So, another day, another staged controversy drummed up by anglophone supremacists (for which one can read in this case, British nationalists) attacking equal use and prominence for the Scottish Gaelic language alongside English in Scotland. Following on from Monday’s intensely partisan attack on Scottish-speakers by the financial journalist, Merryn Somerset Webb, there is more of the same from various right-wing and unionist commentators in Britain criticising plans to increase the visibility and availability of the Scottish language within the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), the national accident and emergency organisation for Scotland. As we shall see, while heavy on the outraged rhetoric, the press reports are very light indeed on the facts.
“PLANS have been introduced to force paramedics to learn Gaelic.
The new proposals are a part of the Scottish Government’s “National Gaelic Language Plan” – which aims to promote the traditional language.
Gaelic is currently spoken by just 1% of the nation’s population – mainly in the Highlands and Islands.
But new plans would force the whole Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) to extensively train in the language – and to create a new bilingual logo for uniforms and vehicles.
Now the project has been slammed by critics –
Alex Johnstone – MSP for the north-east – said: “This is the Scottish Government’s obsession to push Gaelic at all costs rearing its ugly head again.
“The SNP should be supporting staff to improve response times and cut down on sickness absence, not playing political games with paramedics.”
And taxpayer’s groups have also hit out at the plans.
Eben Wilson – director of Taxpayer Scotland – said: “The costs of these initiatives are never made clear and we wonder how many people would vote for this if asked.
“This is no time for ‘nice to have’ politics.”
But the Scottish Government defended their plans.
A spokesman said: “Efforts to support a future for the Gaelic language have enjoyed cross-party support.”
Under Scottish Government legislation all public bodies and organisations across the nation have to devise similar plans.
In October Police Scotland introduced similar plans to rebrand their equipment with a bilingual logo.”
“The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) will also come up with a new bilingual logo to “demonstrate respect” for the nation’s second official language.
Staff uniforms, vehicles, buildings and even SAS stationery will also be redesigned to incorporate Gaelic, which has around 60,000 bilingual speakers across Scotland – or just over one per cent of the population.
There is also an ambition to “improve access to Gaelic interpreting” and introduce “Gaelic awareness training” alongside the actual language classes.
Last night, the Scottish Conservatives admitted they were baffled as to why energy and resources were being poured into Gaelic when there were plenty of other challenges the service has to cope with.
The party pointed out there was no mention of the costs or budgets for the Gaelic drive in the draft document and Alex Johnstone MSP added: “This is the Scottish Government’s patriotic obsession to push Gaelic at all costs rearing its head again.
There is absolutely no public demand for this, and people will see it for the waste of money it is.”
“Scotland’s hard-pressed ambulance staff are to be taken off duty to learn Gaelic as part of the SNP’s controversial drive to revive the language.
Rather than respond to emergencies, paramedics will have to set aside time in their working day to take Gaelic lessons.”
“Scottish Ambulance Service staff will be given lessons in Gaelic as part of the government’s push to boost the language. The service has proposed to introduce measures between now and 2020 that will include “Gaelic awareness and Gaelic language skills training”.
But the idea has been attacked by critics who believe that Gaelic lessons will take staff away from helping patients.”
“Controversial new plans which would force paramedics to learn Gaelic have been slammed by critics.
The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) would also have to create a new bilingual logo which would be displayed on uniforms and vehicles.
The latest proposal is contained in a 30-page document which outlines a range of measures which could be put into place over the next four years.
Readers of the Press and Journal overwhelmingly rejected the proposal in an online poll shortly after it was announced.”
Regular readers of An Sionnach Fionn know that such claims should be treated with caution, if not outright disbelief. No one is being “forced” to learn anything, no paramedics are being taken from their normal duties, no money is being diverted from healthcare budgets, no branding or logos are being immediately swapped out, the whole fake controversy is simply that: fake. In reality the SAS has stated in its proposals, “Scottish Ambulance Service Draft Gaelic Language Plan 2016 – 20“, that it:
“…recognises that Gaelic is an integral part of Scotland’s heritage, national identity and cultural life. The Service is committed to the objectives set out in the National Gaelic Language Plan.
The Service recognises that the position of Gaelic is extremely fragile and if Gaelic is to be maintained and grow as a living language in Scotland, a concerted effort on the part of government, the public and private sectors, community organisations and individual speakers is required to:
* enhance the status of Gaelic
* promote the acquisition and learning of Gaelic
* encourage the increased use of Gaelic”
The SAS has also acknowledged that there are:
“…patients who would prefer to use Gaelic language to communicate with us and we will ensure that this is available either through language line service on the telephone or through staff who speak Gaelic.”
Simply put, the ambulance service in Scotland wishes to identify staff who already speak or have some knowledge of Scottish Gaelic, facilitate other staff who wish to learn it through training programmes, encourage the recruitment of Scottish-speaking staff where new employment opportunities arise, implement bilingual signs and documents as old ones are replaced through normal use or wear and tear, and replace monolingual logos when the organisation rebrands at some future date. Regions with higher densities of Scottish-speaking citizens and Scottish-medium schools will be prioritised, which is a paramedic service doing what a paramedic service should do – meeting the needs of the communities it serves.
Also included in the draft scheme are practical suggestions like this:
“Delivery of Heartstart training in schools using Gaelic.”
Are the Britnat critics so hostile to Scottish Gaelic that the thoughts of Scottish-speaking schoolchildren, teachers and parents being taught CPR and other emergency life saving skills is something to be condemned?