Scottish Languages Bill: equality impact assessment

Equality impact assessment for the Scottish Languages Bill. This is legislation which seeks to advance the status of, and provision for, the Gaelic and Scots languages.

Stage 1: Framing

Results of framing exercise

The Scottish Languages Bill is the result of several language related commitments on which the Scottish Government came to power in May 2021. A consultation was held on these commitments between August and December 2022. This engaged stakeholders and the public across Scotland, eliciting just over 750 responses which can be viewed on the Citizen Space platform. The provisions within the Bill are the product of these responses and the recommendations of external analysts and policy and legal colleagues within the Scottish Government. The external analysis of consultation responses can be viewed on the Scottish Government website.

The consultation engaged with communities in rural, island and urban areas via online and in person meetings. This ensured a wide geographic spread of respondents. Our methodology ensured that consultation engagement was accessible and people who come within the protected characteristics were able to contribute to the process.

Also significant is the Report of the Short Life Working Group on Economic and Social Opportunities for Gaelic. The Group consisted of representatives from Skye and the Western Isles who work across the economic and public life of Gaelic speaking communities. They also engaged with major stakeholders in their areas and their report was produced within the same period as the consultation. Its recommendations have informed aspects of the Bill – most notably those concerning Areas of Linguistic Signficance.

Our approach ensured that people of all ages were able to contribute. By meeting with stakeholders such as Young Scot and individual schools and universities we were able to ensure that secondary pupils and students participated in the process. Meeting with national and local branches of Comann nam Pàrant encouraged contributions by the parents and guardians of current and prospective Gaelic medium children. Submissions by organisations like Skills Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterpise and universities and colleges were able to reflect the concerns of people of working age. Estate and community trusts based in rural areas with older populations were able to reflect their particular concerns – in addition to the contributions of local authorities. The response submitted by a branch of Alzheimer Scotland brought an awareness of the needs which the Bill could address among a particular group within the older population.

The Bill’s focus on Gaelic medium education meant particular attention was paid to the opportunities for children of early years and school age to learn the language. A recurring concern was the lack of Gaelic immersion learning in childcare or early years – as well as access points to GME for pupils beyond primary one. Another major issue was the absence or narrowing of Gaelic medium provision in some local authorities after primary school. This was felt to unfairly affect pupils between 12 and 18. It also impacts the number of school leavers with Gaelic qualifications who are available for workforce opportunities and training.

There was also a desire for greater adult learning opportunities. Primarily this was with regard to support for non-Gaelic speaking parents of Gaelic medium pupils but it also concerned general learning opportunities for adults with an interest in the language. These are questions of equality which the Bill has been designed to address.

Legislative provisions were not required for all of the responses which came forward in the consultation. However, this assessment is of relevance to them and they have been considered as part of the exercise. For example, in relation to continuing support for teachers or increasing Gaelic skills in the workforce, measures already exist for pursuing these aims. They include measures to increase access to, and uptake of, ways to improve Gaelic skills at all levels - opportunities to provide a range of routes to learning and improve confidence in Gaelic skills. As mentioned above, Gaelic was recently included in the Scottish Government’s teacher bursary to increase the numbers pursuing Gaelic teaching. Scottish Government stakeholders such as Stòrlann and MG Alba develop materials and training courses which provide a range of routes to developing and improving professional Gaelic skills. Other public bodies also have their own Gaelic workforce development programmes – for example, Skills Development Scotland’s annual ‘Siuthad!’ Gaelic careers day.

The Scottish Government’s continued funding of stakeholders such as MG Alba, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Stòrlann, the Scots Language Centre, and Scots Hoose – as well as individual language initiatives across a range of sectors – all contribute to the policy aims of the Bill.

Views which were received on the consultation’s original Gàidhealtachd commitment regarded it as an opportunity to provide a more holistic approach to Gaelic education – one where local authorities provide comprehensive 3-18 education through the language and in which learning opportunities existed for people of all ages in the wider community. These views have shaped the provision to designate Areas of Linguistic Significance. The measure was also regarded as something which could encourage the intergenerational transmission of Gaelic between older and younger speakers – a step which would also improve social interaction between the generations.

For the Scots language, there was a desire for any provision to be accessible to all ages. The need to provide resources for the language in the digital spaces where many young Scots speakers are active was emphasised – as was the need for Scots language and culture to be normalised to children in formal education from early years onwards.

The Gàidhealtachd commitment, and the resulting provision for Areas of Linguistic Significance, broached general social issues which were felt to disproportionately affect working age adults and young families – such as rural housing, transport and employment. It was viewed as something which could positively impact the ability of people within demographics to live within their desired communities. The provision for Areas of Linguistic Significance is a means by which public bodies active in Gaelic speaking communities can consider how efforts on behalf of the language can also address such social and economic issues and the disproportionate impact they have on specific age groups.

The Gàidhealtachd commitment did provoke some concern that it could be an exclusionary measure. Several respondents wanted guarantees that any such step would be inclusive and one which maintained Gaelic’s status as a national language which belonged to all. The provision for Areas of Linguistic Significance is designed to be open to all parts of Scotland and is a means by which Gaelic speakers and Gaelic learners of all backgrounds can be better supported in their efforts to sustain the language and increase the opportunities for all to learn it.

In discussions with individual parents and branches of Comann nam Pàrant it was noted that the current level of additional support for learning in Gaelic medium education was not equal to that in English medium schooling. The Bill aims to introduce a duty for education authorities to produce delivery plans for Gaelic medium education. It is hoped this will go some way towards reducing this disparity – which was identified as a barrier to inclusion for children who required additional support for learning.

The lack of specific equalities protection for language was a concern which emerged during the consultation. This is in itself an extension of a longer public debate about the status of Gaelic and Scots, or any other language, under the Equality Act 2010. Those who engaged with the consultation expressed a desire for greater protection for Gaelic and Scots in this regard.

Throughout the Bill’s consultation there was a view that the support of Gaelic and Scots was a question of equality, and that increasing access to them through the Bill’s provisions would be a measure to enhance equality in Scottish public life.

Extent/Level of EQIA required

The Scottish Government’s assessment of the impact of this policy is that it has the potential to positively affect the protected characteristics of age and disability. For all other protected characteristics it is not considered to have any effect. The EQIA process has demonstrated that the Scottish Government will need to pursue close engagement with stakeholders as the provisions of the Scottish Languages Bill are implemented to ensure that the desired positive effects of the legislation are achieved.



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