Arfon AM Siân Gwenllian top of the list – 'an example to others', says Cymdeithas
Welsh Government Cabinet Members should use more Welsh in the Assembly Chamber – that's the message from campaigners, after the publication of research today showing that politicians' use of the language is 'low'.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith, who conducted the research, say Sian Gwenllian AM is 'an example to others' – she has spoken Welsh 99% of the time during plenary sessions in the Senedd since the elections in May 2016.
In general, Assembly Members only spoke Welsh 12% of the time in plenary meetings. Campaigners have suggested that the lack of Welsh being spoken by Ministers has contributed to the low figures. First Minister Carwyn Jones, who is fluent in Welsh, has used the language less than the average: only 10% of the time; while Dafydd Elis-Thomas' use of Welsh has fallen from 95% in 2015 to 73% in the period since the last election.
Responding to the statistics, Osian Rhys from Cymdeithas yr Iaith commented:
"It's clear that Sian Gwenllian is an example for her fellow members in the Assembly – and it's also encouraging to see that several learners are making use of their Welsh. However, it's still a source of concern that the language is spoken so little in our national democratic body. Our politicians have a particular responsibility to show leadership. At the beginning of the new year, we're asking every politician to make a resolution to speak more Welsh in the Senedd."
"One thing that appears to be a pattern is the lack of use of Welsh by Government Minister who could make much more use of the language. It seems to be common practice, or policy, of Ministers to make the majority of their speeches in English and to answer English questions in English even though there is simultaneous translation available at all times. That needs to change, and if the civil service is not providing enough support to prepare speeches and answers in Welsh, there needs to be leadership from the top. For example, it's telling that Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the Assembly Member who had the highest use of Welsh in 2015, speaks Welsh less often in the Senedd now that he's a Minister. That suggests there is a systematic problem with the way the Government operates."
Referring to the importance of leadership from the the Llywydd Elin Jones, Osian Rhys added:
"It's also clear that Elin Jones, as the new Llywydd, is giving strong leadership to members in terms of their use of Welsh in the Chamber, and we thank her for her work. We would also like to encourage her to consider ways of encouraging members, and especially Ministers, to speak Welsh more often in the chamber, given that we haven't seen the improvement over recent years that we would have expected."