British Sign Language (BSL): national plan 2023 to 2029

Sets out a range of government actions to tackle barriers faced by British Sign Language (BSL) users to help make Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work, visit and learn.


The Scottish Government recognises BSL as one of the languages of Scotland that is an integral part in the lives of many Scottish people.

In working towards our ambition to ensure that Scotland is the best place in the world for BSL users* to live, work, visit and learn we must be realistic about the barriers people face in their lives. In our work since the first BSL National Plan 2017-2023 was published, we have identified further priorities based on discussions with the BSL community and the organisations representing them. To tackle barriers effectively, we must consider these in line with work underway in different areas of government and combine our efforts to strengthen the outcomes we want to deliver for the BSL community.

Ensuring equal access, opportunity, representation, and inclusion for all BSL users is a fundamental right for them as Scottish citizens. To inform this plan we held a public consultation with forty three community consultation events. These events engaged the BSL community in a two-way dialogue helping us to capture views in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way. Key themes were identified that we have reflected in this plan’s actions.

BSL communities have a rich, vibrant, diverse and unique culture, which this plan recognises. In delivering our ambition, the approach for this plan is to embed BSL in other polices and strategies within the Scottish Government taking a whole-system approach to developing the actions we have set out. In doing so we will promote a greater understanding about the BSL community, leading to improvements in accessibility, inclusion, and increased awareness across public policy.

We recognise to deliver our ambition there must be continued collaboration with the BSL community in Scotland to help us understand the impact of the actions within this plan and refine our approach to ensure they remain fit for purpose. We will establish an Implementation Advisory Group for this plan, providing accountability on the actions and utilising the experience of the group to strengthen delivery. We will publish a progress report at the midway point of this plan’s inception to update on the work attached to each action and the outcomes delivered.

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 requires listed authorities in Scotland to publish plans every six years, showing how they will promote, and facilitate the promotion of the use and understanding of BSL in Scotland. These plans will take account of local circumstances and consider how best to respond to BSL users’ needs within local communities, organisations or services.

The Scottish Government will continue to work with listed authorities to share information and knowledge across the system to inform local plans as the actions within the BSL National Plan are delivered.

In our second BSL National Plan, we have refined our focus of the actions to address the systemic issues that have been identified as key barriers to making Scotland the best place in the world for a BSL user to live, work, learn and visit. To combat these, we have identified ten priority areas. Each come with a set of actions designed to embed BSL further within wider government policy and thinking, helping to overcome barriers faced by BSL users.

* 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. We also accept that the majority of BSL users are deaf and deafblind, as well as the fact that there are many deaf and deafblind people who do not use BSL. This plan will differentiate where appropriate whether an action is applicable to those who do not use BSL.



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