The National:

AFTER much trailing and speculation, we now know the name of Alex Salmond’s new political vehicle, which will propel us to independence … Pàrtaidh na h-Alba.

Well, he didn’t go that far, he’s plumped for a poorly pronounced Alba Party. Just as we saw with the botched re-naming of AUOB to Yes Alba (again, incorrectly pronounced as Al-Ba rather than Ala-pa), the launch of the Alba Party, also plagued by gremlins of a more technical nature, was followed by a classic Twitter bùrach. Gaelic speakers, as well as Channel 4 News, quickly picked up on the mispronunciation and questioned the use of the Alba in the name.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new.

Gaelic speakers are well used to seeing questionable appropriation of the language by those who have not yet taken the time to learn it, and who know little about Gaelic’s contemporary or historical place in Scotland.

There is so much to be gained by learning Gaelic, and with Duolingo free at our fingertips it’s never been easier! But beyond the issue of how you actually say Alba, there is the much more critical issue of the respect, support and understanding shown to Gaelic and Gaels in Scotland today.

READ MORE: UK journalists seem to think Alex Salmond named Alba Party after the BBC channel

Gaelic itself has become a political football for those on both sides of the independence debate, with neither side showing any understanding or empathy for its increasingly marginalised speakers.

There is a danger that the symbolic national status given to Gaelic by the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 has allowed for the appropriation of the image and idea of the language by supporters of independence and its rejection, by all but a few admirable exceptions, on the Unionist side of the debate.

Unfortunately for Gaels and Gaelic speakers, this association with the SNP and independence has done nothing to embolden policy-making for Gaelic, support for Gaelic speaking rural communities nor wider use of the language in Scotland.

To be fair to Alex Salmond, he has shown more interest in supporting Gaelic than the present leadership of the SNP, Mairidh an Dòchas was the title given to the Gaelic version of his post-referendum book The Dream Shall Never Die. I attended the launch where he spoke passionately about Gaelic’s place in Scotland and the normalisation of its use.

However, that must translate into policy and financial support.

Gaelic is not dying; it is being killed by a lack of support and investment. It’s always worth stating that every penny not spent on Gaelic is spent supporting the English language. The policies and support presently given to Gaelic in Scotland are far from adequate to ensure the language’s survival as a spoken vernacular. Politicians from all parties need to get serious about the preservation and cultivation of the Gaelic language and culture, its loss to Scotland on the cusp of independence would be an unforgivable, unimaginable loss.

​READ MORE: Legislation will be needed if Gaelic is not to be lost to future generations

Rural and Island communities are currently being thrown under the (mini)bus in pursuit of tourist income. The last few fragile communities where Gaelic is spoken must be fostered and allowed to thrive.

This means a right to housing, land reform, decentralisation, better-salaried jobs, Gaelic being given its rightful status at the heart of daily life in the Highlands and Islands.

The language lives, not just in the classroom and on stage, but in small fishing boats, crofts, and rural shops. In doctors’ surgeries, architects’ offices, mechanics’ garages. The manifesto published recently by the Gaelic campaign group Misneachd contains a wide range of policies that would ensure Gaelic’s revival.

I would invite politicians of all parties who wish to take their support for Gaelic beyond appropriation and symbolism to adopt a policy platform which ensures Gaelic continues to play a vital part in enriching the cultural diversity of modern Scotland for many years to come.

Màrtainn Mac A’Bhàillidh helped develop the Gaelic course on the Duolingo app and is an organiser with the grassroots advocacy group Misneachd, which aims to raise awareness of Gaelic and the issues facing Gaelic-speaking communities