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British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 FAQs


Introduced by Mark Griffin MSP to the Scottish Parliament on 30 October 2014, the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 was passed into law on 17 September and is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about the BSL Act 2015:

  • The Bill was originally proposed back in 2010 by the then Labour MSP Cathie Craigie but fell in 2011.
  • The Bill was then proposed with a different focus by Mark Griffin MSP as a members’ Bill.
  • The draft proposal was published on 27 July 2012 and consultation on the Bill concluded on 7 November 2012.
  • It attracted support from 43 MSPs and was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 29 October 2014.
  • Read our briefing to MSPs ahead of the first debate and the key themes covered.
  • The Act aims to raise awareness of British Sign Language (BSL) and improve access to services for those using the language.
  • It does this by requiring the Scottish Government and other listed bodies to create their own BSL Plans on how they will promote the use of the language.
  • It can therefore be considered as an enabling framework for public authorities to promote BSL within their services.
  1. The Scottish Ministers will be required to create a BSL National Plan for Scotland, setting out their strategy for the promotion of BSL. This will inform the Plans that listed bodies (such as local authorities) will have to publish.
  2. Listed authorities are also required to prepare their own BSL Plans that mirror the principles in the National Plan.
  3. All Plans are to be published in BSL.

The legislation does not specifically state what is to be included, however our recommendation was that the National Plan had a strong focus on child-centred provision and early-intervention, to ensure deaf children are given the best start in life and are supported to reach their full potential.

In particular, we recommended that the National Plan addressed:

  1. Closing the education attainment gap experienced by deaf learners.
  2. Minimum levels of qualification in BSL for education practitioners, to ensure deaf learners are supported by Communication Support Workers who are able to accurately interpret what the teacher is saying.
  3. BSL becoming an accredited school qualification and having the same status as other languages.
  4. Improving the availability of Family Sign Language and other family support.
  5. Ensuring aspirations of the Act are appropriately resourced.
  • The final debate took place on 17 September 2015 and saw MSPs unanimously vote to pass the Bill into law. You can watch the debate below or read the official report.
  • The Act became enforceable the day after it received Royal Assent on 22 October 2015.
  • You can read our briefing to MSPs ahead of the final debate.

  • The first BSL National Plan was published in October 2017. The next plan will be in 6 years time.
  • The first listed authority Plans must be published within one year of the first National Plan being published, and within 6 months of every subsequent National Plan.


  • The Scottish Ministers must produce their first progress report within 3 years of publishing the National Plan (October 2020), and every 6 years thereafter.
  • Progress reporting will be monitored through self-assessment and feedback from BSL users. The National progress report will highlight good practice and areas where development is needed, without naming and shaming local authorities.
  • Listed authorities must consult with those likely to be directly affected, or who have an interest, in an authority Plan. They must, in particular, consult BSL users.
  • To find out more about how to get involved, please contact [email protected].

Find out more

To find out more about the legislation, email us at [email protected]

You can also visit our BSL Act Updates and Resources page for information on the latest developments