POLICE Scotland is to become bilingual under a new five-year plan to enhance Gaelic in the force.

The corporate logo will be branded in English and Gaelic, while officers will be able to leave the beat to learn the language upon request.

Victims of crime will be able to report offences and receive replies in Gaelic – a language spoken by just two percent of the population and falling. The Scottish Police Authority (SPA), the force’s paymaster, said the plan will be “cost neutral” and the proposals has been welcomed by Gaelic organisations.

Herald View: Police Scotland and the role of Gaelic in public life

But the Scottish Conservatives fear it will be a “distraction” from the critical staffing and funding issues in the force which is facing a £28.2 million shortfall in its revenue budget in 2016/17.

David Boag, a director at Bòrd na Gàidhlig, which aims to promote the language, said: “Gaelic- speaking police officers and support staff are already offering valuable Gaelic language services to members of the public on a regular basis and this plan aims to identify, secure and build upon these opportunities wherever and whenever possible.

“Gaelic is for the whole of Scotland and Police Scotland, alongside colleagues across the public sector, are playing an important part in progressing the language’s revival.”

Herald View: Police Scotland and the role of Gaelic in public life

Donald John Macleod, librarian at the Gaelic Society of Inverness and a former education officer Highland Council, said: “When I worked in education it was good for the young people who were learning Gaelic to see the language being used on official business – that it’s not just something they do at school.”

But Conservative justice spokesman Douglas Ross said Police Scotland was already facing a string of challenges “none of which will be solved by having a Gaelic action plan”.

He said: “Gaelic is an important part of the fabric in some communities, but in many parts of Scotland people have little or no connection with it. Where the language is regularly spoken, the police already use Gaelic. This national plan will only serve as a distraction at a time when we should be concentrating on improving policing in Scotland.

“Rather than waste time and effort on this, they should be attempting to tackle the staffing and funding issues currently facing the force.”

Herald View: Police Scotland and the role of Gaelic in public life

From 2017 the Police Scotland corporate logo will be rendered bilingual across the service and in its branded material. Enhanced opportunities for the public to communicate with Police Scotland and the SPA in Gaelic are also being explored, along with producing an increased number of corporate publications in Gaelic.

Police Scotland will identify officers and staff who speak Gaelic and those who wish to learn the language will be encouraged to do so, enabling more officers and staff to be involved in translation and production of materials.

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Cowie said: “The importance of upholding traditional and native languages cannot be underestimated.” and as a police service we recognise Gaelic as an important aspect of Scotland’s heritage.