Lost in Translation

William MacLeodDr Wilson McLeod scrutinises the place of the Gaelic language in the independence debate and criticises the Scottish Government’s ‘illogical’ decision not to issue a bilingual ballot paper in the referendum.

It is a commonplace that language plays only a small role in Scottish nationalism, in contrast to counterpart movements in Catalonia, Quebec and elsewhere. While this is an oversimplification, it is indisputable that language issues have not been prominent in the current debate over Scottish independence. There are also practical reasons for this limited attention, for the Scottish Parliament already controls most of the areas of policy in which language issues tend to arise, most obviously education and culture. Nor has there been an extensive debate conducted in Gaelic concerning the pros and cons of independence. Gaelic counterparts of pro-independence groups such as Yes Scotland have recently been set up on Facebook  and Twitter, for example, but have attracted few followers; by and large, Gaelic speakers, all of whom are bilingual, appear content to take part (or ignore!) the mainstream English-medium debate.

Insisting on an English-only policy in relation to the momentous decision on independence is at best a missed opportunity, at worst a calculated derogation that goes against the stated policies of the Government and the Parliament to promote the language.

A potentially significant issue has recently come to the fore, however: should the referendum ballot paper be bilingual, presenting the question in Gaelic as well as English?

The Scottish Government has so far refused to authorise a bilingual ballot paper, angering many Gaelic activists and organisations. In response to a parliamentary question from Angus MacDonald MSP, the Deputy First Minister stated on 25 February 2013  that:

The Scottish Government does not plan to provide a Gaelic language version of the ballot paper for the independence referendum.

As part of the question assessment process, the Electoral Commission tested the proposed question with voters who speak Gaelic as a first language. The Commission found that these participants could understand the question easily and experienced no difficulties in completing the ballot paper. . .
Voter information will be available in other languages, including Gaelic, on request. Counting officers may also choose to display a translation of the ballot paper at polling stations if they consider this appropriate. This is standard practice for all elections.

The Deputy First Minister reiterated this position on 27 April in a letter to Angus MacDonald in his capacity as convener of the Cross-Party Group on Gaelic.

On 16 May, a petition demanding a bilingual ballot paper was lodged with the Scottish Parliament by Gaelic campaigner Iain MacLeòid, president of An Comunn Gaidhealach. The petition had attracted more than 700 signatures by its closing date on 5 June. The issue is now being taken up by the Scottish Parliament’s Referendum (Scotland) Bill Committee in its consideration of the referendum bill, most recently at the stage 1 debate on 23 May. In its written submission to the Committee, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the statutory language board, expressed its disappointment at the Government’s position and submitted a draft version of a bilingual ballot paper, posing the question ‘Am bu chòir do dh’Alba a bhith na dùthaich neo-eisimileach?’ alongside ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ Other Gaelic organisations and supporters have lent support to this view, and there has been extensive discussion in Gaelic newspaper columns, blogs and other on-line fora.

The principal argument advanced by those demanding a bilingual ballot paper is that Gaelic speakers should be able to express their view on this historic referendum in their language of choice. The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 has the aim of ‘securing the status of Gaelic as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect with the English language’. An underpinning principle is that Gaelic should be legitimated and encouraged in Scottish public life generally. Insisting on an English-only policy in relation to the momentous decision on independence is at best a missed opportunity, at worst a calculated derogation that goes against the stated policies of the Government and the Parliament to promote the language.

Whatever the stated rationale for the Government’s position, it seems reasonably clear that political calculation plays a role. As part of its general strategy of endeavouring not to ‘frighten the horses’ in relation to the referendum vote, the Government may well fear that a bilingual English-Gaelic referendum paper could alienate some wavering voters who might (quite unrealistically) see Gaelic as some kind of nationalist totem. A number of Gaelic-speaking independence supporters have backed this view, arguing that the symbolic value of a bilingual ballot paper is outweighed by this political risk.

It is unfortunate that the issue of Gaelic in electoral materials was not dealt with at some earlier point, with bilingual ballots being introduced in a less momentous election and slowly normalised. In Wales, by way of contrast, bilingual Welsh-English ballots have been used not only in the 1979, 1997 and 2011 devolution referenda, but in all Assembly and local authority elections.

Perhaps the most problematic aspect of the Government’s approach to this issue has been the rationale provided by the Electoral Commission for not issuing a bilingual ballot paper: that all the Gaelic speakers who were shown the test ballot stated that they were able to understand the English version. (The Government rather than the Commission is properly to blame here, as the Government chose not to ask [p. 35] the Commission to test a bilingual ballot paper or a version with a Gaelic option). This argument completely misunderstands the rationale for Gaelic promotion in contemporary Scotland. All Gaelic speakers can speak and understand English – not least because of the government education policies from 1872 onwards that made almost no provision for Gaelic. Materials and services are not offered in Gaelic because Gaelic speakers cannot understand the English ones, but because Gaelic is recognised as a language deeply rooted in Scotland that is entitled to ‘equal respect’ under the law. The principle that no provision will be made for Gaelic except for those who cannot understand English is entirely out of keeping not only with the Gaelic Language Act but also with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which the UK Government ratified in 2001.

Were this principle to be adopted more widely, a wide range of promotional initiatives, in education, broadcasting and elsewhere, would need to be rolled back. For example, the Scottish Government (and many other public bodies) produce a range of written materials in Gaelic. Ironically, these include the consultation document on the referendum itself. It is obviously illogical for the Government to solicit the views of Gaelic speakers on the issue of independence through the medium of Gaelic and then insist that the final, determinative expression of their views be made in English. However, if the Government’s position is essentially an issue of political calculation, then principle and logic may not necessarily win the day.

This article was originally posted on the Edinburgh University blog ‘Scotland’s Referendum: Informing the Debate’  here. Republished with kind permission of the author.

Comments (93)

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  1. Efrogwr says:

    Glad one writer at least on Scottish independence is aware of the existence of Wales. The ballot papers for UK general elections are also bilingual there (not just Assembly and local elections), as are all the instructions and notices at polling stations.

    1. Ray Bell says:

      ahem –

      Deagh phios, Wilson, tapadh leat son obair a rinn thu.

  2. Charles Patrick O'Brien says:

    Aye its nice to be bi-lingual,but what languages to put on the ballot? Auld Scots? Doric? Gaelic? English?Polish? Hindu?Urdu?Cantonese?I think it would nice but which ones? the most commonly now spoken,the older tongues.Is this nit picking? As we have never done this previously for any elections,why now? is it mischief making just some more of “I’m no playing if I cant have it my way?” so many wanting to tie shoe-laces together,to trip up the process?Me! I think it its mischief making.

  3. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    The SNP has been distancing itself from Gaelic for some time. It is not used on their website and has been abandoned from slogans and signs used at party conferences. This is shameful. All the more so as it seems to be based on a cultural cringe, a fear of being “too” Scottish. Contrasted with Wales, where all Welsh speakers understand English, the use of Welsh language in the public space, after some resistance from “utilitarians”, is accepted as normal and a proud and positive manifestation of the Welsh difference. English is only Scotland’s national language by conquest and by a systematic long term neglect of our Scottis, Gaelic and Norn linguistic patrimony by the Unionist establishment. Unlike England we are a polyglot land. A remedial course in our cultural history seems necessary as a counter to this reactionary mentality. The “mi-rùn mòr nan gall” has no place in our national politics even when presented as a lets not frighten the punters argument.

  4. Piobaire says:

    The Gaelic question isn’t simple for the SNP. They’ve been consciously distancing themselves from symbols of “cultural nationalism” for some time. There’s an obvious rationale behind that. However, there is an anti-Gaelic element in the SNP (bizarrely). I experienced it a few times. It’s just ignorance of Gaelic’s role in our national development; that’s a problem of the “Scottish” education system which will be cured, post-Independence. Wales seceding from the UK isn’t viewed as an immediate threat so I don’t think Welsh (linguistic) nationalism isn’t treated as seriously as the Gaelic variety (All major Scottish cultural symbols have a Gaelic origin). I think Gaelic should be on the ballot paper. For me, and many here, it’s a simple issue; for others it’s not.

  5. Charles Napier says:

    Of course, the ballot paper should be bilingual!
    I’m Scottish … speak Danish well, Norwegian reasonably, Swedish a little … I’m ashamed at the thought that there won’t be Gaelic on the ballot paper … just as ashamed as I am of the fact that I personally don’t speak Gaelic. But for goodness sake, it’s Scotland’s language!

    Let’s put this right before it’s too late … it’s already embarrassing.

    1. Hardy says:

      one of*

  6. I’m only nearing the end of my first year of night class Gaelic education, but I’ve come to the view that the SG missed a trick here. Had the Referendum question been required to be rendered accurately in both languages from the start (as is my understanding of the spirit if not the letter of the 2005 Act), Am bu chòir do dh’Alba a bhith na dùthaich neo-eisimileach?’ / ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ is about the only way to do it.

    The entire nearly year-long hoo-ha over the wording of the question could have been avoided.

  7. Howard Price says:

    Of course Gaelic should be on the ballot paper. The significance of Gaelic culture on Scotland is huge, especially in the context of the systematic destruction of the language and culture by the British state.

    Scotland was founded by Gaels. Over 80% of Scottish place names are of Gaelic origin. The Gaelic legacy in modern day Scotland is huge; easily the largest..

    I see no reason for it not to be on the ballot paper. The lack of Gaelic speakers is all the more reason it SHOULD be on it.

  8. Ray Bell says:

    Back in the 1990s most of the political parties had bilingual websites. No more.

    I find the anti-Gaidhlig caucus in the SNP bizarre and even parochial, an internalisation of unionist criticism, the colonial cringe. There is a philistine streak in the SNP, partly an inheritance from the overrated John MacCormick (related to the Gaidhlig writer of the same name)

    What if it is abandoned after independence? Are we just to chase hydrocarbons and lower taxes? Or a wasteland of fast food, retail parks, industrial estates and multiplexes?

    This is why the independence lobby can’t be left to the SNP.

    1. Braco says:

      ‘I find the anti-Gaidhlig caucus in the SNP bizarre and even parochial,’

      Oh come on. Next you will be considering voting NO to protect the Gaidhlig from an unleashed monolingual SNP dictatorship, the certain result of an Independent Scotland!

      Sounds the same argument as used toward all minorities with a history of abuse in Scotland under the Union. Anti Catholic Caucus or maybe anti foreigner Caucus. Caucus is a good word, sounds kind of official even

      Britain (and pre UK Scotland too, to be honest) have used the various Scottish languages as tools for divide and rule. After hundreds of years the subject still has that flavour, unfortunately. It therefor makes perfect sense to me to simply avoid the political overtones implicit in a divided question (symbolically more than linguistically).

      This problem will be solved through education and the slow understanding of our population that Scotland is and probably always has been a multilingual country. Not by the instant ‘fix’ of a two language Referendum question. (Anyway what about Scots etc?)

      1. Ray Bell says:

        What about Scots? I’ll let you work out the hegemony in that sentence.

        For a long time, Scotland has been thoroughly monolingual for official purposes. Still is in many cases. That’s the problem

  9. mrbfaethedee says:

    Why only bilingual?
    Why only add Gaelic?
    Why not expand it to Scots too? In fact what about all the many languages now spoken in Scotland?

    Alternatively, keep it simple?

    Also (from the article) –
    “by and large, Gaelic speakers, all of whom are bilingual, appear content to take part (or ignore!) the mainstream English-medium debate”

  10. Barontorc says:

    My family are all interested in learning gaelic and I see its profile gradually coming up with the positive support of the SG, but I see this as a principled stance from some gaelic interests, which is perhaps not really necessary on this specific referendum question.

    As put by other commentors, Scotland is proud to be inclusive of many languages and official guidelines are produced in most of them, but is it really such a problem that THE referendum question be posed in English only and I do make this with a serious nod towards those real troublemakers who grab anything to stir the sh**?

    Let’s not lose sight of the main purpose here.

  11. mhairi says:

    I dont speak Gaelic, but the referendum question should definately be provided in it.

    To not do so is to ignore a marginalised indigenous population and to treat Gaelic, not as a living language but as a quaint cultural artifact. I agree this should have been changed some time ago, but the time to start is now.

  12. Tocasaid says:

    Pìos math-dhà-rìribh. Tha e coltach gu bheil an SNP agus YesScotland air cluas bodhar a thoirt dha na h-iarrtasan airson Gàidhlig a chur gu feum nan cuid sanasachd. Maslach.

    Quite shameful really for both the SNP and Yes to refuse to use any Gàidhlig in their communications. Contrast this to Wales, Catalunya and the Basque Country.

    Equally, it’s up to native Gaels to use the language and to pass it on to their kids. There are a lot of ‘artists’ who make a living from Gaelic culture but who don’t speak/ use the language. However, if the SNP govt is serious about giving Gaelic ‘equal respect’ then it should seek to normalise the language wherever possible, despite the whinging of a few bigots.

  13. The ‘scotland’s language’ claim does not stack up- Scots, Doric and English all have more compelling historical claims in different areas of Scotland.

    Yes the ballot paper should be bilingual, and discrimination against Gaelic in education and culture should be (and largely is) a thing of the past, but I think that the over-zealous promotion of Gaelic in the lowlands is a mistake. The only outcome is a further segregation of the school system on social-economic lines.

    Regarding Gaelic in the referendum debate- the lack of literature and blogging in Gaelic for the YES campaign is something that Gaelic speakers need to address themselves. Get out there and do it instead of waiting to be catered for! It would be electoral suicide for the official campaign to link a YES vote with a narrow nationalism based around linguistic romanticism.

    1. Ray Bell says:

      In which case why do you call only one of these languages “Scots”?

      1. Scots is the common dialect of the lowlands throughout the period in which the historical idea of a Scottish state is present. Quite apart from anything else it is the language of Burns’ poetry and survives in a dynamic, unsubsidised, unregulated way as words are passed, improvised and improved from generation to generation. When it comes to the linguistics of Scotland, Scots really is the elephant in the room. There was an article about Scots on this very website last week- a good start for learning more.

      2. Braco says:

        Yes, both I and Stuart Ingleby are responsible for the naming of the various languages and dialects found around the geographically delineated area known as ‘Scotland’. We got together last week and took a vote. Gaelic was to be called Scots but it got voted down two to zero. Where were you? Couldn’t be bothered? Well stop moaning!

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      In regards to literature, I know there have been attempts to put out stuff in languages like Polish, for example, which have turned out to be more like Google Translate translations (i.e. rubbish). I suspect the only thing worse than an absence of Gaelic literature would be a flurry of badly-translated Gaelic literature.

      That said, there must be at least ONE Gaelic speaker in the Yes campaign who could be the go-to person for making Gaelic translations – there are certainly many Gaelic speakers in the SNP!

    3. Nìall Beag says:

      What’s your grounds for identifying Scots and Doric as seperate languages? If you’re making that distinction, why not make a distinction between Fife and Glasgow?

  14. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Language and ethnicity, identity and nationality are at the heart of the matter. In Scotland we have had a complex and often negative approach to all of them. As part of the British imperium effective differences between ourselves and the dominant power have been reduced to affective and sentimental concerns. The 19th century romanticising of the Dorick and the Gaelick with its its folksy imagery has warped our sense of the historico-cultural reality. That Scottish nationalism has in the mainstream eschewed “the cultural” for the less contentious “economic” betrays a fear of stepping into something turbulent. Ruaraidh Earasgain is Mhàrr is the personification of the kind of cultural turbulence the SNP has studiously avoided. Interest in cultural nationalism has been branded eccentric so keep out. Given that Scotland has a unique pattern of cultural influences including the too easily ignored Cymric legacy of the what the Welsh call the Gwŷr y Gogledd, Men of the North, and the Norraena/Norn culture of Shetland and Orkney we ought to more open to our difference and less cringing in the face of its rich complexity. After independence Inshallah!, the Ministry of Culture and Public Education or whatever will have a very rich seam to mine. A Dhia! May our leaders have the cojones to do so!

  15. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    The Yes campaign might begin the cultural awareness process by for example displaying AY! SEADH! JA! YES! as a theme. Or would the punters be befuddled. No to dumbing down! No to the Scotch Cringe!

  16. Ray Bell says:

    Actually the “Cymric legacy” comes up whenever someone wants to talk down Gaidhlig as a national language. Then it usually goes back in the drawer.

    Pseudo-multilingualism to maintain monolingualism.

    (This isn’t an attack on you personally just a general observation)

    1. Ray Bell says:

      Regarding Norn, unlike Cornish or Manx, there is no serious revival movement. Both of those languages have substantial modern literature and children’s education.

      None of the people proposing Nynorn appear to be based in Orkney/Shetland.


      1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        Your comments do highlight the “problem”. As a people we have a ttendency to be prescriptive. We ought to embrace diversity historic and contemporary. This exclusivist mentality should die with Unionism. Nynorn does exist in a small bubble but the work of language revival is often left to outsiders, enthusiasts and amateurs. Language revival in Ireland began outside the Gaeltacht by people not of Gaelic heritage. They understood its worth per se. The development of Modern Hebrew was largely the effort of one man Ben-Yehuda. An eccentric with vision. We Scots could do with some of that and less of the “naw we cannae dae that” and the “antiGaelic Gael” mindset.

      2. Nìall Beag says:

        Jeez, Alasdair… Ben-Yehuda? Are you seriously proposing Zionism as a model to be emulated? Zionism was typical of the sort of xenophobia and insularity that has led to nationalism being branded a “cancer”. Are you suggesting that everybody of native Gaelic descent should relearn the language, then force non-Gaels out of their homes in the Highlands?

  17. Doug Daniel says:

    Fit aboot Scots? There’s mair fowk spik Scots than Gaelic, but faur’s the clamour fur haein the question in Scots?

    I must admit, when I first heard about the petition, I basically thought “but surely English is one fo your mother tongues, so why does it matter?” I suspect this is just my ignorance of what it’s like to live as a Gaelic speaker, though. I’ve always assumed Gaelic speakers are truly bilingual – by which I mean they’ve been brought up speaking both languages – and therefore English is as much “their” language as Gaelic. I mean, I’m trying to teach myself German properly at the moment (was never great at it in school), and when I read German, I’m translating it into English as I go along – I’ve always assumed a Gaelic speaker doesn’t need to do that internal translation of English into Gaelic, although maybe I’m wrong.

    But I suppose if Gaelic is the language you consider your “main” language, then why shouldn’t you be able to answer the question in it? But then, the same could also be said about Scots, because after all, Gaelic is no more “the language of Scotland” than Scots is. Is it just in Gaelic-speaking communities that we should have the Gaelic version on, or would we be putting it on the ballot papers in places where not one person will understand it?

    But those are all tedious administrative questions really. As long as this doesn’t turn into some sort of “no point voting for independence if it’s not going to promote Gaelic” type campaign, then more power to it.

    1. Iain Mac says:

      Most Gaels have Gaelic as their first tongue. That is, they learned Gaelic at a later age – usually at the end of a tawse at school. In my experience most native Gaels who are 50 or older who still live in Gaidhealtachd areas are more comfortable in their mother tongue. Literacy though is another question altogether.

      I would also contend that Gaelic is the Scots tongue, as it was for centuries. Our cultural iconography is Gaelic. It was taken to the Northern Isles by monks in their curraichean before the Norse came to slaughter the Picts. Gaelic was also the language of king, court, army and most the peasantry when Alba became a nation and hence, the Lowlands are just as ‘Gaelic’ as the Highlands. Indeed, I remember our foremost musicologist Professor John Purser contending that many of our Lowlands ‘Scots’ songs were originally Gaelic.

      And, yes, it is shameful that ‘Yes’ have not seen fit to produce any material in Gaelic. Anything that has been done seems to be the work of a few individuals. This approach is almost racist – our native tongue is not a ‘real’ language but a tongue of mystical plaid-wearers that is best kept hidden, like Dr Macleod says, in order not to ‘frighten the horses’.

      What a message to send to the new Scotland.

      1. Iain Mac says:

        er… ‘learned English at a later age’.

      2. Braco says:

        ‘It was taken to the Northern Isles by monks in their curraichean before the Norse came to slaughter the Picts’

        This is the reason that attitudes like your own should be kept as far away as possible from any official YES campaign. What does this rubbish mean? Do you honestly believe a people and their culture cease to exist when linguistic changes occur?

        I suppose this is why you just can’t understand why I am Scottish but speak English, just as I understand that you are Scottish but speak Gaelic and another is Scottish but speaks ScotsDoric or Lowlands Scots or Polish or Pakistani etc. etc.

        We are all Scots and trying to define who is or isn’t authentic is quite frankly part of a Nationalism that the BetterNO campaign recognise, personify and would dearly love YES to associate ourselves with.

        Thankfully, it’s just not going to happen though as a majority of the Scots electorate just simply do not link language to their national identity (and thank god for that!).

        Is that not why the poor guy on the ‘wee dug’ and a ‘wee suasage roll’ betterNO video was so hilarious?

      3. Nìall Beag says:

        You mean Dr John Purser? Lovely man, but he’s never held a chair (and wouldn’t want to, by all accounts).

  18. Actually I think we could get overly hung-up on language as a political plumage and tool. It is possible to almost infinitesimally sub-divide any movement or nation on linguistic grounds and doing so always misses the real issues at stake.

    YES Scotland and the SNP have wisely constructed a diverse movement where the presentation has not been allowed to interfere with the argument for independence. The opportunity to turn Gaelic into an independence shibboleth has indeed been missed- but this is no cause for regret.

    1. Iain Mac says:

      We don’t want a ‘shibboleth’, we just want ‘diversity’ to include those of us who speak the native Scots tongue that has been spoken here continously for 2000 years. I use Gaelic in modern contexts just as ‘Yes’ use English.

      1. Well, if you are an independence supporter, go and produce the arguments in your native tongue- don’t sit on the fringes and complain it’s not being done for you.

        On a historical note- I see you are deliberately vague.. where exactly do you mean by ‘here’? As a lowlander I could actually get equally angry about the whitewashing of my own cultural history with the arrogant and inaccurate assertion that gaelic is the universal native language of Scotland.

    2. Tocasaid says:

      A diverse movement for everyone but the Gaels? Yet you tell us to get on our bikes to ‘do something’ but the Asian, business and LGTG communities get provided for in the name of ‘diversity’. Good but why are some more equal than others?

  19. Ray Bell says:

    “both I and Stuart Ingleby are responsible for the naming of the various languages and dialects found around the geographically delineated area known as ‘Scotland’.”

    Actually, yes you are responsible for the terms which you choose to use. Whether you think about the connotations of various names is another matter.

    As for “more folk speak Scots than Gaelic”, that’s undoubtedly true, but in my experience very few speak the real deal in the Central Belt or big cities. They usually speak a *very* watered down version, more so when they’re younger. You have to go to the country or some sections of working class to hear it. The translation at the Scottish Parliament’s pretty bad too.

  20. Braco says:

    Ray Bell,
    your views on the ‘real deal’ (or otherwise) nature of the various languages and dialects spoken around Scotland seem quite definitive. Were you elected or appointed?

    There may be a seat for you alongside Stuart and I. We are calling ourselves the ‘Scots Ministry of Definitive Scots Languages through the medium of Scots’. This will of course include The Gaelic and the English and The Doric.

    (Stuart has not agreed yet, so it may be just me and you)

    1. Ray Bell says:

      Yes, they are definitive. Like you yourself, I am democratically elected and whichever terms I use are my choices. Et tu quoque, old chap.

      I have studied this issue for decades and heard it all before. The joke is that people are coming out with the same opinions as twenty years ago. J Derrick MccLure certainly has been. Come out with something NEW like Wilson McLeod.

  21. Braco says:

    The two most divisive issues prized above all to Unionists during a ‘nationalist’ debate are sectarianism/bigotry and Language.

    You have merrily published in close succession two articles almost made to measure for the purpose of ‘opening’ up that ‘debate’.

    We are 16 months from a YES/NO referendum and you honestly feel these issues are best explored through divisive articles such as these?

    In my opinion, I think you need to look again at your commissioning process and what should be it’s over arching goal.
    Just saying…..

    1. Ray Bell says:

      Paradoxically both major leaps in Gaidhlig rights were made by unionists!

      1. Braco says:

        Paradoxically how?

        In order to play one language/culture/minority off another, one of them must by definition at some point be the unofficially ‘favoured’.

        Just as Gaelic has a broadcast channel at the moment yet Scotland (of any language) does not.

        It’s not a difficult ploy to spot and understand, but unfortunately much harder to effectively counter. I am sure you understand this though Ray.

    2. mrbfaethedee says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

    3. bellacaledonia says:

      The issue of the loyalist movement in Scotland and the post-indy settlement of the rUK are not things that just go away by not addressing them.

      Indeed, as Iain Macwhirter recently pointed out on his tv series, the Orange Order have been in the past crucial in propping up the Tories.

      As for language? We’re in dire need to support and embrace all of our languages and move away from the cultural self-hatred that dominates us and undermines peoples political confidence.

      Bella is not in the game of shying away from difficult issues.

      There’ll be more on Gaelic and Gaelic culture in the coming weeks.

      1. mrbfaethedee says:

        Re: gaelic
        I think a large part of the issue is that large numbers of Scots don’t see gaelic as being as particularly relevant to them while the gaelic community obviously and rightly do.
        Unfortunately, any expression of such sentiment seems to be met with charges of being anti-gael.
        ‘cutural self-hatred’?
        Sitting here in Dundee I don’t feel that gaelic makes up a great deal of my ‘culture’, and that its depth and infuence over on the east coast is grossly overstated, historically as well as currently.
        So when it’s touted as Scotland’s true language and culture by others, it simply ignores the fact that we’ve been ‘mulit-cultural’ for a long time, and the lingua franca has long since moved on.

        Genuinely glad to see gaelic language and culture regrow naturally (and indeed with some more social, cultural and political accomodation if needed), but trying to force it as an issue in the referendum is being foolishly divisive.

        Re: sectarianism
        the gratuitous sectarian (zzz) hobby horse articles are bella’s low points.

      2. Braco says:

        It’s the quality of the articles I am questioning, not the subject matter!

        You have read my criticism as wanting to shut down debate and encourage ‘cultural self-hatred that dominates us and undermines peoples political confidence’? Really?

        I think you need to listen to what the criticism is rather than invent one that is easier to deal with by dismissal. I am a friend.

        Bella should not be in the game of shying away from difficult issues, she should be in the game of helping to tease out and resolve those difficult issues.

        Not, as has been the case with these last two articles, clumsily wade into and then repropagate some seriously out dated and divisive FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).

        If you just want to force comment on the threads, well that’s another thing all together but don’t be calling it helpful to the YES campaign.

      3. Braco says:

        very well said and put. Thanks.

  22. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    Comparisons have been made concerning the vibrant and dynamic independence movement in Catalunya and its more restrained and Calvinistic counterpart in Scotland. In the former language and culture plays a majornrôle even though Catalans also speak Castilian ie Spanish and share in its benefits as a world language. Arguments that Gaels understand English so why bother providing Gaelic language material is not one the Independence Movement in our country should have anything to do with as it just smacks too much of the repressive colonial mindset we are trying to expel. Language and the politico-cultural significance of language in national renewal is a serious, not dilettante, matter. Check out the place of language in other independence movements in recent history. The idea that we Scots are somehow different from all the rest, equal partners in the UKGB, builders of the Empire and other fairy tales, and do not need “te bodhar our heidis owir dhe maetar” is purblind hubris. Wilfully ignoring it will not make it go away. Both Gaelic and Scottis and even Nynorn need their due portion. All three are currently struggling against the “tsunami o Inglis”. If we dismiss these cultural icons as mere distracting side issues then all our talk of being sovereign again is just hot air. Rich we might become but rather soulless as well I reckon.
    Dhe Scottis orthografie i dhis comentar is bi dessein expeirimental an idiosincratic syn dhir isna dhenou aen normativ form in uisaig i leterar prosestyl.

  23. Braco says:

    We are not Catalunya, or Ireland or any other language based ‘vibrant’ Independence movement that you would rather we were. We are Scotland and we are at the forefront of our own unique construct of conceptual national identity.

    It seems to me that it’s you that harbours the old cultural cringe there Alasdaire.

    Have we not added our own particular flavour to world thought before? The Reformation or maybe The Enlightenment?

    Could we not be in the process again? I don’t think Scotland was particularly sunny back then and ‘vibrant’ is not a word instantly associated with our history either but world changing we were.

    Is it hubris to think and hope you can win the world cup, if you’ve already won it twice before?

    1. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

      Hi Braco. Our minds are unlikely to meet on this. The effect of sustained Anglicization through the medium of the British state has deeply cut into the perception Scots have of themselves and their country. The old home rulers based their claims for autonomy on criteria which derived from the English speaking, white, anglo-Protestant worldview which energised and drove British imperialism. Scotland was part of a larger cultural domaine, an apparently successful one to which individual Scots had made a significant contribution, and did not need to do any of that culture and identity navel-gazing that the Irish, for example, were engaging in. Our identity was based on other more enlightened, modern and practical reference points which rendered all that stuff irrelevant. We were different, more evolved and content with our perceived identity. Until of course, we came into contact with the big world outside. Then our “identity” crumbled to dust. Scots were seen as a quaint variant of English, same language, same island, same passport, same politics, same values just the habit of eccentrically wearing a colourful short skirt and blowing bagpipes marked us out as “different”. All that stuff about Scots law and the Scots Enlightenment etc, was just another facet of English culture. No matter how hard we pushed the case we were anglais, angliskij englischer, inglesi ad nauseam. Now I wonder why?
      We all want a monumental YES next year. But a free and open exchange of ideas on issues as exposed in the piece above should not be suspended for fear of frightening the waverers. The new Scotland must be different from the old one in that it is more honest about itself. Not afraid to look in the mirror and see the spots and blemished that may need surgery not make-up.

      1. mrbfaethedee says:

        Within the union, f the Scots had spoken Gaelic as a first tongue and English second, they’d have have still been seen as a quaint variant of English, perhaps even more so.

        “same language, same island, same passport, same politics, same values just the habit of eccentrically wearing a colourful short skirt and blowing bagpipes marked us out as “different”.”
        If we all spoke gaelic only the first part would change, and the sense of the sentence would remain the same. If you think different show us how.

        This is just an identity landgrab, saying that if we don’t agree with you re: gaelic, we’re somehow not staying true to our ‘real’ scottishness (which the gaels, as true scots are apparently arbiters of) – and that is just rubbish.

        Even at Gaelic’s (historically relatively brief) high water mark, it was still one language amongst others. Culture then, as now, was a more complex blend of society’s constituents than any labelled historical map or particular world-view. To imagine that Gaelic is some kind of lost heart of Scottishness is to cut yourself off from many Scots and their view of who and what they are.

  24. bellacaledonia says:

    Well said.

  25. Braco says:

    No Alasdair, unfortunately I don’t think we will agree.

    I just don’t recognise your description of our history. Anglo-protestant? Scotland was the first reformed national church in the world. The reformation was a world cultural revolution and we were at the head of it.

    We are no longer living in a world where religion dictates and colours every facet of society, thank goodness, but it seems like the cultural cringe you decry in others, for a Scotsman not to give credit to the world changing event that the reformation was to history.

    Scots law and educational culture again you easily and breezily dismiss. The enlightenment, David Hume, Kelvin, Adam Smith, Edinburgh Newtown, New Lanark, Engineering, Agricultural and Scientific breakthroughs, Geological theory etc. etc… All dismissed as ‘eccentrically wearing a colourful short skirt and blowing bagpipes marked us out as “different”’ Really?

    What is it you class under the description of culture exactly? I am not for underplaying or ignoring other cultures achievements, far from it, but Scotland can strut around there with the best of them. The fact few know this, well that’s a different issue.

    As far as how others view us, well I live in Lisbon and nobody here seems to have a problem identifying me as Scots. Nor any of the other English speaking country’s nationals such as Americans, Australians, NewZealanders, Canadians (even dare I say Irish?) etc. etc. Strange that.

    I think one of the very important points about our movement that other nationals do not really understand, but both you and I know absolutely to be true, is how, if we have real reasons to seek independence, why/how have we not resorted to violence as other movements have.

    Difficult to explain with so few other examples world wide. Not sure I understand myself, but it is something which should underline the achievement of gaining Independence instead of the frequent ridicule it seems to induce from our opponents. (eg the Cubans got Che, look what we got! ha ha)

    Any way that is probably the thing I am most proud of and which gives me most hope for a new inclusive and progressive society in an Independent Scotland. All achieved together and without violence. (please god)

    Vote YES in September 2014 (please)

    1. Braco says:

      I can’t believe I have had to write a post like that, justifying Scots culture, on a pro Indy website such as Bella. My mind boggles!

      I think this fact speaks more eloquently than I ever could as to the divisive nature of this kind of article and how it seems to simply encourage the taking of potshots at what I thought were fairly well established cultural foundations. Oh well?

      1. mrbfaethedee says:

        Aye, it’s a sin Braco.
        Culture is like coin, it doesn’t care who you are, it’s made, earned and spent. It’s not a gift doled out by a committee, it’s an emergent quality that rises from groups of people and builds on to previous such instances. It lives. Dies even.
        It’ll never be defined and controlled by some cultural equivalent of a tartan register!
        The Scots culture is whatever all Scots produce as their culture.

        You’ve spoken clear and true throughout. Passionate and open.
        A shame that Scots Law and the Scottish Enlightenment seem to get thrown back at you as ‘aspects of English’, presumably because they aren’t Gaelic. The argument cant really be that only gaelic = scottish, can it?
        I would have left the thread had I not read your posts, depressing stuff.

        Still, as you imply – we still all push forward together and look forward to having these debates in an independent Scotland.

      2. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

        As a Catholic I do view the Protestant Reformation in a rather different way from you. Leaving aside the well rehearsed theological issues and all the reciprocal black propaganda this movement’s effect on Scotland led ineluctably to a process of Anglicization through the use of the English bible in the vernacular services of the Kirk and to increased fear of a possible Catholic revival or invasion, shared by England, which brought the two countries closer together as a result and led to the personal union of the English and Scottish thrones under James VI/I. Linda Colley in her book Britons elaborated on this mutually supportive core aspect of Britishness. Curiously the auld Scottis tong became identified with Catholic propagandists eg the Dominican Win3et. Be that as it may I assure I do not breezily dismiss our many claims to fame in the fields you mention. The point I was making is that for internal consumption It serves only to reinforce the here’s tae us, wha’s like us mentality, itself a product of our diminished national status, which when seen from outside the box looks a bit, sorry to say it, sad. Our culture is rich and the good stuff just doesn’t start with Luther and Calvin and their influence on modern Scottish history. By the way Scotland was the last European state to embrace protestantism,England and Wales, Geneva, Holland, Scandinavia, Baltic states, most German states as well as Bohemia, parts of Poland, Austria and Hungary had gone before us. The Catholic counter reform did manage to reclaim some of the “lost” territory but that is another story and of mere passing interest. That we have not resorted to violence in pursuit of our goal is truly remarkable. A mark of our maturity as a people who can live together despite diversity and differences of opinion and a Unionist propaganda machine running at full power.

        1. mrbfaethedee says:

          Here’s to a secular republic!!!

          (also, I’m assuming that ‘live together despite diversity’ is a typo or mistake!)

      3. Braco says:

        You seem to becoming slippery. Is that intentional Alasdair?

      4. Braco says:

        I am no protestant.

        I am one of Bella’s ‘who gives a shit’ generation, but I am not stupid enough to not understand the underlying power and ephicacy of an ancient homegrown theology.

        That is, in modern lingo, a philosophy, and as such will have surely seeped into every pour of this modern Scotland (even the catholic one?).

        Maybe that’s the scource of your dismay at our lack of a ‘vibrant and dynamic independence movement’ such as in Catalunya. We only seem to have our own poor wee inclusive, non violent, fairly popular but cold and resolutely undemonstrative Scottish movement to work with over here.

        How about we all agree to try and do our best, with what we have, in order to secure a YES in 2014, in the communities where the question will actually be asked?

        Could we agree on that? (please)

      5. Braco says:

        That is as good a description of living culture as I have come across. It captures the paradox that in any attempt to categorize or control or even define it, it becomes somehow reduced. It seems to have something to do with momentum but, like the theory of consciousness, every time I try to get to grips with what feels like a concrete phenomena, it remains illusive.

        I will definitely be borrowing your description of it as coin. I may even give you the credit, but I am not promising (wink).

        Thanks for helping in the counter argument. It has definitely made this thread worthwhile, for me at least.

    2. cirsium says:

      well said Braco

  26. Wow! I bet Dr (now Prof.) Wilson McLeod wouldn’t have guessed that his article would have caused such a stooshie! To those who say why not Scots / Doric / Polish / Urdu too, I say that there is no supposed requirement in law for the question to be rendered in those languages.

    To remind folk, the first words of the Gaelic Language Act 2005 are: “An Act of the Scottish Parliament to establish a body having functions exercisable with a view to securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language.”

    It’s a sair fecht when it obviously never occurred to the SG not only that the most momentous question ever posed to the Scottish People should itself comply with the legislation of our own Parliament; but that had it done so, the entire stooshie over the positivity of the question itself could well have been avoided. There is no “Yes” as such in Gaelic so the only way to pose the question is to ask “Do you agree that …” To which the answer is either “I agree” or “I don’t agree”. Therefore for the question to be rendered similarly and accurately in both languages, the “Do you agree that …” formulation in English becomes utterly uncontroversial.

    To those who say that Gaelic was eschewed to avoid getting embroiled in unionist ‘compulsory Gaelic’ scare stories or that merely rendering the question bilingually on the ballot paper would be tantamount to Gaelic being placed on a plinth as being the ‘one true culture of Scotland’ I say “are ye men or mice?” to the first and “balderdash!” to the second.

    We are daily fighting off ludicrous scare stories so dealing with tosh like hospitals in Edinburgh being ‘forced’ to shell out for Gaelic signage or compulsory Gaelic for all are easily dealt with.

    1. mrbfaethedee says:

      “I say that there is no supposed requirement in law for the question to be rendered in those languages.”
      So it’s just a matter of legal supposition then? Not cultural, moral?
      (i’m not convinced there’s a legal requirement for the question to be put in gaelic too btw)

      If that’s what you believe, fair enough. For me that makes it a pretty s**t argument for it though. If the the Gaelic Language Act was about enshrining respect for Gaelic, why isn’t the same spirit at least afforded to the many other language spoken in Scotland? Churlish if not, surely?

      It’s not that much o’ a sair fecht if the author is to be believed –
      (I should start a counter on this quote)
      “by and large, Gaelic speakers, all of whom are bilingual, appear content to take part (or ignore!) the mainstream English-medium debate.”
      And why would they not?

      Believe it or not, I sympathise with the gaelic community have to firefight some of the scare stories – as I’m sure do many non-gaelic speakers. I’m getting tired of seeing any criticism of a gaelic ‘agenda’ (i know it sounds overly pejorative, sorry – not intended as such) getting lambasted as anti-gaelic. Sides of coins, I guess.

  27. As with most things, the politicians didn’t wake up one morning in 2005 and decide to enact the Gaelic Language Act. Gaels got off their Erse (pun intended) and campaigned and lobbied for it.

    Doric airses and Scots bahookies are equally at liberty tae be gotten aff! ;o)

  28. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    In Wales/Cymru everything is bilingual. Road signs, shop signs, hospital signs, theatre and cinema signage, announcements at rail terminals etc. Most Welsh people speak English as a first language but never have I heard a complaint against the practice of using Welsh in this way. If an animus against Gaelic exists in certain quarters it amounts to shooting oneself in the foot if not the head. Wales is more distinctly Welsh for the free use of yr hen iaith/the old language in the public space. Phasing in Gaelic, along with Scots, would be a linguistic challenge to the comfortable cultural conformists who freak out at the thought of anything outside their confort zone and a positive and creative assertion of our heritage. Tourists would love it! A’ chrioch….

  29. Braco says:

    And yet Alasdair, they seem at this moment, light years away from an actual YES/NO vote on retaining the Union. We on the other hand have, weirdly with all our linguistic differences, managed to put all that shite aside (for now) and focused on the real issues that Independence will allow us to tackle.

    Language and our languages are to me just another pre dug landtrap, engineered to hobble our folk’s natural and easy amble toward self determination.

    If you don’t want to kill in the name of it, then maybe the best our hot blooded firebrands can hope for, is to encourage a brisk walk towards it! Maybe that’s another unattractive Scots cultural signature. What do you think Alasdair? It’s not what you could call ‘vibrant’ or ‘dynamic’ is it?

  30. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    A Bhraco, Madainn mhath dhuit! Can’t offer much info as to why the movement in Wales has become stuck. The language movement is however vibrant and lively and young. There is a demand for Welsh medium schools in anglicized areas and the percentage of the young exposed to Welsh has never been higher. What the citizens will make of that depends on too many internal and external factors to forecast that language revival might promote a leap for indie. The Welsh share with the Scots a conservative and cautious bent so if we get ourselves sorted they might be motivated to do likewise.
    It is interesting that in the Irish case language only became germane around the turn of the last century. Irish Gaelic was originally seen as a peasant medium, backward and inward looking compared to English and not appropriate for a modern state.The internationalist/cosmopolitan Catholic Church shared that view also. Interestingly Hebrew and Yiddish were rejected by early Zionists for the übermodern German. In both cases there was a total volte-face. Hebrew or a neo-Hebrew was successfully revived. The Irish revival is still work in progress.
    Anyway as you intimate we are in to win. That is THE most important thing at the moment. How we get there is a matter of temperament. Each brings his/her own gifts. We need firebands as well as deep, ruminating thinkers. I would hope we become a republic, secular and humanist (in the most enlightened sense of those terms), open to the modern, honest about itself, free of hobbling cosy myth, conscious of her unique history and willing to promote and sustain its culture patrimony…..on that I end with the parting shot, Tir gun cànain tir gun anam
    Chao/ até logo
    Hope no typos in this…

    1. Braco says:

      Well Alasdair, on that we can certainly agree. I knew we could in the end. Take care and I look forward to taking this argument up again after the YES! (winkysmile).

  31. Neil McRae says:

    “… Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the statutory language board, expressed its disappointment at the Government’s position and submitted a draft version of a bilingual ballot paper …”

    Perhaps if the Bòrd had seen fit to do anything at all to raise the appallingly low levels of Gaelic literacy amongst native speakers, its protestations about lack of bilingual referendum questions wouldn’t ring so hollow now. This matter has also been aired in Gaelic blogs and newspaper columns, a fact which MacLeod doesn’t mention.

    Typically of the Bòrd, its draft version is couched in pseudo-Gaelic guaranteed to induce feelings of unease in any remaining literate native speakers (there are still some out there!).

    1. Tocasaid says:


      Or just different registers?

      More power to BnG. After all, a century or more of An Comann with their ‘Royal Mòd’, with their ‘pure’ Gàidhlig has seen a wholesale retreat of the language from most of it’s 20th bastions. Though they have taught Prince Charles facal no dhà.

      Cò ris a tha thu a’ sabaid?

      1. Tocasaid says:

        20th Century bastions…

  32. Braco says:

    Braco says:
    June 13, 2013 at 18:46


    That is as good a description of living culture as I have come across. It captures the paradox that in any attempt to categorize or control or even define it, it becomes somehow reduced. It seems to have something to do with momentum but, like the theory of consciousness, every time I try to get to grips with what feels like a concrete phenomena, it remains illusive.

    I will definitely be borrowing your description of it as coin. I may even give you the credit, but I am not promising (wink).

    Thanks for helping in the counter argument. It has definitely made this thread worthwhile, for me at least.

  33. Tocasaid says:

    Interestlingly, someone above – Braco? – said that the Gaels themselves should ‘do more’. Er… isn’t the point of a campaign to reach out to people in a way that will make them ameniable to your message? If so, then what are Yes Scotland doing to take their message to the Gaels? Why then do they have tailored ‘Yes’ campaigns aimed at business people and the gay community?

    Or do Gaels deserve less respect? Porridge wogs again?

    Some Gaels have done their bit already. The silence from Yes on Gaelic has been deafening.

  34. Braco says:

    The point and strength of a grass roots campaign is that it is driven and formed from the grass roots. We speak for ourselves to each other.

    Please don’t associate my name or posts with terms like ‘Porridge wogs’ and ideas that ‘Gaels deserve less respect’ (than who?). Terms and Idea’s, incidentally, that I have heard from nobody but yourself.

    1. Tocasaid says:

      Aye, but what about those Gaels who aren’t Yes voters? What are YS doing to win them over.

      Check the definition of ‘campaign’.

  35. David Smillie says:

    Congratulations to Bella on publishing Wilson’s piece, which I agree with. As a Scots speaker I am always embarrassed by the supposed supporters of my form of language when they have a go at Gaelic. The reason that Gaeldom is coming to grips with its difficulties is because Gaels worked hard and lobbied effectively to establish a proper basis for development. They were not just handed SG money and told to go away and get on with it. The Scots language people, on the other hand, have had the same opportunity but have done nothing effective at all, just moaned about the Gaels getting a special deal.

  36. Neil McRae says:

    “Gaeldom is coming to grips with its difficulties …” You must be joking, the living language is just about dead and buried under an unstoppable tidal wave of self-congratulatory (and subsidised) spin, seemingly designed to cover up just how bad the situation is. Scots speakers: the same will happen to Scots if you lobby the government for help!

    1. David Smillie says:

      I’d be interested to hear your solution(s) to the problem of language decline. Or are you a language Darwinist – just let nature take its course?

      1. Tocasaid says:

        He has no solutions other than writing posts and blogs that the Tax Payers’ Alliance or UKIP would be proud of.

  37. Neil McRae says:

    I’m afraid nature is taking its course right now, aided and abetted by the Gaelic ‘revival’ industries who seem to want to deliberately obfuscate the true disastrous state of the language. I guess it’s just that they get paid to churn out nonsense about Gaelic being ‘vibrant and forward-looking’ – as simple as that.

    Yet there is still hope, if there were to be a groundswell of grassroots opinion in favour of keeping the language alive – but it has to be grassroots, not top-down. The top-down model we have today cannot possibly work.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Interesting point

    2. Tocasaid says:

      Er, stupid point.

      How can ‘Gaelic’ be ‘vibrant’ or otherwise. It’s a language. See Dorian’s recent article on east-Sutherland Gaelic – language only enjoys the status conferred on its speakers. And why shouldn’t ‘we’ have a revival industry? For centuries Gaelic was denied any official recognition and status and now one or two pedants are sniping at those who dare to make a living by promoting the language? Do-chreisinneach. Why not aim your angst at the industries of the Anglo-Saxon tongue that steamroller any differences and promote ignorance over a diverse multi-lingual view of the world?

      As to grassroots action. Of course it’s important but its not an either/ or situation. I’ve been involved in ‘grass roots’ activity for two decades now and can mind when we didn’t have CnaG supporting us with resources or organising Gaelic language domains such as Cuach na Cloinne for our kids. I can also mind getting a paltry one hour of Radio nan Gaidheal on MW 5 nights a week – as Gaels and learners in the so-called ‘Galltachd’ weren’t deemed to have paid enough of the licence fee for a service. I’ve also been involved in Gaelic punk music – a truly DIY phenomenon with little or no official support. I’m also raising tri-lingual kids who speak English as a third language. And, please tell me, why the fk shouldn’t they watch Peppa Muc in Gaelic or go to a Croileagan that’s supported by ‘revival industries’? Should I just abandon them to the Walmart of languages?

      Aye, there is much to be done within the Gaelic community – for example one could argue that the day the last Mod adjudicator is choked with the last Gaelic bible in the last crumbling Free Kirk will be new dawn. Of course though, despite their shortcomings over the past century, even An Comann have their place. They just need to grow some cajones.

      The last thing we need though is some Quisling sniping at their own, be it you or the ludricrous ‘historian’ Richard A Deveria whose UKIP-esque witterings in various local rags regularly provide fuel for the anti-Gaelic bigot brigade.

  38. Neil McRae says:

    It seems to me you’re confusing opposition to the antics of the self-serving Gaelic ‘establishment’, with opposition to Gaelic – a language which I have lived and breathed for the past 15 years, since I took it up as a learner “just for a few months”. Moving to a still (just) Gaelic-speaking area 11 years ago opened my eyes to the tragi-comic disconnect between the ageing remainder of the living language community on the one hand, and the language ‘revival’ organisations on the other – never the twain shall meet!

    Sure, let’s all don the rose-tinted spectacles, forego critical appraisal, and pretend everything’s just fine. Let’s face it, it’s really worked so far!

    “… one could argue that the day the last Mod adjudicator is choked with the last Gaelic bible in the last crumbling Free Kirk will be new dawn …” you say, repeating the old canard. I suggest your remark shows a lack of knowledge of and empathy for the (very few and dwindling) remaining Gaelic congregations, who have helped to keep the language going as a living thing all these years, and still do even yet – much more so than the revival industries with their impoverished Gaelic and error-ridden PR campaigns. (You may be correct about the Mod part, ged-tà!)

  39. Tocasaid says:

    Who is this ‘establishment’? The academics? The teachers? The writers? The booksellers? The artists? The ‘trad’ musicians? Gaelic speaking MSPs? The Gaelic (education) officers in various councils and other bodies? BBC Alba/ RnG? The journalists?

    And why shouldn’t we have a ‘Gaelic establishment’?

    As to the churches – they have to some degree preserved a Gaelic domain that is important to some – however I’d argue that the attitudes instilled by the churches is a contributing factor to the depopulation of the Gaidhealtachd not to mention the negative perceptions of the language and ‘her’ culture amonsgt Highlanders. This may come through castigating WWII veterens for their ‘vanity’ after speaking on Radio nan Gaidheal or opposing Sunday ferries and other services or for promoting ignorance of women’s rights and homophobia.

    I don’t see the situation as ‘rosy’. As with most things in life, good and bad can be taken from the present situation of Gaelic. But we have fought for much of what we have.

  40. Neil McRae says:

    Glad to see you’ve moderated your tone, a whole posting without intemperate accusations!

    “But we have fought for much of what we have”.

    Remind me again now, just what do we have again?

    1. Tocasaidt says:

      Why don’t you answer the points above? WHO exactly are you whinging about? At least have the cajones to come out and name them. And, if you can do better, why don’t YOU go and do it? I’m certain that most Gaelic bodies from BnG to CnaG to Leirsinn look for employees or volunteers to help out. Put your money where your mouth is.

      And as to ‘what do we have?’ – you are either very young, being dishonest or stupid. Or all three.

      I was involved in teaching Gaelic in a community education centre 21 years ago. The difference between then and now is immense. Not perfect but, most of the following things didn’t exist or where embryonic at this time – Gaelic media services (we were allowed one hour of Erse on MW five nights a week and telly was almost non-existent), Gaelic medium education – I’m very glad to take advantage of this despite my kids having Gaelic as their main home language, general linguistic support – books and other educational resources, toys and early years learning aids, more Gaelic on roadsigns, na Comainn Eachdraidh, na Fèisean, important ‘fun’ domains like Sradagan and Cuach na Cloinne, Gaelic used to some degree in parliament, the likes of Google and Mozilla in Gaelic, Gaelic punk music.

      Sure, the language in some domains – principally at home in the ‘Gaidhealtachd’ – is weaker and this is a concern. However, without the above, it would be weaker. And while complaining about mi-rùn/ dìomhanas mòr nan Gaidheal in some quarters is legitamate, I still don’t hear any solutions from your side.

      Lastly, there’s the issue of equality and human rights. I don’t read or understand much of what I hear in English – think of some music of ‘black origin’. I don’t understand a lot of legal and parliamentary speak. However, I am a Gaelic speaking taxpayer and surely deserve bullshit in whatever language is my nation’s indigneous tongue. And, if you still doubt Gaelic as the tongue of the Scots, I suggest you go back to school and look at Dalriada.

      Leis an fhìrinn innse, saoilidh mi gur e mac dìolta Joan Burnie is Richad Deveria a th’annad.

      Go and do something contructive instead of just whinging on the sidelines.

  41. Neil McRae says:

    Wow, you’re really winning hearts and minds here, I don’t think. Here’s a hint – calling me a bar steward is simply not big or clever, even if it’s in Gaelic.

    All this talk about “cajones” (cojones surely) – don’t you have enough yourself to come out from behind that username?

  42. Tocasaid says:

    Just answer the points please…

    Or are you just a troublemaker that’s always gurning without offering any positive solutions and doesn’t like being challenged?

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