Gaelic speakers in Scotland 'still face discrimination and should be included in equality data'

Gaelic speakers still face discrimination in Scotland and should be included in the Scottish Government's equality data, the public body with responsibility for the language has said.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig (BnG) said there was "no consideration of whether Gaelic speakers are facing specific inequalities".

It said there remains prejudice against the language and its speakers.

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BnG made the comments in a written response to a Scottish Government consultation on its “equality evidence strategy” for 2023 to 2025.

A sign in Gaelic and English on a road on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.
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This aims to strengthen the evidence base in relation to factors such as age, disability, race, sex, religion and sexual orientation, to help form “sound and inclusive policies”.

BnG said: “We note that the groups with protected characteristics and the equality variables do not include Gaelic speakers.

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"Thus, there is no consideration of whether Gaelic speakers are facing specific inequalities.”

The organisation said Gaelic was “legally due equal respect to English”, adding: “Gaelic speakers have faced discrimination historically and, to some extent, still do so today.

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"There has in the past and there continue to be comments – both in social media and in mainstream print media in particular – in which hostility to the language and its speakers is expressed.

"Thus, prejudice towards the language and its speakers remains.”

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BnG said the strategy was an opportunity for greater “consistency” of approach, adding: “Specifically, it should consider the case for Gaelic to be included in the assessment of equalities.

“That would include, first, consideration of which, if any, current datasets can help to assess the equality of Gaelic vis-à-vis English.

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"Second, identify any need for additional datasets to be created – e.g. through inserting questions into existing Scottish Government surveys – to assess the state of equality of the Gaelic language and, thus, how far the needs of Gaelic speakers are currently being met.

“Finally, if data on Gaelic language is collected, Bòrd na Gàidhlig would welcome any data which may be allowed to be shared.”

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BnG previously criticised the Scottish Government for failing to mention Gaelic in its long-term spending plans.

There are widespread concerns about the future of the language, with a major study published in 2020 warning Gaelic-speaking communities were unlikely to survive anywhere in Scotland beyond this decade unless urgent action was taken.

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BnG says 87,100 people in Scotland had Gaelic skills at the time of the 2011 census, of which 57,600 were speakers.

About 50 per cent of these speakers lived in the Highlands and islands.

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is clear that there is no place for any form of discrimination in our society. We are determined to help build a better and fairer world by playing our part in eradicating racism, inequality and injustice.

“We are committed to supporting the rights of Gaelic communities and those who wish to use, and learn, the Gaelic language.

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"The Scottish Government continues to work with public bodies to ensure opportunities exist for Gaelic to be used by speakers in everyday life.

“Our consultation on Gaelic and Scots languages seeks views on the future needs and structures of these languages. We expect these views to help shape any necessary legislation in the future.

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“We will also consider the responses to the consultation on the equality evidence strategy after it closes on October 7, with a view to a publication of a new strategy next year.”

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