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Gaelic Bill disappoints

The publication of the draft Gaelic (Scotland) Bill has come as a disappointment to those who believed that government could and would always achieve more in legislation than private members.

The previous private member's Bill, whose passage was stymied by a procedural trick by the Executive when within an hour of completing its parliamentary timetable, was unable to tackle issues of Gaelic-medium education or Gaelic adult education because of the cost of such measures and the convention that private members' Bills cannot have a cost element without prior approval by Government - which on this occasion would certainly not have been given.

However the new Bill, even though emanating from government, makes no reference to education whatsoever. Peter Peacock, when Deputy Minister for Education, fought tooth and nail to prevent a right to Gaelic-medium education being written into the Standards in Schools Bill in 2000. Now as the full minister he has continued to refuse to accept such a basic right being enshrined in legislation.

He has also refused to bring forward proposals - attached to resources - which would ease access to Gaelic learning opportunities by adults, a matter which must be a key issue for the future of the language.

A Gaelic language Bill is an important step forward for Gaelic in Scotland and is therefore to be welcomed but the Bill as proposed does not take the issue far enough.

Comprehensive amendment will be required, and it is to be hoped that all parents of children in Gaelic-medium education, all parents whose children have been refused that opportunity and all teachers in such schools as well as local authorities themselves will lobby extensively to ensure that the Bill is developed along such lines.

Michael Russell


Glendaruel, Argyll

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