Lobby group sets out plan to tackle “Gaelic crisis”

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Gaelic advocacy group Misneachd has published a new discussion paper, setting out five key steps, which the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig should adopt in order to tackle the decline of Gaelic in heartland communities.

Representatives of Misneachd presented the recommendations of the paper at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament Cross-party Group on Gaelic in Edinburgh this week.

The basis of the proposals are that the Government and the Gaelic organisations should recognise that there is an urgent linguistic crisis in Gaelic-speaking areas, and that the policies of the last 20 years have done little to stop this, despite progress in certain areas, such as education.

Misneachd highlighted research published almost a decade ago in Shawbost, which shows how precarious the situation of the language is in the Western Isles, in terms of intergenerational language transmission and language use among the young.

However, the group say that the National Gaelic Language Plan (2018–2023), and Government policies, do not sufficiently acknowledge this.

The other key proposals are: Establish a new fund for Gaelic as a home and community language, at least equal to what is spent on Gaelic education; Create more Gaelic jobs in the islands, and move a significant proportion of existing Gaelic jobs to the Western Isles, including relocating Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s headquarters; Begin a consultation process on a new Gaelic language act; Recognise Gaels in law as an indigenous linguistic minority; Recognise Gaelic-speaking areas in law like the Irish Gaeltacht and establish a taskforce to develop an integrated strategy for Gaelic-medium education from early years to university.

Misneachd also wish to see the Government setting local targets for numbers of Gaelic speakers, rather than a broad national target.

The discussion paper draws on views heard by the lobby group in a series of public meetings held in the Western Isles in March.

A spokesperson for Misneachd, Gille-chrìost MacGill’Eòin, said: “We heard from a lot of people that jobs in the Gaelic world are too far away and that Bòrd na Gàidhlig, among other bodies, should be moved to the islands.

“Many people in Gaelic communities are unhappy with the Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the local authorities.

“The proposals in this paper won’t achieve everything that’s needed, but they would be a good start.

“The Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig need to adopt policies like this if they are serious about maintaining Gaelic as a community language.”