Guth nan Siarach

Press Release 2

21.03.21

 

Our response to the BnG Press Release following BnG’s Board Meeting on Thursday 18th March:

 

As Vernacular Gaels living in the Hebrides we feel the need to state our view that the projects and funding outlined in the above press release do not in any way address the Gaelic crisis in our Vernacular communities of the Western Isles.

 

The Covid recovery funding is targeted away from communities and towards existing stakeholder groups and GME recovery provision. Governance of best practice for development officers has been awarded to the University of Aberdeen on the other side of Scotland, and to the existing agencies who will continue to employ them. These two areas do not come under the governance or guidance of our communities in any way.

 

Time and again, we have asked the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills for an official response to the recommendations for our communities as detailed in, The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Communities (2020), and have been fobbed off with, at best, non-committal replies from civil servants.  At worst, when we ask what steps are being taken to establish the first of the six steps towards establishing an Urras specifically for Gaelic Vernacular Speakers, we are told:

 

“it is not clear what benefits an additional

body would bring. Indeed, others have

taken the view that the UHI research

proposal would have less powers than

Bòrd na Gàidhlig currently has to be

able to support the vernacular communities.”

 

Not only are these unsubstantiated opinions contrary to one of the main findings of the Alasdair Allan and Liam Alasdair Crouse report to the Ministerial Summit on the 17th December, following the base-line community consultation process, but they are also dismissive of a widely held sentiment in our communities that the Gaelic policy status quo is not working and that the community agency perspective based on the Gaelic Community Trust should be explored further by official bodies in consultation with Gaelic Vernacular Speakers and their diaspora. Dismissing potentially helpful recommendations and instead favouring the shoring up of existing provision, approaches and power-bases is simply unacceptable given the level of existential threat now facing our remaining Gaelic vernacular communities.

 

It is abundantly clear to us what our needs are and have been for the longest time, and we would be more than happy to have the opportunity to state our expectations in that regard but have been denied an effective opportunity to do so. We do not know who the ‘others’ referred to in these official responses are, which is a red flag in itself. It is shamefully clear that with regard to our own native  language we have no agency.

 

We are aware that following enquiries and community interactions our MSP Alasdair Allan wrote a follow-up letter recently to Mr. Swinney asking for consideration of the establishment of Urras na Gàidhlig (akin to a union comprised of speaker members and their voted-in representatives) as outlined in The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Communities (2020), but have heard nothing more from the Minister or his officials.

 

Bòrd na Gàidhlig as a functioning institution is composed of civil servants who work for the Government, and so they have no leeway to deviate from existing plans. As non-represented Vernacular speakers we have no seat at that table to guide them towards better planning for the Vernacular Community because we are not considered ‘stake-holders’ unless in receipt of monies or represented as an officially recognised group.

 

We wish to reverse this imbalance by establishing an Urras na Gàidhlig, with voted-in representatives. This is not about competing with existing organisations at national level to see who can get the most money, it is about saving our mother tongue and reversing the damage done by decades of inappropriate language planning at a national level.

 

For nigh on a year, we have waited in vain for the Scottish Government to take seriously the warnings and recommendations in Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community (2020) and to take first steps towards the establishment of Urras na Gàidhlig. We ask, one last time, for an official and formal response from the Minister as to whether the Urras will be established or not.

 

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