Decline of Gaelic in Western Isles a “significant danger”

The chairman of the national Gaelic development agency, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, has described the continued decline of the language in the Western Isles as representing “a very significant danger”.

Writing in the organisation’s annual report, Iain Campbell, originally from South Uist, said more needed to be done to address the problem in the islands, traditionally regarded as the spiritual heartland of the language.

Mr Campbell said that while in general they had seen significant developments in the field of Gaelic-medium education, something which had arrested the rate of decline in the total number of speakers, the same was not true of the islands.

Describing the national position in relation to Gaelic-medium education as generally “encouraging”, he said “the number of Gaelic speakers in rural areas continues to decline and especially in the Western Isles”.

“This represents a very significant danger to the long-term viability of the language in Scotland. More work needs to be done in the island and rural communities to reverse this trend and create a healthier situation for Gaelic in these areas.”

Mr Campbell avoided pointing the finger of blame at the authorities in the Western Isles, where any proposals for a dedicated all-Gaelic school — such as those which already exist in Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow — had been resisted by parents and the communities.

Free Press Editorial – 18.7.14