GAELIC-MEDIUM primary schools alone won’t stop the language eroding in stronghold communities, a new book states.

The provision, available in almost 60 schools or departments across 14 council areas, is seen as a major step towards safeguarding the language, which has seen a renaissance in interest from learners.

The Gaelic Duolingo app has around 390,000 users, while 128,000 people have signed up to MG Alba’s LearnGaelic service.

Earlier this year Comhairle nan Eilean Siar began the first council in Scotland to set out plans to make Gaelic-medium education the default choice for all new primary one pupils.

But in a new book published today, experts claim current policies on the language don’t match up to the level of “crisis” it faces in the communities where it’s spoken most.

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Research group Soillse – which includes Gaelic college Sabhal Mor Ostaig and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) plus Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian, Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt universities – say national policy must undergo “radical” change to focus on the decline of Gaelic as a community language.

It says that primary school tuition in the language has been a success but too few teenagers use it in every-day life and its main users are over-50s. Without a new approach, Soillse argues, vernacular Gaelic will be lost.

The claim is based on analysis of communities in the Western Isles, Skye and Tiree. The work is said to be the most comprehensive social survey on the state of Gaelic communities that’s ever been conducted.

Professor Conchur O Giollagain of UHI 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.

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“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 team wants to see language strategy based on a community development trust model under the control of local people.

Iain Caimbeul, also of UHI, said: “We hope this research will be valuable to those interested in seeking to shift public policy assumptions from a sole dependence on the school system for creating the next generation of fluent Gaelic speakers.”

The book, titled The Gaelic Crisis In The Vernacular Community: A Comprehensive Sociolinguistic Survey Of Scottish Gaelic, is available from the Gaelic Books Council.