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The proscription of Gaelic has a long, tragic and bloody history

I read William Ross's criticism of Scottish Government investment in Gaelic with great sadness (Letters, January 23).

He gives voice to an antipathy towards the Gaelic language, and there is no doubt such antipathy has a currency, oddly enough, among a lot of Scottish people.

He describes Gaelic as superfluous, he suggests its study is sentimental (I'd have to say I'd far rather see a child regarding a language as romantic rather than as a business opportunity) and he creates a Scots-Gaelic battle line which seems to me to be entirely spurious.

There are a number of reasons why the continuation of Gaelic as a living language enriches everybody in Scotland. The literature of Sorley MacLean and the music of Flora MacNeil are but two. So long as Gaelic is spoken, and indeed sung, we have a direct link with one of the most important strands of our history, culture and heritage.

Most of our mountains have Gaelic names. Few of us know how to pronounce them. That is because we have not been taught. And that failure to teach has been policy and quite deliberate. The proscription of Gaelic has a long, tragic and sometimes bloody history. I have a notion as to why some Scots are so brutally enthusiastic about obliterating a part of their past. It is an incoherent expression of the agony of loss.

Dr Hamish Maclaren,

1 Grays Loan,Thornhill, Stirling.

how ironic that the latest assault on Gaelic on your Letters Pages comes from a man with the name William Ross, whose address may contain at least two Gaelic elements: Gualainn (for Gullane) and Arascain (Erskine). Nor is Druim (Drem) too far away. And could Macmerry be related to Magh Mairi (Mary's Field)? He may be breathing more Gaelic air than he realises.

The William Ross whose name he shares was a contemporary of Robert Burns, who composed some of the finest poems and songs in Gaelic. That so few Scots now speak the language is a matter of history (that we should hardly have to repeat here), including clearances and cultural genocide, as represented by various statutes and education acts. The figures Mr Ross describes as massive are, as reparations, in global terms insignificant.

There are activists from both the Gaelic and Scots communities quietly working together to explore means of establishing and enhancing the status of both languages. Far from being rivals, we see each as equally precious.

Aonghas MacNeacail,

The Rock, Carlops, Peeblesshire.

Is there a country in the world in such a state over the place of languages as Scotland?

We claim we want everyone speaking foreign languages for the sake of our trading position but we do little to encourage learning foreign languages and, indeed, have happily watched as Greek, Latin, Italian and German have disappeared from our education system in recent memory.

We claim to encourage the learning of Chinese and Spanish for our new world markets but don't invest enough to make a real difference.

We worry about the decline of Scots but do little to encourage that either. William Ross is correct to argue the Scots language needs investment. Michael Hance of the Scots Language Centre is also right that the investment needs to be in seeing and hearing Scots in our community, not just in a once-a-year Burns festival ("Tourism chiefs urged to celebrate Burns 'Nicht' by language group", The Herald, January 23).

But it is sad that we only need to put Gaelic in front of us as a focus for resentment and there is no stopping us. A quick Google search gives the total budget for running Scotland as £29 billion, which suggests to me the "massive" funding of £25 million for Gaelic is a drop in the ocean. I would also suspect removing the investment in Gaelic would make not one jot of difference to the survival of Scots.

It's our attitude that needs to change, not the finances: we need some respect for people's languages and cultures – and maybe some belief in ourselves.

Jean Nisbet,

5 Kennedy Court,

Braidholm Crescent, Glasgow.

William Ross's observations about the money spent on promoting Gaelic is ill-founded.

The Scots leid, which he rightly champions, is alive and well, while Gaelic has been ailing; which of these, therefore, is in more urgent need of support?

He is wrong to state that Scots is substantially based on British or Welsh (which are themselves Celtic tongues quite closely related to Gaelic). He is also mistaken to aver that Scots preceded Gaelic: Scots, or English, penetrated the Highlands only after children were beaten in school for using their mother tongue. Gaelic had started replacing Pictish when settlers from Ireland began to arrive in Argyll no later than the early 6th century, and was the language of the Scottish royal court and administration into the 11th century. As late as the 15th century Scottish kings spoke Gaelic. In the Highlands and Islands Gaelic preceded Scots by centuries, and was still being spoken as far south as Drymen a mere 100 years ago.

As for Mr Ross's complaint about Gaelic place names appearing on signs, he should realise these are in most cases the original, proper, designations. For instance, the actual name of Inveraray is Inbhir Aora; Inverness is Inbhir Nis; Ballachulish is Baile a'Chaolais, and so on. They are commonly rendered into something easier for non-Gaels to read and pronounce as an act of courtesy by Gaelic speakers, but remain the authentic versions.

Gaelic remains a vital part of this country's heritage and deserves encouragement and support.

Donald R Buchanan,

75 Antonine Road, Bearsden.

I have been following the discussions of Gaelic place names with interest.

Last year my wife and I spent a week touring Wales and most, if not all, of the names of towns and villages we passed through were in Welsh. As far as we were aware all the bed and breakfast signs were in English. We regularly visit relatives in Argyllshire, Aberdeenshire and Banffshire and again, as far as we are aware, have never seen bed and breakfast signs in Gaelic. I wonder if this is significant.

Donald A Grant,

14 Tylney Road, Oldhall, Paisley.

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