Toby Dawson: How the proposed constitution could give Deaf people better rights in an independent Scotland

Posted on June 19, 2014



When it was first mentioned that an interim draft constitution for an independence Scotland would be announced in June, I became excited at the idea of it for many reasons.

Decades of campaigning with the Westminster Government to improve Deaf rights, has failed to improve Deaf rights as highlighted by the well-known “Spit the Dummy” BSL Campaign on Facebook.

Earlier this week, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, unveiled the temporary constitution in the form of draft legislation, which – if passed by parliament- would take effect from 24 March 2016. This is the day ministers say Scotland would become independent after a “Yes” vote. A “constitutional convention” would then be established to prepare a permanent constitution for an independent Scotland.

It pleased me massively because it included protecting Deaf and disabled people via the equality section of the constitution.

It stated –

(3) The Scottish Government and public authorities must, in carrying out their functions, seek to promote and secure equality of opportunity for every person in Scotland regardless of personal characteristics.

(4) In this section, the references to personal characteristics include (as well as other characteristics)—

  • (a) age,
  • (b) disability,
  • (c) gender reassignment,
  • (d) marriage or civil partnership,
  • (e) pregnancy or maternity,
  • (f) race,
  • (g) religion or belief,
  • (h) sex,
  • (i) sexual orientation.

And something much more exciting for BSL users –

Page 66 ( you can see it via this link: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00452762.pdf)

Many constitutions contain provision about national and official languages and although there is no language provision in the Scottish Independence Bill the Constitutional Convention, as stated in Question 589 of Scotland’s Future, could consider the constitutional status of Scotland’s languages such as English, Gaelic, Scots and British Sign Language.

Toby Dawson

Toby Dawson

The announcement could become a pivotal moment in the struggle of equality and the recognition of British Sign Language for Deaf, hard of hearing, and disabled people living in Scotland, and in time perhaps, the rest of the United Kingdom will benefit from it, as an independent Scotland could become a shining light for equality and rights to the rest of the UK.

Scandinavian countries have obviously influenced each other in improving deaf people’s lives, and the Nordic Council of the Deaf is a good example of a healthy co-existing, and information sharing between countries.

They are asking people to send in their views (see this link: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00452762.pdf) this is a golden opportunity for Deaf people living in Scotland to tell the Scottish Government what they would like to see being implemented into the permanent constitution.

One thing is for sure, the Scottish Independence Referendum is now gathering pace towards to September 18th, and a lot has changed since October 15th 2012, the day where the Edinburgh Agreement took place, the agreement between the Scottish Government and the UK Government for the terms of the Scottish Independence Referendum to take place on September 18th.

From what I can see, more and more people are heading towards to the Yes vote, including several people moving from a No vote to a Yes vote.

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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