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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 18:24 GMT
Gaelic call for school equality
Classroom chairs
Gaelic champions want it to be given equal status within the classroom
Gaelic campaigners claim Scotland's native tongue should be given equal status with English in schools in a bid to ensure its survival.

MSPs were told the Gaelic Language Bill would not protect its future and urged to make it compulsory for councils to provide Gaelic language education.

Comann nam PÓrant, a Gaelic support body, told the Education Committee the bill had been "watered down".

The bill is to be become law across Scotland by next September.

Iain MacIllichiar, of Comann nam PÓrant, which helps parents with children in Gaelic education, said the language should be given equality within Scottish classrooms - something which the current bill does not include.

Reluctant parents

He said mothers and fathers would be reluctant to commit their children to being taught in Gaelic until it was "legally established" as part of the education system.

The organisation also wants to give the public the right to conduct any court appearances in Gaelic in the areas where the language is most commonly used.

Meanwhile, Pam Talbot, convener of campaign group Clý GÓidhlig, told committee members Gaelic would be significantly strengthened if local authorities were given a duty to teach in the language.

She said: "People see Gaelic as a language that is spoken at home, in the church or at a ceilidh.

"It's very important that people are allowed access to it and to use it in everyday situations."

Pressure mounting

A major stumbling block to both the organisation's suggestions is the lack of Gaelic-medium teachers currently available across Scotland.

Pressure to protect the ancient language from extinction has increased in the wake of the 2001 Scottish census figures which found only 58,652 speakers across the country.

This figures compares poorly with those for 1991 where 66,320 spoke the language and 1891 where 254,415 used Gaelic as their mother tongue.

B˛rd na GÓidhlig has been handed the task of ensuring a future for the language.

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