A row broke out between architects from London and Wales last week when the chairman of the RIBA London region, Tim Drewitt, rubbished plans to support the use of the Welsh language by comparing it to cockney rhyming slang.
The issue flared up when RIBA Council agreed to pay £23,500 to the Royal Society of Architects in Wales (RSAW) to help it deal with extra commitments stemming from devolution and the creation of the Welsh Assembly, including the translation of documents into Welsh. 'I'm surprised we support the use of the Welsh language, ' said Drewitt. 'Perhaps I should ask for a grant to translate everything into cockney rhyming slang.'
The RSAW estimates that it faces £3,000-a-year translation costs alone. President Robert Firth hit back at the remarks: 'Welsh is the oldest living language in Europe and is spoken by a third of the population. The ignorance of someone who compares it to cockney rhyming slang is incredible.'
There is no obligation for the RSAW to translate the documents it forwards to the assembly, but it is preferred that key documents are presented in both languages. Firth had argued for a grant of £41,000 but welcomed the payment, saying he was 'delighted the RIBA has recognised devolution'.
The payment was one of three made to London, Northern Ireland and Wales in the form of a 'devolution dividend'. London will receive an extra £20,000 after 2002 and Northern Ireland an extra £15,000.
A review of the amount of funding the RIBA should provide to Scotland is taking place this year.
RIBA presidential candidate Paul Hyett described negotiations as being 'on a knife edge' and warned that the RIBA and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) 'could fall apart' unless discussions are handled carefully. Currently the RIAS receives half of all RIBA subscriptions from Scottish members and is determined to maintain that level.