Thursday, 26 September 2013
The results of the language questions in the Scottish Census have finally been published, with the key headline — and unbelievably good news — being that there are only 1,000 fewer Gaelic-speakers than last time. By the time of the next Census, if there is one, there will almost certainly have been an increase. People can argue about the quality of the speakers (Gaelic-medium education is now expanding beyond the language's traditional heartlands, and there are now a fair few adult learners among the total), but it seems like a corner has been turned and that Gaelic has been saved (remember that the last Census recorded a fall of 11%).
Devolution has played a part in this, both by commission and omission (one of the first signs that Gaelic's fortunes were not to be wholly dismal was when Michael Forsyth, a Thatcherite Conservative Minister, managed to find some funds for it a generation ago in an attempt to assuage the forces of nationalism). It is the reality of Scots ruling Scotland, however, that has brought about this sea-change, with a language Act passed in 2005, and a TV station established in 2008.
The news on Scots and national identity are also worthy of comment, but for the 17-year-old who learned Irish instead of Scottish Gaelic because he was so ashamed about wanting to do something in which few Scots had much interest, this is an emotional day.