NORTH Antrim Ulster Unionist Party MLA Robin Swann has urged the Stormont Executive to “throw its full weight behind the promotion of Ulster Scots broadcasting in the constituency and beyond”.
Assemblyman Swann was speaking after writing to the Office of Communication, Ofcom, welcoming proposals for increased provision for Ulster Scots broadcasting on radio in Belfast and in other parts of Northern Ireland, including North Antrim.
Mr Swann has been a life-long campaigner for the Ulster Scots heritage and culture, and is especially active in the Scottish pipe band fraternity.
The UUP Assemblyman and member of the Culture Committee at Stormont raised concerns with Ofcom at the lack of Ulster Scots programming in Belfast compared with Irish Language provision, which already includes a fulltime dedicated station, Raidio Failte based in West Belfast.
In responding to Mr Swann’s letter, Ofcom has confirmed that the latest round of community radio licensing includes applications for a station for Belfast, Lagan fm, which will include regular Ulster Scots programming and an Ulster Scots station in Ballymoney, fUSe fm, in addition to another Irish Language station for Maghera.
Announcements on the licensing of these stations are expected before the summer.
Mr Swann drew attention to the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements, which stress the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity.
Mr Swann added: “Belfast is the capital city of this part of the United Kingdom and yet, while we have a full-time radio station dedicated to the Irish Language, there is little or no provision for Ulster-Scots, or indeed other ethnic minority languages. This has to change.
“Many Unionists feel a close affinity with Ulster Scots and the absence of it from our airwaves, coupled with the predominance of the Irish Language on radio, is further evidence of the erosion of the majority British tradition in Northern Ireland which has been at the forefront of recent news headlines.”
Mr Swann welcomed Ofcom’s Annual Plan which is currently out for consultation and which contains a specific commitment to assess the provision of Ulster Scots broadcasting services.
The North Antrim UUP MLA stressed he hoped that existing community radio stations across North Antrim and indeed across Northern Ireland would include more Ulster Scots programming in their schedules.