Press Release: 01.06.21
Guth nan Siarach response to Government claims in The Herald article of Monday 31.05.21

Guth nan Siarach would like it to be noted that we have criticised Government, not the SNP, for its failure to mitigate Civil Service and academic over-reach and mismanagement of Vernacular Gaelic, a failure which prior to June 2020 could have been put down to lack of oversight but since publication of The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community (Ó Giollagáin et al, 2020), can only be ascribed to intentional minoritisation of Hebridean Gaels.

 

Alasdair Allan, the SNP MSP for our region, has been and remains supportive of our campaign to examine the Community Trust model in order to address the Vernacular Gaelic Crisis in the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar region. 

A number of points were raised in the Government response to our campaign, in yesterday’s article in The Herald (https://archive.is/twxhU; Monday 31 May 2021). We would like to address those today. 

When we met with BnG, they declined our request for a written statement of support for recognition of the value to Scotland of the Vernacular Gaels, or of the need for targeted support to address the crisis, indeed the term ‘crisis’ was not permitted. The very definition of the term Vernacular Gael was questioned existentially, and our attempts to seek help and support were deemed ‘dangerous’(cunnartach).

We went into talks with a clear agenda, determined to work with BnG at local level to deliver necessary change effectively, but it was made clear that planning would remain at national level within their organisation while the work of promoting their organisation and its aims be delivered by us at local level, rather than working towards the focused aims emerging from Ó Giollagáin et al’s analysis. 

While many of BnG’s aims are suited to Second Language Learner communities elsewhere, they do not serve the needs of the Vernacular Gaelic community in place or the diaspora, or indeed those new islanders seeking to learn Gaelic.  Given that this Status Quo approach has been demonstrably refuted by Ó Giollagáin et al, we declined their alternative agenda.

Since then, and since the election, we have proceeded to make our voice heard more publicly. Until there is a similarly public acknowledgement by the Government of the value of Vernacular Speakers in our own right; of the Gaelic Crisis that we face; and, of our specific local needs, we will continue to have no confidence in their claim that Gaelic belongs to everyone. 

While concrete changes in infrastructure are always difficult to plan, and never more so than now, the matter of having influence over policy that relates to our region and language should not be denied in the interim. This is no different to the struggles we see in Edinburgh to have local wishes met regarding Gaelic educational provision, though our community needs would be much easier to address and to do so would certainly have a positive impact locally, nationally and globally, given that our identity and continued good health as a linguistic community underpins the validity and success of National Gaelic for Scotland as a whole. 

We, and our SNP MSP, have asked for deeper discussions of whether the Trust model recommended by Ó Giollagáin’s team might serve us, and for some form of Civic Assembly to be organised to enable effective interim discussion at community level. Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears so far. 

We now seek a re-evaluation of the Government’s pre-election response directly from the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Ann Somerville. We have also raised the matter with Shona Robison, MSP, at the Commission for Social Justice and Fairness. We await a direct response from both.

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