British Sign Language (BSL) national plan 2023-2029: consultation

We are seeking views on the British Sign Language National Plan 2023 to 2029 to inform the final publication in autumn 2023.

Ministerial Foreword

Jenny Gilruth MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.

British Sign Language (BSL) is a vibrant and important language, with its own grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. It is a language that enables many Scottish Deaf and Deafblind citizens to learn, work, be creative and to make their contribution to our communities, our culture, and our economy. We are committed to making Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work, visit and learn. But, we recognise that there is more to do to achieve this ambition, and will continue to build to further promote and support BSL in Scotland.

The BSL National Plan 2017-2023 has delivered a range of actions and produced a strong foundation for us to build on as we embark on the new national plan for BSL in Scotland. Key successes include:

  • A comprehensive review of BSL/English interpreting in Scotland, carried out in 2019 – Landscape Review – BSL Scotland Act 2015, which led to the current development of a central booking system for BSL/English interpreters, which is on track to launch in Spring 2024.
  • Building evidence on BSL demographics via Scotland’s Census 2022 enabling us to use this data to better inform policy decisions.
  • Prioritising BSL/English interpreting of the daily Scottish Government’s Coronavirus briefings to ensure public health messages were inclusive.
  • Queen Margaret University embedding basic BSL tuition in its Initial Teacher Education provision.
  • The University of Edinburgh is developing a new Master of Arts in Primary Education and BSL, which will prepare teachers for BSL immersion settings, and for teaching BSL as a language following the 1+2 policy.

To develop Scotland’s BSL National Plan 2023-2029, we have established a Short Life Working Group, consisting of organisations representing the deaf, deafblind and BSL communities. I would like to thank the following organisations for their contributions to this group - the British Deaf Association, Deaf Action, Deafblind Scotland, National Deaf Children’s Society, Scottish Ethnic Minority Deaf Charity, and the Scottish Sensory Hub (The ). The collective experience from this group will be invaluable as they develop actions for the plan.

To inform the working group’s thinking, this consultation asks individuals, organisations and communities to offer their views on what actions are required to advance BSL in Scotland. I am committed to developing a six year strategy that sets the right conditions which will lead to an improved quality of life for deaf and deafblind people who live in Scotland.



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