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May 2024

Sector celebrates passing of BSL (Scotland) Bill

British Sign Language (BSL) has been recognised as a language in law for the first time with the passing of the BSL (Scotland) Bill.

The Bill requires the Scottish Ministers to “promote, and facilitate the promotion of, the use and understanding of the language known as British Sign Language”.

The Bill, introduced by Mark Griffin MSP, is the result of years of campaigning by deaf and deafblind people.

There were cheers from the gallery as MSPs passed the Bill unanimously. Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick took the unprecedented step of thanking Mark Griffin, the parliamentary staff and all the interpreters for their fantastic work.

Craig Crowley, chair of the task force that helped the sector find a statement of common purpose, said: “This is a great day for deaf and deafblind people in Scotland and across the UK.

“Not only does is set us firmly on the road to UK recognition of our language, it shows what the sector can achieve when we work together.

“This Bill wouldn’t have happened if deaf and deafblind people, organisations working through the Scottish Council on Deafness, and the Scottish Government hadn’t put aside their differences and focused on what we collectively care about.

“So I hope it will be a boost to the work that will follow from our statement of common purpose. The group that will oversee it is meeting for the first time at the end of the month, and I know they’ll have their sights set on just as big a prize.

“It’s been over 20 years since the Commission of Enquiry into Human Aids to Communication called for BSL to be officially recognised as a minority language. If we all pull together, perhaps we can achieve that before the end of the decade.”