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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 19:03 GMT
Gaelic bill secures MSPs' support
Gaelic road sign
The bill will give Gaelic official recognition across Scotland
MSPs have unanimously given their support to a bill which would give the Gaelic language official status.

The legislation would require every public body in Scotland to draw up a Gaelic plan, and the recruitment of Gaelic teachers is to be stepped up.

In a debate partly conducted in Gaelic, Education Minister Peter Peacock said the legislation marked a historic turning point for the language.

The Gaelic Language Bill will now go to committee for further scrutiny.

The Scottish Executive hopes that the bill, which was unveiled last September, will complete its parliamentary process this summer.

I don't want to coerce people to speak Gaelic, I want to win converts to the cause of Gaelic
Peter Peacock
Education Minister

The legislation will create a new quango, Brd na Gidhlig, to oversee the development of Gaelic and secure its status as an official language.

Councils will also have to take account of any guidance by the quango on Gaelic-medium education, although concern has been raised that the education portion of the bill is not strong enough.

Mr Peacock said he was still considering calls to give Gaelic equal legal status with English.

He said: "I don't want to coerce people to speak Gaelic, I want to win converts to the cause of Gaelic. New laws alone cannot save Gaelic."

The minister said Gaelic was "the gateway to an entire culture, to a set of beliefs and values".

Child with Gaelic book
Questions have been raised over education provision

Launching an action group to tackle the need for more teachers, Mr Peacock said: "There are many fluent Gaelic speakers who might not have considered a teaching career perhaps because they can't study full-time or don't live near a teacher training college.

"That's why we need to introduce more flexible approaches like part-time courses or distance learning to meet the needs of all those who want to teach."

The group, which will produce a action plan by May, will also consider intensive language courses to help potential Gaelic teachers reach the language requirements.

Scottish National Party MSP Alex Neil told the debate that having official recognition of Gaelic was not enough.

"We need to go further. We want to give the Gaelic language equality with English but we don't want to force every agency to say in every document that's published in English is published in Gaelic," he said.

Effective revival

Tory MSP Lord James Douglas Hamilton said councils should be allowed to work together to develop Gaelic language plans, which are estimated to cost 10,000 to produce.

Liberal Democrat MSP John Farquhar Munro, a Gaelic speaker, said the bill was a step forward.

But he added: "For the effective revival of the language, its status needs to be secured in legislation.

"The Gaelic community needs to be encouraged, therefore the bill should state in the strongest possible terms that in the delivery of public services, Gaelic will be treated equally with English."

At the last census the number of people able to speak, read or write Gaelic had fallen to 65,674 by 2001 - a drop of 20% in 20 years.


SEE ALSO:
MSPs press for Gaelic commitment
26 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Gaelic secondary school approved
14 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Gaelic call for school equality
17 Nov 04 |  Scotland
Gaelic secondary school planned
21 May 04 |  Scotland
Ministers unveil new Gaelic law
28 Sep 04 |  Scotland


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