You might have received notification from Bòrd na Gàidhlig to prepare a statutory Gaelic language plan – or you may have become interested in developing a plan or language policy voluntarily. In either case, it is necessary to have understanding of Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. Reference should also be made to two key publications – “Guidance on the development of a Gaelic Language Plan” and the “National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-23

The security and future growth of Gaelic depends upon cooperation and collaboration at every level. Gaelic is one of Scotland’s oldest indigenous languages still spoken; it is also a modern, vibrant, irreplaceable language in a fragile position. Gaelic has notably survived hundreds of years of economic hardship and population loss, as well as official neglect. The 2005 Act responded to this reality and established Bòrd na Gàidhlig as a public body that functions with “a view to securing the status of Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language”. The Bòrd is the primary agency responsible for promoting the language and guiding it toward a sustainable future – a responsibility which is shared across Scotland through delegation and support.

The Bòrd advises the Scottish government and other agencies on Gaelic issues and on the provision of Gaelic Medium Education in Scotland. The Act also tasks the Bòrd with the publication of a national Gaelic language plan at least every 5 years. In addition, the Bòrd is empowered to require public authorities to develop and publish Gaelic language plans.

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 is a piece of legislation unique in the history of Scotland. It follows on from a foundation of European measures that secures the status and respects the rights of minority language users in local, regional, national and international contexts, including:

Welsh and Irish are amongst the other languages protected by these statutes, but there are many others: Catalan (spoken in parts of Spain and France), Basque (in Spain and France), Provencal (France) and Sami (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia), for example.

The National Gaelic Language Plan 2012-17

One of the main functions of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 is the requirement for Bòrd na Gàidhlig to develop a national Gaelic language plan at least every 5 years. The national Gaelic language plan belongs to the whole of Scotland - it aims to provide the whole of Scotland with a strategy for growing and developing the language.

Under the Act the Bòrd may require public authorities to prepare their own Gaelic language plans and these must clearly link to the national Gaelic language plan identifying how their outcomes will add to the growth and development of Gaelic nationally through their organisations' functions. These public authorities are bodies such as yours, whose functions and services are important to the Gaelic language and its users - both learners and those who have spoken it from birth.

The national Gaelic language plan clearly identifies the main priorities for Gaelic and where available resources should be directed - these can be seen in the following section on Gaelic language plan development.

The national Gaelic language plan provides guidelines on priorities that bodies and authorities should address in regard to Gaelic matters and the preparation of Gaelic language plans. It also understands that effective implementation lies at the heart of national and local developments, and includes proposals for strategies aimed at increasing the number able to speak Gaelic, encouraging its use in public and in the workplace, raising its visibility and status, and providing greater access to Gaelic language and culture.

Language Planning Concepts

The purpose of implementing a Gaelic language plan is to increase the capacity of your organisation to support the usage, status and acquisition of Gaelic in respect of its functions, as well as your potential to contribute to the language corpus. In the study of minority languages, these four concepts (Usage, Status, Acquisition and Corpus) are regarded as fundamental to their protection and revitalisation. 

These concepts will be realised practically through the implementation of your Plan in the areas of policy development, service delivery and other operational processes (including the key areas of corporate identity, communications, publications, and staff). The broad outcome is the visual and audible mainstreaming of Gaelic in Scotland.

These concepts should be put into practice in order to achieve the following outcomes:

Language Usage

To encourage greater use of Gaelic, to provide opportunities to use the language and to promote access to the language in its many forms.

Through the provision of a greater range of services to the public through the medium of Gaelic, and by providing their own staff with greater opportunities to use Gaelic in the conduct of their jobs, public authorities can significantly increase the language's use.

Language Status 

To increase the visibility and audibility of Gaelic, to enhance its recognition and to create a positive image for Gaelic in Scottish public life.

Public authorities can play an important role in increasing the visibility of Gaelic by, for example, using Gaelic on signage, letterheads and on their websites.

Language Acquisition

To increase the number of Gaelic speakers by ensuring the language is passed on and by securing effective opportunities for learning Gaelic.

The key areas on which the Bòrd considers authorities need to focus are home and early years, education - schools and teachers; education - post-school education; and communities. In some cases the increased Gaelic provision an authority provides may stimulate additional demand for services in Gaelic and create added interest for Gaelic to be learned and passed on. The Bòrd also considers that provision of workplace training in Gaelic language skills plays an important part in language acquisition.

Language Corpus

To strengthen the relevance and consistency of Gaelic and to promote research into the language.

The expanded use of Gaelic in the delivery of services and in corporate identities is likely to trigger the development of new terminology in Gaelic, ensuring that users of Gaelic are equipped to deal with all aspects of daily life.