UK Government “should take the lead” on Rojava and Catalonia response

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Here are the highlights from this afternoon’s international affairs and culture questions.

Only 12 Welsh-medium teachers have qualified this year*

Shadow Welsh Language Minister, Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West), asked about plans for the Welsh Government’s internal use of the Welsh language. A Welsh language communications plan was due to be in place for 2020 across all departments but hasn’t happened yet.

International Affairs & Welsh Language Minister, Eluned Morgan (Lab, Mid & West Wales) hoped the strategy would be in place during November 2019.

Suzy Davies welcomed that news but didn’t understand why it’s taken so long. Moving on, she touched on the work of Welsh language partnership councils. What were they doing to aid the development of the Cymraeg 2050 policy? She then dropped a bombshell figure that only 12 Welsh-medium teachers* have qualified during 2019.

The Minister said the economy was high up the agenda, but concerning teachers :

“It is a challenge to have teachers across the world currently, and I have been working very closely with the Education Minister to ensure that we can help to attract more people into a Welsh teaching course, and I do think that a lot of money has been going into it. For example, we have provided an additional £150,000 to ensure that more people undertake Welsh A-level because we know that many of those go on to teach and learn through the medium of Welsh. “
– International Affairs & Welsh Language Minister, Eluned Morgan

* Suzy Davies has since clarified that this meant teachers able to teach Welsh as a subject, which makes more sense but was lost in translation as the Minister’s response pointed towards a general shortage of Welsh-speaking teachers.

Crises in Kurdistan and Catalonia

Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) raised the urgent matters of Turkey’s “brutal and murderous assault” on Rojava and the jailing of Catalan politicians by the Spanish courts.

She was pleased the Welsh Government have made representations regarding the Kurds and that arms sales to Turkey have been suspended by the UK; did the Welsh Government think there was a case for Turkey to be referred to the European Court of Human Rights? Would they also do more to ensure companies based in Wales that were supplying weapons or weapon parts didn’t receive Welsh Government funding in the future?

On Catalonia:

“It is unconscionable that political jailings are happening in Europe in 2019. Western countries have rightly criticised China for clamping down on protesters in Hong Kong, yet we have an EU member state sending politicians to prison for delivering a legitimate, democratic mandate. Minister, will you join Plaid Cymru – and, indeed, some of your backbenchers – in condemning Spain for their actions?”
– Delyth Jewell AM

Whilst keen to acknowledge that foreign affairs is a reserved matter for the UK Government – and they’ll have to take the lead – the Minister welcomed the UK’s actions to date. She added that she’s written to the UK Foreign Secretary to ask what representations they’ve made regarding the prison sentences handed down to the Catalan politicians.

Boosting take-up of free swimming

Following recent changes to the Welsh Government’s free swimming scheme, which will see it targeted at areas of deprivation, Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) said she’s received more correspondence on this from affected over-60s than under-16s. How would the Welsh Government and Sport Wales ensure those who most need to use the scheme – young people who haven’t learned to swim – benefit from it?

The Welsh Government will seek a collaborative approach with councils:

“The reduction in funding is a reduction specifically on a scheme that was not reaching the populations for whom it was intended. But, it certainly is our intention that the younger people should benefit from this initiative. The key to us is working with the leisure centres themselves and with the local authorities, and this is Sport Wales’s intention.”
– Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd)

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