If the words Nollaig chridheil are on your lips this season then you’ll be glad to know that West Lothian Council has decided to come in from the cold as far as the promotion of Gaelic goes.
The council’s Executive agreed a draft Gaelic Language Plan for West Lothian Council, to be presented to the Bòrd na Gaidhlig. The body was set up by the Scottish Government in 2005 to promote and facilitate the promotion of the use and understanding of the Gaelic language, Gaelic education and Gaelic culture.
To date West Lothian is one of only four councils – the others are Midlothian, East Lothian and Scottish Borders – who, for largely geographic reasons, have yet to create a Gaelic plan.
A six week public consultation produced 127 responses. The bulk were in favour of developing language classes and cultural events. The There was even a suggestion of setting up a West Lothian Mod. At the moment the language is not taught in West Lothian Schools or in language classes. There were cautionary notes too though about costs.
The mention of costs had been brought up at an earlier meeting by Provost Tom Kerr. He was concerned about the potential costs of changing sign-age.
Garry Heron, the council’s communications manager, pointed out at the time that the draft plan presented an outline of what the council would do. There were no details on potential costs.
Draft Gaelic Plan answers the obvious questions. The county has a population of 181,000. The 2011 census recorded that there are 667 of that population able to speak Gaelic – 0.4 per cent of the population - compared to 1.1 per cent across Scotland.
It also recorded 1,179 residents with “any Gaelic skill” (0.7 per cent of the population) compared to the Scottish average of 1.7 per cent.
A survey of 947 members of West Lothian Council staff in April revealed that 842 did not understand any Gaelic, although two learners were identified. Another 437 said they’d like to learn. There are only five staff members who can speak Gaelic fluently.
So having got a handle on the climb it faces the council Executive has agreed its draft Gaelic promotion plan. It’s a case of Beannachd leat, or good luck.