Language Diversity and Social Cohesion: The Support of Police in North West Wales

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Stefan MACHURA, Bangor University, United Kingdom
North west Wales is an area of the United Kingdom where the majority speaks Welsh as first language. Welsh nationalism and speaking the language are connected in complicated ways. With Wales being granted more political powers by London and a policy to support the use of the Celtic language, tensions between English and Welsh speakers have risen. Public institutions and private businesses are bound to support the local language. The police are one of the state agencies affected but needing cooperation of members of all groups. Police cars and uniforms are marked in Welsh and jobs require knowledge of Welsh. We were interested in how language and identity politics play out for the institution. In two consecutive years, we have measured factors that could influence trust in the police, like media, personal experience, and various demographic factors, but with a special emphasis on aspects of Welsh language use and nationalism.

The first questionnaire study with undergraduate students at Bangor University showed that those students who prefer to speak Welsh in a variety of daily situations, e.g. with family, the family doctor and in shops, also had less trust in the UK police. This result stands even when taking into account other factors. The follow up study, addressing North Walians in various community groups, further investigates the issues but this time focuses on trust in North Wales Police. Preference to speak Welsh comes up as strongest factor for support of the local force. Tellingly, respondents expressing positive feelings for the English flag tended to distrust the local Welsh police. Trust in the police thus reflects issues of language and identity politics. Our study, however, suggests ways how an institution can actively address these issues and bridge the divide.