Forcing Gaelic on our schools is wrong, says MSP

The conflict between a Scottish government desire to offer Gaelic education and a search locally for spending cuts has come under renewed scrutiny.

Tavish Scott with the report based on the findings of his health survey. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Tavish Scott: “Forcing Gaelic on Shetland is not the right approach.”  Photo: Dave Donaldson

Isles MSP Tavish Scott has accused the SNP-led authority of forcing the SIC to use a portion of its stretched finances to teach Gaelic in schools – despite a lack of Gaelic tradition in the Northern Isles.

It comes as Scottish Parliament scrutiny of the Education (Scotland) Bill is due to take place at Holyrood today.

Mr Scott, who initially raised concerns last year, fears that providing Gaelic education at the request of parents would become a law that local authorities would have to implement.

Shetland Islands Council face £3 million of cuts caused by the Scottish government budget allocations to local authorities.

There have already been warnings that schools will face further cuts as a result of the move, with suggestions that the prospect of school closures will have to be considered again. Mr Scott says there is no new money for Gaelic, and a nationwide shortage of Gaelic teachers.

“Once again, the Scottish government has refused to recognise that there is no tradition of Gaelic in Shetland. Yet Shetland Islands Council could be left in a position where it is forced to use some of its already stretched budget to fund Gaelic education.

“I know that many parents, teachers and pupils in Shetland will wonder why their government impose an approach to education that would take money away from the needs of schools across the islands.

“It’s time for the Scottish government to recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach to education is not right. Indeed, if the government were ever to look at Shetland’s historical language connections they would find that we have far more ties with Norwegian than Gaelic.

“Our primary school teachers are already helping pupils with languages. Languages for that the next generation need and want to learn. Forcing Gaelic on Shetland is not the right approach.”


Add Your Comment
  • William Hunter

    • February 2nd, 2016 14:15

    I agree. Doesn’t make much sense.

    • Domhnall MacCoinnich

      • February 3rd, 2016 11:43

      Yes it doesn’t make sense at all. If there is no demand in Shetland from parents no one will be forced to
      start or send their children to a Gaelic school. So what is he going on about then? Oh, that is right he is just trying to cause trouble for the SNP through trying to stir up prejudice against a minority language and culture with a history of oppression in Scotland.

      So, what happens if there are a sufficient number of parents on Shetland who want their children in Gaelic medium education? Should they be denied because Tavish thinks they shouldn’t exist?

      If Tavish is right and there is no desire in Shetland then he has no point because there will not be enough parents who demand it. If he is wrong then he should not stand in the way of what people want. His party and Labour and the Tories have all supported the Gaelic language and culture when in office and their party manifestos will too have this support in them I am sure.

      You are right. What tavish is saying makes no sense. Not for the first time either.

      • Wayne Conroy

        • February 3rd, 2016 15:32

        @Domhnall MacCoinnich – This has nothing to do with anyone being prejudice against Gaelic.

        You argue “So, what happens if there are a sufficient number of parents on Shetland who want their children in Gaelic medium education? Should they be denied because Tavish thinks they shouldn’t exist?” No… they should be denied it because there is no basis for Gaelic to be taught in Shetland schools. Gaelic has never been common tongue in Shetland and to be forced to use already stretched resources on the promotion/teaching of it would be a huge waste of said resources that could be better spent on keeping proposed local school closures from happening.

        I would even go as far as to argue that just about every other language on the planet has more basis to be taught in Shetland schools as it would be more beneficial to the children as they grow up. Should we force schools to teach them all too?

        Look at it this way… Should we force an area that already uses Gaelic as common tongue to promote/teach the Shetland Dialect just because the Scottish Government are forcing the issue? What if a few parents of said area wished their children to learn the Shetland dialect… Should their schools be forced to use stretched resources to promote and teach it?

      • Robert Lowes

        • February 4th, 2016 0:34

        You do realise, Domhnall, that there is absolutely no history of Gaelic being spoken in either Shetland or Orkney? The chances of parents and pupils demanding as such here, is about as likely as the SNP leadership admitting the Tory win in the General Election was the result they secretly wanted all along. This is about as far from ‘trying to stir up prejudice’ as you can get. Tavish is merely (and absolutely correctly) pointing out that for the SNP government to force a language nationwide, even on those areas where Gaelic has never been spoken, is a massive waste of money, and a one-size-fits all approach to government that simply doesn’t work.

        Indeed, one might point out that prior to Shetland becoming part of Scotland, we had our own completely separate language – Norn. And that it was the Scots who forced Shetland schools to teach lessons in English, leading to Norn to die out. Or, if one wanted a more recent parallel, one might also point out that the SNP are effectively imposing the sort of cultural imperialism that Scots Nationalists love to accuse England of. There’s something of a double standard there, don’t you think?

      • Derick Tulloch

        • February 4th, 2016 12:12

        Robert Lowes. You are incorrect.

        Before Shetland was temporarily thieved by hairy foreigners it was part of the Pictish Kingdoms of Scotland. Shetland is referred to as Insse Catt in the Irish Annals. ‘Islands of the Catts’ – the same Pictish tribe who gave their name to Cattanes (Caithness).

        Therefore the language spoken was Pictish, which is a close relation of Gaelic. Therefore your argument is reduced to smithereens (a Gaelic word)

        And the evidence is all around us, in the placenames, for those that have eyes to see. Both pre-norse survivals, such as the very name of Shetland itself, and post norse Gaelic. All the burns and lochs. The A of B syntax (like Brig a Fitch or Burn a Vatchie). Brae, Melby, Da Birrier o Aest Yell. We are surrounded by Celtic placenames, which the Noggin the Nog Fake Vikings have carelessly obscured by their monomania.

        As indeed Dr Jacobsen himself found, devoting a whole chapter of his book to celtic placenames in Shetland.

        Marwick’s paper on Celtic names in Orkney is online. Google ‘Celtic Placenames in Orkney’ by Ernest Marwick. Allt Maen ‘High rock’. In modern parlance ‘The Old Man of Hoy’

      • Gareth Fair

        • February 7th, 2016 17:41

        The evidence points to Pictish being closely related to the Brittonic language spoken prior to Anglo-Saxon settlement in what is now southern Scotland, England and Wales.
        The theory it was related to Gaelic, although popular in the 19th century, has now been comprehensively rejected.

        Gaelic in Scotland is reckoned to have come from Irish settlers with the eventual Gaelicisation of Scotland becoming comprehensive in the 11th Century.
        It is clear that Gaelic had ceased to be the language of all of Scotland by 1400 at the latest.
        As Shetland was never colonised by the Gaels nor indeed part of Scotland until 1472 it seems fair to say there is not much Gaelic history in Shetland.

  • David Spence

    • February 2nd, 2016 15:22

    If Shetland bairns, given Shetlands close ties with Scandinavia, were to learn a language, one would have expected it to be Norwegian, Danish or Swedish, rather than a language which is, in affect, completely alien to Shetland in terms of cultural, historical and social backgrounds.

    Mind you, it was not that long ago pupils in Yell, I think, were going to learn Chinese (with a very high probability they would never use it after there academic years were over) so, I guess one should not complain too much in regards to the geographical source of the language in comparison to the likely hood it would ever be used.

    However, I agree with Tavish, in regards to Shetland pupils would be better served learning, as mentioned, Norwegian rather than Gaelic as our ties with Norway are far stronger, and the likelihood such a language as Norwegian would probably be used more than gaelic.

    • Derick Tulloch

      • February 2nd, 2016 23:07

      Setting aside Tavish’s fact free drivel (in that no local authority will be “forced” to do any such thing unless there is parental demand for it) there is actually little sign of these fantasy “ties” to Norway.

      Jacob Jacobsen told Ernest Marwick that he considered that 10-20% of place names in Orkney and Shetland are of Celtic origin. Although likely the fake Vikings will pay no heed to that part of the Faeroeman’s work.

      Boys, awa and set you doun bi da nearest burn (Gaelic) or loch (Gaelic) or broch (nane in Norway) and do some reading.

    • Sandy McDonald

      • February 8th, 2016 2:49

      The languages being taught at my daughters school are currently: Chinese, and, wait for it; Latin…. Chinese I can understand. Latin is perhaps as about as applicable as Gaelic. But if it’s just an introductory thing at primary school it maybe isn’t such an issue. Although I think it might make more sense to teach languages the kids are going to be able to continue at a high school in Shetland – French, German and Spanish for example. Particularly in the last three years of primary.

      • Robert Duncan

        • February 8th, 2016 9:15

        Knowledge of Latin is still hugely useful , as the base of our own and many others. Those with knowledge of it have a better understanding of our own language and find it easier to learn many others.

        I’m not of the opinion that Gaelic is useless either and believe many of the arguments put forward are similar to those that reared their head when it was announced schools would start teaching Chinese. Learning a language is not all about becoming fluent or about purely vocational skills. Obviously it should not be thrust upon people over over languages if the demand is not there, but that is not what is happening, and if a sufficient number of parents wish for their children to learn Gaelic then I see no issue.

  • Andy Holt

    • February 2nd, 2016 16:36

    If our position in OECD league tables is anything to go by, near the bottom for literacy and numeracy, perhaps we should be teaching our children English, alongside encouraging the practice written and spoken Shetland dialect.


      • February 3rd, 2016 6:48

      Just to supply a few facts, in case they are of interest, here is a quotation from the recent OECD report, ‘Improving Schools in Scotland: An OECD Perspective’:

      “A snapshot of Scotland’s performance in the most recent PISA survey shows Scottish
      15-year-olds to be above the OECD average in reading and science while similar to the average in mathematics. ”

      The report makes clear that there was a drop in secondary-school attainment in these areas but it was between 2003 and 2006 and performance has stabilised since then. It also points out that Curriculum for Excellence has not been in place long enough to make assertions about its effects, if any, on attainment.

      • iantinkler

        • February 3rd, 2016 12:13

        Robert Sim, not a single Scottish University in the top ten ranks for science subjects (STEM). ( Compair that with England, Whales and Ireland. Scotland not so bad at the M Mouse degree and a World leader in Higher Gaelic studies. How very useful in a modern world, perhaps OK for tribal Nationalism and acquired naval gazing.

      • Robert Duncan

        • February 3rd, 2016 12:58

        Which Welsh and Irish universities rank in the top ten, Ian? Serious question as I cannot access a conclusive list via your link, and don’t have time to search subject by subject. In all honesty I don’t recall ever seeing a Welsh university rank above the top Scottish universities for anything significant, and I think our best universities generally outperform Trinity College Dublin and therefore Ireland too.

        Of course English universities are higher ranked, but that far predates devolution, let alone the SNP.

      • iantinkler

        • February 4th, 2016 10:15

        “our best universities” That says it all, Robert Duncan. “Our best universities”, I always understood that to be the whole of the UK with citizens of Eire most welcome. The divisive nature of the SNP has made it ours and theirs. Sadly the Scottish Universities are failing in the MAST Subjects. Theirs, as you name them Robert D, (the English Welsh and Irish) out perform spectacularly all but the top Unis in the USA which they generally match. Must be something about student fees paying for the very top lecturers, never mind SNP mediocrity is at least free, pity the results match the cost. What is the old adage, You pay for what you get. Pay peanuts get monkeys!

      • Robert Duncan

        • February 4th, 2016 16:16

        Again I ask, Ian, which Irish and Welsh universities outperform Scotland? What is the basis for this claim? The link you posted certainly doesn’t evidence it. Of course I’m going to talk about the best universities when you refer to Top 10s. Let’s say average instead. Where is the evidence that the average Welsh or Irish university outperforms the average Scottish university?

        The claim that Welsh or Irish universities “outperform all but the top US universities” is so far from the truth that I struggle to think you could actually believe it.

        Just to note, when I did trawl through the rankings you posted, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews appear at various point in and around the top 50s. Sometimes as high as the top 30. In UK terms this is equivalent to top 10. No Irish or Welsh university does likewise.

      • Ian Tinkler

        • February 5th, 2016 17:26

        Robert Duncan , you sadly misunderstand. I was referring to (the English Welsh and Irish) collectively, as most English, Welsh and Irish share facilities. Only the SNP has set Scotland apart with its attitudes to fees, or lack of. Much to the detriment, in my view, of all young Scots. I am sorry if that was not clear to you. How long before the Scottish Unis have to teach in Gaelic, will make science interesting as no Gaelic translation of so many STEM nouns and adjectives, problem with an old language. I wonder what the Gaelic is for “Sub acute bacterial endocarditis or fissile nuclear sub critical atomic trigger) or for that mater telephone? just joking lol.

      • Robert Duncan

        • February 9th, 2016 11:16

        Great, so another largely irrelevant point. “Not a single Scottish university”, also largely translatable as “Not a single British university outside of Oxford and Cambridge (and occasionally Imperial London)”. What a silly comment, sillier still if you actually believe that SNP policies have much bearing on this, given the world renown of Oxbridge predates not only devolution but their mere existence as a party.

        You’ll find that Scottish universities have actually climbed in most world rankings in recent years.

      • iantinkler

        • February 9th, 2016 14:05

        Robert Duncan, what a silly comment, you believe it, a largely irrelevant point. “Not a single Scottish university” featuring in the world top listing for science, technology, engineering and maths attainment! Wow, you must have a very simple view on education if you feel that is not of relevance in a modern world. Incidentally many other Colleges and Universities feature above the Scotlands Unis in STEM subjects, in the rest of the UK. Robert Duncan your comment “translatable as “Not a single British university outside of Oxford and Cambridge (and occasionally Imperial London” is disingenuous claptrap, are you are just making it up as you write?
        I list just a few which all outperform Scotland’s best, excluding Oxbridge, and Imperial College London, ,
        University College London.i
        The University of Manchester
        King’s College London
        Newcastle University
        University of Bristol
        The University of Sheffield
        Cranfield University
        University of East Anglia
        London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
        Reference ;

      • Robert Duncan

        • February 10th, 2016 1:41

        Mr Tinkler, you referred to top ten global universities, so my point regarding Oxbridge and occassionaly Imperial is not at all disingenuous. Find me one instance of another British university appearing in the top ten. If you meant UK top tens and not global, as your words clearly implied, you might want to take a look closer to home before you accuse others of attempting to mislead.

      • Ian Tinkler

        • February 11th, 2016 10:48

        Robert Duncan, before writing you should do a little research. I am not certain whether you are simple making things up as you go along. However, you are making wholly ignorant comments, which indeed is very foolish without checking your facts first. The list below are University colleges in the UK with courses in the World Top Ten (Excluding Oxbridge and Imperial College). Listed college, course and world (global) ranking.
        University College, (UCL) Architecture, World rank 2. Kings College (KCL) Dentistry, World rank 7 Manchester University Development studies, World rank 3. Royal Veterinary College, World Rank 2. London School of Economics (LSE) World rank 2, Geography, 2 Social Science.
        This list is not definitive nor comprehensive but these colleges spring to mind, sadly no Scottish College comes even close.

      • iantinkler

        • February 12th, 2016 6:59

        The number of qualified teachers working in Scotland’s nurseries has fallen by nearly a third (29%) over the decade, according to the study. All that before the SNP vicious cuts to local authorities, hitting schools. Scottish Universities, now Scottish nurseries (never mind our kids will all talk Gaelic, pity no hardly anyone else on Earth speaks Gaelic, may help trade with Eire, maybe not, forgot primary language there is English. Any comments Robert Duncan and Robert Sim, cat got your tongues?

  • Ali Inkster

    • February 2nd, 2016 18:52

    Maybe instead of opposing the snp nutcases we should embrace their ideals and insist every bairn that wants can be taught Norn, and all emergency service personnel are trained to converse in Orkney and Shetland dialect. Or does that sound just a peerie bit nuts.

    • Robin Stevenson

      • February 3rd, 2016 21:17

      Actually, that’s not as daft as you may think it is Ali?

      Keeping an ancient language alive is [imo] no bad thing. Yes, even Norn/Norse at least then people would know what the Shetland motto meant? Með lögum skal land byggja.

      A good point Ali, which was slightly better than your comment on Bella’s website? 🙂

      • Derick Tulloch

        • February 5th, 2016 16:00

        Why not Pictish rather than Norn. Both equally relevant (and dead)

  • Michael Inkster

    • February 2nd, 2016 19:26

    Wouldn’t an option of haddock once a week would be more popular and beneficial than Gaelic to the majority of schoolchildren in Shetland?

  • Niall Tracey

    • February 2nd, 2016 19:31

    I’m a little confused — there doesn’t appear to be anything in the article to suggest that the Scottish Government is attempting any such action. Is there anything behind the story, or is it just a member of an embattled party seeking to stir up otherwise non-existant divisions for the sake of his own popularity.

  • Laura McHard

    • February 2nd, 2016 20:53

    Latin would be more useful than Gaelic. At least you can figure out what people are saying in quite a few countries if you have basic Latin. Gaelic-no help whatsoever. Please teach my paramedic advanced life support, not a useless language…

    • iantinkler

      • February 3rd, 2016 10:46

      Niall Tracey, perhaps reading a paper or a surf on the internet my enlighten you. Try, ( To Quote Sturgeon at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig [Gaelic College] lecture, where she will highlight the role Gaelic has to play in the economic and cultural future of Scotland’s islands. ” Gaelic to be a vital part of The New Scotland”.
      To cost this nearly obsolete and irrelevant language.

      What is spent on Gaelic? In 2014-15 £28.48m.
      £6.53m – Education £4m – School infrastructure projects.
      £285,000 – Road signs. . Reference

      “”the role Gaelic has to play in the economic and CULTURE AND FUTURE OF SCOTISH ISLANDS. ” Gaelic to be a vital part of The New Scotland”” Rather gives the the view of the almighty Sturgeon!!!!

      • Niall Tracey

        • February 3rd, 2016 20:31

        Highlighting a “vital role” is a meaningless soundbite, of which there are more than enough in politics. It makes no statement about spend, or about policy. If you have a look at any public body’s language plan, you’ll notice a lot of hedged bets, with a lot of clauses marked “where appropriate”. The wording of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, which mandates these plans, says that councils have to give consideration, not that they have to actually do anything.

        I don’t believe Shetland Council have published a Gaelic Language Plan yet. When they do (and I believe they will have to, because it’s part of the 2005 act) it will probably simply show some census figures and state that there is no requirement for any Gaelic provision, and you know what? No-one will have a problem with that, not the Gaels, not the government, not the Shetlanders.

        This is a storm in a teacup.

    • John Tulloch

      • February 3rd, 2016 11:01

      How right you are, Laura!

      My two years of Latin at AEI/AHS from the elsewhere-mentioned (late) Donald Mac Donald and Jean Marwick, have served me very well indeed over the years and continue to do so.

    • Robert Sim

      • February 3rd, 2016 15:01

      Latin is indeed incredibly useful, Laura and John too. I studied it to Higher level at school myself. I learned the origins of many English words that way, including for example the word ‘Philistine’.

  • Brian Gray

    • February 2nd, 2016 20:57

    How about giving the money to save the shetland dialect, most of the youngsters talk with a Scottish accent now.
    now in my dialect.
    Gee do da clink tae keep wir wy o spikin fae deein oot, aa da youngeens knapp we a sooth moother’s wy o spikin.

  • john irvine

    • February 2nd, 2016 21:53

    This is what you get when you vote SNP.

  • allan thompson

    • February 2nd, 2016 22:09

    Perhaps Shetlanders should demand UDI if a separatist Scotland break away from the UK, they too have the same argument.

    • Domhnall MacCoinnich

      • February 3rd, 2016 11:33

      Perhaps the North of England, Cornish and welsh will want to demand UDI from the rUK. So what?

  • Dave Cassidy

    • February 3rd, 2016 0:09

    The ridiculous Gaelicification of anything and everything is purely for the purpose of trying to create a perceived difference between Scots and English. It’s an utterly ridiculous and risible policy. But then, so too is the SNP. The worrying thing is that it’s not only laughable; it’s destryoing Scotland and the chances of children as their education is sacrificed on the alter of SNP bigotry and incompetence.
    The sooner the SNP is gone the better.

  • Donald MacLeod

    • February 3rd, 2016 2:00

    I am sure that Tavish Scott is an honourable Liberal politician who would not choose to mislead his electorate on matters of fact. I presume Mr Scott has read the relevant Education Bill and knows that no Council is “forced” to consider offering Scottish Gaelic education to any child, unless requested by a number of families demonstrating an ongoing need beyond year one. This is unlikely in Shetland – provision for other languages, i.e. Norwegian, can be considered, like any foreign language, by education committees.

    I agree with those who say that Shetland dialect is worthy of strong educational support – if you lose language you lose culture, then you have nothing.

    Perhaps Mr Scott might like to know that I spoke Gaelic – my mother tongue – pretty much every day of my secondary education at the Anderson (AEI then AHS), between 1968 and 73, conversing regularly with teachers Donald MacDonald (a Gaelic speaker from North Uist) and the wonderful polyglot Derek Herning, who spoke Gaelic as one of his many languages. I do not think that carrying Gaelic, the Shetland dialect or English around with me for most of my life has done me anything other than good.

    • iantinkler

      • February 3rd, 2016 10:56

      “I do not think that carrying Gaelic, the Shetland dialect or English around with me for most of my life has done me anything other than good”, that is interesting, Donald MacLeod. Now give us a single example of what good that language has done you or humanity which could not be served just as well, for example, by Latin, Ancient Greek or Neandertal. That is apart from fostering a nationalist ego?

      • Robert Sim

        • February 3rd, 2016 14:26

        You speak Neanderthal, Ian?

    • David Spence

      • February 3rd, 2016 11:05

      Exactly, Donald. As somebody once said to me ‘ Kill the language and you’ll kill the Culture and way of Life. ‘.

    • John Tulloch

      • February 3rd, 2016 11:20

      Hi Donald,

      Still keeping goal, I see, nowadays for the SNP – you certainly won’t get bored in that role!

      Hint: don’t bat the ball straight back out to the opposition’s forward line 🙂

      “What the Bill seeks to do

      “The Scottish Government has published a Policy Memorandum to accompany the Bill. According to the Policy Memorandum, the Bill specifically aims to:”

      “Place a duty on education authorities …. to actively promote and support Gaelic medium education (GME) and Gaelic learner education; …. ”

      • Robert Sim

        • February 3rd, 2016 13:35

        And your point is, John? The SIC will be able to meet that requirement by putting a few lines on its website.

        (I have also to ask what sport you’re playing if you are batting the ball to the opposition’s forward line? Maybe the closest one is shinty, appropriately enough?)

      • John Tulloch

        • February 3rd, 2016 15:36

        It’s what inexperienced goalkeepers who can’t catch and hold the ball do, Robert – they “bat” the ball out with flat hands, instead of directing it to safety or to one of their own team – and you’ve just repeated the same error.

        As it stands, councils will have imposed on them a “duty to actively promote AND SUPPORT Gaelic medium education (GME) and Gaelic learner education;..”

        The SIC cannot fulfil that duty to “support” Gaelic by refusing lessons when requested and no amount of ‘extensional pruning’ by you and other SNP supporters can make it otherwise.

      • Robert Sim

        • February 3rd, 2016 17:00

        John, you say: “The SIC cannot fulfil that duty to “support” Gaelic by refusing lessons when requested…”. Here’s an extract from the Bill to assist you:

        “Where, following an initial assessment in relation to a GMPE assessment area—
        (a) the authority is satisfied that the conditions in subsection (6) are met, the authority
        must determine that there is a potential need for GMPE in the area,
        (b) the authority is not satisfied that those conditions are met, the authority must
        determine that there is no potential need for GMPE in the area.”

        And the conditions are quite stringent, by the way, and unlikely ever to be met in Shetland. But the point is that an authority CAN refuse GMPE “when requested”.


      • February 3rd, 2016 12:04

      Interesting, Donald. And of course you and Derick Tulloch are entirely correct in seeing that this “story” is just the MSP politicking. Now that the Bill is an Act, it still the case that, while parents are entitled to ask for Gaelic Medium Primary Education (GMPE), they have no right to receive it.

      Of course, anyone in their right mind who was that keen on GMPE would not see Shetland as a good place to make the request; and that emphasises that the situation is extremely unlikely ever to arise in Shetland.

      (Did you mean Donald Campbell, rather than Donald MacDonald? The former taught English.)


        • February 3rd, 2016 14:29

        Donald MacDonald was a Latin teacher from North Uist. He was – like Donald Campbell from Lewis – also a Gaelic speaker. More proof, if any were required, that having two languages improves your proficiency in other tongues.

        And that includes English.

      • John Tulloch

        • February 3rd, 2016 16:43

        Absolutely, Donald M, and none better for that second language than Latin which – the late D MacD taught it excellently – provides a splendid framework for learning others and as you say, English itself.

        Gaelic is fine and it’s fine to support it where it’s spoken or, at least, relevant. I learned some basics when I lived in South Uist for a short time but I did so of my own volition, at my own expense.

        The SNP has no right to impose what is, effectively, a foreign language on Shetland on the basis that it’s “our” language.

      • Robert Sim

        • February 3rd, 2016 17:15

        Thanks, Donald Murray, and my apologies to Donald MacLeod for not reading his post properly and missing his mention of the period to which he was referring.

        And you are quite right, too, on the benefits of true bilingualism. Indeed, being properly bilingual in any pair of languages has now been shown through research to increase attainment all round – to increase one’s intelligence, in fact.

      • iantinkler

        • February 4th, 2016 12:41

        Indeed, being properly bilingual in any pair of languages has now been shown through research to increase attainment all round – to increase one’s intelligence, in fact. That’s great, Robert, Perhaps it requires a degree of higher intelligence to go for a second language which is understood and spoken worldwide.

    • iantinkler

      • February 4th, 2016 10:26

      Robert Sim, I wish I did. Neanderthals, lived in small peaceful family groups, never formed tribes, hated anyone (not even the English, sorry Westminster), became Nationalistic, belligerent or divisive. Never painted their faces blue, wrapped themselves up in flags or forced their language on anyone. Vast improvement on today’s modern man, just look at the ravings of “the 45”, trolling on the internet..

  • Jane Gardiner

    • February 3rd, 2016 7:45

    What I want to know is how many SNP Mps speak Gaelic ??? Until they do then surely they have no right to impose it on others, especially those who have no desire to learn it. On top of that, not everyone is good at basic English, never mind a language as difficult as Gaelic !!!

    • Domhnall MacCoinnich

      • February 3rd, 2016 11:17

      Gaelic is not difficult. More stupid prejudice. Also, the kids that are learning Gaelic are also outstripping the kids with a monolingual education in their use of English. Plus if they want to learn another language later they are at a clear advantage as bilinguals learn other languages far more easily than thiose with one language. Monolingual people are at a distinct disadvantage you see. Ah, you cry, but why not learn Chinese, French, Spanish etc. (a host of imperial languages). Well who is stopping you? These languages are taught in schools in Scotland but what is the take up? How many are fluent by the end of their schooling?

      No one is forcing anyone to learn Gaelic. Facts rarely matter when bigots sound off though.

      • Robin Barclay

        • February 3rd, 2016 14:17

        You don’t seem to understand. Gaelic has no history in Shetland. If Shetlanders defend their traditions against something that to them is foreign, that should surprise nobody. The Gaels never had linguistic monopoly in Scotland – they brought their celtic language over when they invaded from Ireland, forcing out the preceding “British” celtic language (more akin to Welsh) from the lands they settled in western and highland Scotland – while the remaining Britons were displaced or assimilated by the invaders from the east. You might say that those Eastern invaders were the “Scots” if you wish to distinguish them from the “Celts”, and certainly Shetland was part of that heritage. While we may respect the Gael’s wish to preserve their culture, they should not be so evangelical in their desire to promote it where it is not appropriate and certainly not by decree from Edinburgh. This seems like the usual ignorance of the North Isles history and culture, the ill-informed and romanticized impression of the Highland/Island Gaelic culture in the rest of Scotland, and people playing politics with issues that need more careful consideration. It is no wonder that there is a long-standing mistrust of Edinburgh in the North Isles.

  • iantinkler

    • February 3rd, 2016 9:13

    To Quote Sturgeon at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig [Gaelic College] lecture, where she will highlight the role Gaelic has to play in the economic and cultural future of Scotland’s islands. ” Gaelic to be a vital part of The New Scotland”.
    To cost this nearly obsolete and irrelevant language.

    What is spent on Gaelic? In 2014-15 £28.48m.
    £6.53m – Education £4m – School infrastructure projects.
    £285,000 – Road signs. . Reference

    • Robin Stevenson

      • February 3rd, 2016 11:23


      As I’m sure you’re aware, and as you’ve been told before, but have chosen to deliberately to ignore, Gaelic names will only be added when road signs are due to be replaced anyway, making the real cost effectively zero, nil, nada.

      What you may not know [I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt] is that £12.8 million of the alleged £28.48ml is spent on BBC Alba, The government body charged with promoting the language, the Bòrd na Gàidhlig, has an annual budget of just £5.1m. Independent research suggests that such investment actually pays for itself in terms of various benefits to the economy. In fact, taken from the BBC pages you quote, you forgot to add:

      “Highlands and Islands Enterprise research suggests the use of Gaelic has the potential to generate up to £148.5m a year for the economy and tourism”.

      On that same page I wouldn’t believe a word Jackson Carlaw spouts, having stood for election on a manifesto in 2011 which said that the Scottish Tories “remain committed to the promotion of the Gaelic language and culture”. And then proceeds to blame the Scottish Government for spending any money on it?

      • peter smith

        • February 3rd, 2016 13:14

        Really Robin, the cost will be zero? This is the same rediculous claim I saw elsewhere about the cost of bilingual signs on police cars being zero.

        The more letters/symbols you put on a road sign or a police/ambulance/fire service vehicle the more it will cost. Unless of course the glorious Nicola can negotiate a 50% or so discount!

      • Ian Tinkler

        • February 3rd, 2016 14:20

        “Highlands and Islands Enterprise research suggests the use of Gaelic has the potential to generate up to £148.5m a year for the economy and tourism”. In a pigs eye, Robin Stevenson, just how? You spout some soulless, disingenuous rubbish at times, now reference this research and just which PR numpty invented the data?

      • Robin Stevenson

        • February 3rd, 2016 15:02


        Perhaps you’d like to tell us how much extra each letter costs? I don’t believe there are extra symbols – but if so – how much do you think they’d cost? Is it more expensive for yellow paint/stickers than white paint/stickers?
        How often do these road signs need changing? each year? perhaps every 5 or10 years?

        The cost of extra lettering is negligible, where and when a road sign needs replaced the cost lies in the structure itself, the workforce to replace it, and the reflective film which is applied and rolled. The silk screen design is made on computer, then transferred to silk with a high intensity light. Of course this ‘silk screen’ process would be required and costed for, whether it was in English, Gaelic or Japanese?

        But Hey!..Don’t take my word for it, knock yerself out:

      • Robin Stevenson

        • February 3rd, 2016 20:51

        Well Ian

        I must say, I find that rather rude? “In a pig’s eye” I’m sure Cameron will not be best pleased with you bringing up his sordid past on a public forum? 🙂

        Incidentally, it was YOU that gave me the link which told about the £148.5m, did you not read it all the way to the bottom of the page?

  • Terry Kelly

    • February 3rd, 2016 9:46

    I find it difficult to believe that any parent would choose to have their child taught Gaelic rather than French, Italian or German etc.

    • Domhnall MacCoinnich

      • February 3rd, 2016 11:20

      Well that just shows your narrow prejudice. No one is stopping anyone from teaching their children these languages. Go ahead and campaign for French medium schools if you like. Lets see how much support you get for it. I don’t believe any of the languages you mention where historically spoken in Shetland either.

      Same old ignorant and tired lines from the hard of thinking.

      • iantinkler

        • February 3rd, 2016 16:41

        French, Italian or German etc. Live, vibrant languages, spoken by many millions worldwide. Gaelic, spoken by so few, not enough primary teachers in Scotland to teach it! (ref SNP spokesperson, Robin Stevenson). Just whom, Domhnall MacCoinnich, is spouting old ignorant and tired lines from the hard of thinking. Your own words, Domhnall, .”Facts rarely matter when bigots sound off though”. Your own word again, how nice, even and measured!!

  • Robin Stevenson

    • February 3rd, 2016 10:48

    Reading a number of these posts, there seems to be a fair bit of confusion over Yet another “faux outrage” perpetrated by the ill informed Mr Scott?

    Where exactly in this statement: “Scottish government’s ‘desire’ to offer Gaelic education”, does Tavish manage to find the word “Force”?

    “A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring every pupil has the ‘chance’ to learn two languages on top of their mother tongue in primary school”?

    So instead of Tavish regurgitating an old news story, [Aug 2013] and deliberately misleading people with false information, would he not be better to concentrate on which two languages would best suit the needs and desires of the people of S&O?…. Norwegian, French, Spanish, Swedish, Russian perhaps? Take your pick, and good luck finding a suitably qualified teacher for your chosen languages, whichever that language may be?

    Oh, and for Tavish’s information, there are barely enough qualified Gaelic teachers for those that actually want to learn Gaelic, never mind teaching it in every primary school across Scotland?

    • Wayne Conroy

      • February 3rd, 2016 14:37

      Well Robin… If you were to look at the Scottish Government website you will clearly see the source of this so called “faux outrage”

      “The legislation also contains measures to: promote Gaelic education by placing a duty on councils both to assess the need for Gaelic medium primary education following a parental request and to actively promote and support learning and teaching of the language in schools”

      Source Scottish Government website.

      I believe the words “placing a duty on councils” is pretty clear.

      Some will argue “but what if enough Shetland parents want their children to learn Gaelic”… Well I would argue back what if a larger quantity of parents want their children to be taught Japanese? Should the school system be forced to stretch their resources for that too?

      My comments have nothing to do with prejudice against the Gaelic language. I just think is is a ridiculous waste of money and resources to force the promotion/teaching of a language never historically spoken on Shetland. If any money is to be spent in the education system in Shetland surely it would be far better spent on keeping the threatened local schools from closures!

      • Wayne Conroy

        • February 3rd, 2016 15:47

        @Robin – You also state “Oh, and for Tavish’s information, there are barely enough qualified Gaelic teachers for those that actually want to learn Gaelic, never mind teaching it in every primary school across Scotland?”

        I can only guess that you failed to notice in the above article “Mr Scott says there is no new money for Gaelic, and a nationwide shortage of Gaelic teachers.”

        One has to wonder who exactly here is, how did you put it, ill informed.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • February 3rd, 2016 17:10


        You seem to have missed my point? A ‘perfect storm’ on one hand we have Tavish wittering on about ‘forcing’ Gaelic on our schools, then completely contradicting himself by uttering;

        “There is no new money for Gaelic, and a nationwide shortage of Gaelic teachers.”

        Therefore, how does Mr Scott imagine that the Scottish Government are [somehow] capable of ‘forcing’ anything when the don’t have the resources or indeed the teachers in the first place?

        My comment is merely a reminder of the blinding obvious, as he has spectacularly missed his own point.

        The other ‘blinding obvious’ words that people seem to be missing are: ‘request’ and ‘desire’.
        Does this mean that the SG are going to ‘force’ people to ‘request’ or ‘desire’ Gaelic being taught in their schools then? If so, how does that actually work?

      • Wayne Conroy

        • February 4th, 2016 13:57

        @Robin – You seem to be the one missing the point. You are also the one attempting to mislead people and misdirect from the issue at hand.

        First you say “So instead of Tavish regurgitating an old news story, [Aug 2013] and deliberately misleading people with false information”…. This was discussed in parliament on 2nd Feb 2016 and there was no false information in his account.

        The government website states “promote Gaelic education by placing a duty on Councils both to assess the need for Gaelic medium primary education following a parental request and to actively promote and support learning and teaching of the language in schools” and Tavish Scott said Shetland “COULD BE left in a position where it is forced to use some of its already stretched budget to fund Gaelic education.”

        So how exactly do you propose Gaelic to be actively promoted without funds being spent? How are assessments going to happen if someone is not paid to do them?

        I would say that there is no “could be” but this actually WILL BE forcing funds to be spent.

        Tavish also said that he feared that providing Gaelic education at the request of parents would become a law that local authorities would have to implement then said “Forcing Gaelic on Shetland is not the right approach”. If this so called “duty” placed on the council involves providing said Gaelic education in a Shetland school at a few parents request BY LAW then the council will be forced to provide that education rather than do it through choice.

        You can carry on with your silly smoke and mirrors show all you want… Ultimately the simple fact is he is right and you are in the wrong.

    • iantinkler

      • February 3rd, 2016 15:51

      Robbin spouts on, “Oh, and for Tavish’s information, there are barely enough qualified Gaelic teachers for those that actually want to learn Gaelic, never mind teaching it in every primary school across Scotland? Really, Robin Stevenson, well why bother then? Are those Gaelic mother tongue speakers so indifferent or incompetent they can not teach their own kids? Quite frankly, Robin Stevenson, under SNP/SG leadership, we are having to fight like hell to keep our own schools open. We need, a near dead and unnecessary language inflicted on us, like a hole in the head. Even if Nicolla dictates it with drivel like “. ” Gaelic to be a vital part of The New Scotland”. With leadership like that from Niccola no wonder Wir Shetland is doing so very well.

    • John Tulloch

      • February 3rd, 2016 15:53

      @Robin Stevenson,

      Perhaps, Tavish has been reading the Scottish government website? Perhaps, you should do the same?

      From SG website:


      The Scottish Government has published a Policy Memorandum to accompany the Bill. According to the Policy Memorandum, the Bill specifically aims to:

      Place a duty on education authorities both to assess the need for Gaelic medium primary education following a parental request and to actively promote and support Gaelic medium education (GME) and Gaelic learner education; the Bill will also place a duty on Bòrd na Gàidhlig to prepare guidance on how GME should operate in Scotland;”

      So the SIC will have imposed on it a “duty to …. support” Gaelic education but won’t get to know what that means until the “Gaelic Board” decides?

      As usual, you are making the autonomy case for me.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • February 3rd, 2016 17:38


        At the risk of pointing out how silly both you and Tavish’s argument is, let’s try to simplify it?

        Imagine you are in charge of the education authority in Shetland, Now, imagine I come along and suggest I think everyone in Shetland should be ‘offered’ the chance to speak Chinese?

        Would you imagine there would be a demand? Could you please assess whether or not there’s a call for it? Having done that, you come to the conclusion that half a dozen people doesn’t really justify a teacher or indeed promoting a language that not too many are the slightest bit interested in, is it being imposed regardless?…Nope….. Are you going to have a teacher thrust upon you that no-one wants?….Nope….

        The only people that are ‘Duty’ bound are Bòrd na Gàidhlig, in order to prepare guidance on how GME should operate in Scotland, and ‘by Scotland’ they mean the parts of Scotland that are interested, it’s NOT obligatory for schools to teach Gaelic. and nothing is being thrust upon anyone that doesn’t first choose to offer it.

        Frankly, I’ve no idea why this is even a story, Is Tavish bored?

      • John Tulloch

        • February 3rd, 2016 19:39

        No Robin, quite the reverse. At the very best this proposal is the thin end of a wedge and it simply will not wash.

        The words I posted in response to you are the Scottish government’s own.

        i.e. SIC will have imposed on it a “duty to promote and support Gaelic medium education…etc.”

        A statutory “duty” – that means you have to do it.

        No amount of spin by you, Robert Sim or any other SNP agent or supporter can reframe that.

        Assume a Gaelic-speaking family with two kids moves into Skerries and requests Gaelic medium education (GME)?

        How then does the SIC fulfil its new statutory “duty to support GME?”

      • Robin Stevenson

        • February 3rd, 2016 20:37


        For goodness sake, give it up man? There is no story, there is no devious attempt to impose Gaelic on you or anyone else that doesn’t want it?
        Your interpretation of ‘duty’ is bordering on the hysterical? Sure, I feel it’s my ‘duty’ to ask you “would you like to speak Mongolian”?…”Erm…No thanks” says you. Fine, done deal, move on.

        Two kids aren’t going to cut it, half the Island’s population is an entirely different matter? And the chances of that happening?…Zilch!!

      • Robert Sim

        • February 4th, 2016 1:35

        John T – you are confused. Read my post to you further up the thread in which I quote from the Bill. It was posted on the 3rd at 17:00. That makes it crystal-clear that the authority can turn down a request.

        A ‘duty to support’ would mean in the case of the SIC making it clear (eg on their website) that parents have the right to make a request for GMPE under the terms of the Act. However they do NOT have a right to receive it. There is nothing wrong with the Act (as it now is). It doesn’t ‘force’ the SIC to do anything ridiculous, bad or contrary to Shetland’s interests. All Tavish has done here is trigger a lot of (prectable) xenophobia on this forum.

      • John Tulloch

        • February 4th, 2016 8:39


        Spare me the bull, we’re talking about the law here, not a person’s moral duty.

        If a law is passed placing a statutory “duty” on a public body, it means they have to do it – end of!

        And there is currently only one child attending Skerries School so two new ones would be a majority.

        It’s the thin end of a Gaelicisation wedge and it won’t wash.

      • John Tulloch

        • February 4th, 2016 11:12

        Ciamara ha hu, a Rhopairt, John Tulloch-a-sha. Smice ac opair ansa Wir Shetland ansa Earra Ghaidheal agus Bhoid!

        As I’ve told you before Robert, I’ve lived in the western highlands and islands for many years (South Uist and Argyll) and took the trouble to learn a little Gaelic.

        I haven’t done that because I’m “xenophobic” about Gaels.

        Quite the opposite, I’ve met and known a great many wonderful people however that doesn’t make it acceptable for the SNP to try and impose Gaelic on Shetland which has no Gaelic history whatsoever, whether directly, as Tavish Scott claims, or by the inexorable ratcheting up of pressure on local authorities that you unwittingly describe.

        All that you and Robin Stevenson are achieving is to underline the cultural gulf between Shetland and Scotland.

        Open your eyes and look around you, there’s nothing but Vikings, galleys and axes – specifically, no claymores, no tartan and no Gaelic!

      • Robert Sim

        • February 4th, 2016 14:16

        No-one is imposing anything on Shetland with this Act, John. Here is what happens:

        Stage 1
        A parent approaches a Local Authority to request GME for their child below school age. They must also have evidence of another 4 children (5 in total) in the same age group and further evidence of demand in lower age groups, thus showing sustainability.

        Stage 2
        The Local Authority will carry out an initial assessment. They will designate a GMPE Assessment Area at this point and consider whether there is enough evidence of demand. They will decide whether to proceed to a full assessment if evidence exists. No other action is required if evidence does not exist.

        Stage 3
        If there is evidence of demand, the Local Authority will move to a full assessment. During this stage, they will consider the statutory factors listed in the Bill, views sought from statutory consultees and report on the Education Authority’s website and inform the parents of a decision. At this stage, GMPE will or will not be provided.

        That is all from a Government source. Those are the facts and my last word on the subject. I for one intend to get out more.

      • John Tulloch

        • February 5th, 2016 11:44

        Well, Robert, maybe the Liberals’ fears are misplaced and the SNP’ intentions for Shetland are entirely beneficent.

        Nevertheless, at the very best, the words “Place a duty … to actively promote and support Gaelic medium education and Gaelic learner education” on an island where there is NO HISTORY OF GAELIC is both unwelcome and will cost money to administer.

        As to the ‘bona fide’ intentions of the SNP, their track record in Shetland goes before them – and it isn’t pretty!

        However I completely agree, you need to get out more – nae windows in a ‘Picts’ castle’! ???? – you’ll learn a lot about Shetland.

        Bit waetch an bide clear a Vikins, dir everywye enoo!

  • James J Paton

    • February 3rd, 2016 11:50

    As an exile in England, a very interesting discussion, that largely strays from the key issue of the story – Tavish telling ‘porky pies’. Tavish, with his familial antecedence, has little right to scaremonger about cultural oppression. ( See history of the Scottish lairds in Shetland.)

    Multi-lingualism is a huge asset to any individual and cultural.

    Unfortunately the cultural imperialism of ‘middle’ England, as represented by the cultural minority English Westminster Government, that Tavish’s party helped unleash in 2005, is a far greater threat these days to Shetland, than the SNP.

    The sooner the Shetland electorate reject all the Westminster parties, including the SNP, (other pro independence, pro-decentralisation parties are available such as the Greens) and elect an indiginous independent’, MP, to best represent its interests and promote its sustainanility post peak oil, the better. Go home Miriam Brett, your islands need you.
    PS there are, perhaps, more Norwegian speakers in Shetland than Gaelic speakers.

    • Bill Smale

      • February 3rd, 2016 18:02

      Perhaps more Polish speakers too – the UK’s second language!

  • Ewen Johnson

    • February 3rd, 2016 16:33

    No doubt there will be some parent who asks for gaelic education as a point of principle.
    If it is a good idea to respond to parental requests, surely in the case of Shetland, it would make more sense to start teaching Navigation again, as that is likely to be useful in many potential careers in Shetland. That, at least would show some acknowledgement of local needs. Ok, I did Navigation ‘O’ level with Tammy Moncrieff and although I have not had the need to navigate across the globe using the stars, I can use a compass and a chart, and get the phonetic alphabet right. It was also a good laugh going out in the school boat on a Friday afternoon and getting a trip out the Sooth Mooth in the Valkyrie – a bit more engaging to a wider range of aptitudes than some of the other stuff we did.

  • Alistair Hunter

    • February 3rd, 2016 16:44

    Tavish hasn’t been doing his homework. The bill doesn’t force Gaelic on anyone. Rest easy people.

    • Robin Stevenson

      • February 3rd, 2016 18:38

      Absolutely Alistair,

      One of the few sane voices in a sea of ignorance. 🙂

    • Wayne Conroy

      • February 4th, 2016 14:14

      Maybe its you not doing their homework Alistair!

      Tavish Scott said Shetland “COULD BE left in a position where it is forced to use some of its already stretched budget to fund Gaelic education.” The government website states “placing a duty on Councils both to assess the need for Gaelic medium primary education following a parental request and to actively promote and support learning and teaching of the language in schools”

      So in other words the SIC will be forced to spend money on promotion and assessments.

      Tavish also said that he feared that providing Gaelic education at the request of parents would become a law that local authorities would have to implement then said “Forcing Gaelic on Shetland is not the right approach”. If this so called “duty” placed on the council involves providing said Gaelic education in a Shetland school at a few parents request BY LAW then the council will be forced to provide that education rather than do it through choice.

      You may be able to “rest easy” with this but I would rather resources spent on something relevant to Shetland like helping to keep local schools open!

  • Fearchar MacIllFhinnein

    • February 3rd, 2016 18:17

    What the Bill says: “A person who is the parent of a child who is under school age may request the education
    authority in whose area the child is resident to assess the need for Gaelic medium primary education.” (There are further restrictions based on numbers, but the principle is clear.)

    What the European Convention on Human Rights says:

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.”

    “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.”

    Can we conclude that Mr Scott now wants to stop parents from asking about alternative educational provision? Are his grounds that such provision is from a minority he presumably does not favour, or does his illiberality extend to other minorities too? Perhaps his constituents would like to ask him.

  • Sean F O'Drisceoil

    • February 3rd, 2016 18:21

    A neat solution might be to take educational provision away from local authorities and transfer it to either devolved or central authorities? This would remove the costs associated with servicing minority rights from the genuinely hard pressed local authorities!

    • John Tulloch

      • February 3rd, 2016 19:49

      Great idea, Sean! But here’s a better one:

      The SNP stop interfering in Shetland, reverse their policy of centralisation of everything and at least stand up for the principle of ‘subsidiarity’ as espoused by Alex Salmond at his “Declaration of Lerwick”.

      Better still, they could endorse application of the ‘right to self-determination of peoples’ as set out in the UN Charter, Chapter 1, Article 1, to Shetland and Orkney.

      Hitherto, they insist on having that for themselves but for some strange reason, feel unable to extend it to anyone else?

      • Sean F O'Drisceoil

        • February 4th, 2016 0:57

        I agree with you entirely, John. The one thing that stops me even considering joining the SNP is their policy of centralisation which is exessive to say the least. I also strongly believe in local authorities having more power and adequate financing and envy the Scandinavian countries where the above problem would have been easily dealt with on simple democratic grounds. As an Irish person, I would not only accept that Shetland and Orkney have the ‘right to self-determination of peoples’ as set out in the UN Charter, Chapter 1, Article 1 but would also hope that the Western Isles would consider their position given the continuing loss of population and inferior infrastructure which has continued despite devolution. Ironically, the next set of islands to the NW of Lewis are the Faroes and their infrastructure puts the UK, Scotland and Ireland in the halfpenny place!

    • Ali Inkster

      • February 3rd, 2016 22:22

      Don’t give them ideas.

  • iantinkler

    • February 3rd, 2016 20:34

    To Quote Sturgeon, at her Sabhal Mòr Ostaig [Gaelic College] lecture, where she will highlight the role Gaelic has to play in the economic and cultural future of Scotland’s islands. ”Gaelic to be a vital part of The New Scotland”. Heaven forbid,, a vital part, of the new Scotland, a non vital language! If there ever was a better reason for Shetland to avoid “The New Scotland”, surely that is it.

  • Ali Inkster

    • February 3rd, 2016 22:48

    The point being missed here by some is that holyrood are spending £millions promoting a language that is spoken by relatively few folk 58,000 or so , because in their words it will play a vital part in Scotland’s economic future. And is an important part of Scottish history, as they claim about us here in Orkney and Shetland.
    if this is true what i want to know is where will our cultural college be built, Orkney or Shetland or both?
    How much money will be spent putting the norse names on road signs throughout Scotland even in areas it has no relevance?
    How much will be spent training 999 crews how to understand us on the phone in an emergency, and where will they train?
    So to sum up it would seem some cultures are more important to the snps idea of what Scotland is and some just seem to get in the way of there grand plan for their gaelic tiger economy.

    • Brian Smith

      • February 4th, 2016 18:42

      Gaelic speakers and scholas have done well in preserving and using their language. It’s the kind of effort by a small community I would have expected Shetlanders to applaud.

      • John Tulloch

        • February 5th, 2016 12:01

        Absolutely, Brian. We applaud it, wholeheartedly – the Gaelic communities and scholars have done very well, indeed.

        However we give the SNP a loud ‘raspberry’ for trying to hi-jack a fine, local, language, in a similar way to which they have already hi-jacked the Saltire, and impose it on communities in which it has never been spoken e.g. Shetland.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • February 5th, 2016 16:53

        What utter nonsense. in what way are the SNP ‘trying to hijack the Gaelic language?’…By promoting it?…With that ridiculous logic, have the SNP ‘hijacked’ the English language, or French, or German, or ANY other language they actively promote in schools and colleges?

        The Saltire is the flag of Scotland, any political party is perfectly free to use it [or not] as the case may be, however as the SNP are the ONLY party which represents Scotland it’s people and their best interests, I’d hardly think that the Union Jack would be a fitting choice? Do you?On the other hand, every Pro-union party has the choice of either, but as they so desperately fought for – and represent – the Union, I believe that the Saltire could hardly be perceived as all encompassing for the United Kingdom?

        John, you’re sounding more anti-Scottish, less inclusive and less tolerant by the minute, if this is an example of the ‘open mindedness’ of the WIR group, I shudder to think what’s coming next?

      • Brian Smith

        • February 5th, 2016 18:25

        Applaud it? That’s not the impression I get from Messrs Tinkler and Inkster …

      • iantinkler

        • February 6th, 2016 11:47

        The achievements of the Gaelic speakers have to be applauded by all. For a language spoken by so few they are magnificent. Poetry and artistry of prose are beyond comparison, to those who speak gaelic, fantastic. Sadly very few do, never mind you quote Nicola “Gaelic has to play in the economic and cultural future of Scotland’s islands. ” Gaelic to be a vital part of The New Scotland”.
        No wonder the electorate of Scotland has rejected independence and the latest polls show a continuing rejection of the “Yes vote” with the lowest support since the referendum, 43% and dropping. Whoop whoop, sanity at last.

      • iantinkler

        • February 6th, 2016 12:03

        “the SNP are the ONLY party which represents Scotland it’s people and their best interests” Robin Stevenson, you excel yourself! What total rubbish. Fortunately the more you become agitated the sillier you make yourself look. The truth is “the SNP are the ONLY party which represents Scottish nationalism utterly selfishly. Scotland’s people and their best interests are ignored in an endless pursuit of a nationalist agenda, however divisive and unpleasant.

      • John Tulloch

        • February 6th, 2016 13:32

        Ciamara ha hu an djugh, a Rhobin?

        The SNP is “hi-jacking” Gaelic, a fine local language from an area where I used to live and have many Gaelic-speaking friends, by trying to make it “Scotland’s national language”.

        What is “nonsense” is covering the place with road signs the vast majority of people, even in the Western Isles, can’t even read read.

        Aside from anything else, it’s dangerous, “glinderin” at road signs when you should be looking where you’re going, especially, at junctions!

        We are exhorted to pay attention while driving and prosecute people for using phones, smoking, eating and Lord knows what else but this “nonsense” goes unchallenged.

  • Alvin Leong

    • February 4th, 2016 2:26

    It is so funny and amusing watching the good ethnocentric folk here frothing at the mouth yet again after the saga of the Chinese lessons offered less than 2 years ago. At least at that time, it was a FREE and OPTIONAL offer, paid for not by the LA or SG and yet it brings out the best of the true xenophobic behaviour of the folks here. Hopefully SNP will not make Galice free nor optional.

  • Allen Fraser

    • February 4th, 2016 12:32

    Ochone, ochone! A sad day it was when de LibDems left da Holyrood kail-yard an noo can fin nithin idder fur folk tae flite, sharg an trep aboot in da ‘Times’.

  • Robert Lowes

    • February 5th, 2016 11:26

    Derick Tulloch – I would urge you to check your facts. According to the the Venerable Bede’s 8th century (and therefore contemporary to the Picts) work “Historia ecclesiastica gents Anglorum”, or the “Ecclesiastical History of the English People”, Pictish was a separate language, distinct from that spoken by either the Britons, the English, or the Irish.

    Bede also attests that during Columba’s (a Gael) mission to the Picts, he needed a translator.

    Most modern scholars agree that Pictish had more in common with the Brittonic languages than anything else, but that it influenced Gaelic – by lending words, and structure. But that’s about it. Pictish itself came under increasing pressure from Gaelic, eventually being replaced by it altogether.

    Therefore, your argument is blown to sharn.

  • Kim Sykes

    • February 5th, 2016 15:51

    As a Native American from Oklahoma, now living in Texas, I have no knowledge of your issue but would like to comment if I may. America has more than 500 tribes that once spoke over 300 different languages. Today, only about 170 remain. So much of a culture dies with it’s language. I think the best way to preserve a language is for the parents and family to speak it at home.

    • David Spence

      • February 9th, 2016 18:29

      In all honesty Kim, even trying to preserve 170 indigenous languages in the States would be a very costly endevour, and would probably struggle to maintain high standards as well as justifying the expense. As far as I am lead to believe, there are more people in the States that speak Spanish than English, but English is the preferred language of certain institutes, whether political, educational, business or social cohesion.

      Shetland did have a language of its own……….not a dialect……but a language, but time progressed, and as education became more the norm to the population, people were brought up to speak English. As you have said, in terms of one countries dominance over another country, the best way to kill the culture and way of life is to kill the language.

      However, Shetlander’s claim to have strong ties to Scandinavia, but when it comes to proving this, they tend to curl up and let whoever rules dictate how they should behave.

      When it comes to Shetlander’s standing and supporting their Scandinavian Heritage, Nordic roots and brag at Up Helly Aa time……..well, it is very much muted because Scotland tells them to remain silent and obedient.

  • Haydn Gear

    • February 7th, 2016 13:28

    So many comments for and against the advantages of being able to speak more than one language !! As one who uses English , Welsh and French (the latter only to ‘A’ level) I am glad to have had a grounding in Latin when in school since it has has proved to be invaluable in comprehending much that occurs in the others. My main concern has nothing to do with political jinking but more to do with the retention of cultural aspects of life.Lose a language or even a dialect and we lose a valuable part of civilised life. It’s akin to the extinction of animals which is ongoing largely due to human activity. Incidentally, I do not believe becoming bilingual,trilingual or multilingual makes one more intelligent.One certainly needs to born intelligent and be exposed to opportunities but the main advantage as I see it is that one is enabled to live a richer and fuller life. Is there a better reason?

    • Robert SIm

      • February 8th, 2016 3:44

      Haydn, you say that: “I do not believe becoming bilingual,trilingual or multilingual makes one more intelligent”. The research does in fact show that being properly bilingual (i.e. speaking two languages to native-speaker level) effectively increases one’s intelligence. Here is just one reference to that research:

      • Robert Duncan

        • February 8th, 2016 10:20

        I believe there is also some indication – albeit not yet thoroughly researched – that it can ward off degenerative conditions such as Alzheimers.

      • John Tulloch

        • February 8th, 2016 16:34

        Robert S,

        I agree, there’s little doubt that learning a second language is beneficial to the learner. Sadly, that isn’t the point at issue.

        Robert D,

        Interesting point. Do you mean Alzheimers is warded off by learning a second language in childhood or in a “use it or lose it” way in later life?

      • Ian Tinkler

        • February 8th, 2016 17:17

        Scientific research would indicate bilingualism does make an iota of difference to developmental of Alzheimer. Hover dancing does! Referance; New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of … 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City,

      • Robert Duncan

        • February 9th, 2016 0:16

        I believe the latter, John. The study I had in mind appears to refer to those who are still considered actively bilingual in later adulthood.

  • iantinkler

    • February 7th, 2016 15:14

    I do not disagree with you Haydn, in any aspect of what you say. Gaelic should be taught where there is a culture of Gaelic. That is certainly not in Shetland. For the SNP/SG to savagely cut funding for our schools at the same time spending £28.48m on mandating spending on Gaelic education, Gaelic school infrastructure projects and Road signs is idiotic. A mother tongue should be taught by mother, not mandated by opportunist politicians chasing popularity.

  • John Tulloch

    • February 7th, 2016 16:19


    If this was about the advantages of being able to speak more than one language, there would be no debate.

    Rather, it is about a foreign culture being imposed upon an existing one by “wedge-tapping” and it’s unacceptable.

  • Mark Ryan Smith

    • February 8th, 2016 9:50

    Concerned native Shetlanders might want to know that there is a currently a kilt being modelled by a mannequin in a Commercial Street window. The mannequin’s views on politics are unclear, and nobody is sure if it speaks fluent Gaelic or not, but, as contributors here will appreciate, this is yet more definitive evidence of the SNP’s obsession with oppressing the unique culture of islanders. Shocking! We are clearly past the thin end of the wedge now, and approaching the thicker bit somewhere near the middle.

  • iantinkler

    • February 8th, 2016 10:01

    Robert Sim, your reference is hardly peer reviewed research, but appears no more than a badly quoted abstract with no scientific data of any type referenced, pseudo scientific hearsay, no more. Now I learnt Latin, Ancient Greek, French and English at school, being severely dyslexic, I can not spell in any of them!! Fortunately I learnt sciences, that has enabled me to save a few lives along the way, no amount of Gaelic or any other arty thing would enabled me to do that. Just prioritise what really matters, I would happily prefer be be less than maximally intelligent and learn decent science foundations, from a thriving, rural school than be an arrogant, highly intelligent literature teacher fluent in goodness knows what. 24 million on Gaelic tuition you feel is OK, when education budgets being cut. A new type of intelligence is evolving perhaps!!

    • Robert Sim

      • February 8th, 2016 15:11

      “…your reference is hardly peer reviewed research…”. It is peer-reviewed research, Ian. If you read to the end, you will see that the research was discussed in an article in the International Journal of Bilingualism. Didn’t your scientific training cover evidence-based decision making?

  • Ian Tinkler

    • February 8th, 2016 16:57

    Well Robert, my research was a little deeper. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that you smarter if you are bilingual? . There is no know study that shows a link between bilingualism and such concepts as executive intelligence, emotional intelligence or intelligence quotient. Research being disused in an article in the International Journal of Bilingualism, does not constitute, that research, being peer reviewed, Robert. I am afraid you need to understand the scientific concept of a peer review, it is not a discussion in a magazine article!! (The peer review process subjects scientific research papers to independent scrutiny by other qualified scientific experts (peers) before they are made public. – See more at:

    • iantinkler

      • February 9th, 2016 9:51

      Robert Sim, Further to the above, having now had further time to scrutinise the the findings of “the International Journal of Bilingualism” with regard to your quoted research. The conclusions of that journal were: “the International Journal of Bilingualism, highlights the difficulty in establishing clear causal links between such results and the ability to speak two languages,” NB. it found absolutely no scientific truth in the original researcher conclusions that bilingualism improves intelligence or cognitive skills, in essence that concept was rejected.. It did however state “that the speaking of … minority languages, whether it be at home or in a school setting, but preferably both, should be encouraged.” . That statement would hold true to any language or for that matter any academic discipline.

  • Graham fleming

    • December 28th, 2016 20:25

    What an absolute disgrace your paper is for allowing racist ranting from so called liberals on the use of the gaelic language anywhere in Scotland Including Sealtain as new Scots law states.I hope we can get the same liberalisation for the Scots language and for the 51% o tha fowk o Shetlaun whae sid in tha census It wus thar ain it shid be toght thar in skills alang we minority mooths lik Inglis and gaelic if the demand is there afterall all language speakers have rights and should be treated equally.

    • Sandy McDonald

      • December 29th, 2016 12:41

      Why not force Tolkiens’ Elvish and Westron down our throats at the same time? They’re just about as useful in the modern world!

      • Graham Fleming

        • December 29th, 2016 17:59

        The languages you refer to Mr Mcdonald have no connection to the northern Isles of Scotland what so ever. In the census the majority of the population o Shetlaun said they were Scottish and 51% could speak Scots to some degree or other. It is time Shetland council acknowledged that part of the islands heritage and campaign to get Scots language into its schools.As for Gaelic and it’s heritage in bringing Christianity to Shetland Faroes and Iceland lang a for the Nordman set foot on these lands It should be recognised as part of the islands heritage.The Shetland Isles has many strands to its unique history let’s hope the Liberal bigocrats ceases to be one and stops it’s ignorant
        campaign against minority language rights.

    • Michael Garriock

      • December 29th, 2016 16:13

      Graham Fleming. Da sorna thing idda henter end o’ yun du rot cud I ken, so du michtla is weel hadden dee sheeks an no entit wi hit avaa.

      So, there you go, two people wholly incapable of communicating with eack other because each insists they use a localised tongue they just happen to know rather than the language they have in common. Great progress and a boon to mutual respect and understanding – not so much.

  • i tinkler

    • December 29th, 2016 18:14

    Why not force Tolkiens’ Elvish and Westron down our throats at the same time? They’re just about as useful in the modern world! Sandy, how very true and how very creative that would be (creative arts, how pretty!!!). Now useful subjects, those that help feed us, cure diseases and maintain and preserve our environment (STEM) actually require learning, reasoning, perception and real brain power also rational knowledge and intelligent understanding of science. Enough said. Let’s all learn Latin, I did, sadly I live in today’s world, 2000 years ago it may have been useful, helps with the Times crossword sometimes!!

  • Ian McLean

    • November 15th, 2020 17:13

    Shetland and Orkney were originally Pictish before being colonised by the norse so celtic languages were spoken in the isles before any germanic language. Furthermore, shetland scots is spoken on the isles to a large extent which tells us that many people migrated from mainland Scotland to the isles whose ancestors would’ve likely spoken gaelic. Whilst gaelic was never historically spoken there, the people who live in shetland have a high chance of being descended from people who did speak gaelic. Children in the western isles are forced to learn English in school despite having gaelic as their native langauge and English was and isn’t spoken there. At the end of the day, learning languages is incredibly beneficial for the brain even if you aren’t going to use it!


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