"Too much spent on Gaelic?"

Published: 9 May 2012 09:3032 comments

The controversial issue of government spending on the Gaelic language at a time of cut-backs has been raised again by a Largs & Millport News letter writer.

A taxpayer has challenged local SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson over the amount of money spent on promoting Gaelic.

Mr Peter McGlone of West Kilbride has criticised the Scottish government over expenditure on Gaelic, including a proliferation of road and travel signs.

In a letter to the Largs & Millport Weekly News Mr McGlone responded to Mr Gibson's defence of promoting the Gaelic language.

He wrote: "Kenneth's response does not address concerns that myself and thousands of others, who are wakening up to the situation, are raising. It is typical of a politician who has to defend the indefensible in that he has to trivialise and distort the true position.

"He indicates that of the £195 million government budget for Gaelic and Culture, only (yes only),£25 million a year is being spent on Gaelic promotion. Given the austerity measures and cut backs that the country and every council is facing this is completely unreasonable. This would more than offset the measures the whole of Ayrshire is facing and, who in the SNP government will ensure that only £25m will disappear from the £195m?"

Mr McGlone stated: "He trivialises the complaint about thousands of roads signs appearing with Gaelic on them as being only a few bilingual for "routes leading to Western Isle ferry ports." This is nonsense. Last year I went up west to Loch Ness. From Glasgow boundary, virtually all signs were changed. I also visited relatives up north near Kinloss. Same thing."

Mr McGlone's full letter is on a page of readers' views in the Largs & Millport News of May 9, 2012.

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  • Epifit
    Unregistered User
    May 9, 15:29
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    This signage is aimed at the tourist market. Given that Scotland took in £4 billion of tourists' money in 2010 alone, then the costs of this signage is money well spent.

    Recommend?   Yes 56     No 11

  • StMcDonald84
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    May 9, 15:49
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    Who are these 'thousands of others' that Mr McGlone speaks on behalf of?

    I was unaware there was such strength of feeling on the matter...

    I think it is important to keep this beautiful language alive. Mr McGlone is clearly a Philistine

    Recommend?   Yes 46     No 12

  • cmurphymathieu
    3 posts
    May 9, 18:34
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    Learning any language, be it an ancient scottish one or french, or italian or chinese, is a fantastic mind broadening experience.

    The contempt you show to Gaelic is quite frankly,uncomprehensible. We have an incredible cultural heritage, let's promote it !

    If you travel around a bit in Europe you will find countries where many languages co exist : Switzerland has 3 so does Belgium ! All their sign posts reflect this.

    Recommend?   Yes 47     No 11

  • Eoghan
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    May 9, 19:01
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    I travel to Alban partly because of the language. Suas leis a' Ghaidhlig!

    Recommend?   Yes 46     No 9

  • Hamish
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    May 9, 20:52
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    I would suggest Mr McGloe goes on a "wee holiday" abroad but he probably would complain that the road signs are in a foreign language. I am not sure what "Mr Angry" is in Gaelic but the idea that he fumes all the way to Kinloss and back because of road sign's indicates something deep in his psyche.

    Let's remove the anglicised Gaelic road names and relearn at least a little bit of our heritage.

    As a non-gaelic speaking/reading or writing Scot I like to see bi-lingual signs and as "Epifit" mentions above it adds to the tourist experience for visitors to Scotland. There is plenty of money spent on various government publications in various world languages it is not unreasonable that "Alba" protects a little bit of our own culture gaelic speaker or not.

    Recommend?   Yes 45     No 10

  • macillechroise
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    May 9, 22:33
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    As an American, and therefore an outsider who has come to Scotland, I believe that Gaelic is a massive strength to the Scottish cultural market (eg tourism, music). It is a major characteristic that sets it apart from the rest of the UK and should be strengthened. Who wouldn't want a larger cut of the American tourists' money who go to Ireland to experience the traditional Gaeltacht and the language of their ancestors'. You'd be silly not to!

    Recommend?   Yes 39     No 10

  • jakeyrollin
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    May 9, 22:38
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    Total claptrap and a complete waste of money. We're pandering to a select few who want this tosh with a bit of snobbery to boot. The next generation will have nothing to do with any of this self indulgence. Get over yourselves and spend the money on a childrens home. Selfish gits.

    Recommend?   Yes 15     No 45

  • Niall
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    May 9, 22:56
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    If you think it's disgraceful how much is being spent on Gaelic road signs, you'll have a fit when you see the entire road sign budget. It's humungous!!!! If people want to know where they're going, they should buy a GPS, not sponge off the public purse with "road signs". Road signs are a dead technology, and if a select few snobs want to support them, they should do so with their own money.

    Recommend?   Yes 8     No 24

  • Hamish
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    May 9, 23:11
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    "JAKEYROLLIN" -calling people "selfish gits" "snobs", "self indulgent" is not very grown up--the road signs would be there in any case----you need to lighten up- and to Niall I don't have GPS -but still happy for you to play with your little toy however --each to their own !!! If you don't like the road signs ---close your eyes when driving pass!!

    Recommend?   Yes 33     No 3

  • ElinorMac
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    May 9, 23:16
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    In a country where Gaelic is the National language, I think it is pretty ignorant and foolish to be complaining of roadsigns being in the Gaelic Language. The Gaelic Language is an ancient and beautiful language and should be encouraged instead of being dumped on!! Suas leis a'Gaidhlig!!

    Recommend?   Yes 33     No 10

  • Frank Hall
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    May 10, 00:33
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    To all those who think Gaelic is your national language or heritage think again. The notion that all of Scotland spoke Gaelic is just another fairytail to add to kilts (of the variety we see today), clan tartans and biscuit tin lid delights created to amuse the victorian gentry.

    Scots was more widely spoken than Gaelic, where is the preservation for that language?

    Recommend?   Yes 16     No 32

  • Govan_Gaidheal
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    May 10, 01:23
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    To the bigoted little half wit that is Frank Hall,

    Scots was more widely spoken than Gaelic? Really? Any evidence to back this up? I find this extremely unlikely as what you pass off as fact is in reality, complete and utter bullshit.

    Scotland does have a rich and diverse linguistic heritage. Of the many languages that are or were spoken in Scotland, until the final spread of English into the Highlands and Islands in the 20th century, only Gaelic could claim to have been a lingua franca or language of all Scotland, with the only notable exceptions being Orkney and Shetland.

    Scots may have latterly held prestige among the King's Court but it was never more than a regional language spoken in the Lowlands and a few Lowland settlements. It is worth noting that right up until the Highlands Clearances, the Lowland and Highland populations were roughly equal.

    Judging by your ignorance as yet I'm sure you're going to come back with the "Gaelic was never spoken here!" bullshit. I have academic evidence to back up my facts, unlike the bigoted crap you pass off as fact.

    With regards to the promotion of Scots, as a native speaker, I'm all for it. Sadly people like many of those above, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, prevent further progress on this front.

    Next time, don't pass of everything you hear as fact. You've just embarrassed yourself.

    Recommend?   Yes 35     No 10

  • fed up with excuses
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    May 10, 05:33
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    well said to the person above. I myself do not speak it fluetly but I am teaching myself it. Maybe if they had taught it in school (like they did with French) when I was perhaps everybody would be speaking it now. I feel like I missed out on being able to speak MY OWN language and in seeing this 'wee' bit of Gaidhlig on the signs helps. Get over the pettiness and find something different to complain about.

    Recommend?   Yes 34     No 6

  • more fed up
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    May 10, 11:05
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    its a change from parking fed up ;-)

    Recommend?   Yes 0     No 8

  • Niall
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    May 10, 11:43
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    Frank Hall,

    If you want public recognition for Scots -- campaign for it! The Gaels spent decades campaigning for the rights they've finally acheived, and well done to them. If you want Scots and Gaelic to have equal weight, it'd be better bring Scots up to Gaelic's level, rather than trying to bring Gaelic down to Scots's level, eh no?

    Recommend?   Yes 26     No 5

  • John
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    May 10, 17:41
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    What everyone misses here is that the "foreign" place names on the signs are actually the real place names. In fact I feel we should be phasing in a return of the gaelic names as the accepted norm, the only reason the English names exist is due to decades of suppression by arrogant landowners and distant politicians after all.

    Like it or not Gaelic culture is a huge draw for tourism, a huge point of identity for many scots and should not be lost.

    Recommend?   Yes 30     No 4

  • Iain
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    May 10, 19:42
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    Why is this guy wasting MSP's time and money with these stupid complaints? He obviously has a bee in his bonnet about Gaelic. Should those with greivances against Polish people, black people, gay people, travellers or the gay community be given equal hearing? No - society would be at constant war with itself. This guy should accept that Gaelic is a living part of Scotland's culture and I say that as a Gaelic speaker and Lowlander who uses Gaelic with his children and friends.

    Get over it.

    Recommend?   Yes 26     No 7

  • Frank Hall
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    May 11, 02:52
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    Evidence -

    As of the last census approx 1.2% of Scotland speak Gaelic whilst 17-85% speak Scots to a degree.

    Your language doesn't do much credit to your argument either, is the thought of someone disagreeing with you really that distressing that you have to resort to petty put-downs? What did I say that was bigoted?

    And no, Gaelic wasn't widely spoken in this part of Scotland whilst Scots was spoken right up the east coast. If you want to discuss this then fine however try and keep the toys in the pram.

    (see what I did there?)

    Recommend?   Yes 9     No 17

  • jakeyrollin
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    May 11, 08:59
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    Quick survey. How many Largs/West of Scotland schools teach Gaelic these days ?

    Recommend?   Yes 5     No 1

  • Govan_Gaidheal
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    May 11, 17:56
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    To Frank Hall,

    "As of the last census approx 1.2% of Scotland speak Gaelic whilst 17-85% speak Scots to a degree." How does this in any way prove that Gaelic was never spoken throughout Scotland or that Scots was more widely spoken?

    With the exception of Orkney and Shetland, Gaelic was at one time and various times spoken throughout Scotland. Even in the extreme South West Scotland which is considered to be the cradle of the Scots language, Gaelic was widely accepted as a lingua franca before Scots game the favour of the court.

    I suggest you read this article in particular:


    The previous and subsequent articles in the series will maybe help with your ignorance to the facts of Scotland's linguistic history.

    Which part of the country are you referring to? If it's Largs and Millport then I can categorically tell you that Gaelic was absolutely spoken in these and their surrounding areas. In fact right up until the 20th Century Great Cumbrae still retained a population of native Gaelic speakers, speaking the islands' very own dialect of Gaelic.

    If you want to promote Scots, then I'm right behind you Frank. As I said before Scots is my first language. From my experience as a Gaelic speaker I've learned this, you get nothing for free and you must fight for everything. Scots speakers and activists must do the same, not dragged Gaelic down.

    The thought of someone disagreeing with me does not upset me but blatant use of inaccuracies, and untruths past off as facts do. I think dismissing the historical and cultural heritage of a people and a nation as fantasy is pretty bigoted.

    Maybe you're not a halfwit, but what you said was pretty halfwitted. In saying that I do feel quite sorry for you and others like you, and believe me I do not mean that to be derogatory. You're opinions have probably been formed on untruths passed on to you as facts and a lack of education on the subject, a failing of our society rather than yours.

    Scots and Gaelic should both be treated with equal esteem. Both important living languages in today's Scotland that were forged and developed by the people of this nation and both should be seen as Scotland's national languages. Nothing is to be gained from one putting the other down.

    Recommend?   Yes 19     No 3

  • Iain
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    May 11, 20:08
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    To Frank Hall - strange point to make but the last Gaelic speakers of Arran, recorded by academics (School of Scottish Studies at Edin Uni, I think) in the 1980s still referred to the coastline of Ayrshire and Galloway as the 'Gaidhealtachd' because that's what it was historically. I also wonder how you can explain the sheer mass of Gaelic-derived placenames in the area. I also understand that renowned Scots musicologist, Professor John Purser has studied many 'Scots' songs of the Lowlands including the south-west and has concluded that due to the rhythms they were most probably originally composed in Gaelic - I think this can be found in his 'Scotland's Music' bestseller of a decade or so ago.

    Facts are - Gaelic was the language of almost all the Scottish mainland at one time or other and is still spoken, either by Gaels from other parts of Scotland, local learners or local schoolkids.

    In fact, there is little or no value in mono-lingualism so therefore I'd argue for more Gaelic schools, signs and other services. And, as a Gaelic-speaking tax payers, surely i'm entitled to that?

    Recommend?   Yes 16     No 3

  • cmurphymathieu
    3 posts
    May 12, 11:30
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    I was told by locals on a recent visit to Arran that Gaelic was widely spoken there up to the 1950's. I was born and brought up in Scotland but do not speak any Gaelic, to my shame.My nieces and nephews in Skye do and I'm jealous ! It is part of Scotland's culture and heritage and I just can't understand why there is such a reticence and lack of support for this unique and beautiful language.

    Recommend?   Yes 13     No 3

  • Govan_Gaidheal
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    May 13, 02:42
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    The Gaelic of Arran lingered on right up until the 1990s. I've heard a few recordings of it and it's wonderful, bearing many similarities to Irish. Arran Gaelic, along with the Gaelic of Southern Kintrye was on of the linguistic bridges between Scottish Gaelic and Irish.

    There's more info on the subject here:


    I think it's really sad that some people seem to champion monolingualism. Speaking only one language as opposed being multilingual offers absolutely no benefits. In Europe, only British and Castilian cultures seem to seek to discourage the learning of other languages. In Europe as a whole multilingualism is the norm. Historically, and to a large degree today, Scotland was no different.

    Scots and Gaelic offer you the chance to express yourself, and access literature that is uniquely Scottish. They offer you a chance to see history and the world through a prism that is uniquely Scottish. No other language can do that. With Gaelic in particular, it offers you a window and understanding of where we come from. Stories going back thousands of years, a rich mythology rivalled only in Europe by the Greeks, and a shared history of origin with our cousins in Ireland and the Isle of Man.

    In the recordings of Arran Gaelic that I mentioned, one of the interviewees was looking out towards the Ayrshire coastline and could name every town, every ben and every brae in Gaelic. I also heard anecdotal evidence that the gentleman was adamant that Gaelic was still spoken in some of these places. Of course at the time of this recording that wasn't the case. As it turned out the man had never left the island in his life and assumed that the information given to him by his Great-grandmother still held true.

    This is again backed up by a letter publish in the Glasgow Herald. An elderly reader had written in telling of an old woman she had spoken to in her youth. The old woman, with whom the reader had spoken to, told of a village in Ayrshire that still spoke Gaelic in her time. I cannot recall the name of the village but basically it turned out that a single isolated Glen held on to it's on native dialect of Ayrshire Gaelic just into the 19th Cent.

    Again going further south, Galloway historically has a very rich Gaelic heritage and the language was still strong in places right up until the 18th Cent. I have heard evidence of one rememberer that lived into the 1970s. The gentleman recalled his Great-Grandmother's unusual dialect of Gaelic and could replicate her accent and pronunciation. Sadly, being in his 90s at the time, he died before he could be recorded.

    In addition to the rich Gaelic heritage that Ayrshire, Buteshire and Galloway has people for get about the Highland Clearances. Many Highlanders sought a new life in the Lowlands. Whether it was the booming industrial centres or the rural farm towns, there are many people in these places with a Highland heritage. A look in the local phone book stands as evidence to this.

    Gaelic, although it's heart is in the Highlands is and should be seen as a national language for all Scotland. As rightly should Scots.

    Recommend?   Yes 11     No 5

  • GlassHalfFull
    9 posts
    May 15, 10:40
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    I've no issue with Gaelic being a part of the Scottish identity although, for me, it is too inward looking. I would rather be capable in French, German or even Latin.

    But where the expenditure really is far too much, is on BBC Alba. All these millions being spent for a few tens of thousands of speakers, and they can't even do as the Welsh channel S4C manages, namely providing an English language commentary for the rugby coverage.

    Recommend?   Yes 5     No 6

  • Govan_Gaidheal
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    May 19, 00:57
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    To GlassHalfFull,

    I mean no disrespect, your claim that Gaelic is inward look is far from the truth. Historically the Gaelic culture has been very outward looking. As a result the literature of Gaelic reflects this. If you read the poetry of the 18th Century Alasdair Mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, there is a clear influence from the poetry and writings of Ancient Rome and Greece. It's easy to forget that Gaelic is the oldest written vernacular language in Europe. It has a classical literature rivalled only by Greece and Rome. Don't let the stereotype cloud your view.

    Even in the modern era we have had bard's like Somhairle Mac Gill Eain and Dòmhnall Ruadh 'Coruña', providing wonderful contemporary commentary on the Rise of Fascism, the Great War, the Rise of the Labour Movement and Socialism. It's certainly not inward looking.

    What makes you think the expenditure is too much on BBC Alba? Again I'd say this was a common misconception. BBC Alba, for the viewer figures it attracts and the output it provides, operates on a fairly modest budget. It is certainly modest in comparison with other TV Stations in Europe catering for minority languages. The BBC, and as a result, license fee payers only contribute £2.1m per annum to the channel, the vast, vast majority of it's budget is made up from private enterprise.

    With regards to the Gaelic commentary on Sports games, this is part of the core aim of the channel. As well as catering for the Gaelic speaking community, the channel also provides an invaluable resource to learners. Additionally the channel seeks to 'advertise' the language if you will. Sports programmes are a good way to draw in viewers who may not otherwise watch the channel and introduce them to the language. It is a strategy that is successfully applied in many other countries with minority languages.

    The other issue with the sport programmes is that 'normalisation' is a key element in language regeneration. The language has to be used in different situations and environments. The other way to look at it is, if it wasn't for BBC Alba, the extra sports coverage would not be on TV at all!

    Recommend?   Yes 1     No 1

  • TrueScot
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    May 19, 01:47
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    To GlassHalfFull.

    Totally agree.Gaelic has never remotely been the language of Scotland. It is a small part of our heritage. The 1890 census showed that even at that time only 7% of the population could speak the language. It prevailed in the Islands and Highland areas because of the remoteness that existed in these days 300 years ago. We are now in the Modern World and having lived, worked and visited USA, Canada, Australia, the Middle and Far East it adds absolutely nothing to our ability to make our way in society and the World as a whole.

    Read history, Scotland actually "Invented the Modern World", not just through engineering and scientific invention but philosophy and literature that came out of the Enlightenment. This is people like Adam Smith, Hutcheson, Burns, Scott etc.

    The Scots financed and organised the railways, steel industries,etc in Canada and USA. McQuarrie started Australia on the road to the great country it is today. We governed and ran most of the areas in the far East. Two thirds of all American presidents have Scottish ancestory.

    Even to date the Scottish expat community that exists in all the major areas on the planet and their impact is massive. Speaking Gaelic never contributed anything to this.

    The ability to communicate in the Modern World is fundamental.

    Foisting Gaelic on the Scottish people, (and that is what is happening), will achieve nothing other than take us back in time.

    Heaven help us if Independence is wangled through by the politicians if this is their understanding of the Modern World.

    Recommend?   Yes 2     No 3

  • scot in worcs
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    May 28, 13:56
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    A lot of ranting here, and certainly much negative comments on one of our languages. Should we just switch off life support and allow Gaelic to just die? That would be a sad reflection on us as a nation, and we couldn't even blame the English!!!.

    The sad fact is that a large majority of Scots who live in the central belt have never actually been to the Gàidhealtachd let alone comprehend what it may be, but still feel able pass opinion on it. It is however as much part of Scotland as anywhere else. Mr McGlone's rant at his MSP about road signs may have a point financially, but they are popular with tourists, (as English friends of mine will testify), and they bring a lot of income to the country.

    As for TrueScot, how can Gaelic be "foisted on the Scottish people" when it is a Scottish language, older than the language he himself speaks? Just because he does not speak it, others can and do on a daily basis. Perhaps he just wants to foist English (which is what most Scots speak anyway however they may wish to dress it) on everyone.

    I would suggest a trip to Flanders in Belgium, and suggest that they stop speaking Flemish and speak French instead........but call the police first, you might need protection!!!

    Recommend?   Yes 4     No 3

  • TrueScot
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    May 29, 23:12
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    All the Gaelic supporters are completely missing the point. The language is now only understood by 1% of the population or put another way 99% of Scots have not a clue what it means.

    That is the reality of the situation. Gaelic rightly or wrongly it has declined because it has always been within the minority of the population and confined to the remoter parts of the country. It has no value in helping people get on in the modern world.It is not our heritage it is part of our history.

    I have no problem with people speaking the language or wanting to learn it through their own volition but what is happening now is unacceptable.

    We now have an Act of Parliament that puts Gaelic on an equal status with English.All signage is required to be in both Gaelic and English.The programme includes everything from letter headings to road and rail signs. Even health service staff have to have it on their uniforms. Local authorities have a legal obligation to promote Gaelic and most importantly it is to be included in primary education for to ensure kids are properly indoctrinated even although it will be of little or no value to them in later life.

    And of course we have the Gaelic tv channel all at a cost of millions.

    If this is not "foisting" it on the people of Scotland I dont know what is.It is political dogma and social engineering at its worst and will at best only take us back in time to the Highlander- Lowlander mentality.

    Interestingly Belgium is used as an example of a bilingual country. The writer should look at the state of the place.The two factions are almost at war and it is all down to the different languages and cultures that promotes.

    Heaven help us if the SNP manage to wangle a YES vote for Independence if this is one of their priorities!!

    Recommend?   Yes 3     No 4

  • GlassHalfFull
    9 posts
    May 30, 12:03
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    Thank you, scot in worcs, for introducing Belgium to the discussion. You help me make my point about the backward direction of spending so much on Gaelic. On current showing, the Flemish and Waloons are likely to be incorporated into The Netherlands and France respectively, with Brussels remaining as an enclave running Euro-land.

    Recommend?   Yes 3     No 1

  • AlbaGuBrath
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    Jun 5, 18:02
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    "That is the reality of the situation. Gaelic rightly or wrongly it has declined because it has always been within the minority of the population and confined to the remoter parts of the country. It has no value in helping people get on in the modern world.It is not our heritage it is part of our history."

    This is wrong on every count. The decline of Gaelic was a calculated Cultural Genocide to break the unity of the Scottish People. It was banned along with the Kilt, the Bag Pipes and everything else you consider to be part of your culture. It was the majority language of Scotland for years. You can't quote a census from the 1890s and use it to determine the range of a 3000 year old culture.

    It is not only the basis of your heritage it is a part of your entire history.

    As for that one percent, they pay far more in taxes than they receive back in Gaelic services, despite every promise from the government.

    Lastly, if you want to be English so much, it's just right next door. You can be British to your hearts content. Let Alba remain Albannach.

    Recommend?   Yes 2     No 4

  • AngusOgg
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    Jun 11, 23:21
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    "Speaking Gaelic Will Establish Our National Identity”

    What an incredible election result for Scotland and the SNP. At last they can press on unopposed with their vision of establishing a Scottish Identity by making Gaelic our national language.

    This will at least put us on a par with Wales and even Ireland. Admittedly though they are bankrupt.

    Their first priority has been to push on with the programme of changing all street and road and railway signs to Gaelic. Edinburgh our capital is already committed and work on the estimated £50million programme coming down from the North is well underway.

    Admittedly though this won’t help the 99% of us who can’t speak a word. Even your Sat Nav won’t help – Sat Navs don’t do Gaelic either!

    But this inconvenience of not knowing where you are will only last a few decades as the Gaelic is slowly instilled into the population. Already Gaelic TV channels are expanding at an annual cost of £25million a year.

    Admittedly they are currently only watched by a few hundred but eventually the BBC will be scrapped in Scotland to be replaced by the GBC – Gaelic Broadcasting Corporation.

    Already there is an obligation for Councils to provide Gaelic language classes. To ensure attendance you have to pay for English Lit classes in our Community centre while Gaelic classes are free.

    Most importantly is the commitment to introduce Gaelic into the nursery/primary school curriculum that will ensure in a decade or so our children will be fluent in the Gaelic.

    Admittedly this won’t give them any advantage when they leave school and enter into the business world, as English is now the International business language for the Planet.

    But I can see them now, having somehow fought their way into boardrooms in the USA, China and Dubai to name but a few, having Gaeled away trying to secure business for the country, when they have left, the prospective clients will be scratching their heads but saying “ that must have been a Scotsman, I didn’t understand a word he said.”

    Our National identity will have been established! Ochone, Ochone!

    Angus Ogg, Ayrshire

    Recommend?   Yes 4     No 3

  • userdetails
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    Jun 20, 22:49
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    £195 million spent on Gaelic is £195 million too much! Scotland has over 5 million people and only a few thousand of us speak Gaelic (all of whom also speak English). It would be a far better investment if we learned a language that is actually useful and people care about such as Spanish or French.

    Recommend?   Yes 4     No 4