BSL National Plan
2023 - 2029


Foreword from the Cabinet Secretary of Education and Skills

Minister's Foreword

It is a source of great pride that Scotland holds a significant place in the rich culture and history of British Sign Language (BSL). Moray House at the University of Edinburgh was one of three institutions in the UK that confirmed BSL is a language, and the name ‘British Sign Language’ was first published from Moray House in 1975. An important cornerstone in the progress that has led up to this point.

Executive Summary

To deliver our ambition to make Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work, visit and learn, we have developed a number of actions under the
following ten priority areas:

Key Priorities & Actions

1. Delivering the BSL National Plan 2023-2029

We will embed the ambition of this plan within other government areas in order to make progress across the system. Our Implementation Advisory Group will provide oversight to this work, championing the voices of those with lived experience.

Action 1


Establish a BSL National Plan Implementation Advisory Group with representatives from the BSL community to help us deliver the actions within this plan and make the cross-cutting connections required to progress BSL equality in Scotland.

This plan will not be static, the ambitions set out within it requires flexibility and leadership to respond to opportunities and challenges. Collaborative working will help us achieve this aim.

Action 2


Work with listed authorities and the BSL community to establish best practice, share knowledge and improve the development and implementation of BSL local plans, as required by the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015.

Action 3


Develop the inclusive communication regulation as part of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) review, to ensure inclusive communication is embedded
proportionately by listed authorities when communicating with the public. We will engage closely with public bodies, equality advocacy groups and people with lived experience, including our partner organisations, to further develop this proposal based on consultation feedback. It is our intention that any new duties would come into force in 2025.

Action 4


Develop guidance on BSL access for public engagement, including quality assurance of BSL translations. This guidance will be primarily developed for the Scottish Government, we will share learning on what works well with our partners.

Action 5


Publish a progress report on the actions in 2026, the midway point for this plan. As a living plan, this will enable us to reflect on what further actions are required
to help us meet our longer-term goals and overall vision for BSL in Scotland.

2. BSL Accessibility

We recognise that BSL communities are underrepresented across organisations and services in Scotland. We want to promote and develop sustainable approaches to ensure that BSL users have access to opportunities and services impacting on their daily lives, ensuring they have information in the right format and at the right time.

Action 6


Improve accessibility of the Scottish Government website for BSL users. Information should be in a readily accessible format and be consistent across the
platform. We will strengthen our guidance and share our learning across the wider public sector to help increase accessibility standards for BSL users.

Action 7


Ensure that deaf and deafblind BSL users are included in the See Hear strategy as part of the wider group of deaf people, with a focus on living a good life, and the BSL National Plan continues to address equal access to BSL in all spheres of service delivery.

Action 8


Continue to promote the use of Contact Scotland BSL, Scotland’s BSL online interpreting Video Relay Service, making improvements to this service to ensure it meets the needs of BSL users.

Action 9


Implement SignPort and promote its use as an online portal for BSL/English interpreter bookings which will be launched for public use, within the Scottish Government and other public bodies. SignPort is expected to be launched for public use in Spring 2024.

3. Children, Young People and their Families

We will embed our commitment to Getting It Right for Every Child to provide all children, young people and their families with the right support at the right time.

Action 10


Facilitate the building of partnerships and effective working relationships between NHS teams and BSL providers. This will help to ensure that deaf and deafblind children and their families can access the right support from the earliest stages of childhood and in doing so we can strive to get it right for every child.

Action 11


Engage with stakeholders across Scotland to identify and mobilise a network of BSL providers.

Action 12


Work with representative groups across Midwifery, Health Visiting, Family Nurse Partnership, Allied Health Professionals and Audiology to help them understand
the importance of BSL provision on child and family wellbeing.

Action 13


Support NHS teams and BSL providers to develop robust referral pathways which will result in deaf and deafblind children accessing both the healthcare and language learning support they require.

Action 14


Consider the needs of those who are deaf and deafblind in our response to the Independent Review of Audiology Services in Scotland which was published in August 2023.

Action 15


Continue to support education authorities who have duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils, including those who are
deaf under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004. This includes the presumption of mainstream which enables children to learn in an environment that best suits their needs.

Families are supported through the Scottish advice service for additional support or learning, Enquire, that receives funding from the Scottish Government.

Action 16


Support opportunities for early years workers to learn BSL up to the level of Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6 to inform our future work in this area. SCQF Level 6 BSL is offered by Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and is equivalent to Signature’s BSL Level 3.

Action 17


Support opportunities for teachers of the deaf and teachers working with deaf and deafblind children and young people in obtaining qualifications up to SCQF Level 10. SCQF Level 10 is equivalent to Signature Level 6 in BSL, which is the highest possible qualification available as of October 2023. SQA’s highest qualification in BSL is Level 4, which is equivalent to SCQF Level 8 and Signature Level 4 in BSL.

Action 18


To work with the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) to explore and facilitate pathways for BSL users to obtain Qualified Teacher Status.

Action 19


Develop education as a priority theme within this plan’s Implementation Advisory Group, to explore access to BSL and teaching of BSL.

Action 20


Support the development of opportunities for deaf and deafblind children, young people, and their families, to learn about the heritage and culture of BSL, especially in Scotland.

Action 21


 Introduce Scotland’s first National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy in this Parliamentary term to ensure there is a joined-up approach so all disabled young
people can experience a supported and positive transition to adult life. The Scottish Government BSL Policy team will ensure that BSL users’ lived experience is fed into the development of the strategy.

4. Access to Employment

We will embed the principles of No One Left Behind, our all-age approach to employability to enable BSL users to consider what route to employment is right for them to enter into the workforce and fulfil their potential.

Action 22


Develop opportunities for deaf and deafblind young people to learn about transitioning into and navigating the workplace, helping them understand the support available to them and develop their skills. This will include how to work with BSL/English interpreters.

Action 23


Through No One Left Behind, deliver place-based employability services which support individuals to overcome structural barriers to entering and sustaining
employment. We will work with the Implementation Advisory Group for this plan to identify solutions to specific barriers for BSL users accessing devolved
employability support.

5. Health and Wellbeing

We know person-centred healthcare involves providing access to and delivery of services that are equitable. It is important to ensure that BSL users have the relevant information and services they need to make informed choices on their health.

Action 24


Develop health as a priority theme within this plan’s Implementation Advisory Group, to explore barriers around access and develop solutions to address them.

Action 25


Ensure that co-design on the development and implementation of the National Care Service involves BSL users.

Action 26


Work with our partners to implement and measure our core mental health standards. This will include a focus on ensuring information and services are accessible to all individuals, including those who use BSL.

Action 27


In line with the Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Action Plan, we will improve equality, inclusion and diversity training for the mental health and wellbeing workforce, including to promote existing BSL training to the workforce.

Action 28


Promote and support the learning of BSL as a second language for hard of hearing, deafened people and people at risk of a second sensory loss. People at risk of a secondary sensory loss should be better equipped with tools for them to communicate. Learning BSL as a second language provides an opportunity for this.

Action 29


Capture the learning from projects such as Deafblind Scotland’s BSL Café Project, funded by the Scottish Government, that supports people who are at risk
of a second sensory loss to acquire further communication skills by teaching them BSL.

Action 30


Build on the work set out within the social isolation and loneliness strategy, Recovering our Connections 2023-26, to embed actions related to BSL users and link with existing work at a local and national level to address issues of social isolation and loneliness, including access to services and projects.

6. Celebrating BSL Culture

We work with partners to ensure BSL users have access to and can participate in the cultural life of Scotland, enabling them to celebrate their own culture and heritage

Action 31


Work with Creative Scotland to help embed BSL further within culture and the arts in Scotland.

Action 32


Enable BSL users to take part in culture and the arts as participants, audience members and professionals.

Action 33


Support BSL organisation to celebrate BSL culture and heritage to strengthen the community, share their rich and vibrant culture, and feel more widely valued
within society. We will explore opportunities for children and young people helping to foster greater visibility of deaf role models, the development of a secure sense of identity, and reduced loneliness and social isolation.

Action 34


Identify ways in which the Scottish Government can further support growth for BSL in the heritage, culture and the arts sector, as well as promoting existing
workstreams, in line with the aims and ambitions of A Culture Strategy for Scotland.

7. BSL Data

We recognise the need to build an evidence base and gather data on BSL in Scotland, which will help inform our work in delivering this BSL National Plan and inform local plans.

Action 35


Work with our BSL partners to map out existing sources of evidence available within their organisations and networks, understand the barriers to evidence gathering and agree on the specific and priority gaps in the current evidence base

Action 36


Gather data and intelligence from projects funded by Scottish Government’s Equality and Human Rights Fund and learn what principles can be applied to BSL users that advance equality in this area.

Action 37


Develop and implement a strategic plan for BSL data, building on existing information and research, to set out how we will better understand the BSL community in Scotland relating to demographics and language use, as well as explore issues such as accessibility and access to services.

8. Transport

We will work with our partners to embed BSL further within our transport system to ensure safe, fair and inclusive access to public transport is available to BSL users.

Action 38


Work with Transport Scotland, using the principles of the Accessible Travel Framework, to improve transport services for BSL users.

Action 39


Work with Scotland’s transport delivery bodies – rail, ferry, air and bus operators to collaborate and identify practical solutions to make public travel more accessible for BSL users.

9. Access to Justice

We will take steps to ensure BSL users will have fair and equal access to the civil, criminal and juvenile justice systems in Scotland.

Action 40


Continue discussions with the BSL Justice Advisory Group, with the aim to regularly review the progress on actions within Justice around BSL and to mainstream BSL into other Justice workstreams.

Action 41


Develop the provision of BSL intermediaries, also known as intralingual professionals or advocates, for BSL users going through the justice system to inform work to be taken forward to support this provision.

Action 42


Support public bodies within the justice sector in exploring ways in which BSL support can be accessed more efficiently for frontline work and emergency response services.

10. Democratic Participation

We will deliver actions that will help BSL users participate in democratic and public life in Scotland, recognising that accessibility and information are key drivers in helping to achieve this aim.

Action 43


Develop participation as a key theme within this plan’s Implementation Advisory Group to deliver a set of resources that provide ongoing support for BSL users participation in democratic life.

Action 44


Work with COSLA and the Scottish Parliament to identify existing barriers in support for BSL users within political settings, such as councillor or MSP, and consider ways in which gaps can be addressed, including learning from the 2022 Access to Elected Office Fund.

Action 45


Facilitate BSL support in electoral campaigns and the election process to ensure BSL users can make informed decisions with access to all relevant information.

Resources & Downloads


BSL National Plan 2023 - 2029



Easy Read Version


"Access to Elected Office Fund"

The Access to Elected Office Fund (Scotland) offers financial assistance to disabled people who are seeking selection or have already been selected to fully participate in the political process. This will enable them to stand in Local Authority and Scottish Parliament elections, including by-elections. 

"Additional Support for Learning"

The Additional Support for Learning Act 2004 set duties for education authorities to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils, including those affected by deafness.  Additional support needs can be of short or long-term duration and can occur for any reason. Duties under the Act can apply from under the age of 3 to the point at which a young person leaves school. 

"Best Start, Bright Futures"

Best Start, Bright Futures is the Scottish Government’s second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, covering the period 2022-26. The plan outlines action to strengthen Scotland’s offer to families, focusing on steps to reduce costs of living and increase income from employment and from social security and benefits in kind. The plan takes a holistic, person-centred approach and calls for all parts of society to play their part in tackling child poverty. 

"BSL Justice Advisory Group"

This group was convened by the Scottish Government as part of our previous commitment within the BSL National Plan 2017 – 2023, and consists of multiple organisations from the justice, academic and third sector. The group provides a form of governance on justice-related work around BSL.

"BSL users"

Throughout the plan, we refer to ‘BSL users’. This covers all people whose first or preferred language is BSL, including those who receive the language in a tactile form due to sight loss. We also accept that the majority of BSL users are deaf and deafblind, as well as the fact that there are many deaf and deafblind people who do not use BSL. This plan will differentiate where appropriate whether an action is applicable to those who do not use BSL. 

"Christie Commissions Principles"

The Christie Commission was a commission on the future delivery of public services in Scotland. Its report in 2011 set out how public services need to reform so they remain sustainable and best support better outcomes and reduced inequalities. The commission’s recommendations included an emphasis on four key principles or pillars around participation, performance, partnership, and the prevention of harm. 

"Contact Scotland BSL"

The Scottish Government funds the Contact Scotland BSL online interpreting Video Relay Service, which enables deaf and deafblind British Sign Language (BSL) users to telephone, via video relay interpreters, private sector numbers as well as statutory and third sector numbers, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is a councillor-led, cross-party organisation that works in partnership with councils, Scottish Government and UK Government. 

"Culture Strategy for Scotland"

The Culture Strategy for Scotland was published in February 2020. It sets out a vision and series of aims that recognise the value of culture and its power to inspire, enrich and transform our lives and our communities. 

The Culture Strategy was developed to outline and reinforce the Scottish Government’s commitment to culture and creativity. Its aims include Strengthening Culture, transforming through Culture, and Empowering through Culture. This strategy will develop the conditions and skills for culture to thrive, placing culture as a central consideration across policy areas, and recognising each community’s own local cultures. The strategy can be found here.


This word is used to refer to people who are unable to hear and includes those who view themselves as culturally deaf.


This is the term used to refer to people who are both deaf and have sight loss. 

"General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS)"

The independent registration and regulation body for the teaching profession in Scotland. 

"Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC)"

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) provides Scotland with a consistent framework and shared language for promoting, supporting and safeguarding the wellbeing of our children and young people.

It underpins all Scottish Government policies which support children, young people and their families. It is locally embedded and positively embraced by organisations, services and practitioners across Children’s Services Planning Partnerships; and draws focus to changing cultures, systems and practice for the benefit of babies, infants, children, young people and their families.

"Justice System"

The justice system is the terminology commonly used to encompass the civil, criminal and juvenile systems- and organisation's include Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Prison Service, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland, and Scotland Children's Reporter Administration. 

"Listed Authorities"

Public bodies that are listed within the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015 within the Schedule, introduced by Section 6(1) of the Act. Public bodies that are listed within the Plan are required to publish their own BSL plans within 6 months after the publication of the Scottish Government’s BSL National Plan. 

"Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy"

The Scottish Government published a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy jointly with COSLA on 29th June 2023. The Strategy is evidence-based, informed by lived experience, and underpinned by equality and human rights.

It focuses on outcomes and is driven by data and intelligence. The scope of the Strategy is wider than our previous work in this space, with an increasing focus on wellbeing and prevention. We have also considered how the Strategy can take account of social factor and inequalities that may impact a person’s mental health and wellbeing. The Strategy sets out a clear vision for future population mental health, wellbeing and care, and our priorities to help us get there. Our vision is of a Scotland, free from stigma and inequality, where everyone fulfils their right to achieve the best mental health and wellbeing possible. This has been developed through collaboration with stakeholders, including people with lived experience.

"Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Action Plan"

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Action Plan (Autumn 2023) ensures that commitments in our new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy (June 2023) are underpinned by a resilient and sustainable workforce, that feel valued and supported to promote better mental health and wellbeing outcomes.  The Mental Health and Wellbeing Workforce Action Plan will look at the whole workforce journey and how we plan for, attract, train, employ and nurture our mental health and wellbeing workforce. 

"National Care Service"

The Scottish Government intends to introduce a National Care Service to provide national oversight which will improve the quality and consistency of integrated community health, social work and social care services that are delivered in local areas.  The National Care Service (Scotland) Bill is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament.

"National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET)"

The National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET), published in March 2022 set out our 10-year plan and priorities to achieve our vision of a wellbeing economy which delivers a fairer, greener economy for the people of Scotland. 

"National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy"

In the 2021 Programme for Government, Scottish Ministers committed to introducing a National Transition to Adulthood Strategy in this Parliamentary term. This will be a plan to improve the lived experiences of Scotland’s disabled young people as they make the transition to adulthood.

"No One Left Behind"

No One Left Behind is designed to help people prepare for employment, training, education and/or volunteering. Through No One Left Behind, Scottish Government will deliver an approach to employability that is flexible, person-centred, and integrated and aligned with other key services including health, justice, housing provision and advice services. 

"Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)"

This is set out in section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010. It consists of a general equality duty, supported by specific duties which are imposed by secondary legislation, which aims to integrate considerations of the advancement of equality into the day-to-day business of public authorities. More information can be found here

"Public Service Reform Agenda"

Shared commitment by Scottish Government and COSLA to reforming public services to ensure they are inclusive, sustainable, and effective in improving people’s outcomes.  

"Recovering our Connections 2023-2026"

The Scottish Government's Social Isolation and Loneliness Delivery Plan to take forward the delivery of A Connected Scotland – a strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger social connections.

"Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)"

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) is Scotland’s national qualifications framework. It provides a quality assured way of recognising, describing, and comparing the difficulty and ‘size’ of a whole range of qualifications and learning programmes (currently 10,500). 

"Scottish Government Equality and Human Rights Fund"

The Equality and Human Rights Fund supports projects that work to promote equality and tackling discrimination and prejudice. More information about the fund is available here.

"Scottish Specific Duties (SSDs)"

This was created by secondary legislation in the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012, then amended in 2015 and 2016. These duties are intended to help authorities listed in the regulations in their performance of the general equality duty. 

"See Hear Strategy"

The See Hear Strategy is the Scottish Government and COSLA strategy which shows their commitment to supporting children and adults who have deafness, sight loss and dual sensory loss to access the support and social care they need.

The strategy was published in 2014, and after 10 years, a new version is being written. The Scottish Government’s Sensory Loss in Social Care Advisory group has agreed that the next See Hear strategy will focus on “Living a Good Life with Sensory Loss Challenges”. This means it will contain actions which will improve the lives of people with sight loss, hearing loss, deafness and deafblindness after those challenges have been identified.


SignPort is an app that has been developed in response to a challenge set through the Scottish Government’s Civtech programme: how might technology help match British Sign Language (BSL) users and their required interpreters more easily and equitably?

The SignPort solution compromises both a mobile app to directly connect BSL users and interpreters, and an online portal to allow organisations and interpreting agencies to manage their bookings more efficiently. Both parts of the solution are fully integrated, supporting more effective deployment of interpreters across Scotland whilst giving BSL users more choice and control over their bookings, and improving their access to services. More information can be found here: SignPort

"The Arts"

Examples of the arts are literature, performing arts and theatre, music, dance and photography. 

"Transport Scotland’s Accessible Travel Framework"

The Transport Scotland’s Accessible Travel Framework provides a national vision and outcomes for accessible travel and a high-level action plan to tackle the key issues facing disabled people. The vision is that 'All disabled people can travel with the same freedom, choice, dignity and opportunity as other citizens.' 

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