Gaelic’s position as a living language in our island communities is precarious, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP Alasdair Allan MSP.

The MSP has presented his report on the community conversations on Gaelic to John Swinney MSP, the Minister for Gaelic, prior to the Ministerial Summit to take place tomorrow, Thursday, 17 December.

The report summarises and synthesises the views collected during community conversations about the future of the Scottish Gaelic language within the remaining vernacular communities in the western islands of Scotland.

Between November and December, Allan worked with a cross-party group of MSPs including Michael Russell MSP, Kate Forbes MSP, Donald Cameron MSP, John Finnie MSP and Rhoda Grant MSP, and the Soillse research team to consult island communities about their views on aspects of Gaelic development.

Meetings were organised in response to the publication of The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community (July 2020), the most comprehensive sociolinguistic survey to date on the social use of Gaelic in the region.

Allan’s report concludes with several recommendations for future policy and community-led initiative, including that the concept of a Gaelic-language development trust (Urras na Gàidhlig), mentioned in the Soillse report, be explored further. It also advises that consideration also be given to where features of the trust concept could in fact be absorbed within localised structures, such as community land trusts, while providing a strategic framework to progress language initiatives from a community development perspective.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented: “Gaelic’s position in our island communities is precarious. We heard time and again through the conversations how pressures on the language reflect broader challenges within our rural communities.

“Many felt that current language policy actions do not go far enough in realistically addressing the underlying causes of the language’s decline, such as demographic decline, good jobs and housing.

“I hope that this report highlights the need for future public interventions regarding language development to be more wide-reaching and comprehensive. Public policy can and should do more to support and protect the language and this needs to be done without delay."

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant who worked with the Cross Party group in its consultation of island communities welcomed the Report.

Mrs Grant said: “There was real value to these consultation meetings and I was pleased to see such a response from Gaelic-speaking communities. It was really clear that communities feel passionately about the cultural basis and community ownership of the language and that communities need to be empowered and supported to grow the language in a natural way.

Mrs Grant continued: “Sadly we are also getting casework on the lack of  access to Gaelic at schools from Gaelic speaking communities.  It is absolutely fundamental that Scottish Government implements a full partnership approach to preserving and supporting the Gaelic language and culture and that is looks to communities to guide councils and government in their language strategies. Gaelic should be both formally taught and fully supported on a cultural and community basis."

(Comments from Rhoda Grant added since article was first posted)