I HAVE long since stopped trying to reason with those troubled souls who have a problem with the fact that we have two indigenous minority languages.

I think, for instance, of the disgraceful trolling to which the distinguished writer and broadcaster Billy Kay was recently subjected for speaking in Scots at the Scottish Parliament’s “time for reflection” slot. I am also aware of the small but zealous online communities dedicated to hunting down and slaying Gaelic road signs.

I realise it is best to ignore some things that you see online, rather than to engage.

Rather than answer this nonsense directly, it’s best just to point out that there is a huge amount that is positive to be said about both Scots and Gaelic.

We should now just get on with continuing to support them. The Scottish Government’s present consultation on a bill on Scotland’s languages provides just such an opportunity to develop these two vital, and still under-appreciated, parts of our national life and culture.

All that said, perhaps a little fact-checking and myth-busting would do no harm, just to get the debate rolling.

Here are a few random examples of what I mean.

Not everyone who writes wholly or partly in Scots is an independence activist. Sir Walter Scott and John Buchan were both Unionists, not that either would probably be welcome in the Scottish Tory party today.

The National: Walter Scott was a firm lover of Scots but not a NationalistWalter Scott was a firm lover of Scots but not a Nationalist (Image: -)

Gaelic is not an “island thing”. There were Gaelic speakers in Deeside 60 years ago, and in Galloway 500 years ago.

Scots does not descend from English, or vice-versa – the languages are cousins and if you are all in favour of reading Scotland’s literature, but are against the Scots language, then please stop torturing yourself, as you are not going to square that particular circle.

Public services provided through the medium of Gaelic are still massively overshadowed by services in English – even in the islands. Gaelic-related expenditure, contrary to what some imagine, represents a miniscule share of Scotland’s budget.

People who complain that Gaelic is being “shoved down their throat”, generally because they can’t manage to avert their eyes quickly enough from some offending road sign, need to speak to some of my older neighbours. They will explain how they still recall being belted by teachers on a near-daily basis in primary one, simply because they had been overheard in the playground speaking the only language they knew – Gaelic.

Among the many practical questions that will need to be faced, as we go forward, are whether the existing 2005 legislation around Gaelic is strong enough and whether we need to have differing policies, tailored to the different kinds of Gaelic communities that exist around Scotland.

We also need to ask if Scots needs a degree of corpus planning to allow its wider written use in schools, outside creative writing.

We must consider how we can move beyond assumptions that culture, education, and the media are the only areas of public life to have a role in encouraging the use of Gaelic. What about other parts of the public sector, particularly in the Highlands and Islands?

We need to think about what we can do to make more young Scots aware of the literature that Scotland has produced in Scots, Gaelic and indeed English.

How can we “mainstream” the use of Gaelic in communities which are fragile and how do wider policies, such as housing, impact on the use of both Scots and Gaelic?

We have a long way to go before learning languages is seen as quite that normal in Scotland.

READ MORE: The National is showcasing Scots and Gaelic ahead of Language Bill consultation

I was on a train recently between Luxembourg and Brussels. Whenever required, the man selling sandwiches in the aisle of the train spoke to his customers variously in Luxembourgish, French, English, Dutch and German. He would have been astonished, I am sure, if someone had tried to tell him that he didn’t need Luxembourgish in that mix.

The way we treat our own linguistic inheritance in Scotland will affect our view of the wider language world.

Whatever the views that people feed into the consultation, I hope Scotland emerges as a country where we recognise more fully that speaking multiple languages is not a curiosity or a party trick – it is normal.

However, a good place to start is by continuing to build respect for the languages over which we, as a country, have been given unique custody.

Alasdair Allan is MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (The Western Isles). He has an MA in Scottish Language and Literature, and a PhD in Scots language. He was Minister for Science, Learning and Scotland’s Languages from 2011 to 2016