A Plaid MS has described the recent Census figures showing the decline of Welsh speakers in Powys as “hugely disappointing”.
Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru MS for Mid & West Wales, has expressed his concerns over 2021 Census data released today which show the number of Powys Welsh speakers has fallen by 2.1 per cent over last 10 years.
Across Wales, a drop of 1.2 per cent in those aged over three years of age who could speak Welsh was seen – dropping from a total of 562,000 (19 per cent of the population) in 2011, to 538,000 (17.8 per cent of the population) by 2021.
Powys witnessed a significant drop in the number of children aged 3 to 15 who could speak Welsh – falling by 7 per cent over the past decade, compared with a Welsh average of -5.7 per cent. Neighbouring Ceredigion saw a similar drop of -6.5 per cent, and Gwynedd -3 per cent.
Those aged 16-64 with the ability to speak Welsh in Powys stayed level, contrasting a national increase of 0.3 per cent across Wales. Meanwhile, in the age category aged 65+, Powys saw a 2.9 per cent drop, which echoed a national decline of 2.3 per cent across Wales over the past decade.
The Welsh government set a target to have one million speakers in Wales by 2050 six years ago.
Responding to the figures, Cefin Campbell MS said: “Figures for the Welsh language across Mid & West Wales are hugely disappointing and clearly raise significant concerns.
“Questions must be asked about the extent the Labour Welsh Government has provided effective leadership on Welsh language issues over recent years, particularly in growing Welsh medium education. This decline has happened on their watch since they took responsibility for language planning when they disbanded the Welsh Language Board over 10 years ago.
“In Powys, the significant fall of 7 per cent in the ability of 3-15-year olds to speak Welsh highlights a failure over the past decade of delivering purposeful Welsh medium education in the county. We need to act urgently to halt this decline - and while there has been some progress made in Welsh medium education in the county, it clearly does not go far enough.
“This is a massive wake-up call for everyone concerned with the future of the language, and if we are serious about meeting the target of creating a million Welsh speakers by 2050 then it’s time for Welsh Government and local authorities to work together as a matter of priority to address the issue before we reach the point of no return.”
Heledd Fychan MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for children, young people and the Welsh Language, added: “Plaid Cymru has long campaigned to ensure that access to learning and using Welsh is available to everyone in Wales and it is seriously concerning to see this demise in Welsh speakers under Labour’s watch. Cymraeg belongs to everyone in Wales, but we need more than warm words to ensure our language survives – we need radical action.”