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Eilean a' Cheò is a bridge too far

posted by zaina19 on July, 2007 as ANALYSIS / OPINION

From: MSN NicknameEagle_wng  (Original Message)    Sent: 7/2/2007 7:38 AM
The Scotsman Mon 2 Jul 2007
Eilean a' Cheò is a bridge too far

SUMMER, and the silly season is upon us, so here's a silly thing. Rumours were rife that Highland Council was going to rename the Isle of Skye, calling it Chechnya, or something like that. In fact, the councillors anxiously re-assure us, it's only the council ward that is being renamed, and not the island as such. A pretty fine distinction.

No doubt the councillors realised that there's actually quite a lot in a name. Skye is mine, in a way, just as much as theirs, but they didn't consult me. It seems the advance of aggressive Gaelicism is becoming unstoppable.

How would we feel if the Edinburgh Council decided to call their city Drumsheugh, or another random name? Would only voting residents have the right to object?

I was in Torridon a week or so back doing some hillwalking. I climbed eight Munros, six of which have a Gaelic name I can neither pronounce nor remember. Fair enough - those are the names of the hills, and always have been. I gazed across to the Cuillin ridge, noting the bonnie boats, speeding, like birds on the wing, over the sea to Chechnya.

Driving around Wester Ross you can't help but notice the road signs, all expensively renewed in English and Gaelic. You can head for Inverness or, if you prefer, Inbhir Nis. I have a feeling this is a reverse transliteration. The prefix "inver" derives from the Gaelic "inbhir", but I doubt if Inbhir Nis ever existed before Inverness. Who benefits from this nonsense? Certainly not the motorist, who finds the duality confusing. Whatever else may be true, this practice is not about improved clarity of direction. There are about four people left in Scotland who speak only Gaelic. They don't drive around that much, and anyway, if they were motorists, would put clear signs before political propaganda.

Which is what this is. As often, Holyrood is the brooding presence which has encouraged such chauvinism. I have said before that law makers like to make laws. The firebrand ex-MSP Mike Watson came up with the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act. This has established, wait for it, the Bòrd na Gàidhlig, in effect a teuchters' quango, with a budget of millions. Ominously it states its principal statutory objective as "securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language".

Can you believe this? I have been to Quebec, where the language war has been raging, with far greater statistical justification, for centuries. They have laws there which call for the death penalty to anyone who sells hot dogs without simultaneously peddling chiens chaud. I'm not kidding here - well, maybe slightly about the death penalty. But in Paris they happily sell "le hot-dog." Paternalistic, invasive legislation breeds absurdity, not progress.

This silly Act will not achieve its purpose. It can't, because you can't bring a dead thing to life. Instead it will give us the bureaucratic bullying and wasteful expenditure now being shown by Highland Council. I visited the website of the Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Its aim is chaos. It says it wants an increasing number of Gaelic speakers and learners making Gaelic their language of preference in the home, community and workplace. Take the workplace: new trouble is brewing for employers. You have a Gaelic speaker on your staff. He expresses a preference to communicate in that language, and refuses to use his native English. You sack him. He tribunals you, funded by a rampant Bord na Gaidhlig; represented by an unctuously angry solicitor. In no time the Bòrd will be demanding in-house Gaidhlig translators for all employers.

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