Sign of the times

Tha am blog seo cuideachd ri fhaighinn anns a’Ghàidhlig an seo: Sanasan a’sealltainn mar a tha cùisean

Road signs are almost the quintessential stick used to beat Gaelic, as those that take issue with the revival of part of Scotland’s heritage make perhaps one of the most visual representations of Gaelic re-emerging from the shadows the target of vitriol and scorn.  This week Twitter has been awash with ill-will and misguided attacks towards the language, and none of it has been deserved.

Gaelic was put on road signs as a way of increasing the visibility of the language that has been part of Scotland’s history for centuries.  This is a long-standing principle of the Scottish Government’s effort in maintaining the language, and not one that is limited to the current SNP administration, as even back in the early days of the Scottish Parliament in 2001 the Labour & Lib Dem administration included it as part of their policies.  Road signs aren’t a massive drain on resources, with the ridiculous claims of Jackson Carlaw MSP (deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives) that they cost £26 million coming to £3 million over the entirety of annual Government spending on Gaelic.  The total cost of Gaelic signs is as low as £500 thousand per year – a pittance considering its benefits.

Gaelic is generally only added to road signs that are due to be replaced anyway, as they need to be from time to time as the wear and tear of the Scottish climate wears them down.  The exception to this is for Scotrail, which has been privately run by First Group and latterly Abellio, who both support the use of Gaelic by including the language on their signage when rebranding.  The only added costs, if any, for these Gaelic road signs is to find a translation (which is almost always readily available) and maybe to use a different colour of paint to distinguish the languages.  To call this a massive cost is ridiculous and petty, and completely misses the point of the small amount of effort being put in to help Gaelic.

Showing off that our language is alive and able for use is vital to keep it going.  It’s a perpetual motion thing: the more we put into Gaelic the more people will take it up and then build upon the language.  If just seeing the name of somewhere in Gaelic is enough to embolden someone to continue with the language then it’s a cost that pays for itself.

Gaelic has been proven to be a massive benefit to the economy, worth as much as £148.5 million annually compared to the small investment of £23 million (0.07% of the total budget) made by the Scottish Government in keeping it going.  This covers all Gaelic expenditure including major projects such as education, broadcasting and the running of Bòrd na Gàidhlig.  As far as return on investment goes, Gaelic might be one of the best areas in which the Government puts out money.

Our society should value a richness of diversity in everything it has, from the languages we speak, to the religions we follow and the political views we hold.  Scotland is a wonderfully inclusive country and one that should value the tremendous heritage that we have as well as the modernities that have been introduced to us.  There is room for all in Scotland, and that should include Gaelic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *