Language campaigners have accused the First Minister of dishonesty about the Welsh Government’s view on the Welsh Assembly name change, ahead of a vote today on the matter.
In July, a delegation from Cymdeithas yr Iaith met the First Minister and asked for his view on a Welsh-only name for the institution.
According to the group, he was unequivocal that he supported a Welsh-only name: Senedd. However, in a press interview on Monday, the First Minister said he would vote for a bilingual name.
The Welsh Government have since confirmed they will be whipping ministers to support an amendment put forward by previous First Minister and current Labour backbencher, Carwyn Jones, to drop the already widely-used Welsh-only name.
In November last year, discussing the notion of adding the name ‘Welsh Parliament’ to the institution, rather than just the Welsh name Senedd, Mark Drakeford said in an interview with the press:
“It does in a way, assume that the gold standard has been set somewhere else and what we have to do is recreate our own mini version and I’m not in favor of that,” he said.
“If I had to choose, I’d have to go with the Senedd because I am quite keen that we establish our still very new institution in ways that does not take a pre-existing model elsewhere as the sort of template and that we’re always judged against what has gone on somewhere else.”
Osian Rhys, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith had considered Mark Drakeford to be an honourable and principled politician.
“But I’m afraid to say that he’s been dishonest with us on the Senedd name,” he said.
“In our meeting with him in July, he was completely clear that he supports a Welsh-only name. Indeed, he went as far as to criticise other politicians who insist on translating the Welsh-only ministerial title of ‘Trefnydd’ into English. He didn’t mention any doubts the Government had with ‘Senedd’. He has misled us and the people of Wales.
“Many people already call the institution the ‘Senedd’ – just as they proudly sing the Welsh words of our national anthem. Everyone, from every background, has the right to celebrate these uniquely Welsh things, and no-one has the right to tell non-Welsh speakers otherwise.
“By giving the Senedd an English name too, it will inevitably normalise that name and undermine the use of the Welsh name.
“If we can all say Dáil or Bundestag without the need for an official English name, why can’t we do the same with Senedd?
“We call on our politicians to show confidence in our unique language, confidence in Wales and all its people – whether they speak Welsh or not – by giving our Senedd a Welsh-only name, a name that can belong to us all.”
Plaid Cymru have also made a last-ditch appeal to the First Minister to allow Labour Welsh Government ministers a free vote on naming the National Assembly.
Speaking ahead of the debate on the Senedd and Elections Bill today, Plaid Cymru’s deputy Leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said that Plaid Cymru strongly supported Senedd becoming the official name in both the main languages of Wales.
The Welsh language belonged to all the people of Wales, whether they speak the language or not, they said.
Rhun ap Iorwerth said that whilst the matter went “beyond party lines”, it was time to “take ownership” of one name that “belongs to each and every one of us”.
He urged the First Minister “at the eleventh hour” to allow Welsh Government ministers a ‘”free vote” on the matter.
“Where there was originally consensus, the Welsh Government now support an amendment put forward by previous First Minister and current Labour backbencher, Carwyn Jones, to drop the already widely-used Welsh-only name,” Rhun ap Iorwerth said.
“It is patronising to assume that those who do not speak Welsh will not understand the name Senedd – a name that is very widely used already. Furthermore, if it is a matter for Members, as the First Minister argues, will he not allow his Ministers a free vote on this matter?
“While this is a matter that goes beyond party lines, I appeal to the First Minister at this eleventh hour to show confidence in the ability of the people of Wales, whatever language they speak, people should be able to take ownership of one name that belongs to each and every one of us.
“Let’s instead be confident in ourselves, uniting the nation behind the name that belongs to everyone regardless of their language, reflecting both our heritage and the dawn of a new kind of democracy. This is our Senedd, a unique name for a unique Parliament.”