Some interesting news with more proof of the positive impact of the internet for the Gaelic languages, if harnessed correctly. The National Library of Scotland has spent the past two years digitising 1800 books in its Early Gaelic Book Collection and since it started posting them online in 2010 it has seen a massive surge in interest. With a total of 3,482 books in the collection in the Scottish language (both ancient and modern) more are expected to be digitised for public viewing in the coming years. A similar project already exists here in Ireland and has proven itself to be a huge success.
However, despite the evident interest in Scottish, both at home and abroad, the revelations of the gross inequalities between English and Scottish medium education in Scotland make for rather more depressing news. At the moment approximately £6 billion pounds per annum is spent in Scotland on English language schooling by the state. Compare this to the £12 million pounds per annum spent on Scottish language schooling. That is some contrast. At least 1.2% of Scotland’s population are native Scottish speakers with up to 10% having some knowledge of the language, from a basic vocabulary to a handful of words or phrases. The language is enjoying a renaissance, most noticeably in the campaign to establish a Scottish medium school in the capital of Edinburgh. And the Scottish Government has committed itself to a policy of language equality, which means Scottish is more and more prominent in the official life of the nation.
Yet a paltry 0.002% of the Education budget is spent on Scottish language education. That doesn’t even match the conservative estimate of the 1.2% of native speakers, let alone the 10% with varying degrees of knowledge of the language.
If Alex Salmond and the SNP are serious about bilingualism in Scotland, and respect for Scotland’s native language and culture, then at the very least 2% of the state’s education resources should be devoted to the Scottish-speaking population of the country, on the basis of simple equality. A more generous approach would facilitate up to 10% of Scotland’s education budget being spent on Scottish medium education – especially when the demand is so clearly there.
Scotland without the Scottish language is simply North Britain with an accent.