Thursday, 6 October 2011

School for Scandal

Although the subject of this blog is language in Northern Ireland rather than Scotland, the Blether Region feels compelled to comment on a story in today's Scotsman that quite outrageously singles out the proposed conversion of a derelict public building in Edinburgh to a Gaelic-medium school for an arbitrary dose of fiscal rectitude (what Northern Ireland's Divine Comedy, in a more romantic vein, once referred to as the "certainty of chance"). This despite the rather obvious fact that "costs soared as a result of vandalism and roof and water damage to the empty building" rather than because of the verb coming first in the sentence.

While historically Gaelic (or Middle Irish, to be precise) was at one time the language of almost everywhere in Scotland, the slowness of the language's decline and the historical enmity between Highland and Lowland have meant that Gaelic-speakers are very often viewed as an ethnic minority — and, in a Lowland context, an immigrant one at that. All of which renders the Scotsman's decision to set up an online poll on whether Holyrood should "stump up the cash for the city's new Gaelic school" a somewhat doubtful enterprise.

By coincidence, the Guardian reported this week that the partner of Liberal-Democrat MP Chris Huhne is to sue the Daily Mail for "inciting users of its website to be abusive" to her.

Is the Blether Region alone in thinking that the Scotsman is similarly intent on whipping up a tide of righteous indignation, this time against an entire community? Lawyers for Chris Huhne's partner have argued that all 58 of the readers' comments appended to the Daily Mail article in question were "abusive in character". Comments on the Scotsman article (after moderation) included "Meheedrum muhoodrum ... Nae garlic speakers in Leith!" and "Taxpayers money shouldnt be used to create separation and division". With dreary predictability, there was also an attempt to link the project to the question of state support for Catholic schools.

Indeed, sometimes Scotland can be a delightful place — but only when compared with Northern Ireland, and even then the charm Vorsprung can vary quite considerably in its degree.

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