Éire Ghaelach – Éire Shaor
I have written many times before about the exceptional resurgence in Scotland of the Scottish language, especially amongst young Scots and urban dwellers, from a period when indifference or hostility towards the language was general throughout the population. With the SNP promoting Scottish as Scotland’s national language after decades of the party paying little heed to it (a sea-change in no small part down to the strategic vision of Alex Salmond and his immediate advisers to clearly separate a Scottish identity from a British one), the growth in favourable attitudes towards the Scottish-speaking communities and the language as whole is remarkable. Scottish medium schools are now taking root in many areas that had seen Scottish driven out by English in the last three centuries, while the Scottish language is featuring once again in the life of cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, albeit at an early stage of development.
This growing Scottish Revival is proof of the power of positive state intervention, of how governments can, with the right policies and commitment of time and resources, make a difference, a tribute to Scotland’s fine social-democratic culture of politics that many other Celtic nations would do well to emulate. This is reflected in a new survey, Public Attitudes Towards the Gaelic Language, carried out by the Scottish Government which shows just how far public opinion in Scotland has been turned around in favour of their native language after centuries of anti-Gaelic discrimination and propaganda. According to a report in the Herald Scotland:
‘Two-thirds of Scots believe more should be done to promote the Gaelic language, a new survey has shown.
The research also revealed 81% said it is important that Scotland does not lose its Gaelic language traditions.
The Scottish Government survey, which involved 1,009 people, covered a variety of questions related to the language, including current usage, teaching and its heritage. Other key findings include 70% of people polled stating that there should be more opportunities to learn Gaelic, while 90% said pupils should be taught Scottish studies.
The survey report states: “Looking at each of the statements in turn, amongst the total sample there was strong and widespread support for the teaching of Scottish studies – including Scottish history, culture, heritage, language and literature.
“90% agreed that pupils should learn about this and some 70% believe this strongly. Very high levels of agreement with this statement were recorded across all groups, although it is interesting to note that one of the least interested groups was 16-24 year olds (80%).”
Around half of those surveyed were in favour of using Gaelic, with only 9% against it…”
Minister for learning and skills Alasdair Allan said: “The Scottish Government has long believed in the importance of Gaelic to our heritage, culture, tourism and economy and this research shows the majority of Scots agree the language has many benefits.
“Such a strong swell of support for Gaelic from across the country, not just in the Gaelic-speaking heartlands, is very encouraging and just reward for the efforts of those who are working hard to ensure it remains a part of modern Scotland.
“The questions specific to education also have interesting results with high levels of support for teaching Gaelic as a subject, and even greater support for the introduction of Scottish studies as a subject.”‘
This poll adds weight to the already considerable demands that the Scottish language be added to the general curriculum for all schools in Scotland, as well as the need for greater investment in Scottish medium schools. It also highlights the vital role played by broadcast media in the promotion of the language, as well as serving existing Scottish-speaking communities and families.
The survey itself is well worth reading in full, especially as its findings seem likely to be used as one of the blueprints for future language development by the Scottish Government in the years to come (which the Irish political establishment should pay close attention to). It may well turn out that we are indeed living in the early days of a better nation.