1. Ministerial foreword
I am pleased to publish the Scottish Government's first British Sign Language National Plan Progress Report.
We are just over halfway through Scotland's first ever BSL National Plan. Published in 2017 and covering the six years up to 2023, the Plan demonstrated the Scottish Government's commitment to making Scotland the best place in the world for BSL signers to live, work, learn and visit.
This Report details the progress made since the Plan was published, and identifies some of the work that remains to be done. Its publication has been delayed by a year as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, though work to support and promote BSL has not been put on hold – indeed, the Scottish Government is proud to have integrated the use of BSL into much of its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The National Plan identified ten long-term ambitions for us to work towards, and defined seventy specific and measurable actions which we hoped would be achieved before the end of its lifetime. I am pleased to report that the majority of the actions have been put into effect, and have either been completed, or are ongoing as this Report is published. In almost all areas of public life in Scotland, significant progress has been made in promoting BSL, in making the language better understood and respected, and in improving access to services and support for BSL signers.
BSL Partnership organisations have played a vital role in the work that has been achieved to date. I would particularly like to thank British Deaf Association Scotland, Deafblind Scotland, the National Deaf Children's Society Scotland and Deaf Action for their work. These organisations and others have been invaluable in contributing expertise and support, and in helping the Government, local authorities and other public bodies in building relationships with the BSL community.
As detailed in the SNP manifesto we will support local authorities by providing additional funding to enable them to offer free British Sign Language tuition for deaf children from the age of five.
There remains a great deal of work to do, both in the last years of the current National Plan period and beyond. The Scottish Government and its partner bodies and organisations are committed to BSL, and to ensuring signers can access opportunities in their first and preferred language. We will continue to promote and support the teaching and use of BSL as one of Scotland's vibrant indigenous languages.