Gaelic history

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Clearly, the Gaelic language is, like so much else in Scotland these days, a matter of one’s politics, as the letters (28 August) penned by Douglas Turner and John Coutts show.

Mr Coutts’s letter shows a misunderstanding which is so common in Scotland.

Mr Coutts says Gaelic is our “first language”, but does not 
explain what he means by this. The most spoken language in Scotland a very long time ago was Gaelic, but that was back in the mid-to-late Middle Ages.

Before then, there were many languages spoken in Scotland, from the Brythonic of Strathclyde (and earlier in south-east Scotland), Pictish throughout most of the mainland, Old 
Norse in the north and islands, Old English in south-east and parts of south-west Scotland, Norman French amongst the aristocracy and some clergy and Latin, again, amongst churchmen.

Gaelic is a relative latecomer to Scotland, appearing later than Old English.

Although it is interesting to understand what Gaelic signs mean, it is the case that there are far too many such signs throughout Scotland, especially in railway stations and, as in the case of places like Haymarket, Drem, Dunbar etc, in places that have never been part of the Gàidhealtachd, or Gaelic-speaking area of Scotland.

It is time that we embrace the fact that the first languages of Scotland are English and its close cousin, Scots.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive

Edinburgh