The letter by William W. Scott, headlined “Sign of a dead language”, in your July 11 edition demonstrates a woeful lack of knowledge of Scotland’s linguistic history, and its contemporary presence.
Over the course of Scotland’s recorded history, Gaelic has been spoken in every area of what we now know as Scotland (even the Northern Isles, where in early historic times Gaelic-speaking missionaries settled among the Picts.)
The presence of Gaelic speakers in all parts of Scotland is well attested by written records, and also by the witness of place-names which give evidence to a Gaelic heritage which can be similarly demonstrated in every part of Scotland, notwithstanding other languages which have come to be spoken since. Today, Gaelic speakers can be found in every local area of Scotland. The 2001 census records Gaelic speakers present in every electoral ward in Scotland, and this is likely to continue to be the case when data for 2011 is released later this year.
In 2001 the Highlands and Islands were home to 55 per cent of Scotland’s Gaelic speakers, and the Lowlands home to 45 per cent, but this profile will change over time as areas outwith the Highlands reclaim their right to Gaelic.
Parents in many parts of Scotland, and from many walks of life, recognise the educational, cultural, social and cognitive value of education through the medium of Gaelic. In addition, it facilitates early bilingualism and expedites the learning of other languages.
Demand for Gaelic medium education grows yearly. Appropriately therefore, both the UK and Scottish Governments recognise Gaelic as one of our national languages, which is indeed the case also for the Scots and English languages. This is now guaranteed by international treaty.
As such, Gaelic speakers have every right in a democratic society for their heritage to be recognised and their language to be used in normal everyday life. To deny their heritage is to deny democratic rights, human rights and treaty obligations, as well as doing a great disservice to all of Scotland.
John A. MacKay
Bòrd na Gàidhlig