Headlines: February 17th, 2004

The Scottish Parliament is breaking new ground with a scheme that will see First Minister’s Question Time interpreted for deaf people. During the pilot British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters will sign for deaf people in the public gallery at The Mound.The pilot sessions will take place on successive Thursdays, beginning next week and running until March 18th. During that time members of the public who use BSL are being encouraged to attend the Question Time sessions and provide feedback. The results of the pilot will be reviewed before the Parliament’s scheduled move to Holyrood and if they are judged to have been a success the provision of BSL interpreters could become a permanent feature of the Parliament when business moves to its new premises later this year.

The interpreters will also cover Question Time, when questions are put to all Scottish Ministers in an extension of the policy, in place since December 2000, to provide sign language interpreters or other related services on demand for plenary debates and committee meetings. The Edinburgh and East of Scotland Deaf Society will provide the interpreters for Question Time and First Minister’s Question Time.

The Parliament’s Presiding Officer George Reid said everyone in Scotland had the right to be involved in its work. “We are striving to ensure that we have a barrier-free Parliament that delivers on equality of access for all,” he added. The Parliament’s Equalities Manager Levi Pay said organisations had raised concerns that many deaf people were not aware that the Parliament already provided interpreting services for people who wanted to watch a debate in the Chamber or a Committee meeting. Providing interpreters for Question Time would raise awareness of this.