SCOTLAND’S Gaelic grassroots campaign group has said the recent scrapping of a national development scheme shows the language “isn't dying, it's being killed” by a lack of funding and support.

The campaign group Misneachd Alba made the comments after reports of major cuts to the budget of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the principal body in Scotland responsible for promoting Gaelic development.

It is reported that contracts of two language planning officers and an education manager will not be renewed in the next financial year – as well as the organisation’s Gaelic Development Officer scheme.

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Bòrd na Gàidhlig's annual budget will again be set at £5,125,000 by the Scottish Government but, in 2024/25, will not receive additional funding as it has done in previous years.

In 2021/22, the organisation received an additional £400,000, in 2022/23, £500,000, and in 2023/24, £354,000.

“This is going to have a terrible impact on the network of Community Gaelic Officers - positions that are essential to the future of Gaelic as a living, community language,” Misneachd said in a statement to The National.

“Misneachd are arguing for these Gaelic posts to be given a statutory basis as part of the Language Bill – along with good salaries and permanent contracts.”

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The Scottish Language Bill consultation is ongoing until March 8.

The legislation specifies that the Scottish Government must promote Gaelic and Scots education in schools, while giving ministers powers to set standards on the languages within education.

It would also change the responsibilities of Bòrd na Gàidhlig to include reports on Gaelic language strategy, as well as whether public authorities are complying with their duties to promote the use of the language.

Misneachd also highlighted that a panel recommended Bòrd na Gàidhlig receive £10 million a year when it was established in 2005. The organisation has only ever received £5m a year – with no increase in line with inflation.

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Misneachd added: “Community development is now suffering major cuts at a time when Gaelic communities are on the brink of extinction.

"It's crazy that this is happening with a language bill in front of the Parliament – a bill which will be impossible to implement effectively without preserving these Gaelic jobs and creating more.

“The Finance Committee has been very sceptical about the funding memorandums behind several bills from the Scottish Government recently and they are currently examining the funding commitments for Scottish Languages Bill.

“It is clear to those of us involved in efforts to preserve Scotland’s linguistic and cultural heritage that Gaelic isn't dying, it's being killed by a lack of funding and support from our own Government.”

In March 2023, Bòrd na Gàidhlig revealed they had provided almost £1m for language development officers since the scheme's launch.

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Rhoda Meek is currently chair of the Tiree Development Trust, one organisation that currently employs a Gaelic Development officer. Meek shared her "disappointment" withthe decision, describing it as "short-sighted" and "deeply damaging" to island communities.

She added: "Bòrd na Gàidhlig have been under funded for a long time, and these budget cuts will simply compound an already worsening outlook for the language. What is spent on Gaelic is a drop in the ocean when it comes to the overall budget.

"For the Scottish Government to so much as pretend that they care about the future of Gaelic is laughable. It is also deeply frustrating that the decision was made to speicifcally cut the Gaelic Development Officer programme. It has been made crystal clear to the Bòrd, and the Government, that if we have any hope of saving Gaelic in its heartlands, it will need concerted effort - and funding. Development Officers are key.

"That point took a long time to filter through - and clearly it didn’t filter through strongly enough.

Meek also shared that Tiree was "just started to get momentum on a flagship project" to encourage community use of the language - as the scheme intends.

"It is devastating for all concerned - not least the two jobs which will be affected. It’s nothing short of a disgrace, and a complete kick in the teeth to everyone who is battling against the tide of language loss. Mo nàire," Meek said.

Gaelic singer Arthur Cormack – who was a member of the Scottish Government’s Short Life Working Group looking at the economic and social opportunities for the language – also commented on the reports.

He said: “Extremely bad news for @bordnagaidhlig and community groups. And very much against the advice given to @scotgov by the Short Life Working Group it established to make recommendations on the economic and social opportunities for Gaelic.”

The National: A sign in English and Gaelic

Included in its recommendations published in June of last year, the group said: “Decisions on linguistic development in Key Gaelic Communities should, as far as possible, be taken by the people living there and benefit should accrue to the community.

“As far as possible, there should be community representation on all bodies which will have an impact on the places in which they live.”

A Bòrd na Gàidhlig spokesperson said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig is very disappointed that we are in this situation and recognizes the impact this news will have on our colleagues and our communities.

“We will continue to make the case to the Scottish Government that more funding is necessary to support the work of Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Gaelic-language organizations across our communities.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Over the past three financial years, the Scottish Government was able to identify additional short-term funding for Bòrd na Gàidhlig to allow it to expand the development officer network promoting Gaelic in bodies and projects. Despite the extraordinary financial challenges facing the Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s core baseline funding has been protected. 

"However, the additional short-term funding will not be able to continue.

“The Scottish Government recognises the significant part Gaelic plays in Scotland’s culture and we want to support the language to thrive and grow, which is why we are bringing forward the Scottish Languages Bill to provide further protection for Scotland’s indigenous languages.”