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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Plans to protect Gaelic
Street sign
The plans are aimed at charting a way forward for Gaelic
Proposals designed to protect and promote the Gaelic language have been outlined by First Minister Jack McConnell.

Mr McConnell said the draft legislation would mean official recognition for the language and place a responsibility on public bodies to promote its use.

The proposals follow concern about a fall in Gaelic speakers and criticism that government has historically failed to support it.

Speaking at the Gaelic culture festival the Royal National Mod, Mr McConnell said it was an "historic" day when ministers were fulfilling a promise to ensure the language's future.

I want to see more Gaelic speakers in Scotland and we are beginning to see signs of that already
Peter Peacock
Education Minister
He said: "We want to secure the place of Gaelic as a living part of Scottish life, to promote the language's everyday use and increase the appreciation of its place and value in Scottish culture."

The first minister said public bodies would have to "consider the need for a Gaelic language plan" in the services they offer.

The legislation would also put the organisation Bord na Gaidhlig (BnaG) on a legal footing in promoting the language and in coming up with a national Gaelic language plan.

He told those attending the 100th Mod in Oban that the legislation will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in the summer.

Native languages

BnaG chairman Duncan Ferguson said his organisation would benefit from new powers.

He said: "The new duties on all public bodies in Scotland to consider Gaelic language plans for their services, when taken together with the guidelines we will issue on how to exercise those duties, gives a clear route to providing more opportunities to use Gaelic in everyday situations."

Last year an official report said that the language, which is spoken by an estimated 70,000 people, is in "severe danger" of dying out.

The proposals follow the example of other European nations who have protected their native languages through legislation.

Education Minister Peter Peacock rejected claims that the bill is a largely symbolic gesture.

'Strong support'

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he said: "This bill is a hugely important step forward and a truly historic day for Scotland.

"I want to see Gaelic not just survive but thrive. I want to see more Gaelic speakers in Scotland and we are beginning to see signs of that already."

However, the Scottish National Party has warned that the powers in the bill do not go as far as it would have liked.

Culture spokeswoman Roseanna Cunningham said: "I'm keen to ensure that there is strong support for Gaelic education and broadcasting.

"It's important to remember that today's publication marks the start of a consultation process and I urge as many individuals and organisations as possible who are interested in the future of Gaelic to take part in the process and make their views known."

Gaelic first for parents
03 Jun 03  |  Scotland
MSPs approve Gaelic bill
06 Mar 03  |  Scotland
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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