Toby Dawson: Why Scotland becoming independent would be an opportunity for the Scottish Deaf Community

Posted on February 5, 2014



I am a supporter of Scotland becoming independent for many reasons.

Here, I will write about what I believe are the major plus points. I will also outline briefly why I think that Scotland becoming independent is one of the best opportunities that the Scottish Deaf Community is ever going to have.

Looking enviously at model countries such as Finland and Norway, for me, this is a great opportunity for a modern Scotland with a fairer traditional attitude to make deaf people’s lives more positive – compared to how it is now, after decades of lobbying with the Westminster Government.

I have no doubt that an independent Scottish Government with full powers will be a lot easier to work with, for deaf people.

tobydDeaf people tend to be internationalist, as we share a common problem with others all around the world. However it is disheartening to see Scotland not being able to have its own full say in a modern world. Scotland does pay its own way, as highlighted by Business for Scotland in this article.

So, if we could imagine a better Scotland in the future, then we can imagine better opportunities and services for deaf people too.

When it comes to the Scottish Government, I have to say that they have been reasonably positive about deafness, and with limited powers, they have made strong progress with deaf issues.

In Scotland, our First Minister’s Questions is available with subtitles (the equivalent of the Prime Minister Questions).

They have recently made Scotland’s Future White Paper accessible for deaf people (using AC2.com, a deaf led media production company, and Signworld’s Tessa Padden) with a BSL version of the White Paper.

And of course, there are the steps undertaken by the Scottish Parliament and deaf organisations, including BDA Scotland, campaigning for a Scottish BSL Bill.

I also remember during a visit to the Scottish Parliament, it was a pleasant surprise to see a logo of signing hands indicating that interpreters would be made available for a guided tour.

Not forgetting a video clip by Sign for Scotland which features a well-known Scottish politician and supporters of the Yes Vote using sign language – they all are signing “I am voting Yes.”

I was quite taken aback, as I have never seen a  politician signing proficiently on video, and I have tried in vain to search for another video clip of a politician signing and have had not any success so far (readers, let me know if you do find one). In this clip, Nicola Sturgeon, the currently deputy of the Scottish National Party is seen at the end signing.

My concern is for the future. It’s likely that in the event of a post No vote, Scotland will find its Barnett formula’s funding slashed, in turn affecting deaf people (as the Scottish Government have funded certain jobs within deaf organisations in Scotland for example).

And of course George Osbourne has announced a further cut of £25 billion pounds in welfare, that will inevitably see deaf people in Scotland being affected badly.

Reading / watching the Scotland Future’s White Paper, they have announced that they will seek to halt the roll out of the Personal Independence Payment in Scotland. That would be something reassuring, and needs to be relayed in the media for deaf people’s information.

My hope is that if Scotland votes Yes, it will become a country with a more positive attitude towards equality in society. A modern Scotland could create a new Constitution to protect the rights of deaf people in the future.

Of course, I would also love to see Scotland being run by people who live there, regardless of their nationality.

Scotland is an amazing country. Yes, it has some deep-rooted social problems but since the Scottish Parliament was created in 1997, Scotland has benefited. In my view, we now need to go onto the next step – which is being a parliament with full power.

Why the lack of media coverage?

I  write this part of my article with a sense of a huge degree of disappointment.

With the announcement of the Edinburgh Agreement on October 18th 2012,  the Scottish Government and the UK Government decided to allow the Scottish Government to hold the Scottish Independence Referendum on September 18th 2014.

For me, this is a great opportunity for the whole of Scotland, including the Scottish Deaf Community, and I was hoping to see something being reported or discussed on the likes of Deaf TV programmes like See Hear, The Hub and so on.

But nothing was reported or mentioned at all in the UK deaf media world at all.

I am a BBC licence payer (I am required to pay according to the law – if I want to watch a TV – unfortunately I cannot switch off the BBC!) and I felt that deaf people using BSL as their first language were entitled to see information on the Scottish Independence Referendum. Compared to the mainstream media in Scotland, it is a world of difference.

It dawned on me that the majority of the UK’s Deaf media are based in England, and it made me ask questions such as, are they being fair on Scotland? Do they call themselves broadcasters for the whole British Deaf community?

At the moment, all I want to see is a fair amount of information in BSL being given out to deaf people on the Scottish Independence Referendum so they can decide for themselves – rather than allowing silly stories to influence their decision.

Wouldn’t it be good to see a one-off special on the BSL Zone where there is a Scottish Deaf Indy Referendum debate? But will that ever happen?

I did personally contact See Hear, and received no response despite a few emails to them. However BSL Zone did get in touch with me with a brief response along the lines of ‘we will see.’

Toby Dawson is a deaf father of two, and is an enthusiastic student of Scottish history. Enjoys playing sports and he hopes to carry on as long as he can before old age sets in!

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