Campaigners aim to have Gaelic used 'in our schools, shops and streets' by 2020

SCOTLAND'S largest local authority has promised to end the stigma that causes Gaelic speakers to "feel self-conscious" about using the language.

• Gaelic culture celebrated at the annual Mod – now the language is getting a similar boost. Picture: PA

Glasgow City Council yesterday vowed to reverse "centuries of neglect and disparagement", with the aim that within a decade the language will be heard "in our streets and in our shops".

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The pledge coincided with the announcement that the University of Glasgow is to create a chair of Gaelic, a move hailed as a "milestone" in Scottish education.

The council's Gaelic Language Plan was officially unveiled yesterday at the first board meeting to be held in Glasgow of Brd na Gidhlig, the body set up by the Scottish Government to promote and develop Gaelic.

The three-year action plan, which cost 6,000 to produce, includes the opening of a second Gaelic school in the city. Wider use of Gaelic on council signs and in relevant council communication, including forms, press releases and letters, is also planned.

The number of fluent Gaelic speakers nationwide has fallen from 230,000 in 1901 to just 88,000 in 1971 and 58,000 in 2001, according to the most recent census return. In Glasgow, only 2,957 people can speak, read and write the language.

But Aileen Colleran, executive member of the council with responsibility for Gaelic, promised the plan would herald a significant increase in the number of Gaelic speakers in the city.

She said: "By 2020, the place of Gaelic will be obvious to all. We'll see it around us – in our buildings, on our streets and in our shops – we'll hear it in conversations, in our schools and in the media. Our young people will be speaking it in Buchanan Street without feeling self-conscious about it and people will recognise the language as Gaelic."

It was also announced yesterday that Professor Roibeard Maolalaigh, currently head of Glasgow University's Celtic and Gaelic department, is to become the university's first chair of Gaelic.

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He said: "It is a huge honour to be named as the first-ever established chair of Gaelic in Scotland by the University of Glasgow."

Arthur Cormack, chairman of Brd na Gidhlig, said: "Gaelic has a very special place in the history of Glasgow, often known simply as 'Baile Mor nan Gaidheal', the 'Big City of the Gaels'. I am delighted that Glasgow City Council is being so supportive of Gaelic.

"The city council is to be applauded for its support for Gaelic in all sorts of way, but particularly in the field of education, where the work being done in the Gaelic School is magnificent."

Mixed views on the benefit of learning to speak Gaelic

ON THE streets of Glasgow's Shawlands area yesterday, the idea of learning Gaelic received a mixed response.

Graeme Crosbie, a 27-year-old teacher, said: "Gaelic is an important part of our heritage, although I don't know if I personally would be interested in learning it.

"It's certainly being offered more, and I know people who speak Gaelic. I'd hope other people would get involved."

Elaine Webster, 28, a lecturer, said: "I think Gaelic tells us about our linguistic heritage.

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"I lived in Belgium, where people are familiar with three languages, and it was great."

Donald Stewart McCallum, 58, said: "I'm very proud of being Scottish, and the Gaelic language is something we can hold on to and claim as our own.

"I tend to think I'm too old for learning a new language, and I'm dyslexic, but if someone helped with learning, I'd definitely be interesting in learning to speak Gaelic."

Teresa Devitt, a housewife, said: "I wouldn't learn Gaelic. There other languages that I'd prefer to learn which are more exciting, such as Chinese or Mandarin."