First Minister: Compulsory Welsh medium education ‘will alienate people’
One year into the cooperation agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru both party leaders clashed when discussing the nationwide fall in the number of Welsh speakers.
Questions to the First Minister yesterday, (6 December) came on the same day as the 2021 Welsh language census data results.
In the Senedd, Adam Price asked Mark Drakeford about the “further decline” in the number of Welsh language speakers.
The leader of Plaid Cymru pointed out that, 10 years ago the ambition of a million Welsh speakers was put in place, in a response in the decline in census figures at that point.
Mr Price asked: “This demonstrates, doesn’t it, that a central element of the Welsh Government policy is failing … so wouldn’t the most positive response to today’s news be to ensure that the Welsh Education Bill that is proposed would provide Welsh medium education to all children in Wales …?”
Mark Drakeford’s response was that he didn’t agree with the final point made: “There are a number of things underpinning these figures, and it’s worth taking the time to consider what lies behind them … things are more complex I think than the leader of Plaid Cymru suggested this afternoon …”
Back on his feet, Mr Price said: “I am disappointed with your initial response First Minister, because there was recognition as the figures were published 10 years that we were in a critical situation …”
Mark Drakeford’s reply was that he was always more of an optimist than Plaid Cymru: “They hate it when you point out to them that always on every point when they get up on their feet is always to give the most pessimistic view possible of what Wales can achieve.”
By this point in time, Adam Price and a few other Plaid Cymru Senedd members were shaking their heads more in sorrow than in anger mode.
After informing the Llywydd that he “was well aware of the difference between a number and a percentage” in a reference to an earlier point made by Adam Price, and indeed thanking him for that, the First Minister continued.
“He has offered one solution this afternoon, a solution that my party will not adopt. I’ve been as clear as I can with him about that – compulsory education for everybody through the medium of Welsh is not the answer to the Welsh language in Wales. It will alienate people who are sympathetic to the Welsh language. It will set the language backwards, not forwards.”
There was some light relief later on – thanks to a question from Hefin David MS for Caerphilly. He asked the First Minister for his assessment of the first-year cooperation agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru. This resulted in laughter and smiles from both sides, including both Mark Drakeford and Adam Price.
The First Minister said: “By working together we have made real progress on a range of joint commitments that have had a direct impact on people’s ability to manage during this cost-of-living crisis. These include free school meals, the expansion of free child care and measures that help people to live in their local communities.
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