The British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill aims to promote British Sign Language (BSL), a visual-gestural language used at home by over 12,500 people in Scotland (Scottish Census, 2011). The Bill requires from Scottish Government a national plan outlining an action framework for BSL. Getting the first national plan right was critical to meeting the Bill’s objectives, as this plan aimed to establish the framework for all subsequent action on BSL (Education and Culture Committee, 2015).
This programme supported the first national plan by bringing together Deaf sector organisations, BSL users, educators and early years workers, policy makers, and experts in BSL, sign language studies and language learning. These stakeholders worked to share information, identify challenges and explore opportunities for increasing teaching of BSL within the Scottish Education system. “Promotion of BSL in an education setting” was identified by the Education and Culture Committee as one of five areas requiring particular attention in the national plan.
In the long-term, the aim is for an inclusive society where deaf BSL users can communicate in BSL with their friends, peers and colleagues. To meet this longer-term vision, careful thought and planning is required around how to provide sustainable opportunities for hearing children to learn BSL. The aim of this programme was to help this planning begin. 


The programme aimed to:

  • identify challenges and potential blocks, maximising time available to work on solutions;
  • identify priorities, assessing which can be dealt with using existing frameworks, and what actions are required for this to happen;
  • engage with and learn from international perspectives on sign language provision;
  • explore where existing resources/ projects could be expanded, adapted or more widely promoted; and identify gaps where new initiatives are required;
  • identify possibilities for partnership working between authorities to create an engaged and informed community of practice;
  • contribute to mapping work on BSL provision currently being undertaken;
  • publish a Recommendations Paper to be followed up by workshop participants and the BSL Advisory Group.

With support from key organisations in the Deaf sector, education and language policy, and consultation with Deaf BSL users, the sessions also aimed to set an immediate precedent for the partnership working acknowledged as critical to the Bill’s success.


BSL translation of the project overview: 

Programme Team

Prof. Graham Turner, Heriot-Watt University
Dr Madeleine Beveridge, University of Glasgow (formerly University of Edinburgh)
Janis McDonald, deafscotland (formerly Scottish Council on Deafness)
Heather Gray, National Deaf Children's Society
Avril Hepner, British Deaf Association
Prof. Antonella Sorace - University of Edinburgh/Bilingualism Matters
Derek Todd, deafscotland (formerly Scottish Council on Deafness)
Gary Quinn, Heriot-Watt University
Rachel O'Neill, University of Edinburgh

Final Report


Please contact the team for any outputs and follow-up activities.