Holyrood gives unanimous backing to BSL Bill



Avril Hepner

Public authorities will be required to develop a national British Sign Language (BSL) plan under a new law passed by Holyrood.

The British Sign Language (BSL) (Scotland) Billwas passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Its provisions place an obligation on the Scottish government and “relevant” public authorities - including the NHS, Crown Office and Scottish Court Service - to develop and publish a strategy for improving access to information in BSL.

The bill also commits the Scottish government to “promote, and facilitate the promotion of, the use and understanding of” British Sign Language.

The Scottish government will publish its first national plan, pursuant to consultation with the wider deaf community, by May 2017.

Avril Hepner, the British Deaf Association (BDA)’s community development  manager in Scotland  said on Thursday: “Today is a momentous day for the Scottish Deaf Community.

“The success of the BSL (Scotland) Bill is a wonderful achievement and we would like to give special thanks to Mark Griffin MSP, Hilary Third of the Scottish government, the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee and everyone involved for their help.

“It is through this close collaboration and partnership that this momentous day has been made possible. I am proud, as a Scottish person, to see my country leading the way in making the first ever BSL Act in the UK.

“We look forward to working with the Scottish government to implement this and hope the rest of the UK follows suit.”