A Conservative MSP has said his party wants to work with the Scottish Government “to find a workable and enduring solution” to help preserve Scottish Gaelic.
Earlier this week, a new book – entitled The Gaelic Crisis In The Vernacular Community: A Comprehensive Sociolinguistic Survey Of Scottish Gaelic – suggested the language might not survive beyond this decade.
The authors said Gaelic is “in crisis, and that within remaining vernacular communities of Scotland, the social use and transmission of Gaelic is at the point of collapse”.
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron admitted the issue had been overly politicised in recent years but has offered to try to find a consensus to help Scottish Gaelic grow again.
He said: “Over the years, the Gaelic issue has been overly politicised on all sides, and that’s something everyone needs to own up to.
“While that has been going on, this report reveals how much the language has suffered, and indeed declined.
“We need to know why, after considerable investment, that situation has unfolded and how we can urgently rectify it.
“We want to work with the Scottish Government to find a workable and enduring solution, so that we can not only preserve the language but hopefully grow it too.
“We’re now reaching out to the SNP Government to see if we can all find a consensus on this vital matter.”
According to the last census in 2011, 57,375 people could speak Scottish Gaelic.
Discussing the new book, Professor Conchur O Giollagain, professor of Gaelic research at the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “It is important that we are clear about the immense scale of the challenges involved in reversing the ongoing decline in the use of Gaelic in these areas.
“Our statistical evidence indicates that the Gaelic vernacular community is comprised of around 11,000 people, of which a majority are in the 50 years and over age category.
“The decline of the Gaelic community, as especially shown in the marginal practice of Gaelic in families and among teenagers, indicates that without a community-wide revival of Gaelic, the trend towards the loss of vernacular Gaelic will continue.
“We found a mismatch between current Gaelic policies and the level of crisis among the speaker group which must be addressed to face the urgency of the language loss in the islands.
“The primary focus of Gaelic policy should now be on relevant initiatives to avert the loss of vernacular Gaelic.”
Meanwhile, language learning app Duolingo this week has 393,000 active Scottish Gaelic learners from 418,000 course starts since it launched on St Andrew’s Day last year.
Today is International Mother Language Day, which celebrates linguistic diversity and multilingualism. From Arabic to Guaraní and Chinese to Scottish Gaelic, we're proud to teach nearly 40 different languages! 🌏🌍🌎
Which language will you be practicing today? pic.twitter.com/QQusG72fZ2
— Duolingo (@duolingo) February 21, 2020
A spokesman told the PA news agency they expected to pass the 400,000 mark over the following days.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Gaelic language is a vital part of Scotland’s cultural identity.
“Ministers support efforts to improve access for speakers to learn and use the language, and we are always keen to work with all interested organisations, stakeholders and parties in doing so.
“We are interested in the proposals in the University of the Highlands and Islands Language Sciences Institute and Soillse book and look forward to discussing the value of current initiatives and the new structures suggested to strengthen Gaelic in the islands.
“Although the Gaelic language is in a fragile condition, there are a range of policies and interventions in place to promote the learning, speaking and use of Gaelic and these are constantly kept under review.”