MAY we please have a rest from being reminded that Gaelic is spoken by only one per cent of the population of Scotland? (The latest person to reiterate this pathetic point being William Loneskie, Letters, September 30), who adds that it is a “technologically minimalist language” — whatever that means.)

The Gaelic language, the people who speak it and the culture of which it is the medium are of fundamental importance in the entire history and national identity of Scotland: the extent to which it formerly covered the country is shown by the near-ubiquity of Gaelic place names.

The language in its ancestral form was the first in Europe, after Greek and Latin, to develop a written literature. When the Scottish and the Irish forms of the language diverged, Scottish Gaelic became the medium of a poetic corpus of which the great Celtic scholar William Watson has observed “There has never, perhaps, been a finer manifestation of national genius than was given by Gaelic Scotland in those two centuries [mid-seventeenth to mid-nineteenth]”.

In the 20th century too some of the finest poetry written in Scotland was in Gaelic, and that is still true here and now: Mr Loneskie may never have heard of Donald Meek, Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul, Maoilios Caimbeul, Aonghas Mac Neacail or Meg Bateman (a far from exhaustive list); but if he were to take the trouble to look them up he would see, even from the English translations of their works, how Gaelic can still inspire both native speakers and learners.

It passes my comprehension that people who presumably think of themselves as Scottish can complacently denigrate Gaelic or complain of the Scottish Government’s efforts to support it. The level of popular ignorance of and indifference to a language of such importance both in itself and as part of our national heritage is incredible in a supposedly enlightened country.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen AB24.