Public gives Gaelic a lukewarm reception

26th August 2011 at 01:00
But most believe it should play a bigger part in education, survey reveals

Support for Gaelic from the Scottish public is only lukewarm - but most people still believe it should have a bigger role in education.

When it comes to the introduction of a more general school topic of Scottish studies, public support is more clear-cut, with nine out of 10 people in favour of it.

A Scottish Government survey of 1,009 people found "moderate support for the Gaelic language, and for Gaelic to be used more in Scotland".

There was little hostility towards the language, "but a sizeable proportion simply did not have an opinion on the role of Gaelic in Scotland today - with the language being far removed from the norm for many".

The report finds that the issue lies not with awareness of Gaelic, which is already high, thanks mostly to the media, but with the perception that Gaelic is not particularly relevant to modern Scotland.

Some 86 per cent believe school pupils who wish to learn the language should be allowed to do so, and 63 per cent agree it should be promoted more within education.

But the report stresses that such learners are a small group within Scotland's overall population: "for many there is currently no appetite for learning Gaelic".

There are distinct regional variations, with people in the Highlands and islands and Glasgow - which has had a popular Gaelic medium secondary school since 2006 - significantly more likely than people elsewhere to agree strongly that Gaelic should be a school subject.

The report underlines that showing the importance of Gaelic to Scotland as whole is crucial.

A lukewarm response to Gaelic marks progress, believes Learning and Skills Minister Alasdair Allan, who in an interview with TESS this week says that "mockery of Gaelic is in decline".

Bord na Gaidhlig chair Arthur Cormack said: "Each time the public has been asked, the majority support the maintenance of the Gaelic language and recognise the need for greater access to learning the language.

"The public has also been consistent in its desire that Scotland does not lose its Gaelic identity and Bord na Gaidhlig - through the delivery of the National Plan for Gaelic and other measures - will continue to promote Gaelic as a language for the whole of Scotland."

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has reaffirmed its manifesto commitment to a topic of Scottish studies.

Dr Allan said it should be a part of a pupil's entire time at primary and secondary school.

A Government spokesman stressed that the development of Scottish studies - including history, culture, heritage, language and literature - was still at an early stage; it might be that several parts of the curriculum contributed to the topic.

Accusations that Scottish studies represented an SNP plan to indoctrinate pupils with arguments for Scottish independence - a view put forward by Labour education spokesman Ken Macintosh - were dismissed by Dr Allan as an idea that would not be taken seriously.

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk

Alasdair Allan interview, page 16;

Languages, page 33

SPEAKING OF LANGUAGE LEARNING .

90 per cent agree that pupils should be taught Scottish studies.

81 per cent feel it is important that Scotland does not lose its Gaelic language traditions.

70 per cent believe there should be more opportunities to learn Gaelic.

63 per cent think more should be done to promote Gaelic within education.

53 per cent would like to see more Gaelic in Scottish life.

43 per cent believe more subjects should be taught in Gaelic at school.

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