Gaelic language and the Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry

Please note that we have submitted a paper to See the box below for the full text.

Why the contribution is important

Bòrd na Gàidhlig is the principal public body in Scotland responsible for promoting Gaelic development and providing advice to the Scottish Ministers on Gaelic issues. The Scottish Government’s design of the Public Inquiry should reflect its existing policies and commitments regarding the Gaelic language. Scottish Government “recognises that Gaelic is an integral part of Scotland’s heritage, national identity and current cultural life” 1 . It “remains committed to supporting the Gaelic language and aims to ensure that the those who wish to live their lives through the language are afforded the opportunities to do so” 2 . That includes a commitment to “ensure that Gaelic speakers in island communities are encouraged and supported to represent themselves through the medium of Gaelic” 3 . Therefore, the Inquiry should include the use of Gaelic in its engagement with stakeholders and the public. That would include in: • Any further consultation or information documents that are issued. • Stakeholders and the public being able to submit written responses in Gaelic. • Those giving evidence in person being able to do so in Gaelic. This will help to meet Scottish Ministers expectation that the Inquiry will adopt “a person-centered, human rights based approach to ensure that every person and organisation taking part can meaningfully participate, be treated fairly and be empowered to take part” 4 . The Inquiry itself should consider the impacts on Gaelic and Gaelic speaking communities as part of its review of the “four harms” 5 . For “other health impacts” this would look at the extent of use/availability of Gaelic in healthcare settings. It is generally recognised that Gaelic speaking patients or care-recipients being able to converse with staff in their own language can be a source of comfort at what is a difficult time. Again, there is a Scottish Government commitment in this regard, that: “To improve and promote health and wellbeing we will……ensure that health, social care and wellbeing services are available through the medium of Gaelic to support Gaelic speaking island communities” 6 . Within “societal impacts, including education” the Inquiry should consider any specific or distinct impacts on Gaelic Medium Education across all age groups and settings. Within “economic impacts” consideration should be given to the nature and severity of impacts in Gaelic speaking rural and island communities. They appear to have been hit particularly hard due to their dependence on some of the most affected sectors. In particular, tourism, the arts and culture. That is in a context of some islands/areas already being economically fragile, including a high proportion of micro/small enterprises with fewer resources to cope with a significant downturn in demand. The negative economic and social impacts of Covid in these communities have the potential to make them less attractive places to live. This could lead to a loss of Gaelic speakers over time. That would weaken the language in areas where Gaelic is relatively strong and is the first language for a sizeable proportion of people. These areas are very important to the overall sustainability of Gaelic in Scotland. Scottish Government has committed to “work with relevant authorities to improve Gaelic provision for Gaelic speaking island communities in delivering their functions and services” 7 . Therefore, the Inquiry should, in the context of the impacts of Covid, seek views from Gaelic speakers - particularly those in the islands - for recommendations on how to deliver services to them through the medium of Gaelic. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

by brianoheadhra on September 30, 2021 at 04:19PM

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