Wednesday, 25 June 2014

More Gaelic Here

Scotland's unofficial chief psephologist John Curtice is hosting an interesting article by Lindsey Paterson on what links there are between support for Gaelic and support for independence. The graphics are less than clearly laid out, with "full powers" the confusing choice of words for what most of us will know as "independence". His overall conclusion is that there is a link — hardly surprising, since what cultural Nationalists there are in Scotland are likely also to be political Nationalists. The fact that the correlation is not stronger, as it is in Northern Ireland, can be ascribed to the Highland-Lowland divide and to the historically multilingual nature of Scotland in general — as well as to a cultural factor discussed below.

One would of course expect a much stronger link in the case of Scots, whose status is inextricably linked with Scotland's seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Unions with England, and whose activist base is strongly Nationalist. However, that is unfortunately not investigated in the article (perhaps someone should drill into the 2012 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey for that too).

The headline figures for attitudes to Gaelic are that "42% of the sample [...] would like there to be more Gaelic speakers in 50 years' time [...]  39% [...] want the number to be unchanged  and [...] 10% [...] hope there will be fewer.". Yes, you read it right: a full 10% of Scots people hope that there will be fewer Gaelic-speakers 50 years from now. That may in part reflect the historical ambivalence of the dominant Presbyterians to secular linguistic culture of any kind, something given far fuller rein amongst their Ulster brethren.

That 39% want the number of Gaelic-speakers to be unchanged is perhaps not as bad as it seems, since few of them will have been acquent with the current number or the steep declines over successive Census cycles, something that may only now, perhaps, have been arrested.

Above all, maintenance presupposes state intervention and at the very least a continuation of current policies.

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