Hating The Gaelic

Following a brief period of relative quiet the haters of Scottish Gaelic are back in full-swing, attacking new education legislation in Scotland which includes provisions to allow Gaelic-speaking parents to request Gaelic-medium schooling for their Gaelic-speaking children. The horror! From the Deadline News Agency, a press organisation with a certain reputation when it comes to reporting on Scotland’s indigenous tongue:

“PRIMARY schools will be forced to teach in Gaelic, even if their area has no history of using the language.

At present only 3,500 pupils across Scotland are taught their day-to-day lessons in the Gaelic language.

But a new law passed by the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday means councils across the country will have to provide an education in the language if a parent asks them to.”

Let’s just examine the above claim. The new “Education (Scotland) Bill” does not include any requirements forcing primary schools to teach in the Scottish Gaelic language, any more than they are forced to teach in the English language. Families who speak or who wish to speak the country’s minority vernacular will have the option to request their local school to access the feasibility of providing such eduction within their existing – and overwhelmingly, English – structures. Indeed the article itself goes on to admit as much.

“Among the many new regulations it contains is a ruling that all councils should provide a “Gaelic medium education” at primary schools should parents request it.”

This is hardly the revolutionary guard of linguistic equality storming the gates of the anglophone palace. More a case of them huddled at the gates and meekly seeking entry if everyone else inside is ok with it. In fact the full wording of the bill, not the carefully chosen snippets in certain media reports, is wrapped in regulatory caveats:

“Assessment requests
30 (1) A person who is the parent of a child who is under school age and has not commenced
attendance at a primary school may request the education authority in whose area the
child is resident to assess the need for Gaelic medium primary education…

(2) A request under subsection (1) must—

(a) relate to only one child (in this Part, the ―specified child‖), and
(b) set out, or be accompanied by, evidence that there is a demand for GMPE from
parents of other children who are—
(i) resident in the area of the authority to which the request is made, and
(ii) in the same year group as the specified child.”

This part of the legislation runs to some 200 lines of conditions and criteria before such requests can be granted. And again, for the dumb-fuck bigots out there, this is about tax-paying citizens and parents who speak or who wish to speak Gaelic requesting Gaelic-medium schooling for children who speak or who wish to speak Gaelic. No one in Scotland is forcing parents or children who speak English to be educated solely through Scottish. Talking of idiots-with-opinions, the Liberal Democrats’ MSP, Tavish Scott, pulls himself away from watching his plummeting polling numbers or planning constitutional secession to issue this moronic statement to the Shetland Times:

“Isles MSP Tavish Scott has accused the SNP-led authority of forcing the SIC to use a portion of its stretched finances to teach Gaelic in schools – despite a lack of Gaelic tradition in the Northern Isles.

“Once again, the Scottish government has refused to recognise that there is no tradition of Gaelic in Shetland. Yet Shetland Islands Council could be left in a position where it is forced to use some of its already stretched budget to fund Gaelic education.

“It’s time for the Scottish government to recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach to education is not right. Indeed, if the government were ever to look at Shetland’s historical language connections they would find that we have far more ties with Norwegian than Gaelic.

“Our primary school teachers are already helping pupils with languages. Languages for that the next generation need and want to learn. Forcing Gaelic on Shetland is not the right approach.””

Interestingly Tavish Scott has no problem with resources being spent on non-English language teaching in the Shetland Islands – just so long as it is not Scottish language teaching. Discrimination, it seems, comes in many forms and the electorally desperate rump of the Lib-Dems have pretty much embraced all of them in recent times. Perhaps if Scott was genuinely enamoured of Shetland’s Scandinavian heritage, rather than simply using it as a weapon to further segregate Gaelic-speaking men, women and children, he might adhere to the spirit of a Norwegian saying. Ett språk er aldri nok. Which simply means, “One language is never enough”.

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6 comments

  1. I live in America and my familk has a history in Scotland an I’m in an Society Society and learning Gaelic. I have a Tartan from Clan McDuff.
    Love Scotland and it’s history .

  2. TBH I don’t really think this is about Gàidhlig, it’s all about the LibDems. Their vote collapsed throughout the UK following their ineffective coalition at Westminster with the Tories, then campaigning with the other Unionist parties during the indy ref didn’t do anything for their standing in Scotland. Their only surviving WM MP was of course caught lying and only survived the court case on some rather dubious technicalities. His seat is the Northern Isles where they have a legacy going back to the days of Liberal leader Joe Grimmond.

    The LibDems are on the ropes, their two Holyrood seats are threatened and basically no blow is too low, they’re desperate. There is of course no very strong tradition of Gaelic in the Northern Isles, although naturally G. speakers, fishermen etc. would have called in there from time to time. It’s perhaps worth noting however that Scottish G., especially in the Outer Hebrides shows quite a bit of Scandinavian influence, so the two cultures were not exactly sealed off from one another. In fact there was a wide interface between them throughout long periods of Scottish history.

    It’s perhaps unfortunate that too little remains of Norn, their Scandinavian language, literally just a handful of scraps, for it to be restored like Manx or Cornish. The most that can be said is that it came closest to Faroese. The distinct Shetland form of Scots, influenced by Norn, is now apparently being replaced in the speech of the younger generation by a more generalised version of Northern Scots.

    All in all it might have been politic for the Scottish government to have exempted the Northern Isles from this requirement, as there is probably going to be little demand for Gàidhlig schooling up there, and they have simply handed the LibDems and any other Unionist bigots a handy stick to beat them with.

  3. Take the example of the Canadian constitution which stipulates this right for all citizens but with the important context of “where numbers warrant” which I believe translates to something like 4-5% of the population. This means that if there were only 1 Gael in the Village, said village would not be expected to offer those children an education in their native language. If you are interested in how this plays out in Canada, check http://www.fcfa.ca/fr/Language-Rights_181

    Not having read all of the clauses to this Scottish law, I would not be surprised if there was a stipulation about numbers somewhere.

    1. As I understand it, the GME movement came from the grass-roots, and many local education authorities were happy to go along with it. Some however have been obstructive and I imagine this legislation is aimed at them. If there is a realistic level of demand then they must comply and make provision. I haven’t looked at this in detail either, because on the whole it’s not a big issue, GME where there’s demand has all-party support. I think the way the law is written, referring to named children, is so that there has to be some real concrete demand, not just a vague idea by some pressure-group or other that it might be a ‘good idea’. To me that’s an eminently sensible and thoroughly Scottish attitude 🙂

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