Monday, 19 October 2015

Opposing Bilingual Signage is a Far-right Position

The Herald has an interesting article on Police Scotland, the newly created national police force, mulling over whether to brand itself bilingually.

The journalism has obviously benefited from some quality time spent with those working to promote Gaelic, since some of the more off-the-wall misconceptions — such as extreme cost and it all being an SNP plot — are notable by their absence. Indeed, as the article points out, current efforts for Gaelic began in a big way under a previous Labour/Liberal-Democrat Administration. Nor are all of those involved in promoting Gaelic Nationalists; many native speakers and academics support the Union (learners, one suspects, not so much), and some of them make unflattering comparisons of SNP policy with that of its predecessors.

Be that as it may, the Blether Region's eye was caught by the following.
"However, in some countries far right groups have reacted with anger when minority languages became associated with symbols of state power, including road signs and, especially, the police and military."
That is, of course, exactly the situation in Northern Ireland. Bilingual signage is either cost-neutral or very close to it. Moreover, as the name suggests, it is bilingual, i.e. retains English. Any claims that Protestants and Unionists would be disadvantaged by it are transparently spurious. Essentially they are arguments about symbolism and "purity" rather than rights. Dodgy ground, in other words.

And yet it remains the case that most representatives of Northern Ireland's self-styled non-sectarian party, the Alliance, either buy into that cranky and prejudiced view themselves or conclude that potential criminal damage to such signs should be pre-empted by the drastic and illiberal expedient of banning them.

One wonders what the reaction would be in England if supposedly moderate politicians took the same view about, say, a foreign-language sign pointing to a north London synagogue or a gurudwara in Slough. Probably, even if they shared the Alliance Party view, they would at least have the sense not to say so.

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