The move was part of the Welsh Assembly Government's plan to resurrect Welsh. Taken from the above-linked PDF:
"Results from the 2001 census show that some 21% of the population in Wales said they were able to speak Welsh, compared with 19% in 1991.These results come in the wake of the launch of the Welsh Assembly Government’s National Action Plan for a Bilingual Wales, Iaith Pawb (A Language for All), which sets out a policy of supporting and promoting the language.The scheme, which received cross party support within the Assembly, sets out the vision for Wales “to be a truly bilingual nation… where people can choose to live their lives through the medium of Welsh or English…”."
For the strong-stomached amongst you who enjoy following Nationalists down the rabbit hole, the full text of this particular plan can be found here.
Unionist Lite already covered the legal aspects of this, and I do not intend to repeat him. But outside of the purely legal context, the special treatment of the Welsh language - and this court's idea provides only one example - is deeply lamentable.
For a start, look at the numbers. Even now, after decades of nationalist agitation to resurrect what divisions they can between the peoples of the UK, Welsh speakers amount to 21% of the population. Even this number can't be taken straight - what exactly does being able to 'speak Welsh' entail? It has been taught (universally) in schools up to the age of 16 as a compulsory language - does this figure span those with GCSE level competence, or those taught it but who never use it?
Even when taken at face value, 21% is not a lot of the population, but if a fifth of the Welsh population couldn't interact with the rest of the United Kingdom that would be a serious problem (and a Plaid wet dream). Thankfully, this isn't so - the number of monoglot Welsh speakers is infinitesimal. The vast bulk can speak English - the tiny minority who can't aren't nearly numerous enough to warrant purpose-designed, Welsh-language trials, certainly given that there are probably immigrant communities who don't speak English larger than the Welsh-monoglot constituency and they have to make do. The only justification for Welsh-language courts is nationalist ideology, and I'm relieved the government has rejected it.
In my research** for this piece, I was reminded again how bizarrely the principal political parties (the word unionist is a tad redundant in the Welsh context) have acted with regards to the language. Plaid Cymru striving to resurrect a venerated division is understandable, but why on earth have Labour and the Liberal Democrats (and probably the Tories, not that we've been relevant in Wales until recently) have thought it was a worthy goal? Why is a bilingual Wales something non-Welsh nationalist parties would want? I honestly don't know.
Bilingual roadsigns are a fantasic waste of time and money. If you don't speak English at all, then you are far more likely to hail from some distant land than from the valleys - Welsh-language road signs are completely redundant. Likewise the fantastic extravagance of producing ALL Welsh Assembly material in Welsh. Hopefully, this nationalist indulgence will be cut soon - a way for the Welsh Assembly to cut public spending with the absolute minimum of harm.
The European Union has played its own role in this sorry saga. The European project is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) and most ambitious unionist projects going. Its advocates consider themselves rational, cosmopolitan human beings who wish to overcome the bitter divisions of Europe's past - or so I thought. But then something like this comes along. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which aims to "to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe." Why on earth is the resurrection and maintenance of even pettier nationalisms than those that currently plague them on the agenda of European unionists? That isn't rhetorical, answers welcome.
I fear that this is another manifestation of the unionist ideological malaise that I wrote of earlier. I would hope that the Conservative & Unionist Party in Wales would vote to make Welsh a non-compulsory school choice. I would hope that supporting some form of common (second?) language would be considered a vital step in creating a lasting European Union. I'm resigned to the fact that in both cases the unionists probably lack the courage to do the deed - but I fear the possibility that they lack the conviction also.
**By "research" please read "trawling PDFs that made me cry".