Associate feature: Wellbeing, economy and Gaelic
Gaelic is central to Scottish identity. It is a generator of cultural, social, economic and creative wealth and well-being, has an international reach and is a language of home, learning, care, culture and work. Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s work contributes to this, along with a whole host of public authorities, organisations, community groups and individuals across the country.
This year marks 15 years since the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act came into force and there has been significant work since to increase the use, learning and promotion of the Gaelic language and culture in Scotland.
The intake of P1s into Gaelic Medium Education (GME) schools increases year on year. GME is vital to support the future of the language and studies have shown the positive educational benefits of learning bilingually. For example, the Glasgow Gaelic School is regularly ranked in the top ten of secondary schools in Scotland. The success of Gaelic media over the years has been significant, with programmes and short films winning awards in Europe and further afield.
In the past four years, BBC ALBA has benefited from co-finance and co-production deals with countries around the world and especially with European Broadcasting Union members. Since Scotland went into lockdown, the importance of the creative and cultural sectors in keeping us connected, healthy and happy has been particularly apparent, and Gaelic artists have been a key part of this. The richness of Gaelic culture has never been more visible than now and it is important, that as we ease out of lockdown, that our artists and venues are supported to enable them to survive.
Tourism is important to the economy, and again the Gaelic cultural sector has an important part to play in its recovery, as recognised and promoted by VisitScotland.
One campaign which aims to support Gaelic speakers, and Gaelic tourism, across the country, is #cleachdi or #useit. Launched last October, #cleachdi is an initiative that asks people to wear a badge or lanyard or use a sticker to signify that they speak Gaelic thereby increasing awareness of Gaelic and its use.
Lockdown has seen interest in online learning soar, with over 380,000 now learning Scottish Gaelic on Duolingo at home and around the world, with numbers accessing the one-stop-shop LearnGaelic.scot growing quickly. Bringing as many of these new learners forward to become Gaelic speakers has the potential to strengthen Gaelic communities considerably.
The number of young people able to speak the language increased in the last census. However, attracting and retaining young people in the islands and rural mainland, where Gaelic is still a community language, is still challenging.
Frustration is felt that growth isn’t happening as quickly as needed due in part to wider socio-economic reasons, such as lack of employment, housing, transport and connectivity.
Despite the obvious and tragic challenges that COVID-19 has caused, the crisis has increased innovation and skills nationally. It presents opportunities for greater connections across the Gaelic community in Scotland and internationally post lockdown.
One example is Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s collaboration with organisations including Fèisean nan Gàidheal and Comann na Gàidhlig to create interactive online activities which support blended learning.
These have been accessed by thousands of young Gaelic speaking people in their homes across Scotland. Gaelic language and culture offer pathways to strengthening the country as it comes out of lockdown and beyond.
Culture has been at the heart of bringing us together during this time, it is time for us to build on that and ensure that Gaelic is part of the education, economic and well-being recovery of Scotland.
Mary MacInness is chair of Bòrd na Gàidhlig
This piece was sponsored by Bòrd na Gàidhlig