BSL recognised as a language in law

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 product of collaboration between the Scottish Government, organisations working through the Scottish Council on Deafness, and deaf and deafblind people across Scotland.

Jim Edwards, chief executive of Signature, said: “We are delighted this Bill has been passed. In particular, that it refers to BSL as a language rather than a sign language.

“It may be the case that people who use BSL now have additional protection under the Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of language.

“But what the Bill definitely does is lay the foundation for improved communication between people who use BSL and hearing people across Scotland.

“And its impact will not stop at the border with England. The passing of this Bill challenges the UK government to follow suit and recognise BSL for what it is: indigenous to our country and the first language of tens of thousands of British citizens.

“Our congratulations for a hard job well done go to Mark Griffin MSP, the Scottish Council on Deafness, all our colleagues in Scotland, and the Scottish Government. But most importantly, to the deaf and deafblind people who have campaigned tirelessly to make this Bill a reality.”

There is now a period during which the Bill can be challenged if someone believes it is outside the law-making powers of the Scottish Parliament. If it is not challenged, it will be submitted for royal assent and become an Act of the Scottish Parliament.

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