I ALWAYS approach Michael Fry’s articles with trepidation.

I am frequently annoyed by them – no doubt his intention – and on rare occasions I find myself agreeing. But his article on Tuesday was in the former camp (Political gestures are not a plausible solution for saving the Gaelic culture, April 20).

I agree that you could go overboard in an effort to popularise the language through education but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to preserve and reverse years of decline of a culture in which all Scots should have pride and attachment.

He cites the example of Argyll in the 1920s where Gaelic “was still the language of the majority”. Then he avers that “it is not a matter of Lowland imperialism”. I would beg to differ.

Right-wing opinion often refers to Gaelic as a “dying” language. I’d go further. It is a murdered language, the joyous erasure of which started immediately post-Culloden. It is the same with spoken Scots. My earliest and most vivid memory of primary school was seeing a classmate belted for having the temerity to speak Scots in class. The appalling transgression in the eyes of this Edinburgh school was the answer given to a question posed directly to him by the teacher. He replied: “Ah dinnae ken”. “Come out here!!! I’ll teach you to use words like that in this classroom!!” Whump! Whump! Whump!

Later discussions with colleagues from the Highlands and Islands revealed that it was exactly the same there. Use Gaelic in the classroom and you would be assaulted. Very often children would arrive at primary school without a word of English and would be forbidden to speak Gaelic. This is referred to in Finlay J Macdonald’s book Crowdie and Cream. Doilna MacLennan refers to this in her autobiography and no doubt many others do too

Lowland imperialism was directly behind this. It was a systematic and callous policy practised all over the land. Our native languages were beaten out of us. How the hell did they stand a chance? All power to any efforts to try to redress the balance!

Jim Finnie

I DON’T always agree with Michael Fry, but his articles are usually well argued and well-focused. Not so Tuesday’s offering. He appears to find it strange, or even faintly absurd, that the Borderer Alasdair Allan has become not only a proficient learner of Gaelic but, in his capacity as MSP, an enthusiastic promoter of the language and the place it should hold in the national life. Given the historical importance of the Gaelic language and its speakers in Scotland’s history and the scale and richness of Gaelic culture, I don’t find it in the least surprising that anybody should take an active interest in it.

While rightly deploring the decline of language teaching in our schools, he attributes the fact that German now fares even worse than French to the presence of French loan-words in English and Scots. Unfortunately for this argument, English and German share not only some specific loan-words but most of their core vocabulary, since both are Germanic languages, and the procedure of identifying and explaining the multitude of cognate relationships between English and German words could be a highly effective means of arousing pupils’ interest in the language.

He argues that from the point of view of “utility” there would be more sense in teaching pupils Chinese than Gaelic, but that is just a red herring – the argument for teaching Gaelic is its historical and cultural importance; nobody is suggesting that it should be taught so that its learners can negotiate business deals with Gaelic-speakers.

Finally, after some disheartening anecdotes illustrating the decline of Gaelic, he concludes: “It does not sound to me as if political gestures are a plausible solution.” Well then, sir, what do you think would be a plausible solution? Or was the article simply written to convince us that Gaelic is doomed, and that efforts to preserve and encourage it are a pointless waste of time? If so, The National is a strange forum in which to express this view; and I doubt if it is shared by most of its readership.

Derrick McClure

I HAVE a vision of Michael Fry dressed with the metal helmet and breastplates of the Spanish Conquistadores. With values that drove them to destroy indigenous cultures, they showed the way for the British Empire to do the same. Perhaps he cannot contribute to the debate on how we move into a sustainable world with all its diversity.

Culture and language, like the natural world, are being destroyed by the very values of utility that economists hold sacred. His response to the learning of a language – other than received from our family – is that probably Mandarin Chinese would be the best. Why not one of the languages of my homeland? Language drives culture which, in turn, frames our aspirations for the kind of society we would like to create for our country.

Let us support Alasdair Allan MSP and his aspirations for Gaelic and its culture.

George Pattison

WELL said Harry Key (Letters, April 21)! I have long thought there should be independence referendums for any country of the UK. (I just don’t think other countries’ decisions are any of my business.)

Being the largest and most populated country, I would have thought English residents would have asked for one years ago. After all, they keep saying that they “subsidise” other countries. That being the case, why would they want to keep doing so?

On the same subject, it always amazes me how the world and his uncle has an opinion on the right of residents of Scotland to determine their own future. As far as I am concerned, if I didn’t live in a country proposing to make these kinds of decisions, I would only have four words for them – “How exciting! Good luck”.

Marie McILwham