Misneachd response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the development of the Gaelic and Scots languages

The campaign group Misneachd have released their response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the development of the Gaelic and Scots languages, and to the new languages bill that will appear during the present Parliament. Misneachd is a grassroots campaign group fighting for the rights of Gaelic speakers and communities since 2016.

In the response Misneachd welcomes several things that appeared in the consultation, including:

  • a new strategic approach to Gaelic-medium education
  • the clear desire expressed by the Scottish Government ‘to see an increase in the use of Gaelic in two vital areas, the home and the community’
  • the ‘promise to focus on stopping language shift in areas with substantial numbers of speakers’
  • the idea of introducing a system of recognized Gàidhealtachd areas based on the model in place in Ireland under the Gaeltachta Act 2012
  • a detailed review of the structure and activities of Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

The organisation hopes that the opportunity will be taken to put in place policies and a substantial framework, especially in relation to:

  • a new strategic framework for Gaelic education
  • Gàidhealtachd areas and Gaelic networks to be recognized in law, supported by adequate funding and resources, and a coordinating body established in the islands as a support for them
  • a change to the structures of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, with a language commissioner dealing with management and a reformed Bòrd supporting development and promotion.

Misneachd is proposing an improved version of the model in place in Ireland under the Gaeltacht Act 2012, where the Gàidhealtachd areas are recognised as including several Language Planning Areas as well as Gaelic Networks in the rest of the country.

Local groups in some areas of the Scottish Highlands have recently been trying to design community language plans, but they do not currently have official status and there is no support, funding, or expertise for their effective implementation.

If a policy based on the model in Ireland were implemented, local areas in the islands, and networks elsewhere, would receive:

  • A language plan every 7 years designed by professionals and the community working together
  • At least £150,000 a year to implement the plan
  • At least one development officer to support local activities (as well as youth officers at Comann na Gàidhlig and Gaelic officers at other organisations)
  • Support, resources, and expertise from a coordinating body, based in the islands
  • Decisions about priorities and budgets closer to the community with collaboration between local organizations.

Misneachd says that this proposal is just a starting point and should be seen as a foundation to be built on over the coming years.

They say that it is also important to establish the principle that community language development is a proper policy area on a legislative basis, alongside the other areas that are already more developed – education, broadcasting, and the language plans of public bodies. However, all these areas need more support.

Christina McLeod from Westside Lewis said, “One size fits all policy has not worked for the communities in the islands. The language will continue to decline if the communities do not get more power and control over their own activities.”

“There is a need for a sensible evaluation of projects that aim to strengthen the language. It’s not just about how many are participating. We should have evidence of methodologies that are successful with examples from other countries, and research when things don’t work that means we can learn from these situations.”

Patrick Morrison from Grimsay said, “I am optimistic in terms of what can be done with the opportunities that come out of the ‘Gàidhealtachd’ areas. As I see it, that would give us the opportunity to get more investment from the Government, and we would have the opportunity to implement policies, for the Gàidhealtachd areas, that will make progress with the socio-economic barriers – such as housing, crofts, and jobs – which are having such an impact on the current state of Gaelic.”

Fiona MacNab from Skye said: “It is very important that people respond to this consultation and that the opinions of people around the country, who know the situation in the communities and in schools, are heard. People who understand what happening in Gaelic Medium Education and what could be happening, what is working and what could be strengthened. This is a great opportunity for those of us who are involved in the Gaelic world to give our views to the Government so that we can influence the next step in the development of our language.”


In research published by Misneachd in 2021, they showed how shameful the funding situation for Gaelic development is.

Although about £28m a year goes into the Gaelic language budget, education and broadcasting receive most of that money.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig only receives around  £5m a year, and only about £2.5m of that goes into community development across Scotland.

That money has been frozen for almost twenty years, which means that the Gaelic language development budget received a real terms cut of about 30% between 2008 and 2018, much deeper than the 15% cut that the Gaelic language budget received in generally.

Before the Bòrd was established, reports led by Seonaidh Alex McPherson and Prof. Donald Meek said that at least £10m a year should go into the development of the Gaelic language.

If the Bòrd had received such a budget at the time and if that amount had been increased with inflation, the Bòrd would receive more than £15m in 2020. The situation will be worse today with the current increasing rate of inflation.

Despite the difficult situation for the country’s economy at present, according to Misneachd these figures show how low the funding for the development of the Gaelic language is and that there is a strong argument for a substantial increase, if there is any real progress going to be there.

Dr Cristopher Lewin, who currently lives in a Gaeltacht region in Ireland, said, “The Government will speak kind words, but the true story will be revealed by their financial support. There is a chance to get something substantial out of this consultation and the new languages act, but in my opinion Gaelic speakers should not accept any proposal from the Government unless substantial new funding is made available – that would be an insult to Gaelic communities everywhere.”

Misneachd published their response on 30/10/2022. The full response can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EU9gYWpYEqPwafoVoQRrhjkHlICHsp55/view?usp=sharing 


Comments (8)

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  1. 221116 says:

    ‘Christina McLeod from Westside Lewis said, “One size fits all policy has not worked for the communities in the islands. The language will continue to decline if the communities do not get more power and control over their own activities.”’

    Spot on, Christina. I’d extend this as a principle to all local communities, not just Gaelic-speaking ones.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    There was a petition to add both Scots and Scottish Gaelic to games platforms including the popular Steam run by Valve, but in Steam’s recent (August 2022) addition of in-game-supported (not fully platform supported) languages they have added Scots but not Scottish Gaelic (they do list Irish and Welsh).

    Incidentally, the developer who created the petition is promoting a new game described as:
    “Operation: Pinkeye is a throwback first-person shooter where you play as a secret agent in an alternate Universe where the Acts of Union in 1707 never happened. Scotland and England remain independent and tensions between the 2 remain very high.”
    but I haven’t played it; it looks a bit retro, but I notice it claims to support both Scots and Gaelic. Like any newly-released game, you should probably at least wait until bugs are fixed, even if considering playing the free demo, and read a representative selection of the reviews.

    It seems to me very important for this Gaelic support movement to get the language into the digital realm, ideally into Internet-connected games where user-selection of Gaelic can potentially be automatically compiled and presented as evidence that gamers are playing in that language by free choice. Of course, Gaelic already appears in other games, like Bard’s Tale IV, as part of a mix of languages including English and Scots, sometimes as song. Games which can be modded, or at least accept additional translations, are also vehicles for the language.

  3. Paddy Farrington says:

    Perhaps the powers of the new Gàidhealtachd should extend to socio-economic matters. For example, would it be practicable and helpful to introduce a Universal Basic Income in these areas, with the explicit goal of supporting Gaelic-speaking communities?

    1. 221117 says:

      It might be practicable, but why should its payment be conditional on supporting one particular language-community? Should it not be… erm… ‘universal’?

      1. Paddy Farrington says:

        Yes it should, in an ideal world. But in practice, it might take decades to introduce UBI nationally. So why not get started straight away in the Gàidhealtachd areas? This, after all, is what happened with the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, which was introduced a full 37 years before the NHS.

        1. 221018 says:

          But isn’t the Gàidhealtachd a linguistic rather than a geographical entity? How would that work? What about those folk in the Highlands and Islands who aren’t Gaelic users? What about all the Gaelic users who bide outside the Highlands and Islands (e.g. in the Central Belt or Nova Scotia)? Would they not qualify for a guaranteed basic income? Where would be the universality in that?

          1. Paddy Farrington says:

            My understanding is that, following the Irish model, the Scottish Gàidhealtachd would comprise geographical areas. A UBI scheme for such an area would apply to everyone resident within that area and, in that sense, would be universal.

          2. 221118 says:

            And how would that support the Gaelic language in those areas?

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