A RADICAL Gaelic campaign group that argues the language has been subjected to an “ongoing process of cultural genocide over many centuries” has revealed plans to field a raft of local election candidates as part of efforts to revive it.

Misneachd – which translates as confidence or courage – says all adults in the Western Isles and other Gaelic heartlands should have the right to six months’ free, full-time tuition in the language in islands-based “immersion centres”.

This would take the form of a paid sabbatical for those in work.

It also wants to phase out English-medium education in the islands and limit the number of second homes.

Misneachd is fielding a candidate for the first time in a local by-election on Skye on March 12, following the resignation of independent councillor Professor Ronald MacDonald from Highland Council.

READ MORE: Alan Simpson: It is time to rip up the Gaelic blueprint and start again 

Màrtainn Mac a' Bhàillidh, the group’s candidate, told the Herald on Sunday: "I think in the next council elections we want to have a raft of candidates standing in the islands, again as independents but with an affiliation to the Misneachd agenda as it were, rather than as an official political party.

"It's just very hard to challenge the status quo in terms of language policies. All the parties are kind of equally weak on the subject, and there's very little in terms of policy debate."

The 35-year-old said the group had discussed registering as a political party but currently favour fielding independent candidates in the Highlands and islands linked to its agenda.

He said the prospect of putting candidates forward for Holyrood elections is also "under discussion", adding: "It would be quite a big step. It would be good to do, but as an organisation, we are completely reliant on donations and we would need to run fundraisers and whatnot for it. Potentially – but maybe next year's a bit too soon."

It comes amid continuing debate over Gaelic’s future, with the quango in charge of the language, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, facing criticism over a lack of openness and transparency.

Last month, Western Isles council - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - announced children starting school this year will be taught in Gaelic, unless their parents opt-out.

Misneachd’s Radical Plan for Gaelic, published in 2018, warned the language is rapidly dying out in its Hebridean heartlands, and accused Gaelic organisations and politicians of being complacent and in denial.

It argued: “The historical and continuing decline of Gaelic-speaking communities constitutes an ongoing process of cultural genocide over many centuries.

“Similar injustices have been recognised as such in other parts of the world, and we must likewise be prepared to state the stark truth of the situation with regard to Gaelic communities.

“Current politicians are allowing this great historical injustice to continue if they do not take sufficient steps to halt and reverse this process.”

The group called for an ambitious target of attaining 100 per cent bilingualism in Gaelic and English among all those who have been resident in the Western Isles for at least five years.

Its Gaelic plan stated: “All adults in the Western Isles and other Gaelic heartlands should have the right to six months free full-time Gaelic tuition – in the form of a paid sabbatical for those in work.”

Elsewhere, Misneachd argued grants should be introduced for parents raising their children in Gaelic “on the lines of schemes formerly in place in Ireland”, and advocated “Gaelic-medium housing developments”.

Its Radical Plan for Gaelic argued: “While we do not claim to have devised a comprehensive plan that contains all that is necessary to maintain Gaelic as a living language for generations to come, we are certain that without drastic and urgent reform of the policy status quo Scotland is acquiescing to the imminent death of Gaelic as a community language, an act of supreme negligence which can only be described as cultural vandalism of a most crass kind, not to mention cultural genocide against an indigenous minority.”

Misneachd said it will be campaigning in Skye for parents to be legally entitled to Gaelic medium education for their children between the ages of three and 18, wherever possible in stand-alone Gaelic schools.

It also wants a land value tax and controls over holiday homes and rent prices.

The group called for more social and affordable housing for rural areas, investment in infrastructure, and a reform of councils.

It said: “Local democracy in Scotland is broken. Our councils are far too large compared to most European countries.

“Smaller councils should be established with a strong link between people and those who rule them.

“Rural Gaels should also be empowered through a democratic Gaelic assembly, similar to the Saami parliaments in the Scandinavian countries and the proposed Dáil na nGael in Ireland.”

READ MORE: Scottish Gaelic set to be introduced on free language learning app

Mac a' Bhàillidh – whose English name is Martin Baillie – was involved in the recent creation of the popular Gaelic Duolingo course, a free online language learning service.

He said Misneachd is “not expecting all the policies and all the things we put forward to be put into practice in the short-term, but the debate around what is being done to help preserve Gaelic is very stale and there's very little blue sky thinking or any thinking at all – it's just proceed as was”.

The architect, who is originally from Glasgow but now lives in Skye, said many of the group’s policies are already in place in Wales.

He said: "It's radical in a context of Gaelic language policy, but less so in a minority language context, even within the UK."

He said "very, very little" is currently spent on Gaelic, and argued that while tourism is a good thing, the Highlands and Islands are often “treated like a theme park for people to come and look at”.

Misneachd argues that although the concept of "cultural genocide" is not an established part of international law, it was defined in an early draft of the UN's Genocide Convention in the 1940s.

Ruraidh Stewart, the Scottish Tory candidate in the Skye by-election, argued Gaelic should not be politicised and questioned the feasibility of some of Misneachd’s policies.

He said: “The councils as it is are short of money, and that’s come from the Scottish Government freezing the budget for the councils, in essence.

“We do have a finite amount of money. What I believe is we should be promoting the local services, such as the schools, the hospitals, repairing the roads.”

Fay Thomson, the Liberal Democrat candidate, said she agreed with much of what Misneachd said in relation to extra investment and promotion for Gaelic.

However, she also questioned the feasibility of some policies, and said Misneachd appeared “somewhat militant in their approach, and I’m not sure that’s the best way to go about saving a language”.

She said: “I think you have to be practical when you’re looking at solutions.”

Thomson said her priorities would be investment in roads, schools and health services.

The council by-election is also being fought by the SNP, the Greens and an independent candidate, Calum Munro.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Gaelic is “a vital part of Scotland’s cultural identity".

She said: “We support all our indigenous languages, including Gaelic, as we recognise the cultural, economic, educational, health and social benefits that they bring to the whole of Scotland.

“It is now easier than ever before to get access to teaching aids with the new Duolingo course and the recently updated Learn Gaelic website offering a wealth of a materials.”

She said there are around 57,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland and just under 16,000 of those are based in the Western Isles.