Accusations of bigotry in clash over Gaelic language

Signs in Fife could soon carry Gaelic translations ' but some councillors are less than enthusiastic about it.
Signs in Fife could soon carry Gaelic translations ' but some councillors are less than enthusiastic about it.

A number of members of the executive committee have been accused of being “bigots” in a row over the Council’s Gaelic Language Plan.

SNP councillors were furious with the negative reaction the plan received from members of other parties.

Councillor Brian Goodall was “annoyed and angered” by the “vile and bigoted” anti-Gaelic comments.

He said: “If these comments had been made about any other language there would be outrage.”

Fife Council has a statutory responsibility under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 to publish a Gaelic Language Plan by February 28.

The plan presented to councillors on Tuesday includes using Gaelic in the Council’s corporate identity and on boundary signs, enhancing the visibility of the language.

This would mean replacing signs with bilingual versions when due for renewal, and creating a bilingual design of Fife Council’s logo.

Other commitments include creating a bilingual introductory page on the Council website and promoting Gaelic in libraries.

The plan also talks about the need to provide training to staff to help them develop the necessary language skills to deliver services in Gaelic.

An audit of staff has revealed a number of them can read, write, speak or understand Gaelic, and a number of others would be interested in learning the language.

The report indicated that that EU funding was available for some aspects of the plan, but for the maj0rity of actions no additional resources should be required.

However, some councillors suggested there might be “hidden costs”, with Conservative group leader Dave Dempsey suggesting it didn’t take into account staff time.

He also wanted assurances that materials carrying the existing logo, such as headed notepaper, would not be thrown out.

Independent councillor Bryan Poole also questioned how much it was all going to cost, while Liberal Democrat councillor Susan Leslie said there was a “very high level of cynicism when it comes to spending money on something like this.”

Labour councillor Pat Callaghan was particularly scathing, commenting: “This is wrong. I’ve never spoken Gaelic and have no intention of learning Gaelic. We should be doing the minimum possible on this.”

Labour councillor Kay Morrison added: “There are 22 languages spoken in Fife. Gaelic is one of them, but it is well down the list.”

However, SNP councillor Karen Marjoram welcomed the plan.

She said: “Learning any language is good for the brain.

“If someone wants to learn Polish, that’s good, and if someone wants to learn Gaelic, that’s good too.

“The report doesn’t say we’re going to go out ripping up signs. It’s adding some text when they need replaced. It’s a sensible approach.”

SNP group leader Peter Grant said Gaelic was an integral part of our identity.

According to the latest census figures, 2462 people in Fife can speak, read or understand Gaelic.