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, this programme explored 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 was 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

The programme's events (fully accessible to Deaf/Deafblind participants) took place in the Scottish Parliament and at the headquarters of the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, between May and November 2019. The workshops featured presentations and engagement of a variety of stakeholders and representatives from the signing community, civil society organisations, politics and government, academia, and media organisations.


The first workshop discussed the reasons for why a democratic body representing the signing community would be beneficial. The second event examined what such a body should look like, focusing on the model of a parliament. The final workshop focused on more practical issues related to the question of how the proposed body could function. 


To mark 10 years of SUII, we designed a series of posters showcasing some programmes supported by SUII between 2012 and 2022. Click on the image above for a full view of the poster created for this particular programme.

Visit our Insights page to find out more about the 10 Years of SUII.


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

Please contact the team for further information on the programme and any follow-up activities.