Scots Gaelic group plans to halt 'cultural genocide' at the ballot box

A Gaelic campaign group that argues the language has been subjected to an “ongoing process of cultural genocide over many centuries” has revealed plans to field local election candidates as part of efforts to revive it.

Misneachd – which translates as confidence or courage, says all adults in the Western Isles and other Gaelic heartlands should have the right to six months’ free, full-time tuition in the language in islands-based “immersion centres”.

This would take the form of a paid sabbatical for those in work. It also wants to phase out English-medium education in the islands and limit the number of second homes.

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Adults in the Western Isles should have the right to six months tuition, according to Misneachd.

Màrtainn Mac a’ Bhàillidh, the group’s candidate, said: “I think in the next council elections we want to have a raft of candidates standing in the islands, again as independents but with an affiliation to the Misneachd agenda as it were, rather than as an official political party.

“It’s just very hard to challenge the status quo in terms of language policies. All the parties are kind of equally weak on the subject, and there’s very little in terms of policy debate.”

The 35-year-old said the group had discussed registering as a political party but currently favour fielding independent candidates in the Highlands and islands linked to its agenda.

He said the prospect of putting candidates forward for Holyrood elections is also “under discussion”, adding: “It would be quite a big step. It would be good to do, but as an organisation, we are completely reliant on donations and we would need to run fundraisers and whatnot for it. Potentially - but maybe next year’s a bit too soon.”

It comes amid continuing debate over Gaelic’s future, with the quango in charge of the language, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, facing criticism over a lack of openness and transparency. Last month,

Western Isles council – Comhairle nan Eilean Siar announced children starting school this year will be taught in Gaelic, unless their parents opt-out.

Misneachd’s Radical Plan for Gaelic, warned the language is rapidly dying out in its Hebridean heartlands, and accused Gaelic organisations and politicians of being complacent.

It argued: “The historical and continuing decline of Gaelic-speaking communities constitutes an ongoing process of cultural genocide over many centuries.”