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The English Disease, Or Anti-Gaelic Racism

Dún Éideann, Albain
Dún Éideann, Albain

Today saw the opening in Edinburgh of Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce, a new Scottish-medium primary school, in yet another sign of the resurgence of Scottish Gaelic as a community language in Scotland’s capital city. From STV:

“Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce has 30 Gaelic speaking staff teaching 213 pupils – 53 of them who started school for the first time this year.

It has been built on the site of the former Bonnington Primary School in Leith and replaces the Gaelic Medium Education Unit at Tollcross Primary School.

The primary school, which is open to anyone who wants to send their children there, has been funded by the Scottish Government and the City of Edinburgh Council.”

However when it comes to the indigenous Celtic languages of north-western Europe where you have hope you often have hate. The hatred of Anglophone bigots and supremacists. From the Scotsman newspaper:

“CHILDREN would progress further in the world by learning Mandarin or German rather than “wasting” money on Gaelic, a Highland politician has claimed.

Inverness councillor Jim Crawford has described the Scottish Government’s plans to invest an additional £4 million to teach school pupils Gaelic as “a waste of resources”.

…Mr Crawford accused the Scottish Government of using Gaelic as a “ploy to boost Yes votes” in next year’s referendum for independence.

He said: “Spending this money is purely Alex Salmond’s way of saying, ‘We want to make you all feel more Scottish and vote that way next September’. This is outrageous.”

He said: “If you want to have a future in Europe then there is no point in having Gaelic. That is only useful if you want a job in the Western Isles.”

In July, Mr Crawford lodged a formal complaint with Scotland’s public standards watchdog after Mr Salmond and his wife Moira held up a Saltire behind Prime Minister David Cameron’s head as tennis player Andy Murray won Wimbledon.”

As in Ireland the lesson is this: those who say that they “hate Gaelic” don’t actually hate the Gaelic languages – they hate those who speak the Gaelic languages.

9 comments on “The English Disease, Or Anti-Gaelic Racism

  1. David Smillie

    Jim Crawford’s a very right wing tory. I know him, and he’s no way representative of anything but the absolute lunatic fringe of politics here in the Highlands.


    • Oh I agree. He seems a most unpleasant fellow in terms of his political and cultural views, and not averse to headline-grabbing stunts or pronouncements too. However he does represent a strain of anti-Gaelic sentiment familiar to both Scotland and Ireland. A minority form of bigotry certainly but an influential one, especially within the anglophone media of both Gaelic nations.


  2. Why are you describing Lowland Scots Calvinists as “English”? Anti-Gaelic sentiment is far less prevelent in England than it is in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The fact is, Scotland is a majority Anglo-Saxon country every since Malcolm II conquered the Lowlands and brought these people into his empire after the Battle of Carham in 1018. So it is hardly surprising that some people who are not ethnically Gaelic and have no real connection to that culture in the Lowlands are bemused by this. The Highlanders are a Gaelic nation, yes, but Scotland as a whole is not. Scotland is not a homogeneous nation but two traditional ethnicities (Gaelic Highland, Sassenach Lowlander) within one entity.


    • I was using “English disease” as a shorthand for anglophone intolerance of non-English speakers or the form of anglophone cultural supremacism we see in our nations. It was not directed towards “English people”, the people of England, at all. Whatever their role in planting the seeds of anti-Gaelic racism those seeds have long since taken on a life of their own. The “English disease” is a phenomenon of Ireland and Scotland (or Wales, Cornwall and even Québec).

      I agree and disagree with your points. The majority Anglo-Saxon nature of Scotland I would argue was later than the 11th century but there is some truth in the argument that Scotland is a linguistically and culturally divided nation. I’m not sure I would use the word “ethnic” but I suppose it depends on how one views it.

      There is a discussion to be had there. That said I would argue, as do others, that Scottish or Scottish-Gaelic has the right to be regarded as the indigenous language of Scotland. That does not denigrate the status or importance of Scots (Scots-English) or British English as national tongues nor take away from those who identify with and cherish one or both.


  3. I wonder how many languages Mr. Crawford speaks. I suspect very few. In my experience Gaelic (irish) speakers are much more likely to be polylingual than those who have no knowledge of Irish. I would not be surprised if the same applies to Scots Gaelic speakers. Those who are anti-Gaelic (Irish or Scots) are, in my experience, less likely to be motivated by a desire to communcate with speakers of other languages than by prejudice, xenophobia, bigotry or whatever.


    • I tend to agree. In places like the or other online fora the very ones who condemn Irish-speakers for speaking the native language of this island-nation are the same ones who rail against people of any nationality or ethnicity being here. Their hatred is universal since it is freely applied to all non English-speakers.

      As I keep stressing those who hate Irish in truth actually hate those who speak Irish or identify with any form of an indigenous Irish identity, whether born into it or adopting it in later life. That is why they reserve their greatest ire for any people born outside of Ireland who choose to associate with the native language or culture of this country. It is like a double challenge to them.


    • Dearfa. My education started as Gaeilge aged 3 in a bunscoil in Dublin. I’ve since learned German, French and a smattering of Spainish. Learning a second language at an early age made it much easier to learn a third, fourth and, hopefully, fifth.


      • Something that virtually every study over the last three or four decades has shown. Bilingual/multilingual children make for smarter adults. The brain is an intellectual muscle. Give it exercise it and it will get faster and stronger. Starve it and it will get slower and weaker.


  4. Actually I’m surprised they can get away with e.g. putting up bilingual signs all around the country, including places where no Gàidhlig has been spoken for generations (or ever), without generating a much stronger backlash. The same goes for Welsh signs in some parts of Wales. It’s a pleasant surprise to find that most of the population, and all elected political parties in both countries apparently approve. The few detractors seem on the whole to be fringe elements politically, not averse to inventing and exaggerating scare stories.

    More of a worry perhaps is a certain type of politically progressive but monoglot Englishman who just “doesn’t get it”. Having no experience of a language and culture that isn’t shared by half the world, they seem to have no conceptual slot in which to fit the idea. It doesn’t matter how carefully you explain it to them, all you get is blank looks. Unfortunately this type is often found amongst the “white settlers”.


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