Scottish Parliament

Sign language users in Scotland (and worldwide) face exceptional barriers to meaningful participation in political processes. The challenge takes two forms: firstly, these processes are almost never conducted in signed languages; and consequently, secondly, signers’ views are almost never adequately represented.

To address this conundrum, we will explore the idea of an implementable model for the world’s first sustainable ‘Signing Parliament’ – a representative, democratic body which could complement and enrich the work of relevant authorities as they begin to implement their commitment to deliver the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015. The goal is to design a model for a representative body that could:

  • Efficiently represent the democratic ‘voice’ of BSL users in public life
  • Channel community opinion to the relevant authorities
  • Inform public policy development
  • Enable institutions to act with greater confidence on BSL issues
  • Strengthen the diffuse BSL community, acting as an agent for pride and resilience
  • Demonstrate enhanced practice in facilitating democratic participation
  • Promote engagement in national democratic processes among signers, acting as a springboard to enhanced contributions to public life
  • Offer an international model for other communities

We will hold three events* (fully accessible to Deaf/Deafblind participants), which will take place in the Scottish Parliament and at the headquarters of the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, between May and November 2019. The workshops will feature presentations and engagement of a variety of stakeholders and representatives from the signing community, civil society organisations, politics and government, academia, and media organisations.


In the first workshop, we will discuss the reasons for why a democratic body representing the signing community would be beneficial. The second event will examine what such a body should look like, focusing on the model of a parliament. Finally, we will focus on more practical issues related to the question of how the proposed body could function. 



*The three workshops are designed to strongly build upon one another. It is therefore crucial that a high degree of continuity exists also in terms of the workshop participants. This will allow us to effectively engage with the topic of each workshop and arrive at concrete and well-defined outcomes in the form of proposals that can be passed on to the political institutions and decision-makers. We therefore give priority to people interested in participating and contributing, who will commit to attending all three, or at least two, of the workshops.

Programme Team

Professor Graham H. Turner, Heriot-Watt University

Dr Stefanie Reher, University of Strathclyde

Denis Oag, Scottish Parliament Information Centre

Ben Fletcher, deafblind parliamentary candidate

Ann-Marie Treacy, Deaf Connections

Final Report

A final report of the findings will be available at the end of the project. Check back soon.


There are no outputs listed for this programme.