‘S e èisteachd ris na daoine an t-slighe cheart air adhart, le Murray MacLeoid

Tha e duilich smaoineachadh gu bheil dà bhliadhna ann bho thàinig beagan de chrith-thalmhainn ann an saoghal na Gàidhlig le aithisg a bha ag ràdh, mura tigeadh atharrachadh bunaiteach air poileasaidh, gum biodh a’ chànan mar chànan coimhearsnachd air a dhol à bith anns na h-eileanan taobh a-staigh deich bliadhna.

Thathas ag iarraidh guth na coimhearsnachd a chluinntinn aig a' cho-labhairt.
Thathas ag iarraidh guth na coimhearsnachd a chluinntinn aig a' cho-labhairt.

[English-language version below]

Tha mi duilich. Feumar sin a-nis a cheartachadh. Chan eil ann ach ochd bliadhna, bhon as e glè bheag a tha air tachart san eadar-ama, ged a dh’fhaodar Covid na mollachd a choireachadh.

Cha robh a h-uile duine idir a’ gabhail ri “The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community”, a chaidh a thoirt ri chèile leis a’ bhuidhinn-rannsachaidh Soillse.

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Bha cuid de luchd na Gàidhlig a’ smaoineachadh nach robh e idir cothromach agus gun robh e ann an cunnart sgaradh adhbhrachadh eadar luchd-labhairt na Gàidhlig anns na h-eileanan agus an luchd-ionnsachaidh ann am pàirtean eile de dh’Alba.

Bha cuid ag ràdh nach robh e idir ag aithneachadh gu ceart gur e goireas nàiseanta a tha anns a’ Ghàidhlig agus nach deach aithne gu leòr a thoirt air an fhior adhartas a thathas air a dhèanamh suas gu seo. Chan urrainn dha duine a dhol às àicheadh gu bheil piseach mòr air a bhith ann an cuid a dhòighean, ach cha b’ e sin an t-amas a bh’ ann.

Ged a dh’adhbhraich an leabhar gu leòr deasbad agus eas-aonta, aig cridhe an rud, cha robh ann ach an fhirinn: tha a’ Ghàidhlig a’ crìonadh anns na coimhearsnachdan traidiseanta, a dh’aoidheoin gach oidhirp.

Às bith an ann ri linn fàiligidhean aig ìre poileasaidh no gnothaichean-sòisealta eile, mar chrìonadh-sluaigh anns na coimhearsnachdan sin, no measgachadh dhen dà chuid (an rud as dualtaiche) chan eil duine aig a bheil eòlas a chanadh gu bheil a’ Ghàidhlig an-diugh anns na coimhearsnachdan cho làidir ‘s a bha i fiù ‘s aon ghinealach air ais.

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Tha e tàmailteach gun do phiobraich an rannsachadh an uimhir a dh’argamaid, bhon se cothrom a bha ann aithneachadh gu bheil rudeigin ceàrr agus gum feumar gluasad a dh’ionnsaigh a chur ceart – agus gu luath. (Sin air a’ bhonn ‘s gu bheileas a’ gabhail ris gur e rud cianail a bhiodh ann gu cor a’ chànain nam falbhadh i bhon na h-eileanan mar rud coimhearsnachd.)

‘S a-nis, tha cothrom ann gluasad air adhart. An ath mhìos, thèid co-labhairt a chumail ann an Steòrnabhagh, ga chur air dòigh le Soillse, agus le gairm shònraichte: tha iad airson cluinntinn bho luchd-labhairt na Gàidhlig anns na h-eileanan.

Bu chòir a ràdh san dol seachad cuideachd gu bheil seo a’ tighinn agus còmhradh oifigeil fhathast a’ dol mu Phlana Gàidhlig Riaghaltas na h-Alba a nì soilleir, aon uair ‘s gun tig aontachadh ris, amasan poileasaidh airson nan còig bliadhna air thoiseach, rud a bhios riatanach ann a bhith a’ dearbhadh càite an tèid an t-airgead a tha ri fhaighinn a chaitheamh.

Tha e a’ coimhead coltach, mar gu leòr a rudan eile, gu bheil cùis na Gàidhlig a’ dùsgadh à bruadair ghrannda a’ Chovid agus a’ coimhead ri adhart ri deasbad poblach. ‘S an turas-sa, ‘s dòcha ann am beagan a bharrachd de chòrdadh.

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‘S dòcha cuideachd gum biodh e iomchaidh aig an aon àm feallsanachd a dhaingneachadh, a’ leanntainn air eisimpleir nan croitearan ann an 1888: “Fhalbh ‘s thig èisteachd ris na daoine.”

Agus an ath mhios, bidh cothrom math ann sin a chur an cèill.

English-language version:

It’s hard to think it’s been two years since those involved in the Gaelic body politic were metaphorically grabbed by their lapels and given a shake, with the publication of a report which suggested that unless there was a radical change in policy the language would cease to be a living one in the islands in the space of a decade.

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Sorry, make that now eight years, as there’s been precious little happening in the interim, though that no doubt has a lot to do with the spectre of Covid.

“The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community”, by research group Soillse, was not, it’s fair to say, universally accepted. There were (are) Gaelic academics and professionals who believed its findings wrong and divisive, as it potentially set the island Gael against new speakers in other parts of Scotland.

Its detractors also felt it failed to properly recognise that the language is a national resource and didn’t draw enough on the real progress made in that context. But, much as that may be true, that was patently not its purpose.

While the book and accompanying report certainly caused some soul-searching (to use a diplomatic term), it did speak to an absolute truth: the language is very much in decline in the Gaelic heartlands, despite all the efforts.

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Whether as a result of failure of policy or more socio-economic reasons, like the depopulation of the periphery, or more likely some sort of combination, it is undeniably the case that Gaelic as a natural medium of conversation is in the last throes.

The publication of the report should never have been about recriminations over previous approaches, merely a chance to move to a solution that addresses the problem – that’s, of course, on the presumption that most would regard the disappearance of Gaelic as a community language in the islands as a severely regressive step.

So now the opportunity presents itself to make some tangible progress. Next month, a conference will be held in Stornoway, organised by the same Soillse research group, and with a very specific call to arms: they want to hear from the Gaelic community in the islands.

It should be noted, too, that in the background to this is a national consultation on the Scottish Government’s Gaelic Language Plan which will set out objectives over the next five years and, when finalised, will underpin all policy initiatives in relation to where funding should be directed.

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So it looks like, along with an awful lot else, the Gaelic movement is awakening from its Covid-enforced slumber and looking again towards public engagement and debate. Maybe this time, hopefully, more in a collegiate spirit.

Perhaps, too, it’s time to embrace a philosophy that evokes the spirit of the 1888 crofters revolution: “Go listen to the community.” Next month sounds like a good place to start.

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