Groups' open letter on 'threats' to Welsh language

image caption, The groups say the draft language law needs to be strengthened

A group of organisations which promote the use of the Welsh langauge have called for the draft Welsh language law to be amended.

The 14 bodies, including teaching union UCAC and Friends of the Earth Cymru, have published an open letter to Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones.

They say the language is "facing threats from many directions".

They have called for an "unambiguous statement that the Welsh language is an official language in Wales".

A proposed new law on the Welsh language was published by the assembly government in March.

The assembly government says it would place duties on some firms to provide Welsh language services.

Firms in areas such as telecoms, gas and electricity would face sanctions, including fines, if they fail to meet language service delivery standards.

It would also establish the post of a language commissioner and would replace the Welsh Language Board.

Although it is the longest and most complex measure the assembly government has yet consulted on, ministers are keen to make clear that it is a draft language measure and one they are prepared to discuss fully.

Since its publication, it has come in for criticism from some prominent lawyers and experts who argue it fails to deliver assembly government pledges.

It does not include linguistic rights, it does not include a statement to the effect that the Welsh language is an official language and it creates a commissioner role that is accountable to government and so not, they argue, properly independent.

'Next step'

The letter reads: "The language is facing threats from many directions: cuts in S4C's budget, the assembly scrapping its bilingual record of proceedings, and the future of Welsh-medium education in the capital city.

"The lack of linguistic rights to, and official status for, Welsh, are central to these challenges."

It adds: "We want to see an unambiguous statement that the Welsh language is an official language in Wales, a statement never before included in previous legislation.

"Now is the time to take that step."

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