in its own right, with its own grammar, syntax and vocabulary. It has its own dialects and rich variation. Most importantly, it is a language which enables many of our D/deaf and Deafblind citizens to learn, work, parent, be creative, live life to the full, and to make their contribution to our communities, our culture and our economy.

Over the last 18 months, members of the BSL National Advisory Group ( NAG) have been working together to help develop Scotland’s BSL National Plan. The NAG is made up of D/deaf and Deafblind BSL users and parents with D/deaf children, working alongside representatives of public bodies which will have to implement the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015. I am grateful to the members of the NAG for sharing their valuable time, commitment, expertise and advice as we have worked together to produce Scotland’s BSL National Plan, the first in the UK.

This plan covers the whole of the Scottish Government and over 50 national public bodies that Scottish Ministers have responsibility for. Other public bodies, including local authorities, regional NHS boards, colleges and universities will publish their own BSL plans, by October 2018.

The BSL National Plan has ten long-term goals. These goals represent our collective ambition for BSL in Scotland. But we know it will take longer than six years to reach these goals.

So this plan sets out the actions we think we can realistically achieve in the next three years. We will then publish a national progress report in 2020, with a further set of actions we will deliver before the end of the plan in 2023. Future plans, which will build on our progress, will be shaped by national initiatives and the priorities of BSL users. These plans will be published every six years taking us even closer to our long-term goals.

The Scottish Government wants to make Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work and visit. This means that D/deaf and Deafblind BSL users will be fully involved in daily and public life in Scotland, as active, healthy citizens and will be able to make informed choices about every aspect of their lives. I firmly believe that this, our first BSL National Plan, will help us to make substantial progress towards that ambition.

So let’s work together to make a positive difference in Scotland, celebrating the value, richness and diversity that BSL and those who use it contribute to our country.

Mark McDonald MSP


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