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Translator for Alasdair Morrison, MSP
"This is a unique day because it is the first time in 600 years that Gaelic has been spoken in a Scottish parliament"
 real 28k

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Gaelic broadcasting is flourishing in Scotland"
 real 28k

The BBC's Emma Simpson reports
"Today's generations of new speakers are barely able to replace the old"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 17:04 GMT
Gaelic lessons for parliament
Alasdair Morrison
Alasdair Morrison, MSP, opens the debate in Gaelic
The first bi-lingual Gaelic/English debate has been held in the Scottish Parliament with MSPs discussing the future of Gaelic education.

Translators unravelled the speeches for the majority of MSPs who do not speak the language.

Only two are fluent in Gaelic, although a handful of others are learning the tongue.

Twenty-five years ago that was a just a dream. Today we have a thriving and vibrant community, which attracts students from many parts of the world.

John Farquhar Munro
There were simultaneous translations for MSPs who wanted to take part in English.

Alasdair Morrison, MSP, opened the debate by saying he was proud to be speaking the language for the first time in a Scottish parliament in almost 600 years.

The discussion focused on the teaching of Gaelic in the classroom.

Last year saw the opening of Scotland's first dedicated Gaelic primary school.

There are now dedicated Gaelic schools in Glasgow and the Western Isles and another is planned for Inverness.

Education success

Lib Dem Gaelic spokesman John Farquhar Munro said: "The promotion of Gaelic medium education has been a resounding success, with the establishment of 58 Gaelic medium schools and a newly dedicated school in Glasgow.

"Taken together, they educate almost 2,000 pupils on a daily basis.

"We also have Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic College in Skye.

"Twenty-five years ago that was a just a dream. Today we have a thriving and vibrant community, which attracts students from many parts of the world.

Donald Dewar
First Minister Donald Dewar strains to follow the debate
"The Scottish Parliament must play its role in helping Gaelic fulfil its role in modern Scotland."

Gaelic has been officially recognised by the parliament from the start, although notice has to be given before MSPs are allowed to speak

The Scottish Executive has said it wants to encourage more pupils and teachers to learn the language.

However, it remains firmly in the minority with only 1% of the population speaking the language.

The parliament is also due to appoint a Gaelic officer, and the procedures committee will rule on whether motions to the parliament can be made in Gaelic or Scots as well as English.

Simultaneous translations were provided
The debate comes on the day the UK signed up to a European Charter on regional and minority languages.

Scottish Office Minister Brian Wilson said the charter was good news for Gaelic.

He said: "This will encourage and offer practical support to all who care for the future of Gaelic as a living language in Scotland.

"This is one of the ways in which the Government is fulfilling its commitment to enhance the status of Gaelic. The past few weeks has also seen a resurgence of debate about the future of Gaelic broadcasting, which involves the Scotland Office and the Department of Culture Media and Sport as well as the Scottish Executive.

"We are working together on the three crucial fronts - education, broadcasting and status - to ensure a healthy future for Gaelic as a vital thread in the fabric of Scottish life."

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See also:

29 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Gaelic comes to parliament
17 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Anger over Gaelic school snub
27 Jul 98 |  Education
Boost for Gaelic education
28 Jul 98 |  Education
Wilson backs Gaelic learning centre
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