So, we are talking about an annual cost that can be estimated at around £100m a year. That is £2bn over the next 20 years.
Shades of RHI Aaaghh!!
But it’s nonsense to think that any such Language Act here would be as extensive or as expensive as the Welsh provision. The comparison is – shall we say – misleading. Fake News, if you will.
Support for Welsh is a given. 53% of the Welsh even call for more support for the Welsh language. One in three of the total population say they speak it fluently.
New standards for the Welsh language are very extensive – so extensive they are being reviewed But they affect all public bodies. Implementation plans may vary but a commissioner can levy a fine of £5000 on bodies which fail to comply.
Public bodies across Wales are being told which services they will be required to provide in Welsh.
There are some 87 standards, including that organisations should reply in Welsh if they receive a letter in Welsh, and that people are invited to speak Welsh at public meetings.
They will replace Welsh language schemes at the authorities concerned.
However it will be up to the commissioner to decide which apply to what organisation, according to activities they carry out.
First Minister Carwyn Jones who has responsibility for the Welsh language, said: “We want to see bilingualism as the norm in our public authorities. We are confident that these regulations will achieve that.”
These included requiring bodies to make it clear that they welcome correspondence with the public in Welsh and giving the language priority on bilingual signs.
Under the draft proposals the main switchboard of the organisations would also be staffed by a Welsh speaking member of staff and all press releases would would have to be published in Welsh.
Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) chief executive Steve Thomas said his organisation “works well with the commissioner”, Meri Huws, and that the WLGA has been part of “very positive” discussions around language standards.
But he acknowledged “there are concerns” at the potential costs associated with implementing changes.
Any organisation found not to be meeting the required standards could face a fine of up to £5,000.
But the language commissioner Meri Huws said this is not the final step in the process of introducing standards, and that there are more that must be followed before organisations operate the standards procedure.
Nothing conceivably like this could or should apply in Northern Ireland. The Assembly would define its application – I suggest to main Assembly speeches, higher court proceedings and some legal documents. If councils want to be involved they should be required to hold a referendum and absorb the costs themselves.
The crocodile’s appetite can be controlled, Arlene. You could do business here. But is her problem more basic? Does she really believe that what she may regard as concessions are made to nationalists, the gates of the citadel will fall? The sad old zero sum game rears its ugly head again. This is the attitude that nationalists scent which provokes such a reaction and gives Sinn Fein a free boost. It would be easier to correct this impression than she fears. Good relations require more than grim dealing to scale down gangs and the residue of private armies. Separate development does not guarantee enduring peace. If they go on like this, the idea of a shared future becomes even more of a pipe dream.