(L-R): John Randall, Islands Book Trust; John Swinney MSP; and Donnie Morrison, Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc
Western Isles Council chambers were packed out this afternoon (Wednesday, October 19th) as Scotland's Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, delivered the thirteenth Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture.
Organised by the Islands Book Trust and Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc, the 2016 Lecture moved from its normal venue in South Lochs to the Stornoway chambers to coincide with the Royal National Mod, with Mr Swinney's talk exploring 'The Place of Gaelic in a Modern Scotland'.
Looking back at the struggles of the Gaelic language and its people throughout the centuries, Mr Finney paid tribute to the late Donald Stewart, and his 1980 attempt to secure legislation for the Gaelic language – a Bill that was talked out of the House of Commons the following year in “a spiteful escapade indulged by people far away,” he said.
He also highlighted the work of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and people of the Western Isles in safeguarding the language, saying: “Since the mid 1970s this council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and those living and working in these islands have been essential for the promotion of Gaelic.”
Mr Swinney detailed flourishes in the language in recent decades through the likes of Bord na Gaidhlig; Gaelic Medium Education; MG Alba, and Sabhal mor Ostaig; as well as speaking of the economic benefits provided through the success of Gaelic in Scotland.
In his role as Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, he announced a £700,000 Scottish Government funding package for Glasgow City to further support its two Gaelic Medium schools.
And he tackled the often negative responses such funding can provoke, saying: “These views to me are just as groundless and unwelcome as they are inaccurate and misleading. This hostility to Gaelic has no place in Scotland.”
Turning to the future, Mr Swinney spoke of the need to embrace and employ new digital technology as the means of securing and safeguarding the language by 'harnessing the energy of the Gaelic movement and combining it with the digital opportunities now available'.
“The gains made have been significant and must be used effectively to sustain Gaelic in Scotland,” he said. “Gaelic belongs to, and in, Scotland and the responsibility to secure it belongs to all.”
Following thanks from Donnie Morrison of Comunn Eachdraidh na Pairc, the thirteenth Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture was closed, as tradition, by the singing of a Psalm, precented by former Gold Mod Medal winner and previous Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture speaker Kristine Kennedy.