Gaelic In Contemporary Scotland - An Academic View

“Public support for the language (Scots Gaelic) in terms of government financing, institutional provision and favourable attitudes among the Scottish population has never been greater…” - Professor Wilson McLeod

For those seeking a sober measured assessment of the state of Scots Gaelic, it is certainly worth a visit to the website “Scribd” (linked below) for a look at “ Gaelic in Contemporary Scotland: Contradictions, Challenges and Strategies”, by Wilson McLeod.   Professor McLeod has since early 2013 been the Edinburgh University’s Chair in Gaelic.

There is something for the optimist and also for the pessimist in this scholarly work written in an easy flowing style that makes it an enjoyable as well as an informative read.  McLeod reviews the whole range of factors impacting the current and future state of Scots Gaelic and offers up areas for improvement.  Topics range from the historical development of the language, the impact of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act of 2005 on the future of the tongue and a review of Gaelic Print Media, Gaelic Publishing and Gaelic Broadcasting.  McLeod also delivers insight on the impact of the internet on the health of the Gaelic tongue: “As with other minority languages, the Gaelic presence on the internet has expanded …Gaelic may well be more widely written than ever…”

Gaelic medium education was excluded from the state school system by the colonial administration since 1872. The reintroduction of Gaelic-medium instruction in 1985 is described by McLeod as having given a boost to the tongue: “Given the traditional exclusion of Gaelic from the Scottish education system, the establishment and expansion of Gaelic-medium education has been a development of great significance for the language.”

The optimist will take heart from McLeod's statements on the impact of the  Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, “…which declares  Gaelic to be an official language of Scotland…(following) a decades-long campaign by Gaelic organisations, is a historic step forward for the language…The official language agency, Bòrd na Gàidhlig initially established in 2003, is now in place on statutory footing and given a range of specified powers and responsibilities including the preparation of a National Gaelic language plan and guidance to educational authorities with regard to Gaelic-Medium education”.

Since the publication of Dr. McLeod’s work the Bòrd na Gàidhlig issued its Annual Report for 2013/2014 attesting to the growth of Gaelic medium education and bolstering Professor McLeod's line of reasoning on the impact of Gealic-medium instruction:  “The 2011 census results gave us very encouraging evidence that the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland has almost stabilised since the census of 2001.  This is mainly due to the rise in Gaelic-medium education which has seen excellent growth since its inception in 1985. The trend shows that within the next ten years the long term decline of the language could be reversed. “

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