GAELIC policy in Scotland will soon outlive Gaelic communities, experts have warned, as they called for an urgent change of approach.

Professor Conchúr Ó Giollagáin and Iain Caimbeul, a former chief executive of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said Scotland's Gaelic language policy "risks becoming part of the problem". 

In a new academic paper, they argue existing policy is contributing to the decline of Gaelic communities. 

READ MORE: Prof Conchúr Ó Giollagáin: Gaelic crisis requires more than cultural promotion

Mr Ó Giollagáin, who is director of the University of the Highlands and Islands’ (UHI) Language Sciences Institute, previously led a major study that warned Gaelic-speaking communities are at risk of dying out within a decade.

But more than 10 months on, he said "no new significant Gaelic strategies, which are demonstrably different from the thinking in which the Gaelic crisis emerged, have been initiated".

Writing in today's Herald, he said the status quo "is not a feasible option if the societal continuity of the Gaelic group is to be a credible aim of Gaelic policy". 

The new paper, Moving Beyond Asocial Minority-Language Policy, published in the journal Scottish Affairs, said the primary feature of Scotland's Gaelic policy "is that it prioritises language promotion without being sufficiently focused on issues of language protection". 

It said: "It is already abundantly clear that, under the status quo, Gaelic policy will outlive the vernacular speaker group."

It argued a "false sense of progress and renewal in Gaelic officialdom has masked the malaise in the Gaelic community", adding: "Formal Gaelic policy is only tangentially relevant to the Gaelic crisis and deepens the sense of malaise among the Gaels."

The paper warned: "If policies cannot be reformulated relatively quickly, GLP [Gaelic language policy] risks becoming part of the problem and an obstacle to finding official mechanisms by which the Gaelic minority can protect their societal situation against language loss."

The academics said the promotion of Gaelic in schools, media and "status-building language plans in public administration" has been beneficial for its civil profile.

However, Gaelic language policy has been "ineffectual as a social policy instrument because it does not address the societal decline of the existing Gaelic group".

The paper argued: "A dwindling vernacular-speaking community has been largely disregarded in the official promotion of opportunities in Gaelic-medium broadcasting, in the promotion of Gaelic performance and the arts, and in facilitating participation in GME [Gaelic Medium Education] innovation and in scholarship on Gaelic heritage and culture."

It said existing policy "has concentrated on the emergence of context-neutral future Gaelic speakers without paying sufficient attention to serving the requirements of the threatened Gaelic group".

The paper said that despite the official promotion of Gaelic language policy for more than a generation, "no coherent policy or set of initiatives has been devised or implemented to date to sustain and develop this cohort of speakers in their various community and networked contexts in the islands, or in Gaelic migrant networks in urban Scotland".

It argued there is an "unbalanced focus on formal education and the adult learner community while the critical sociolinguistic state of the vernacular Gaelic group has not been afforded adequate official attention and resource".

The paper said Gaelic language policy is "more focused on maintaining obeisance to the sectoral framework for Gaelic promotion than sustaining Gaelic as a community language".

Last year's study, the Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community, suggested creating a new Gaelic Community Trust (Urras na Gàidhlig).

This would take responsibility for the maintenance and regeneration of Gaelic among the vernacular communities in the islands.

The new paper said the "defensive approach" of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Scotland's Gaelic quango, "suggests so far that the Bòrd’s inclination and resolve to reassess its strategic position and operations are limited".

READ MORE: The Big Read: From Gaelic-only housing to second homes, the fight to save a language

A Scottish Government spokesman said Gaelic "is a vital part of Scotland’s cultural identity and ministers are determined to continue to support efforts to improve access for speakers to learn and use the language".

He said: “Since the introduction of the Gaelic Language Act, annual Scottish Government investment in Gaelic has almost doubled from just over £15 million in 2005/06 to around £29m last year.

"We are aware of the fragile nature of the Gaelic language and for this reason we are continuing to talk to people across the community to do all we can to ensure the language continues to flourish."