Gaelic survival in the balance

THE future of Gaelic as a viable language is ‘bleak’ without radical action, Education Secretary Michael Russell claims.

The Minister told MSPs heard that councils are unlikely to follow the aspirations of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, that every child should start their education in Gaelic.

In the Scottish Parliament, Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said the aspirations of his constituency’s local authority was that in future, every child – “as far as possible” – will start their education in Gaelic.

“Scottish population”

He said: “It is a very welcome aspiration. Does the minister agree that unless it becomes a reality it is difficult to foresee how Gaelic can survive in the islands as a community language?”

Mr Russell said he had every sympathy with the council and would be happy to lend his support to the initiative.

But he added: “Other authorities are very unlikely to take this route. Unless radical action is taken in terms of Gaelic in Scotland then the prospects for the language look bleak.”

The number of Gaelic speakers has been steadily declining over the past century. According to Census records there were just 58,652 speakers in 2001, or 1.2% of the Scottish population, the majority are in the Western Isles.

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