British Sign Language (Training)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 7 June 2007.

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Photo of Marilyn Livingstone Marilyn Livingstone Labour 11:40, 7 June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to increase the number of students training as British Sign Language interpreters. (S3O-135)

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to increasing the number of British Sign Language interpreters in Scotland. Our approach is focused on developing and supporting the infrastructure to deliver long-term change, including supporting a graduate diploma in teaching British Sign Language tutors at Heriot-Watt University. However, we recognise that we also need to encourage students to come forward to undertake training as interpreters and have provided funding to the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters to explore additional and innovative routes for the training of BSL/English interpreters, such as apprentice schemes and work-based learning.

The Government's BSL and linguistic access working group is also specifically looking at how to increase the number of BSL interpreters working in Scotland. The working group will deliver its recommendations early next year.

Photo of Marilyn Livingstone Marilyn Livingstone Labour

I have recently held public consultations in the Fife sensory impairment centre, at which the shortage of BSL interpreters, which the minister mentioned, was raised continually. Does the Executive have any plans to address the issue by including BSL as part of the secondary school curriculum?

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

The Government accepts the need to explore additional ways in which it can further increase the number of registered BSL/English interpreters. In the previous session of Parliament, the previous First Minister promised to double the number of BSL interpreters, but there has been an increase of only about 20 per cent. Clearly, there is much further to go on the issue. The Scottish Executive's equality unit has recruited a BSL and linguistic access project manager with expertise in BSL to develop a detailed plan for improving linguistic access for deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing people.

The member mentioned the curriculum, which, in Scotland, is not prescribed by statute. However, it is important that we help children in school who have such difficulties to communicate effectively. I will certainly encourage as much as possible the ability of children to use BSL in and outwith school.