Letter from Wales: The Welsh Language Society needs some decent PR! – Pub. Labour Uncut 23.8.13

I have been wrong.

And never let it be said that I will not listen to a fair and reasonable argument, albeit that I may well disagree with part of it.

On 21.8.13 I interviewed Tony Schiavone, a representative of the Welsh Language Society and I must say I was impressed. Indeed, the Society is to be commended for entering into a dialogue with me in the first place, which is more than can be said for Dyfodol, another Welsh language pressure group, but then they are associated with the taxpayer subsidised  Welsh publisher Y Lolfa, so say no more.

The thrust of the interview concentrated on the WLS’s views on planning policy in Wales in respect of its impact on the development and preservation of the Welsh language eg how far should a 62% Welsh speaking community be considered when planners examine housing needs, be it private or public sector?

Would not an influx of non-Welsh speakers result in the possible denigration of the language?

As you can imagine, my immediate response to this was one of “hold on, this stinks of minority protectionism on a grand scale?”

Not so, as was duly pointed out by Mr Schavione. He made it clear that the Society’s view was one of “consideration” not enforcement and he gave me no reason to doubt his sincerity in this. I must also stress that not once during the interview did I feel I was dealing with a gentleman of extreme and unrealistic inclination.

His polemic if you like, was simply that planning policy should take into account the relevant character of the local community and the social impact on Welsh speakers. He was also clear that the Society’s objectives were in no way an attempt to keep “outsiders” out, it was more a question of proportionality.

Now, believe it or not I couldn’t really argue with his well-balanced reasoning.

What struck me more than anything else when reflecting upon the interview, was the fact that the WLS needs to sort its image out. I for one had always associated the Society with tyranny and intolerance.

I have been wrong.

What it must do, is disassociate itself from Welsh language extremists and those who still carry the Saunders Lewis colours of direct action and infamy or for that matter RS Thomas’ Welsh speaking bucolic utopia.

As I have said before, in the modern world, the way forward for the Welsh language is consensus, persuasion and moderation and of course, not forgetting social media!

Finally I must add, that there wasn’t one shred of animosity or combativeness during the interview, which I am confident Mr Schiavone will confirm- and he’s a north Walian!

Julian Ruck is an author, columnist and Freedom of Information campaigner. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media

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