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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 17:36 GMT
MSPs approve Gaelic bill
Gaelic book
Mr Russell said the Gaelic population supported the bill
A bill which would place Gaelic on an equal footing with English has received unanimous support in the Scottish Parliament.

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill was brought forward by Scottish National Party MSP Mike Russell.

The bill's provisions currently only cover the Highlands, the Western Isles, part of Argyll and Bute and the islands of Arran, Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae.

It would force some public bodies to treat the two languages "on a basis of equality".

'Keep it alive'

The proposals were debated at stage one by parliament on Thursday, with MSPs asked to agree its general principles.

MSPs gave their support but the bill is unlikely to be able to complete its passage through parliament before the 1 May elections.

The Scottish Executive, which gave its qualified support for the bill, said it would bring forward a similar bill in the next parliamentary session if it was re-elected.

Mr Russell said "virtually the entire Gaelic community" wants the bill to become law.

He said that as many as 90% of the world's 6,000 languages were in danger of extinction.

"It will die unless we can do everything we can this afternoon 'we' means each one of us in this chamber - to keep it alive."

Culture Minister Mike Watson
Mike Watson gave the executive's qualified support

Culture Minister Mike Watson said it could work - but only with a number of changes.

He said: "We believe there are significant shortcomings of the bill as it stands and these are reflected in the views of the committee.

"In view of their intentions to take further evidence on important aspects of the bill before it proceeds further, I am pleased to signify that the executive will support the motion."

The education committee has backed the bill.

Committee convener Karen Gillon said MSPs should back it despite a gap between its expectations and what it could actually achieve.

She said the committee was concerned there was no estimate of the costs associated with implementing the legislation.

Jamie McIvor reports
"The education committee endorsed the general principles of the bill"

Call to protect native tongue
20 Feb 03 |  Scotland
The mother tongue lives on
13 Feb 03 |  Scotland
Gael warning over language
04 Sep 02 |  Scotland

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