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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Deveria's Hot Debate

18th April 2013

Language campaigner and writer Richard Deveria recently re-kindled a hot debate about the respective places of Gaelic and Scots when he spoke to the press this week (Daily Record, 13 April). Deveria who is, unusually, a campaigner for both the Gaelic and Scots languages was highly critical of plans that would require all 32 Scottish local authorities to implement Gaelic policies, bilingual signs, and websites in the coming years. Deveria described the plan, which is required under the terms of the Gaelic Act passed in the Scottish Parliament in 2005, as impractical, wasteful of resources, and the ‘imposition’ of an identity on regions not traditionally associated with the language. His comments come in the wake of debates in social media which have questioned the policy behind the Gaelic Act and the feeling that the best place to invest in the language is within the areas where it has traditionally been spoken as a community language. Deveria was highly critical of the effect on Scots-speaking communities. He said “It’s absurd to use legislation to impose Gaelic on the lowlands, where Lowland Scots has been the traditional form of speech...” and added that it was a waste of public money “...where it is of little relevance.” Deveria’s comments highlighted the debate about plans to erect bilingual Gaelic-English signs throughout Scotland, despite the fact that some of the Gaelic names had had to be recently created. Where Gaelic names did not exist in Scots-speaking regions, new ones were created from old Brittonic names, an extinct language related to Modern Welsh, but distantly related to Gaelic. As a reply to this, it has been proposed in recent debates that perhaps new names in Scots might be created from Old Norse, a language related to Scots, to erect Scots language signs on, for example, Harris and Lewis, where Norse was once spoken. There are concerns that Scots-speaking and other communities were not consulted in this process and Deveria considered that Gaelic was best promoted by those who speak it, in their traditional heartlands. No doubt this debate will continue.