BY the magic of social media, two entirely different takes on the vitality of Gaelic language and culture arose this week.

Firstly, the Twitter account of an Anglican Church in Dumfries objected to the Scottish Parliament’s current Gaelic Week. It described spending on the language as “an utter waste of money”, serving only 1.2% of the population. Pelters descended.

But also this week, the language app Duolingo reported that 560,000 people had signed up for their Scottish Gaelic course worldwide (a third each from Scotland and the US, the rest from around the planet, with 8% from Canada). That makes for 186,000 Scottish users, compared to the official figure for active Gaelic speakers at 54,800.

I’m a non-Gaelic speaker; an Irish “Brady-Kane” with no discernible connections to the Scottish Gaidhealtachd. Yet I would support measures considerably beyond those currently proposed to sustain Gaelic as a living language in strong communities.

As we go forward into this century, we need a few different Scotlands within the one country – which can easily be presented as different language-worlds. Certainly, we need a Scotland that can talk confidently and clearly in the world language, English, about its priorities and its offerings – cosmopolitan, metropolitan, academic and managerial. We also need a Scotland that increasingly values the way it currently talks to itself, its accents and vocabulary. The rise in Scots-language activism and literature may, in some quarters, dream of forging a Catalan-style national language. But in the meantime, it’s enough that we’re loosening our police action on the presence of Scots words, phrases and syntax in mainstream life (the transatlantic success of Douglas Stewart’s Shuggie Bain, despite being written partly in Glasgow vernacular, also indicates the wider world is ready for ordinary “Scots”).

Finally, we need a Scotland that resonates deeply with ecology and nature. We need a part of this country that represents a profound corrective to models of “disruptive innovation” – those techno-forces that we always presume pull nations towards progress. The trendy word in activist circles for this is “regenerative communities”. These are conscious attempts to forge new cultures that can support a much more balanced relationship with land and eco-systems. As can so often be said about this wee country, we have an embarrassment of resources to address the challenge here. Most obviously, they are the ecological world view that is embedded in Gaelic as a language. But they are also the Highland and Hebridean territories and communities which could make “regeneration” real.

A few years ago, the English writer Madeleine Bunting made this point in her moving, learned book, Love of Country: “Gaelic provides a language of resistance to capitalism; it is inherently counter-cultural, challenging central concepts such as the notion of private property.”

“Take the word ‘duthchas’,” continues Bunting. “There is no succinct way to translate it because it incorporates a rich set of ideas. My Gaelic dictionary translates it as ‘place of origin’ or ‘homeland’. But on Lewis, I was told it means much more. It’s a collective claim on the land which is reinforced and lived out through the shared management of that land.

“Duthchas is a right which is grounded in daily habits and activities and it is bound up with relationships to others, and responsibilities. It gives rise to the idea, identified by the scholar Michael Newton, that ‘people belong to places rather than places belonging to people’. Gaelic turns notions of ownership on their head.”

Bunting quotes a submission that was delivered to a consultation on a superquarry for Harris (which was stopped for good in 2004): “Another reality prevails in Harris: language, religion, culture – the whole of everyday life – are embedded in tradition, not in consumption. Tradition should not be confused with the past; it could better be described as the meaning of the past, distilled into the present and cared for, with a view to handing it on to further generations.”

Green activists across the northern hemisphere are turning to indigenous cultures in Africa, South America and Australia. From them, they seek clues, wisdom and metaphors that can help them operate in respectful harmony with nature. Yet in Scotland, Gaelic civilisation – able to express so much biophilia and eco-balance – sits right next to us, indeed among us.

Representatives of the Scottish Government (MSPs Kate Forbes and Alasdair Allan) were conducting online meetings with the Gaidhealtachd this week. In the West Highland Free Press, Forbes was quoted thus: “Urgent work is required to save Gaelic, but as a living language it won’t be politicians, bureaucracy or tokenistic gestures that make the difference. Ultimately, it will be those people for whom it is the language of daily life that can reverse the decline”.

This feels more than a little laissez-faire. As far as I can discern, the Gaelic intelligentsia is still trying to process the implications of the gloomy July report on “The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community”. The conclusions of this study of all-Gaelic areas like the Western Isles, Staffin and Tiree was that the language would not be spoken in these areas within a decade.

Their solution was something called a “Participatory Minority Language Cooperative”. Essentially, the authors expected that investment in the language of these areas would bring not just a return on language usage (increased use in families, communities and schools). They also expected a socio-economic return. Promoting its use would enable “new enterprises, employment opportunities, youth participation”. They also urged that resources should be targeted to “embedded community groups” and “Gaelic familial and social networks”. As a writer from the Bella Caledonia blog put it, the vitality of Gaelic “radiates out like circles from the island communities”.

These are the locations where the language could articulate and give meaning to the sustainable and regenerative economics of each place. And, equally, where the economics would reinforce Gaelic culture and traditions.

Again, drawing on green activist thinking, the fashionable term is the need for what’s called a “pluriverse” of options. We must preserve the many distinct ways that humans have lived fruitfully with natural systems, in order that we can prepare to survive our passage into an era of climate breakdown.

So in a sense, Gaelic culture and society must become more strident about its difference and direction within Scotland, than more accommodating or integrating.

To think this is an inward, parochial turn could hardly be more wrong. Many in the world are casting about for new, coherent models of living. Bold moves in Gaelic society to weave together language, economics, ecology and technology will make them more attractive to global networks, not cut them off.

The success of the Scottish Gaelic Duolingo course is of course a testament to the Scottish diaspora. Trace memories of Gaelic living, from parents or grandparents, meets the endless menu of interactions that the net provides. But it also reflects the curiosity of citizens across the globe for the sheer cultural diversity of humanity.

Scotland might just be about to hit the spotlight, showcasing all of its best qualities to the planet’s networks. So let us make absolutely sure that one of the country’s most important assets – a thriving Gaelic socio-linguistic community – is not allowed to slip below the waves.