Readers' letters: Why the Gaelic language is worth preserving

No nationalist apologist I, but may I enlighten some of the grumpy naysayers complaining about the extension of Gaelic, that the language, native and unique to us (similar to but different from Erse and Manx) is more than worthy of preservation for future generations.

Welcome to Scotland. The Scottish Government wants to increase the use of Gaelic within the organisation to help save the "fragile" language. PIC: CCC.
Welcome to Scotland. The Scottish Government wants to increase the use of Gaelic within the organisation to help save the "fragile" language. PIC: CCC.
Welcome to Scotland. The Scottish Government wants to increase the use of Gaelic within the organisation to help save the "fragile" language. PIC: CCC.

Denial of its importance and worth is a denial of our ancient heritage, but sits neatly with many correspondents who take every opportunity to denigrate Scotland and its position in the world.

"A dying, useless language", they moan. "It was always a minority language, and no one cares about it." Well, tell that to all the Highlanders who spoke the language for centuries, and who took it to America and Canada.

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Let's celebrate our wonderful, unique language which gives names to our towns, our rivers and, above all, our mountains.

My wife and I are learning Gaelic now, and learning about our culture and our people through it. It has been a fascinating experience and I have enjoyed every minute of our daily lessons online.

It's not really a huge amount of money being spent, and we should welcome the opportunity for more of us to learn this marvellous language, of which we should be proud.

Brian Bannatyne Scott


Lauding Gaelic

As one would expect, the latest attempt to bolster use of the Gaelic language has been met with a degree of criticism. However, could it turn out to be a shrewd move?

As manufacturing continues to drain away, the extraction industries are shut down and agriculture struggles with tighter regulation and more cheap imports, whatever population remains in North Britain will have to look increasingly to tourism to survive.

And what do tourists want? - somewhere that is different from home yet where they can expect at least an approximation of the comforts they are used to and can make themselves understood.

I’m sure that as they approach Skye’s principal town in search of a McDonald’s they are interested to see that Portree is an anglicisation of Port an Righ meaning (I am led to believe) Port of the King.

An additional smattering of Gaelic here and there would not come amiss. Overheard snatches of conversation in Gaelic (or something sounding like it) would be particularly charming.

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A more general sporting of Highland dress, as displayed by Sir Harry Lauder, would also be helpful. The sweat shops of SE Asia can supply the requisite garments at very reasonable prices.

In short we need to embrace our inner Brigadoon and more of the Gaelic would add additional seasoning.

S Beck


Speak of progress

Alison Campsie states there have been few signs of progress following the Gaelic Language Act 2006 and the Scottish government now has the draft Gaelic Language plan for 2021-2026 (Scotsman, July 16).

Data from the last available Census 2011 showed there was a drop from 1.9 to 1.7 per cent of the population between the age of three and over, namely 87,056 that could speak,write and understand Gaelic.

By all means continue to teach Gaelic to those who wish to learn it, but in these difficult financial times, do we really wish to encourage civil servants in every directorate to increase the use of Gaelic, no doubt resulting in the employment in local authorities and the like of translators to translate directives back into English for the other 98.3 per cent of the population to understand?

Is it not also an appropriate time to consider the painting and erection of future road signs in two languages that cost the country millions?

While tourists might find them quaint, I am sure Gaelic speakers would not get lost without them.

I am also sure all Gaelic speakers can recognise a police car, ambulance or fire engine without the double signage, so perhaps this could be a cost saving for the future.

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Might the “Gaelic” cost savings be put to better use by passing the monies to the Gaelic island communities so they could appoint their own ferry operator and purchase ferries that will allow them to continue to be supplied and travel to and from the mainland – a task that Cal Mac are totally failing to do?

Robin Jack


Doric day

I see that the government at Holyrood wants to increase the use of Gaelic and has called for public consultation on its draft Gaelic Language Plan 2021-2026.

That’s fine, but where is the Doric Language Plan 2021-2026? After all, Doric is an important part of Scotland’s linguistic history and though still widely spoken in south and east Scotland, is losing ground to English.

This is an omission to which we need to draw their attention. As a first step, trilingual signs on public vehicles must be considered.

Barry Hughes


Child support

Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions show that on 2 April of this year, there were 17,830 families in Scotland not receiving child benefits for at least one of their children due to the UK government's two-child limit (Scotsman, 16 July).

The figure for the UK is over 160,000 families. The benefits paid to those with one or two children is £2,845 per child, so why should taxpayers pay to support those who choose to have more than two children?

The additional cost would be £455 million every year for a third child. Think what families with five or six children would cost the taxpayer.

Newly-elected Maggie Chapman MSP of the Scottish Greens demanded that Scottish ministers step in to counter the UK government's two-child limit.

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Sir David Attenborough has repeatedly pointed out that population growth is driving climate change. Having numerous children only adds to this problem.

The world population today is 7.9 billion and a popular estimate for a sustainable population on Earth is 8 billion, so why is Maggie Chapman wanting to increase Scotland's population and Scotland's greenhouse gases?

Clark Cross


Talk about ecology

Would it not make it more meaningful for lay readers if phrases like"fossil fuels" and "greenhouse gases" were avoided?

Spelling out the actual culprits - coal, oil and gas along with carbon dioxide - might make us more amenable to changing our ways.Carbon capture would seem to be a much faster route to lowering the amount and concentration of harmful emissions in the atmosphere than waiting for trees to grow!

Margot Kerr


Pandemic abuse

I was saddened to read Jemma Crew’s report about British-Chinese people being abused and blamed for the pandemic (Scotsman, 17 July).

The ignorance and inhumanity of the perpetrators of this vile behaviour should be condemned at the highest levels of government.

It’s frustrating to recognise the illogical thinking behind these attacks, which is comparable to Aberdonians being shunned by people from the rest of the UK during the typhoid outbreak in 1964, despite the much lauded efficiency of the Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ian McQueen, and the city’s doctors and nurses, in containing the outbreak, without a single death.

People have a tendency to revert to the mindset of the dark ages when faced with threatening situations - especially when the cause is invisible to the naked eye.

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It leads to a communal blame-game, with people shunning their neighbours, and crossing the street rather than getting too close to others. It’s a sad situation for those who fall victim to the virus, and it’s a sad indication of how easily we can lose empathy for others when we feel threatened by their presence.

Carolyn Taylor

Broughty Ferry

Pardon my French

I couldn’t agree more with Dr RLM Wilson (letter, 17 July) that the Scottish government should be promoting the teaching and learning of modern European languages.

If it did, perhaps television reporters (with a few notable exceptions) might pronounce France ‘Frawnce’ after “Tour de” and know that Spanish is a phonetic language and Balearics is pronounced ”bally arics” and not “ball earaches”.

J Lindsay Walls


Food strategy

The government's food strategy to combat obesity is facing opposition to its key recommendation to levy a £3bn tax on sugar and salt used in food manufacture.

The main complaint is that this will make food more expensive for poor people.

Unless you have a rare condition, if you are fat you are spending on and eating too much food.

So if you are poor and fat, anything that reduced your food consumption to healthy levels will put more money in your pocket and reduce the chance of death from diabetes, stroke, cancer or, as we and the Prime Minister recently found out, Covid.

Intervention worked on smoking and drinking. In 1974 almost half of UK adults smoked, now it's one in seven and the SNP's minimum alcohol pricing has reduced alcohol consumption by 8%.

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Everybody wins. The people who lose weight will be healthier and better off, and with less needlessly ill people on NHS waiting lists, the taxes we pay to keep it afloat can be spent elsewhere, used to reduce our taxes or UK and Scotland's deficit.

Allan Sutherland


Golf translation

Why do we have an American commentator at The Open who does not even speak English?

Colin McAllister

St Andrews

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