Pub buy-outs ‘can protect Welsh’

The Welsh Assembly could buy village shops, pubs and post offices with taxpayers’ money to safeguard Welsh-speaking communities if members approve plans being heard.

The culture committee’s rolling review of the language’s future is hearing the tongue could be missing from the Welsh landscape in a century if action is not taken.

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas wants the assembly administration to give grants to villages’ most entrenched institutions and focal points in a radical bid to keep Welsh alive.

The debate in Cardiff Bay follows the publication of a United Nations report which warns the language is in danger of dying out.

Presenting an ideas paper, Plaid Cymru’s member is telling the committee radical ideas are needed, including using public money to bankroll the local meeting points.

“We have to create structures in Wales which mean we have sustainable communities,” he said.

“Where those communities are Welsh-speaking communities, the Welsh-language will be preserved as a by-product of that.

“Certain communities are losing vital services and it may well be a viable idea to create local funds which people can access to help them buy post offices, pubs or whatever to keep those communities sustainable.”

Lobbyist calls

That echoes calls from Cymuned, the group formed in 2001 to lobby for protection of Welsh.

The group believes the arrival of monoglot English speakers in heartland areas has contributed to an erosion of the tongue and the culture communicated by it.

Members claim that has pushed the prices of properties up beyond the reach of locals whose families have inhabited their community for generations.

BBC Wales poll results published on 13 February showed a third of Welsh-speaking parents never use the language in conversation with their children, raising fears for its future.

Extra money to keep open arenas for the language could help halt that decline in its use.

The UK Government’s Post Offices Bill, introduced in 2000, already gives customers the right to appeal closure of their local sub post office, a place where many locals meet to chat and exchange information.

And Prince Charles has recommended communities “make the pub the hub” in a bid to safeguard rural life.

But a frustrated Conservative Monmouthshire AM David Davies said areas other than north and west Wales suffer the same sort of rural disintegration.

“Of course there is a threat to buy rural pubs in Welsh-speaking areas, but there is as much of a threat in non-Welsh speaking areas,” he told Mr Thomas on BBC Radio Wales.

“It would be grossly unfair to use taxpayers’ money to support communities in one area and not in another.”

The Plaid Cymru AM said that was pre-empting the argument – his proposal had not limited suggested local cash reserves on regional lines.

International damage

Last week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization warned Welsh was still an threatened species in its own habitat.

In its Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing, the UN body – an international cultural watchdog – said around half of the world’s 6,000 languages are threatened.

UNESCO’s Paris-based editorial officers Sophie Boukhari told BBC News Online: “Welsh is classified as endangered.

“That is the second of three risk categories and means the youngest people to use the language are young adults.”

On Wednesday, UNESCO chiefs wrote to the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff to enquire about its measures to protect the language.

But, during the morning, Assembly Culture Minister Jenny Randerson slapped down calls for a new Welsh Language Act.

She said there was still mileage left in the 1993 act, measures for which are implemented by the Welsh Language Board.