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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February, 2005, 06:24 GMT
Gaelic first for new UK passports
Passports - generic
Gaelic is to feature in high-security passports
UK passports are to include details in Scottish Gaelic for the first time, it has been confirmed.

It will be used in all sections of new biometric passports with translations into EU member state languages.

The documents, which are set to be introduced in late 2005 or early 2006, are being designed by the UK Passport Service.

Scottish Secretary Alastair Darling said it is an "important recognition" by ministers of the Gaelic language.

He said: "Gaelic headings will be included in all key information sections of the new passport and this signifies the importance the government places on supporting the language."

The passports will include a chip, embedded in the document to boost security, containing personal details.

Mr Darling made the announcement as he prepared to visit Lewis and tour Consumer Direct - part of a UK-wide network of call centres providing consumer advice.

'European Charter'

Western Isles Labour MSP Alasdair Morrison, a Gaelic speaker, hailed the "major milestone" for the language.

He said: "Gaelic speakers have been campaigning for 30 years for recognition of the language in government services, so this is excellent news."

Donald Martin, chief executive of Comunn na Gaidhlig - the Gaelic Development Agency - said the announcement was good news for Scotland's Gaelic speakers.

He said: "This gives Gaelic a position it hasn't had before and is very much in line with the UK Government's obligations under the European Charter regarding regional and minority languages."

During his Western Isles trip, Mr Darling is also due to visit the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Centre, to thank staff for their work during severe storms in the Western Isles last month.

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