The Power of the Colonised Mind

I started to write this article in Gaelic, with a view to bolstering Bella’s already excellent corpus of Gaelic-language articles, but I realised that in doing so, I would be shutting off the very people who need to read it from its key messages. Indeed, I don’t need to preach to the Gaelic-speaking community about prejudice against our language, our culture and its speakers, ourselves. We live that daily.

So I’m writing in English and, in doing so, I’m writing to you, the English and Scots speakers of Scotland.

On 24th April an article appeared on the BBC News website announcing the development of a new Gaelic-language dictionary. Similar articles regarding the same featured on the websites of the Times, the Scotsman and the Express. The article, to my mind, wasn’t that incendiary. Simply, a piecemeal £2.5 million had been granted to Bòrd na Gàidhlig, in consortium with the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, to fund a thirty-year project aiming to furnish our community with a dictionary akin to that of the Collins or Merriam Webster. Given the long life of the project, the people it will enable to make a livelihood through the project and the long-lasting benefits it will bestow on the community, I considered this to be value for money. Indeed, given that Gaelic has been spoken in Scotland since the first centuries AD, you might call such an initiative long overdue.

Personally, in reading the reports, I was overjoyed. As a Gaelic writer, this will be a supremely useful resource to me, if I’m still alive and writing in 2043, as it will be to speakers, and writers yet to publish, across Scotland.

Naturally, the comments sections were left open, as is often the case and in just four hours, wherever the articles featured, they had turned into cesspits of prejudice and one-up-manship.

On this note, I was far from surprised. Every single time a new Gaelic intitiative is heralded in the press, the good news is met by a barrage of the same worn out rhetoric, not only deriding the initiative, but, albeit indirectly or cynically, deriding our community as well.

“Gaelic is a totem used by the SNP to further its nationalist agenda. Gaelic is a waste of money whilst the NHS is in dire need of resources. Gaelic is a toolfor division, used by its speakers to isolate and intimidate the majority who don’t speak it. Gaelic is useless language and our Gaelic-speaking children and other learners of the language would be better advised to turn their attention to Mandarin. Gaelic roadsigns are a risk to non-Gaelic speaking drivers. Nobody speaks Gaelic here. Gaelic was never spoken here.”

I’m so bored of reading this nonsense.

I’d go so far as to call it bullshit. Unfortunately, however, it isn’t restricted to the misinformed grumblings of the Scottish proletariat in the comments sections and social media. It also fills column inches in our dailies, both broadsheets and tabloids.

Last week a brand-new school was opened in Portree. Mike Wade of the Times, instead of congratulating the parents and wider community who campaigned for the school for years, if not decades, chose to frame the news as a ‘cause of equality’. Plus ça change.

But the grenades weren’t just thrown by those beyond the barricade. On the inside, John Finlayson, in the West Highland Free Press, echoed these sentiments, with a double-dose of ‘whataboutery’. Apparently the hand that gives a new school to Gaelic-speaking children, takes away from the English-speaking majority, despite the fact that excellent mainstream education continues to flourish on the island.

Finlayson, a former headmaster of a school, with a Gaelic unit, in Portree, clearly spent too much time in the office and hobnobbing with the high heid yins he now holds court with, instead of interacting with the Gaelic-speaking children he claimed to support, as part of the election campaign which led to his change in career as a local counsellor. I’ve worked in Gaelic-medium education, too, both in the Gaelic-unit of a mainstream school in the Greater Glasgow area, and a standalone Gaelic school in the Highlands. Part of that role was to be out in all weathers encouraging the children to use the language in social settings outwith the classroom. It was hard enough in the latter institution, given the disconnection between youth culture and the Gaelic tradition (a cause for thought which could be the stuff of a future article) but in the former institution the challenge was far greater. We constantly tread a tightrope between integrating those children with their monoglot peers and demonstrating that Gaelic, for them, need not solely be the language of instruction, but something relevant to all aspects of their lives. Finlayson, didn’t seem very cognisant of that conundrum and the benefits of maintaining a singularly Gaelic-speaking environment for children who have been placed in Gaelic-medium education by their parents, for the sole purpose of learning the language through immersion.

As the Skye poetess Màiri Mhòr nan Òran said herself: ‘tha mi sgìth de luchd na Beurla’ (‘I am tired of English-speaking monoglots.’) Finlayson should know, as a Gaelic-speaker himself, that if there is just one English-speaker amongst ten speakers of Gaelic, the conversation will inevitably switch to English. If this happens in adult company, it will happen in the playground. This is the power of the colonised mind.

As the Skye poetess Màiri Mhòr nan Òran said herself: ‘tha mi sgìth de luchd na Beurla’ (‘I am tired of English-speaking monoglots.’)

He needn’t just take my word for it, though. One of his former pupils, on Facebook, had some choice words for him as well. Countering accusations of exclusivity and elitism, she was more than confident in the fact that Gaelic-medium education was anything but a barrier to her own social inclusion with English-speaking monoglot peers. Indeed, the testimonies of successful former students like her repeatedly elucidate an appreciation of other cultures and an openness to people from other cultural backgrounds, which simply adds to the many benefits of bilingual education expounded by academics across Scotland.

Sadly, the words of a young Gaelic-speaking woman don’t carry as far as those of greying male professionals, like councillors and journalists, with the power of a local authority or a broadsheet behind them. This makes me wonder if it’s time to take the debate out of the columns and into the streets, or perhaps to bring the streets to the debate.

To that end, instead of repeating the facts and the statistics, as commentators like Arthur Cormack and academics like Wilson McLeod and Rob Dunbar do, with champion regularity, here’s a few anecdotal pearls from an April in Gaeldom.

Last week, following the Culloden commemorations, a friend contacted me. In attendance with her children, both Gaelic-speakers, she overheard a member of the throng deriding a singer, contributing to the proceedings with a Gaelic psalm. Ebullient, he then proceeded to laugh through the performance. Whilst the apologists might claim that the criticism was simply of the musical genre, or the performance itself, the woman and her children were upset by the experience, which they took as micro-aggression on the language, its culture and their community. The irony was somewhat lost on this individual, seemingly unaware that Culloden is one of the tragedies that sounded the death knell for the Gaelic language.

Enough of history, let’s look to the future. Today, another friend contacted me. She is a Gaelic teacher in a High School outwith that which we call the ‘Gaelic Heartland’; the kind of area where Gaelic was supposedly ‘never spoken.’ Whilst usually enthusiastic, if not dynamic, in her attempts to demonstrate that Gaelic is a living, vibrant language, and a viable medium for communication in contemporary Scotland, today she is exhausted and feels like giving up. Whilst supported by her colleagues, she’s sick of being the butt of taunts from pupils outwith her class, questioning why she is there and why Gaelic is taught in the school. Of course, normally, she’s mature and robust enough to fettle a few rambunctious adolescents, but at times, yes, the patience does wear a bit thin.

But there was a glimmer of hope. One of her S3 pupils had written a piece for the school blog, the sentiments which, their youthful expression notwithstanding, would not be out of place in the responses of Messrs Cormack, McLeod ad Dunbar.

Yet here we have three children who are acutely aware of their ‘otherness’ as Gaelic speakers in Scotland, of the fact that they live in a country where there are people who believe their language and culture are not worthy of state support, if not worthless entirely. I think it’s time to let that sink in for a bit, because it’s evidence – albeit anecdotal – that the bile from the likes of Mike Wade, which Gaelic speakers read weekly in the papers, is travelling down the food-chain and into the mouths of babes. It’s these babes which may grow to bash Gaelic for future generations. As we say in Gaelic: ‘an t-ionnsachadh òg, an t-ionnsachadh bòidheach’ (‘youthful formation is the most bueaitful’.)

The last time I had a conversation about this was on Twitter. Another user, in response to proposals of extending Gaelic-medium High School education in Edinburgh, remarked on existing provision in the city, suggesting that someone should set fire to Bunsgoil Taobh na Pàirce – the standalone Gaelic primary school in the city – whilst the children were in it. Members within and outwith the Gaelic community, on the platform, immediately piled in to demonstrate their disgust, as they rightly should. The attention of Police Scotland was drawn to the matter. I am yet to hear if there was an investigation.

When I read comments like this, whether it’s in the press or online, I am minded of a former participant in the BBC’s The Apprentice programme. I need not add to her notoriety by naming her, though we all know that she likes to take pot-shots at minority communities in the UK. Thankfully, whilst Gaeldom remains far beyond the Watford Gap, we are positioned beyond her sphere of influence and interest, though our time may come. I presume she reads the papers, too.

I see no difference in tone between the regular comments of that individual and the sentiments detailed here. Perhaps the journalists tread a little more lightly than the Twitter bigot with ambitions of arson, but the fact remains that the words of Gaelic’s regular detractors like Alan Roden and Scott Begbie have power. The sentiments they express have currency in our communities. Misinformation and poor research do not seem to be an issue for such raconteurs, who repeatedly masquerade their hatred for the language and its speakers with feigned concern for the economy, the NHS, or the slighted monoglot population of Scotland. Their editors do nothing to check them.

Following the last Gaelic cross-party meeting held at the parliament, I had a conversation with Kate Forbes MSP, the meeting’s chair and general Gaelic heroine, via email. I mentioned to her, amongst similar concerns, the comments made regarding Taobh na Pàirce, of which she was already aware. The upshot is that it is more than likely that the police are unable to do anything about such hate speech, because the law does not, in fact, regard it as hate speech. Whilst legislation like the Equality Act is in place to protect and maintain the rights and safety of women and members of the BAME and LGBT communities, our minoritised language communities do not feature in its wording. Unlike in the Book of Dear, Gaelic doesn’t even feature in the margins.

At another event at the Parliament I met with an expert in BSL from one of Edinburgh’s universities. Those of us who speak and move for our minorities are used to sharing best practice with our peers and he bemoaned the fact that that those working for BSL don’t have the support of a quango like Bòrd na Gàidhlig to fight their corner. He considered him lucky in other ways, though. Indeed, would any journalist dare write to deride BSL in the same way they do about Gaelic? We were both doubtful. Thankfully society has moved on to the extent that we don’t tolerate the demonization of people with disabilities, and even though BSL is a language like any other, regardless of who has it, human decency does prevail, and to a certain extent, safeguards efforts to promote it from undue criticism.

Not so, when it comes to Gaelic, though, and I want to know why this is. After all, on paper, we all agree that bigotry faced by any minority, simply because of the fact they are different, has no place in Scotland in 2018. However, politicians and commentators of all hues fall completely silent, when it comes to sticking up for us. We are the last minority it is still seen as politically correct to abuse, whether its in print, online or in person.

I’ll leave you with an anecdote of my own, which, whilst it dates back some ten years to my days as an undergraduate in Aberdeen, has remained with me ever since. Whilst walking down School Hill talking in Gaelic my best friend, a native speaker from Uist, away from the Blue Lamp, where Gaelic speakers would regularly meet to use the language, we were confronted by a man in his thirties. To the best of my knowledge he was not intoxicated or in any way otherwise impeded. Hearing the language on the street, he cornered us and got in my friend’s face – a young woman in her twenties – and what he was shouting was that we should stop speaking Gaelic in the Granite City. His aggression left us both gobsmacked. It was the first time I’d ever encountered anything like it in the flesh.

Thankfully he left us both unscathed by the incident. We spoke in Gaelic on the phone last week. But, on that night, as we carried on our way, that man had succeeded in making us switch to English, because we were frightened. On that day, at least, one of Gaelic detractors won.

Ten years later I think it’s time to call out this outright xenophobia for what it is. I am sick to the back teeth of it and I know the Gaelic speakers reading this are too. Time and time again, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, our Gaelic cultural ambassadors and civic leaders respond with such politeness and magnanimity that it almost reads, at times, like an apology for our existence. Those that criticise Gaelic with such flagrancy don’t listen to facts; they don’t like them. They get in the way of their prejudices. They see a road sign and conveniently forget the thousands of people behind it.

But as I write this I’m not frightened of that man in Aberdeen, and those like him, any more and I know the only way to combat prejudice is to fight it head on. As if we weren’t acutely aware of the fact, and as we are reminded daily, we represent only 1% of the population. We need the rest of Scotland behind us and unanimous in your support.

Comments (102)

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  1. Craig P says:

    I honestly don’t understand the Gaelophobia I see exhibited any time the subject of Gaelic is raised. There is *always* (a usually monolingual) somebody, who wants to make some self-satisfied snide comment.

    Why does it rile people so?

    I suppose I am asking on the wrong forum.

    1. I Wright says:

      For hundreds of years aspirant Scots have renounced Gaelic and Scots in order to ‘get on’. Encountering either language reminds them of their ‘betrayal’. Not the only reason, but a significant one.

      1. Iain McIntosh says:

        “For hundreds of years aspirant Scots have renounced Gaelic and Scots in order to ‘get on’.”

        Is it “just” that or is there a deeper antagonism towards Gaelic?

        Go on any bbc Scotland HYS and unionists bring up support of Gaelic and Gaelic culture as dangerous, a waste of money and to be fought against.

        And go on any bbc Northern Ireland HYS and you see unionists bring up support of Irish and Irish culture as dangerous, a waste of money and to be fought against.

        I think a deep seated problem lies with unionism and its complete intollerance to anything different that does not confirm to its norms and values.

        1. Stuart Murray says:

          Its because of the Scottish animosity to Gaelic that the ruling class stopped calling it Scots and started referring to it as Irish.

        2. Tadhg Ó Cruadhlaoich says:

          It goes beyond Unionism. In the 26 Counties, there was bitter opposition to the setting up of TG4, especially in the Irish media. Plenty opportunity was extended to those who resented it . They must be quietened at this stage, because TG4 is popular with all sorts. For example, my brother, into sport (GAA), but not Irish, like me, watches it very, very frequently indeed. So, it has served him as well, beyond language – TG4 reaches beyond ….

  2. Iain Ross says:

    I feel that both my myself and my wife are good examples of the way in which Gaelic has been ‘de-valued’ in Scotland. We are both children of Gaelic speakers but neither of us are fluent and what Gaelic we have we acquired by default as our own parents did little to encourage us. Why did this happen? Well if you ask them the standard response is that ‘it was not the done thing’ but what they really mean is that they had been brought up to believe it had no value and so what was the point; that was the message that was drilled into them and that is the message that continues to be drummed out by the usual suspects in the media and the establishment and is repeated ad-nauseam by scores of monoglot English speaking Scots.

    I like to think there is hope though. We now have children and have taken a proactive decision that unlike us they are going to get the opportunity to be educated in their ‘own’ language and remake a broken connection. In addition we also hold the view that being bilingual shall provide them with better opportunities and make them more rounded and open human beings.

    In addition to that I am also not like my parents. I do not accept that Gaelic is somehow of less value than English and I certainly do not hold the view that everything I do in regard to the language should be constrained by this fact. I do not tolerate anybody in my company demeaning what I consider to my mother tongue and by extension my family and my culture. I respect other peoples right to any opinion but not if it strays across the line into small mindedness and bigotry. That needs to be called out for what it is and more Gaelic speakers need to do the same, instead of constantly playing the politeness card. If you do not stand up for yourself then you get walked on, it is that simple.

    I am sick and tired of hearing about roadsigns and other such bullsh*t and it is about time that many monoglot English speaking Scots learned a bit about their own country and broke out of their ‘imperial’ conditioning. I would also like it if a few of them could trouble themselves to learn how to spell my first name properly, is that too much to ask for in my own country? Are these people just ignorant / superior or just poor souls in a state of darkness? I think it is the later for most but the for the cheerleaders definitely the former.

    Good article, certainly touched a nerve for me. Keep up the good work in both Gàidhlig ‘s Beurla.

    1. MA Turner says:

      Sin sibh. Ghabh sibh le chèile an t-slighe a bha na fhreagairt. Xx

  3. George Stewart says:

    The common theme is ignorance and monolingual English speakers are notorious for both their poor command of other languages and their reflex hostility, born of insecurity, in social discourse in another language. As a monolingual English speaker myself who married an italian in middle age, I am now fluent and relaxed in the language of the Bel Paese, but we tend to only use it at home. I can testify to the hostility to the use of italian in public in England where we live. An italian acquaintance talking to her bilingual child , was asked by a bus driver shortly after the EU referendum when she was going back to Poland !

  4. Donnchadh MacLabhruinn says:

    Math thu fhèin, a bhalaich!

    You should read “The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence” by Carol Craig for an insight into the psyche of those Scots who hate anything that differentiates us from the English. In the ’70s when, as a student, I worked for the Gaelic Books’ Council, going round doors trying to sell Gaelic books in Lewis, Harris, Scalpay and Skye, I met those who were proud of the language (like one of the last monoglot Gaelic-speaking adults in Scotland on Scalpay) but also some who weren’t. On Lewis, one woman vehemently rejected talking to me in Gaelic saying it only brought poverty on the people and was something to be ashamed of! English-speakers and Tory MSPs should remember that by deriding Gaelic, they are undermining the confidence of people – speaking words of crucifixion instead of resurrection – and paradoxically displaying the Scottish cringe that undermines the spirit our people. We should make every effort to oppose this mindset and make sure that Gaelic remains visible through the media (including the excellent BBC Alba), road and station signs, newspaper articles, schools and also encourage those who move to parts of the Gàidhealtachd to learn to speak the language rather than being neo-colonials by remaining monolingual.

  5. Josef Ó Luain says:

    Stand still for a minute, Marcas. English speakers need to be taken-by-the-hand. Many of them, when “confronted” by the Gaelic language, in whatever form, are inflamed by its, for them, seeming inaccessibility and its defiance of their comprehension. A life-long prejudice/fear can be easily inculcated on that kind of foundation.

    Nothing in an English speaker’s formative educational experience will have equipped she/he to deal with, for example, non-standard alphabets that employ “superfluous” letter combinations. Blah, blah, you’ve heard it all before, I’m sure, but I’ve often wondered: what exactly the big-problem is with supplying phonetic renderings and translations (wherever practicable) for those brought-up with English?

    1. Marcas Mac an Tuairneir says:

      It isn’t the responsibility of Gaelic speakers to educate monoglots. The Internet has democratised information in ways that furnish such people with more avenues to learning Gaelic, and about it, than were ever available, in previous decades.

      I’m afraid your comments only demonstrate your own colonised mind.

      Gaelic orthography makes perfect sense. When you learn to decode it, you can pronounce any word you see in the page. Attempting phonemic spellings of our words simply weakens that orthography and demonstrates that Gaelic must bend to Anglophone norms.

      You will find that almost every Gaelic poet writing today publishes in translation, but why should we have to? I am bored of thinking about the feelings of monoglots every time I open my mouth to speak in Gaelic.

      1. MA Turner says:

        I don’t like the pejorative use of nonoglot.

  6. Indyvids says:

    If a child learns a second language before the age of 8 the brain develops in such a way as to make learning other languages easier. A friend of mine from an English/Italian family is now fluent in 5 languages including Arabic which he learned to facilitate the growth of his family business in the Middle East.

    That monoglot English speakers have difficulty learning other languages is partly down to this. This is yet another obstacle in the path of the idea of England becoming an independent global trading nation as the rest of the world is driven away from the Anglosphere as a result of the corruption, incompetence and sheer stupidity of the Westminster and Washington governments.

    Learning Gaelic should be compulsory in primary schools for this reason alone and would equip Scotland with a workforce much more easily able to work and conduct business in a global contaxt than it is now.

    1. Derek c says:

      Learning another language should definitely be compulsory..folk take their kids to Gaelic nursery and school in Glasgow for that very reason and of course the decent schooling..whether the language taught should be Gaelic though is up for debate..I’ve heard a few snide comments about road signs etc in Glasgow but cert never bordering on abuse but then that might be exclusive to Gaelic speakers..any teasing towards highlands and islanders tends to be because of their short arms and deep pockets .. the opposite of Glaswegians…folk north of Glasgow gave the Scots the mean image the world over. But agreed you could go all year and never hear Gaelic spoken in Glasgow..(un less you drink in the tueachter triangle)I would suggest most folk are indifferent or ignorant to it..they may even enjoy the music and other cultural aspects without realising it…after all we are all colonised minds down here in the lowlands..simple monoglots …but we are happy and carefree!! Not snooty at all ..! Whaes like us

  7. DaveM says:

    I’m fed up with the way Gaelic is utterly panned by sections of the population. It reflects badly upon us all. How can we hope to look outwards to the world when we turn inwards at a language which is a fundamental aspect of our heritage AND our present?

    I first saw a bilingual sign in Glasgow Queen Street high level station and it caught my attention. Perhaps it is because I have always been interested in other languages – I wanted to know how to pronounce the all of the words (Failte gu sraith na bannrigain – Welcome to Glasgow Queen Street [apologies if I’ve made any typos as I’m relying on my hazy memory]), as I’d only seen/heard a couple of them before. When I more recently saw the explosion of bilingual signs at other stations across the country, I loved it; even more so when I began visiting the northern and north-western parts of Scotland where those evil bilingual roadsigns are located! On a trip to Skye with a friend three years ago, while driving towards Caol Lochailse my friend asked me, “How is that pronounced?” I asked her to think about it for a second and realise that the English version, ‘Kyle (of) Lochalsh’ was just an anglicised version of the Gaelic pronunciation.

    My reason for this is simple: seeing Gaelic allows us to connect on a very simplistic level with our history. People in Scotland use Gaelic words every day without realising that they’re doing it, so the snobbery directed towards the language really ought not to exist if those who engage in it were to actually think about what they’re doing for a second or two. Instead of denigrating a seemingly small yet utterly important aspect of our culture, we should be embracing it, raising awareness, increasing its use, and giving it a grounding for the future why not teach all children in schools from P1? The evidence is strong in terms of bilingualism and overall academic performance among pupils and students across the world! In short, let’s celebrate Gaelic. Please.

  8. Roddy Macdonald says:

    Perhaps understanding homophobia provides a part of the key to understanding Gaelophobia. When I was booted out of HM Forces in 1996/97 all of the key players in my dismissal from the RAF’s Queerhunter General who interrogated and investigated me to the Air Officer Commanding in Chief who threatened further witch hunts to find my friends to the Secretary of State for Defence who effected my dismissal were all demonstrably homosexual. I am currently trying to help a very close friend out of the closet whom I had not the first idea was gay until he started specifically attacking my sexuality when his expectation of me was dislocated and/or his self-deceptive world felt threatened. There is no more vicious homophobe than a closet queen. (Hopefully a very temporary state in his case)!

    It is patently obvious to me that many of those Scots who are prejudiced against Gaelic speakers and the language voice their opposition because they feel inadequate as Scots because they have no understanding of the language, its history or the cultural and scholarly contribution of Gaels to Gaeldom itself and the wider Scotland. Just as a cowering closet queen both envies and loathes the openly gay.

    Beyond that there are the generally inadequate who would have been prejudiced against and bullying gay folk and folk of other races etc in the past, but have moved on to Gaels and Gaelic a. because it’s still allowed and b. it’s not yet a generally accepted notion that they are merely flagging up their own sense of inadequacy.

    1. DaveM says:

      That’s a really interesting way of thinking about it! Very, very interesting parallel to draw. It also makes me think of the (stereotyped) sneering attitude towards ‘foreigners’ among sections of society down south (and, indeed, in Scotland itself). A definite fear or misunderstanding of something which is different to their own narrow world view.

  9. Drew says:

    Thank you for an interesting article. I found the translation in brackets after ‘an t-ionnsachadh òg, an t-ionnsachadh bòidheach’ very clunky and am surmising that the writer did not include this himself? It looks like someone has run it through a crap Google translate or something. I’m doing An Cùrsa Inntrigidh at the moment and have been grappling with ionnsachadh in this week’s class. “Young learning is beautiful learning” works better, nach eil?
    I’ll try to provide some positive anecdotes:
    My daughter is in P1 at Taobh Na Pairc Dun Eideann. It is her local school, we’re ten minutes walk away. We are not native Gaelic speakers but I had a curiosity about the language: wanting to know how to say the names of the mountains I have walked among, and the meaning behind them; being seduced by Gaelic songs and learning the chorus to “Cailin Mo Ruinsa” by ear for a music project (a Lochinver local told me after a performance that they used to sing “Calamine lotion, it’s good for the skin” when she was wee); going to the National Library Of Scotland to read Iain Crichton Smith’s beautiful translation of Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s “Praise of Beinn Dorain”, marvelling at the rhythm and beauty of the English translation and aspiring one day to appreciate the same in the original Gaelic text….
    Another factor influencing our decision to enrol our daughter at the school was our experience at Croileagan Dun Eideann. These pre-school sessions were a brilliant introduction to the language for my daughter and me. The environment was so welcoming and friendly, and wee ones are great for helping to break down barriers and inhibitions between parents too. I’d recommend it to any parent who may have the same seed of curiosity about the language.
    Seeing my daughter learn Gaelic is a wonder. She’s learning it the way all languages are learned: immersively, orally. She speaks without fear, untroubled by phonemes, unencumbered by grammar, unlike her Dad, battling through the Clas-fòn every week for my course. A colleague at work asked how I was getting on. I said I was struggling, that our tutor had warned us that this latest unit was a meaty one that may send us running to the hills. “Aye” he quipped, “but at least you’ll be able to pronounce them”.
    Speaking of work, I’m in a callcentre. We take calls from all over Scotland. I took a call the other week from a lady outside Stornoway. A deer had hit her car, just outside the town. She was ok (the deer less so), if a bit shaken up. In concluding the call I threw in a “mar sin leat”. She was thrown, then reciprocated with what sounded like pleasant surprise. I came away with that excitement you feel when you’ve demonstrated your new language skills to a native speaker. It’s a wee bit odd isn’t it, to have that feeling in my own country?

    1. Marcas Mac an Tuairneir says:

      No, the translation was mine. I went for a little poetic license with the translation, clunky as it may be in eschewing the literal.

      Well done you for taking on the Cùrsa Inntrigidh. For a full rundown of my academic credentials, published volumes and CV, which includes translation, check out

      Thanks for your positive anecdotes. It is good to share the good even if at times we need to confront the bad.

  10. bringiton says:

    The Unionist bigots of Ireland and Scotland pick on Gaelic culture and language which they see as a threat to their English (British) identity.
    Scots who think they have “made it” affect an English accent to identify themselves with what they regard as a successful country and culture i.e. not Irish or Scottish.
    Anything which reminds them of their cultural roots is rejected as being backward and inward looking,unlike Brexit of course which isn’t because it is British.
    These are people who are not comfortable in their own skins and should be pitied and not castigated.

  11. Redgauntlet says:

    The constant hounding and denigration of Gaelic speakers in Scotland is utterly disgraceful and can only be described as discriminatory behaviour, the latest version of centuries of hatred by establishment Scotland against Gaelic Scotland and everything it stands for…

    The Scotsman, the BBC and the anti-Gaelic lobby in general – which far exceeds the Gaelic lobby in both numbers and passion- are bullies, philistines and are no better than your average racist…

    It’s a breach of the Charter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to hound and denigrate people for choosing to speak their native language… and it is the duty of the State to make provisions for Gaelic speakers under The Charter of Minority and Regional Languages which the UK is signatory to…

    Utterly shocking and disgraceful that this should go unchecked, and it’s about time somebody took up the legalities of some of these anti-Gaelic posts which may be actionable and take those responsible to court, including The Scotsman newspaper…

    “Gaelic is a small thing. But while it exists, it will always be loved…” (Sorley MacLean)

    1. Jamsie says:

      There is no constant hounding or denigration of Gaelic speakers in Scotland.
      Get real!

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        Jamsie, have you studied Gaelic? If you haven’t studied it, you don’t know what you’re talking about. And so with the greatest respect, nick off…

        1. Jamsie says:

          No I have not studied Gaelic.
          I wish I had.
          I have studied poverty and other more pressing social issues relating to the population of Scotland as a whole which the money used to support and promote Gaelic would in my opinion be better spent on.
          Perhaps you can explain to someone in Shettleston why they are less valued than a language!

          1. You’ve studied poverty? Really? How do you do that?

          2. Jamsie says:

            Very easily Mr Ed.
            Why don’t you come to the east end of Glasgow and look for yourself.
            It is probably no different to parts of Dundee, Aberdeen or Edinburgh but it is easy to see.
            And if you take time to look and understand then your study will identify it exists.
            Studying the causes is a whole different ball game.

          3. I have lived in the east end of Glasgow and at no time did I consider ‘studying poverty’.

          4. Jamsie says:

            Perhaps you had other things on your mind.
            I grew up in what was once described as the poorest street in Europe and have seen first hand what the effect of poverty looks like.
            Maybe you should come back and I can take you around to see for yourself.
            As I am sure you aware having lived here there are people who deserve better than police cars and railway stations with Gaelic signs rather than the housing or living standards they currently receive.

          5. George Stewart says:

            The roots of poverty are not related to the Gaelic language but to an unequal society that fawns on ‘Royal’ babies while ignoring the 30% of babies born on the same day into families that are below the poverty line. The priority has to be to construct a social democracy that is both prosperous and fair. Scotland has regularly returned to Westminster a socialist mandate that has been trumped by a neo-liberal English majority. Westminster politics within the union irrespective of devolution will regularily produce an outcome in Scotland that is not that of the majority of the Scottish electorate and is overruled. The failure to tackle poverty in the East End of Glasgow is no different to the failure to tackle poverty in the East End of London, the roots of which are in the DNA of Conservative party. The promotion of the Gaelic language emphasises that Scotland is different and it is therefore essential that it is promoted . If one considers the evolution of the Irish republic all the same steps were trod to the Rubicon of self determination, and look where the Irish stand today.

          6. Jamsie says:

            Yes look where the Irish stand today, let’s.
            They owe the UK billions.
            Their economy is on the floor.
            Where do you want to stop?
            No one is saying the roots of poverty lie anywhere near Gaelic but money is being spent on things which could be used to make peoples lives better.
            What is it you don’t understand about that?

          7. George Stewart says:

            I’m not an economist, but from what I read your perception of the irish financial situation appears to be out of date. Average Irish earnings are well ahead of the UK (by about 15-20%) and their economy is in better shape than the UK’s in terms of growth. The average Irishman (south of the border) is better off than the average Brit. As a country they have had a surplus in their balance of payments for the last couple of years and their loans from the IMF/ECB and UK for the bail out of the 2008 crisis are almost completely paid off. I understand that the ‘generosity’ of the UK treasury was largely motivated by the potential insolvency of UK banks exposed to the Irish markets and the money went to them to fill a gaping hole, and the loan carried some hefty interest payments born by the irish tax payer.

      2. MA Turner says:

        Perfect example. B’ iad na Gàidheil a bha an deis meadhan bochdainn Ghlaschu. Agus a thug taic do chàch.

  12. NeilG says:

    “It was hard enough in the latter institution, given the disconnection between youth culture and the Gaelic tradition (a cause for thought which could be the stuff of a future article) ” – yes please! I’d really like to read that.

  13. Catriona says:

    I think many of us have stood still for too long now. It is becoming a daily occurrence on social media that we have to see Gaelic bashing – but why?! Why is it acceptable to insult our language – and by insulting our language you’re not just insulting our language but our history, culture and heritage too?

    Why do all other languages have to bow down to English? I don’t believe that the likes of the BBC have a service that provides, for example, Gaelic subtitles to English language TV programmes, but Gaelic TV programmes do provide English subtitles for those you spoke of in your comment; even the most fluent of Gaelic speaker cannot help but read the English that is emblazoned across the bottom of the screen. So, actually, I think it’s time that we stop kowtowing to English; it’s time that people actually educated themselves. Heaven forbid anyone might learn something. There are plenty of free resources to help anyone learn Gaelic, and classes teaching it to be found across the country, indeed, across the globe. There’s Gaelic speakers everywhere, you’re never too far from one – why not speak with one of them, we’re not as bad as you’d think!

    The point, I think, that Marcas is making is that why is it acceptable to bash Gaelic? There wouldn’t be a discussion if it was another language – Arabic, Mandarin, Hebrew, etc etc etc – that was being bashed on a daily basis. The fact that young children are having to grow up feeling inferior, having to grow a thicker skin and learn how to defend themselves from such vicious and nonsensical attacks (often based on “fake news”) is disgusting. The fact that I am sitting here as an adult Gaelic speaker having faced this my whole life, is disgusting. And it’s about time it was stamped out. The amount of Gaelic speakers that I saw on Twitter yesterday tweeting about the new dictionary should have been uplifting; I should have seen positivity for such a wonderful resource being created. Instead I saw them tweeting about how disheartening it all is that with every mention of Gaelic in the press allows the uneducated and misinformed to have a field day abusing us. It gets tedious.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Utter nonsense.
      Gaelic bashing?
      Where by whom?
      People rightly question the need for organisations such as Police Scotland, Network Rail et al being forced by an administration constantly carping about austerity being forced to change signage to include Gaelic where it is not even spoken.
      There are food banks where this money could be better utilised and people have lost their lives because the police service in Scotland is cost cutting on primary services to enable this ideological idiocy to happen!

      1. Wul says:

        I liked this:

        Jamsie, 18 mins ago:

        “Utter nonsense.
        Gaelic bashing?
        Where by whom?”

        Then, immediately, this:

        “People…question the need for organisations …being forced by an administration… to change signage to include Gaelic where it is not even spoken.”

        Heh Heh, you couldnae make it up!

        1. Jamsie says:

          Aye you’re right Wul.
          People are forced to use food banks, people have died and money which could have been used to prevent this is used for signs, projects and other perceived national identity issues!
          There is something not right.
          What are your thoughts on the £6m cost of a video promoting the party (oops Scotland) when things like this are happening?
          You are right you could not make this up!
          £250k to help farmers who have lost lambs in the extended winter when millions are being squandered and wasted.
          Now we see she is isolated but will still spend our money trying to defend the indefensible.
          But the money spent on Gaelic is obviously more important.
          Yeah ask the people who suffer and don’t understand why they are not as important as a language spoken by a very small proportion of the country.

          1. Catriona says:

            Jamsie, were you wearing a red coat at Culloden?

            Och sure, you’re all happy enough to use our history and culture to make a quick buck – tartan, bagpipes, shortbread etc etc etc – but if there’s a chance to stick the boot in Gaelic, why not, eh?

            Appropriating our heritage and history for your gain, but we’re not allowed to speak our language.

            Very good.

          2. Jamsie says:

            Sorry but I don’t appropriate any history.
            I am born and bred in Scotland.
            My history is Scottish history.
            Because I don’t speak Gaelic or believe that the money being spent on the language is appropriate when people live in poverty in this country is irrelevant.
            It really does seem to be a bit self centred to argue that people’s taxes should be spent disproportionately to support a language when people are experiencing the austerity wee Nicola keeps banging on about.

      2. Stuart Murray says:

        Tha Gàidhlig ga bruidhinn fhathast is bidh e ga bruidhinn nuair a bhios thusa air falbh leis a’ ghaoith. ‘S e sin as adhbhar carson a tha thu nad shaoranach ann an Alba neo “Scotland” a chionn ‘s gun robh sin a ciallachadh “Land of the Gaels” neo “Tìr nan Gàidheal anns a Bheurla bho thùs.

    2. Redgauntlet says:

      Where does the contempt for Gaelic come from?

      I think Roddy MacDonald is into something when he talks about the animosity being something like an expression guilt or shame, that Gaelic speakers unnerve some non-Gaelic Scots because it makes them insecure, and it makes them insecure because it raises the question: what does it actually mean to be Scottish? Who am I?

      It is a very, very strange country which has such a vibrant independence movement yet which pays so little attention to its two indigenous languages….it’s a total anomaly, Scotland, in that sense, it’s almost unheard of for there to be a nationalist movement which doesn’t have a linguistic factor at its heart. The SNP have done nothing for Gaelic than Labour did, let’s not forget that.

      But obviously we’re talking about layers of cultural identity which are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and for once, I agree with Gerry Hassan when he talks about the imperialist mindset of Britain, which still exists, which is still the role model that British people are taught to identify with to this day. “We have all these pink bits on the map”, that’s the way a big minority of Scots think… we’re better than everybody else, we’re superior.

      And the imperial mindset is suspicious not to say disparaging of any cultural difference, but one on its own doorstep? That amounts to a direct challenge to the Anglo-Saxon cultural hegemony which most Scots still identify with. So it must be extirpated, this “other” culture. And if that is no longer acceptable, well it should be derided and ridiculed and hounded until people are silenced…

      I mean, the Windrush scandal, which is absolutely shocking, is a good example of the contempt that the British white ruling class, and their lackeys in the media and the State, hold for anybody who isn’t like them….

      …these are the same chancers who are dragging us out of the EU on the slogan – a Gaelic word in origin – of “global Britain”… and they’re kicking out people who were born here? And their records have been destroyed.

      How do you destroy a people? You destroy their historical memory, you destroy their language, you destroy their records, you destroy their culture… which is what establishment Scotland tried to do to Gaelic culture for centuries.

      That’s the mentality, but it is high time somebody took The Scotsman to court for fomenting racial hatred against Gaelic speakers. The comments section the other day was just unbelievable….

      1. Stuart Murray says:

        The key to the insecurity is that something remains beyond the ken of most people being Scottish. Its a question of a sense of copyright over the term Scottish. This isnt acceptable but thats the psychology behind it in my view.

  14. Eman says:

    Tapadh leat a Mharcais. Sgrìobh thu an t-artagail a bu toil leamsa sgrìobhadh. I’ve never understood the need to kick Gàidhlig, which has survived against the odds and, as you say, needs the rest of Scotland behind it.

    1. Jamsie says:

      No one is kicking Gaelic.
      Most Scots would love to see it become more widespread.
      The facts are according to wee Nicola that people are starving in Scotland!
      Promoting a language surely cannot be more important than this?
      People have died because the Police gave budgetary constraints.
      Surely this is a more pressing issue to be addressed?

      1. Catriona says:

        You can’t say no one is kicking Gaelic, or that you can’t see Gaelic bashing, when you’re the one putting the boot in. Your point about police Scotland being “forced” to change their signage is ridiculous. As with the bilingual road signs, they’re replaced as and when. Did you actually read this article? Or are you just trolling as you have nothing better to do on a Wednesday evening?

        If you want to see Gaelic bashing feel free to look at any article on the BBC website about Gaelic and scroll down to the comments section. Or head on over to Twitter – there’s plenty there. Or take a look in the mirror.

        There’s no place in a modern Scotland or hatred. Of any sort.

        And this idea that Gaelic is some sort of nationalist agenda is the biggest load of tripe – Gaelic has been around a hell of a lot longer than the SNP. Try actually speaking to a Gaelic speaker, finding out the truth and not regurgitating the same old arguments.

      2. Catriona says:

        Also… just to clarify… are you trying to suggest that people have died because of Gaelic?!

        1. Jamsie says:

          You are quite wrong about signage being replaced as and when.
          Both Police Scotland and Scotrail were given deadlines to change which resulted in perfectly good signs and car liveries being changed at huge expense.
          Unnecessary expense.
          I am not suggesting people died because of Gaelic and I am surprised you think I am.
          I am suggesting that people died because Police Scotland budget constraints were exacerbated by spend on non urgent items such as signage and vehicle livery to add Gaelic which was unnecessary.
          These budget constraints undoubtedly contributed the overall failures in Police Scotland which led to the deaths of people who might otherwise had lived following clearly identifiable shortfalls which have been attributed to budget.
          There is huge poverty apparently in Scotland which surely could be assuaged to some extent by spending being targeted on things that really matter in people’s lives.
          Sorry but in my opinion people are more important than either political whims or ideological statements on nationalism or minority languages.

          1. Marcas Mac an Tuairneir says:

            Every pro-Gaelic initiative undertaken by bodies like Police Scotland are carried forth with specific funds for Gaelic from the Scottish government and administered by Bòrd na Gàidhlig. The supposition that any pro-Gaelic initiative is paid through nose by such bodies is erroneous. Please do more research into this before making such claims.

            As a community, Gaelic speakers pay decidedly more in tax than we receive from the government in terms of funding for the language. So it’s only right that, given what we pay in, we see something to benefit us come out. The Gaelic Language Act of 2005 sees Gaelic as being of equal in status to English and Scots. That act is now thirteen years old, meaning that if you can’t get your head around the fact that people have the right to use their language and see it represented in public life, then your views are growing more and more outmoded.

          2. Arthur Cormack says:

            Gaelic bashing is real and your comments, Jamsie, reminds me of Alan Roden in the Daily Mail trying to claim that the spend on Gaelic led to the death of a young girl in Edinburgh when a wall collapsed in her school.

            The very modest amount of government money spent on Gaelic produces an impressive return, not just financally but in high attainment by pupils in Gaelic education who then go on to contribute in many ways to society and pay their taxes. Also, most of it is not ‘extra’. Children have to be educated by the state no matter which language is used and given that class sizes in Gaelic are the same, or larger, than class sizes in English education, the same number of teachers is needed and there is no ‘extra’ cost. Simply, a small proportion of education money (around £4.5 million out of £4 billion) is diverted to Gaelic medium education in line with parental demand.

            Have you actually read the Police Scotland Gaelic Language Plan, Jamsie? There are no deadlines for anything, except those suggested by Police Scotland itself, and the plan also clearly states that “No new budget allocations are presumed to deliver the elements of this plan. The challenge is to deliver the GLP using existing resources efficiently and to maximise outcomes through effective partnership activity and the use of staff time. Police Scotland have accessed external funding and will continue to explore opportunities to add value to the delivery of this plan.”

          3. Jamsie says:

            I have no doubt that the Scottish government have provided a budget, I have some doubt however over your statement that gaels pay more into the tax system than they get back in public services or as you say get out it.
            Subsidy levels across all walks of daily life in the Highlands and the Islands from the Scottish and the UK purse are pretty high.
            You will note I did not say from the EU which purely because this is essentially UK money regurgitated less the vast fee taken.
            I have never experienced gael bashing and if you say it happens then perhaps you could enlighten me on how and when this occurs.
            As you say the gaels are 1% of the population but I would guess in terms of spend per head compared with lowlanders they enjoy a larger slice of the cake than most.
            My point as I hope you picked up is that the springing up of signs everywhere with Gaelic language names or on cars from Police Scotland in areas where Gaelic is not spoken is a total waste of money.
            Money which could be better spent providing the front line services which might remove the need for food banks or perhaps allow the police to do the job they are employed to do and attend to emergency incidents where the public are at risk.
            In these times of austerity surely people matter more than publicising a language unspoken in large parts of the country for the sake of a political parties whims.
            I have been yellow carded in the past on here for referring to the indy movement in terms of the political party in Germany in the 1930s where no criticism was accepted and where it became impossible to separate party from state.
            The SNP have been spending money on rebranding across higher education, police and various other public bodies in an attempt to create a mandate.
            Large tranches of that money have been wasted in the form of payouts to cronies and changing signs, logos and other paraphernalia at huge costs to the public purse yet foodbanks still exist in places like Shettleston, Possilpark and Govanhell as it is now known.
            And yet they have proclaimed to the electorate that they would be different in office.
            Yet they preside over the least competent administration in my lifetime and are about as honest as Tony Blair and New Labour were.
            Voter are wearying at the constant blame game being proffered and the strategy of show over substance is starting to grate on middle Scotland.
            The problem is the SNP are like New Labour and the power is held in small pockets of so called socialists who are mostly middle class who ignore or malign any alternative to the suggestion that they should be delivering competent government for the people of Scotland rather than chasing a dream of independence which the majority of the electorate do not share.
            My truck is not with gaels nor gaelic but with how much money is spent cultivating and maintaining the language where it is not actually spoken and where the money could be spent with far more benefit to peoples lives.

          4. Jamsie says:

            Police Scotland is a disaster and your defence of them is a typical indy response i.e. there is nothing wrong….its the tories fault!
            Aye right.
            Are you seriously trying to tell me that the cost of changing signs at Police stations, car liveries and logos has not affected spend on front line policing?
            You say it yourself quoting the plan ” no new budget allocations are presumed.” and how can they access external funding?
            What does that mean – are they now borrowing from Close Bros?
            Does the statement on budget allocations mean that these items are to financed from the current police budget?
            Have you looked at the financial performance of Police Scotland?
            Dearie me.
            Would the money spent on rebranding not be better spent on front line policing?
            Ask the families of those who have suffered from failures caused by cost cutting measures.
            But at least the signs and the cars will project the language of 1% of the people in areas where no one understands it eh?
            The language might not die but people have been.

          5. Eman says:

            Jamsie. I think you’ll find that what PoliceScotland and others do is wait until they need to replace a sign, car etc through wear and tear; or when they’re buying new kit in as standard anyway, and use that as the opportunity to include some Gaelic. So, the additional cost is minimal. It is a myth that organisations pull down perfectly good signage to replace them with bilingual signage.

          6. Jamsie says:

            I suggest you check out police cars and you will note from their registration numbers that rebranding is across the fleet.
            And as for pulling down perfectly good signs what about railway stations and colleges?
            Nationalist rebranding across public bodies has been ongoing for some time.
            For goodness sake open your eyes.
            The city of Glasgow no longer has a council it has a “government”!
            Rebranding is already underway despite poverty levels at third world level.
            And another thought try doing a FOI and see what spending has been on I Phones, Pads and laptops over the last two years.
            Not amongst SNP staff and family members!

      3. Kenny Smith says:

        I’m not sure of the Gaelic word but I’m sure they probably have a word similar for you but I’m sure they know what I mean when I say ” you are a total fud ” you come on here with your faux outrage for poverty and limited life chances but support the very system that causes it. If your from the east end there is a very probable chance your bloodline will be connected to people’s forcefully removed from their Gaelic heartland from either Scotland and Ireland. It’s part of us, it’s influence is felt in Scots, it’s presence is all around us in place names. The amount of money spent on promoting Gaelic is nowhere near enough nevermind cutting it. Instead of attacking Nicola and the Scot gov for trying to fire fight the decisions of Westminster why not help Scotland become a sovereign nation again where we could actually do something about it, ya fud

        1. Jamsie says:

          I picture you as wee man talking brave behind a computer screen with your face painted with the Saltire and braveheart on the telly.
          In intellect and big on insults.
          And people like you are why people like me prefer to remain part of the UK.
          Wee Nicola has only one line – it is all Westminster to blame but people are sick of this as they can see through it.
          It is the incompetence of her party in government that has lead to money in huge amounts being squandered on vanity projects to promote nationalism and the SNP rather than tackling the problems.
          So people like me will continue to vote against her to make sure she does not get her way.
          Others who previously gave her a chance are realising what a dud she and her party are and how much damage they have wreaked on Scotland so unsurprisingly are turning away.
          People like you will follow unthinkingly probably because you are incapable of logical thought and need to be herded like sheep and will live your lives sounding like Mel Gibson.
          Don’t worry, be happy!
          Independence is a falling star.
          The people is Shettleston, Possilpark and Govanhell are already changing their minds.
          They do not want or need Gaelic signs.
          Not because they are against Gaelic and the Gaels but because there are more pressing matters which they feel should be dealt with by the politicians they elect.
          Now did you note I managed to communicate without insulting you?
          You should try it some time.

          1. Kenny Smith says:


          2. Marcas Mac an Tuairneir says:

            You didn’t read the article, Jamsie. The instances of Gaelophobia you requested evidence of are there in black and white. Read it and read it again.

          3. Jamsie says:

            I have now read the article 3 times.
            I’m afraid it does not demonstrate for me Gaelophobia or anything like it.
            They are sad experiences of that I have no doubt but to claim them as proof of a consistent bias against Gaels and Gaelic stretches the point to beyond realism for me.
            I said for me.
            You said previously you believed Gaels paid in far more than they got out of the tax system and I don’t agree with this either.
            I think the central belt as a whole and the UK subsidises the outlying parts of Scotland to the detriment of the population who live in the belt and thus the poorer people who deserve more are deprived by this.
            The SNP even in this years budget have determined to spend money on projects which will bring no relief to these people instead choosing to spend £700m on improving broadband to areas like the Highlands and Islands.
            They continually point to Tory austerity as the cause that food banks are becoming more prevalent yet choose to do this instead of providing a reasonable standard of living to people.
            This can’t be right.

          4. Stuart Murray says:

            I wonder whats worse, calling someone a fud or calling a language an economic burden. It is indeed a puerile and probably sexist term which of course should be avoided, but it does reflect the level of discourse from the accused of being a fud. In time the fud will be replaced with other fuds yet the language will endure and continue enhancing the economic health of the landscape and communities that benefit from it as demonstrated from the study shared elsewhere in this discussion. The word “fud” will disappear as an insult to be replaced with many other terms (some of them being in Gaelic by tax payers).

      4. Stuart Murray says:

        Promoting English through schooling is surely not more important than starvation then? Please talk sense.

  15. Alf Baird says:

    Thirteen year noo syne Labour’s Gaelic Language Act, yet whaur is oor ‘Scots Langage Act’? Withoot thon Act maist Scots fowk’s mither tung is no respectit at aw, an haes nae equalitie wi Englis nor Gaelic. Thon’s discrimination agin oor ain fowk an Scots langage doon-hauden nae doot aboot it. Langage is the basis o oor cultur, an the wey fowk think, an whit thay dae, an hou thay vote e’en. Langage is pouer aw richt. Englis wis aye garred doon Scots bairns thrapples for ane reason – tae mak Scots fowk Anglicised. Gaelic is aw fine an weel for 50,000 fowk in Scotlan, whit aboot 1.6 million Scots spikkers! Dae we get hee haw? Dae we nivver get tae lairn oor ain leid? Are we juist nae wuirth ony bather? Is maistly Englis, an Gaelic fer the few that want it, aw that’s on offer tae Scots bairns?

    1. Marcas Mac an Tuairneir says:

      Everything that we have for Gaelic in Scotland has been hard won through years of campaigning. No Gaelic speaker will disagree with you that the same rights should be afforded to Scots speakers, indeed we would support you in your initiatives. But where are they? Where are the pressure groups, the petitions, the meetings held on the subject with MPs, the letters to MPs, the privately funded nurseries and playgrounds, staffed by volunteers (which were the basis of Gaelic-medium education in Scotland)? I completely sympathise with you, but it’s alright derailing yet another conversation about Gaelic with ‘whataboutery’? What are you personally doing to bring about the change you seek? Because it does come down to you as a Scots speaker, just as it comes down to all Scots speakers. Just as it comes down to me as a Gaelic speaker to do the same for Gaelic.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        C’mon, get real. The Gaelic Act gives the Gaelic language medium £50m+ cash each year, which pays for several hundred professionals/teachers etc and related infrastructure, TV etc. Scots language gets hee haw in comparison. Pro-rata in terms of Scots speakers a Scotland Act would cost Holyrood some £1.6bn a year – that would pay for many thousands to teach the language etc. You tell me why the politicians at Holyrood are not interested in the Scots language? Is it the £1.6bn cost which would give equality with Gaelic, or is it the politics? I would say the real cost of not having such an act is a perennial English language/culture influenced unionism and the cringe – a people lacking in confidence or opportunity. Clearly the Gaelic Language Act was politically acceptable (affecting a small speaking minority and pushed by a strong well connected lobby?), whereas a Scots Language Act focusing on millions of folk is evidently not politically acceptable within what is effectively an English language dependent political union. Any MSP promoting such an act would be crucified by our Anglicised msm whilst the largely unionist establishment civil service and education agencies would also seek to oppose/block such a policy. So, primarily politics and maybe cost are the reasons we do not see a Scots Language Act. At the end of the day Scots remains a langage haud doon. Nothing to be proud of there. Any Language Minister at Holyrood should be black affrontit.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          Should read: “Pro-rata in terms of Scots speakers a ‘Scots Language Act’ would cost Holyrood some £1.6bn a year…”

          Coincidentally that works out at £1,000 per language speaker per annum.

          1. Stuart Murray says:

            Lallans campaigners need to focus on English as the comparison to their investment and support the way Gaelic campaigners have successfully done. Thons the real threat tae the leid future health and well being.

    2. Stuart Murray says:

      The definition of what it is is the first problem to be tackled but instead, campaign groups tout the figure of over a million speakers without pointing out that most see it as their local form of English. The term Scots meant Gaelic until the ruling class started calling English Scots and Scots Irish of course.

      A’ Bhò Naomh

      a coo sae hailie naebodie sees

      an cannae hear thon Gaelic roots

      the fact its Inglis neath its knees

      a bristllin frae its borraed boots.

      Wha minds nae mair the tailors cowp

      thit kings new farrant brocht thru thugs

      thit pit new names tae hill an dowp

      an hemmert intae heids and lugs.

      1. Stuart Murray says:

        Of course both Scots English and Scots Gaelic have some Norse roots too:


        In time afore the ain God stood
        tae tak the place whaur Odin sang
        they had tae leave fur want o food
        and mak thur name heroic strang.

        Tae Muckle toon or Micklgard
        cam yon Northfolk frae hoose and glen
        jist as theyd sailed the Gaels amang
        tae tak the leid o Lewis men.

        Aye noo birls Scottish thru thur lungs
        thur ain leid still syne Age forbye
        and thru they Scotland`s mither tung’s
        kept lifefu tween the sheep and kye.

        Wuild Midgerd mind the days afore
        the Norsesails fell upon yon coast
        and had thur been nae blood tae pour
        wuild Gaelic be there yet tae boast

        Wha kens the sharpness o thon speirin
        an when it shall be reponed
        but ilka Gaelic psalm in hearin
        minds o Sea Gods. heathen-boned.

  16. SleepingDog says:

    Thanks to BBC Alba, I can watch the Scotland Women football team matches. I am not a Gaelic speaker, but once you’ve heard one football commentary… Anyway, there might be all manner of unexpected benefits and spin-offs from supporting Gaelic, which as well as culture is a technology, like any human language. There’s probably many a database system that narrowly avoided monolinguistic obsolesence by incorporating a second language, prior to internationalization.

  17. Michael Gregson says:

    Excellent, thoughtful piece – sincerity and commitment in every line – can’t help thinking, though, that self-‘othering’ – rebranding the hate stuff as xenophobia – isn’t the best approach, and seeking a sense of inclusiveness, promoting the multi-faceted nature of Scots/ Western identity, would be more constructive. Much of the abuse is symptomatic of the tone of social media/ online posts generally – where reasoned discussion is replaced by offensive, bilious nonsense – hence the eliding here of generally ignorant and foolish objections to the promotion of Gaelic, with (any or all of) anti-Tory, anti-Unionist, anti-English rhetoric. Which is nothing to do with the topic in hand, but they serve, as usual, as the butts of all blame.
    Good writing by Marcas: beachdan inntinneach is feumail aig an àm seo.

  18. Roddy Macdonald says:

    Jamsie talks of studying poverty in the East End of Glasgow. Personally I have no need to study poverty as, in the past, I have lived in it. What we’re seeing here is merely the Cappuccino Commie version of Gaelic bashing – the money should be spent on food banks etc instead.

    Studying and understanding the language and culture of the Gael is to open a window on a world where for the majority collective well-being outstripped personal well-being in value and where even today, true ceilidh culture still holds sway. How many urban Scots really know their neighbours nowadays or pop next door to chat and share songs, tunes and stories? Very few. It is, to my mind, no accident of history that the extirpation of that culture was begun by Scottish kings, not English, just as capitalism rose as an economic system.

    So, as one who has been thrust into poverty in the past and managed to get out of it, I say money spent on Gaelic is certainly not wasted and for this country to be truly inclusive and self-respecting, the language should be given full parity of esteem in all government services and branding. As an atheist I’m not usually given to bible quotes, but as JC once said (Matthew 4:4) – man cannot live on bread alone.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Ach well that’s ok then.
      If you think the money is well spent in areas where even less than 1 % speak the language that must be fine.
      Cappucino Commie eh?
      Ah and parity!
      How about 1% of the signs and police cars have gaelic on them.
      Yep almost as ridiculous as you assessment of the worth of spending money on people rather than a language.
      Says it all really.

      1. John Burrows says:

        Stop the press! Anonymous troll is offended for being called out as a git.

        The amount of time you spend on Bella’s threads leads me to conclude that you are a paid functionary of the current Tory Scotland Office. Either that, or you’re just a poor excuse for a human being. Another “bell end for Britain” type. No doubt recruited by SIU to disrupt discussions.

        Typically, you cynically use the poverty of others to disguise your own poverty of spirit. In other words, you are a One Nation British Tory, through and through.

        Note that I do not distinguish between Unionist political parties. They all represent the Tory way now, here in Scotland. Determined, as ever, to eradicate all aspects of Scotland’s culture and heritage – apart from the sanitised version as required by the “precious Union.” Even now, their factors in Holyrood are aiding and abetting the dismantling of devolution.

        Bevin was right. You are nothing but vermin, eating at the heart of the body politic.

        Only independence will rid us of your ilk forever.

        1. Jamsie says:

          Is the frustration of being in the minority getting to you?
          Do you feel that your dream is blowing away in front of your eyes?
          Do you ask yourself the question why is the electorate of Scotland so thick that they don’t want independence?
          Have you considered you maybe asking yourself the wrong question?
          Just a thought.

          1. Roddy Macdonald says:

            It’s now perfectly clear the the only food bank in operation here is the troll-feeding one. Away and pop off to infest some other website, Jamsie.

          2. Stuart Murray says:

            There are many Gaelic speakers who are both Unionist and Tory. They dont see their language as being connected to nationalism or if they do its to British nationalism. The same goes for Scottish nationalists and Gaelic. Many Scottish nationalists have no interest in or time for Gaelic.

  19. Borders Keep says:

    There is a general reluctance among the UK population to learn a second language. Island mentality, cultural superiority – who knows?

    Here’s a table for Luxembourg –

    2012[8] Luxembourgish French German English other
    Native language 52% 16% 2% N/A 30%
    Second language 80% 69% 56%

    Now, while there’s an obvious reason for luxembourgians being multilingual, it doesn’t mean that their bairns are born with that facility.

    So, a wee while ago I was thinking about this, and it came to me that, not only are bairns born without prejudice but without distinction. What I mean by that is, that if they are subjected to a multilingual background, they don’t at first distinguish between one language and another – it’s all just an insatiable desire to communicate.

    In this country we leave the teaching of languages until long after they have lost that facility, and I think that is quite deliberate.

    To me, it is a delight to hear parents, in a supermarket, speaking to their bairns in another language. Unfortunately, as a frequent visitor to the Highlands and Islands, I have never heard parents speaking to their bairns, or other adults, in Gaelic. Normalisation is all – particularly to get people through teenage conformity years. Gaelic needs to be cool – ken what ah’m sayin’.

    1. Border Keep says:

      ‘Now, while there’s an obvious reason for luxembourgians being multilingual, it doesn’t mean that their bairns are born with that facility.’

      Yes they are – what I meant was, they are not born with that facility anymore than bairns elsewhere.

  20. Oilrig says:

    I don’t think magnanimity comes into it, Marcas. As you know, I subscribe to the ‘When they go low, we go high’ school of response. But that is a long way away from generosity or forgiveness. There is not a day goes past that I don’t encounter some form of anti-Gaelic behaviour, whether deliberate or unintentioned. And although Tuesday’s debate in parliament was an (almost) united front in support for Gaelic, I rather suspect that many of the MSPs, right across the political spectrum, who did not attend would have very different views on the language. Hate crime in Scotland is defined as ‘malice or ill-will towards an identifiable social group’ but only on the basis of race, religion, sexual identity, transgender identity or disability. I could subscribe to the argument that it’s time to expand that definition to include language and culture.

  21. Laurent Desbois says:

    « We are in Canada, everybody should speak english ». –gérante du restaurant McDonald’s du Marché central, à Montréal, Elle a raison… réveillons-nous !

    « La carte du bilinguisme au Canada. Maintenant, dites-moi qui apprend la langue de l’Autre ? » – Gilles Laporte

    Dans le Nord de l’Ontario et au NB : le bilinguisme est attribuable à ceux d’origine francophone. On appelle aussi cela l’assimilation ou le génocide culturel ! La brisure entre Ottawa et Gatineau est éloquente !!/photo.php?fbid=719769664725649&set=a.204716562897631.45517.100000778671459&type=1&theater

  22. w.b.robertson says:

    My son in law, in middle age, decided to study Gaelic and is now quite proficient in speaking/reading it. Good on him – and any one else who wants to try. However, English, whether we like it or not, is accepted as an international language. Useful to communicate with the modern world, not just with the crofter along the road. Last time I was in Toronto all the locals I met seemed to be pissed off by their fellow French/Canadian citizens and their language/separatist demands. And I noticed that our new EU supremo, a certain Monsieur Macron, on his trip to meet Trump, does not seem to have an O-level in English.

    1. George Stewart says:

      There is no denying that English is one of the most useful languages in a global context. However the benefits of bilingualism are also extemely well documented in many studies. Bilinguals are recognised to have an ability to learn other languages with more precision and less effort. A child who has Gaelic and English at his or her disposal, has a definite advantage in learning a third language. So it is a win/win culturally and for global reach. Clinching that trade deal in Mandarin for the Scottish economy may just have it origin in a Gaelic primary school.

  23. Willie says:

    I used to think it’d be terrible if Gaelic died. Now I think it’d be terrible if I died without Gaelic. A language lives not on capital, but on speakers. Lets all make an effort.

  24. Cappuncino Capercailidh says:

    People above have expressed that mending poverty is to be financially prioritised before Gaelic. If you have a manifesto of ending poverty, well done. Continue to carry on with your other interests such as Gaelic. But please don’t lose sight of your initial noble aim, to a distraction of other issues raised by entryists who are usually not originally from the Gaeltacht (there is academic support for this). Cradle speakers are far less politically oriented. Not to discredit those who made an effort in later life. But consider the financial profitability of Gaeldom before adjusting your priorities.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Can I just clarify one point- I am saying poverty should be tackled as a priority over culture but more importantly I am saying that where Gaelic is not used except for by an infinitesimal proportion of the population e.g. Glasgow that money should be spent on addressing the problems which abound.
      Gaelic signs in Glasgow and elsewhere where Gaelic is not used are a waste of taxpayers money.

      1. Arthur Cormack says:

        Jamsie: There is a sizeable Gaelic community in Glasgow. There are plenty people from Gaelic-speaking areas who have moved there, over generations, to study, live and work. There are two standalone Gaelic schools, including the only Gaelic secondary in Scotland, and plans afoot for a third one, such is the demand for Gaelic education in the city. There are loads of Highland associations who use Gaelic in their activities, arts organisations which regularly promote Gaelic events and several Gaelic choirs which meet weekly and use Gaelic. Gaelic events also feature in major Glasgow festivals such as Celtic Connections and, in 2019, the National Mòd will be hosted in the city. The BBC at Pacific Quay has a fair share of Gaelic speakers working there and several independent production companies based in Glasgow derive their income primarily from BBC Alba. Most of those activities bring economic benefits to Glasgow. All those people working in Glasgow pay taxes. In other words, whether working as teachers, broadcasters, musicians, administrators or in any trade or job you might care to think about, Gaelic speakers pay their dues. Therefore, they contribute to overcoming some of the social difficulties you care so much about tackling and for which you should be commended. Explain to me why they should not have a very small amount of their taxes spent on their language in the city of Glasgow.

        1. Arthur Comack says:

          PS – In a response to an earlier post you accused me of defending Police Scotland with ‘a typical indy response i.e. there is nothing wrong….its the tories fault!’

          I made no comment on the performance of Police Scotland. I simply quoted from the Gaelic Language Plan it agreed with Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Nor did I mention ‘indy’ or’Tories’.

          1. Jamsie says:

            As a percentage of the population what do think the Gaelic speaking community in Glasgow is?
            We know what it is across Scotland – I think 1%?
            Based on this do you really think the exercise of rebranding numerous public logos, signage and liveries is really good value for taxpayers money considering the levels of poverty across the city?
            Or would it be reasonable to consider that this money should be spent where it can do most good and alleviate the effects of austerity which wee Nicola tells us are so dire?
            Does having dual language signage introduced across Scotland at great expense even in areas where hardly anyone speaks the language really improve the lot of the Gaels or promote Gaelic?
            Or is it just a vanity project by politicians trying to promote a cause using money which would be better spent elsewhere?
            Whether the money has been budgeted or not is irrelevant.
            How does this improve the lives of people except of course those involved in the works to change the various items?
            Does it need to be spent on this or should it be spent on people?
            Easy questions and I would have thought easy answers.

          2. Stuart Murray says:

            Jamesies determined to see Gaelic as a problem. Its pointless talking to fools. He doesnt matter.

  25. Barry Graham says:

    “The Scottish proletariat…” I’m surprised to see such classism published on Bella. Aye, sur, pardon a peasant like me for expressing an opinion, but I gave my forelock a proper tug while I typed.

    1. Stuart Murray says:

      Indeed its an inappropriate phrase to use and counter productive when defending a minority community. Im sorry to see it being used here.

  26. Barry Graham says:

    And… “poetess?” What century are we in? Or is this a bit of sexism to go with the classism? Language matters.

    1. Multisex says:

      Outragess. I think a comma was missed out somewhere as well. Do commas have sex – does it produce an exclamation mark, or if we’re lucky, a full stop.

    2. Stuart Murray says:

      Yes your right again. However what do you think about the basic point of the article. Marc is showing certain class prejudice in his choice of lexicon granted but his basic point stands in my view and both should be responded to if the point of the article is to be addressed as well as his own personal style. “Poetess” and “proletariat” are out of place and counter productive in defending Gaelic from the prejudice that it faces in Scotland today. However when pointing this out its only fair to respond to the basic thrust of the article. Otherwise his mistakes mean the point is ignored which is a shame. as well as a missed opportunity for a language and minority community.

  27. Kenny Beaton says:

    Jamsie seems oblivious to his own attacks on Gaelic.

    He is right about one thing though – there is a disproportionate amount of government money spent on Gaelic. With 1.1% of the population speaking Gaelic, 1.1% of the £35 billion or so Scottish budget would amount to £385 million, but it is only a fraction of that amount, so it is disproportionately SMALL!

    If all the money spent on Gaelic was spent on relieving poverty or the NHS, there would still be widespread poverty and still not enough money on the NHS. Gaelic is not to blame for society’s problems.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Economics is not your strong point is it?

      1. Stuart Murray says:

        Stating an opinion doesn’t make it a fact.

  28. MVH says:

    I got as far as ‘misinformed ramblings of the Scottish proletariat’ and gave up. You aren’t half snobby pal. Maybe your mind has been colonised by the British class system. Are the masses unwashed as well as ignorant? If you spoke these type of cliches about black people, you would be called out as racist.

    1. Stuart Murray says:

      Thats a bit unfair as Marcas makes a fair point regarding the animosity against Gaelic. I agree the use of “proletariat” is questionable ,but to stop there is a shame.

    2. Stuart Murray says:

      get what you mean though. He is a bit snobby. Working class people get the blame for every ignorant opinion printed in tabloids owned by the rich. “Proles” and variants of this word are almost hate speech against the poorest in society.

    1. Stuart Murray says:

      Gaelic is worth up to £148.5m a year to the national economy

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