THE recent approval of the Gaelic Language Plan should be regarded by all as a sign of the council’s commitment to further develop and embed Gaelic into the life of our beautifully diverse city, and across every corporate area, from culture to the economy and beyond.
I say this as the council’s Gaelic Champion, albeit a bit of a fraudulent one. You see, I don’t speak Gaelic – yet! In fact, I hail from Ayrshire, the land of Burns, and from a childhood where Scots words like baffies and yer bahookie were more familiar to me.
Roll forward a few years from when my own mother was sent to elocution lessons to force the “slang” out of her, and to how the Scots language has become part of our curricular learning, reminding us of the rich heritage that has helped shape Scotland. And how much more so for the language of Gaelic.
Today, Gaelic is recognised as a mainstream subject for its major contribution to Scotland’s culture and identity, and while the myth exists that it was only ever spoken by a bunch of teuchters up in the north with just a few sheep to talk to, the truth is that Gaelic was prevalent in large parts of Scotland until the 19th century. Even here in Edinburgh. Even today!
Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pairce, the Gaelic Primary School, seeks to build on this legacy.
Fairly recently I visited and sat around the table with pupils as one, Joe, led the others in song. Sitting there, in the buzzing community of Leith, in the heart of our modern city, I felt the fusion of our past, our present . . . and what could be our future, if more Gaelic threads are sewn into the wonderful multi-cultural tapestry that is this city.
In my short time as Gaelic Champion, it has been my privilege to work with the Gaelic Implementation Group to help shape the plan, and to understand that my abilities as a Gaelic speaker were of less importance, than working with them to push for a more strategic, corporate and long-term approach – and most of all, implementation in the days ahead.This is a community who feel they have had a good dose of consultation-itis, and what they now need is delivery, particularly in the area of education. More croileagans and very early learning opportunities; another Sgoil-áraich service to address the waiting list that stifles nursery growth; expansion at primary level given the capacity issues; and at secondary, but with a long-term road map that strengthens the quality of Gaelic Medium Education.
There are, of course, challenges, teachers for one. Already though, a working group has been established to more innovatively and actively explore solutions to the teacher shortage, and a new full-time services leader post agreed to oversee the development of GME. There is too the need to promote a better understanding of Gaelic to dispel some of those myths.
All in all, it’s the next step on a collaborative journey. And in the interim, I’m off to learn some Gaelic!
Cllr Alison Dickie is the City of Edinburgh Council’s Gaelic Champion