IN launching Police Scotland’s Gaelic Language Plan, Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Cowie has spoken about the importance of upholding traditional languages. Gaelic has a significant role to play in the wellbeing of communities, said Mr Cowie, and Police Scotland recognises the language as an important aspect of Scotland’s heritage.

The Gaelic Language Plan also lays out what the force’s commitment to the language could mean in practice. From next year for instance, the force’s logo will be bi-lingual. The force will also identify officers and staff who speak Gaelic and those who wish to learn the language will be encouraged to do so, the ultimate aim being to maximise the chances of the public being able to speak to Police Scotland staff in Gaelic and receive their responses in Gaelic too.

Police Scotland should not be surprised, however, if its plans are met with some scepticism. The force says its new policy will be cost neutral, but at a time when it faces a budget overspend of £17.5million and redundancies among civilian staff are threatened, it must be able to reassure the public it has its priorities right. We should also be able to trust that the force has done its research and knows its new policy is justified by demand.

Provided it can offer such reassurances, Police Scotland’s new policy on Gaelic should be welcomed and has no doubt been inspired in part by the signs of growth in Gaelic nationwide.

There has been an increase in the number of young people learning to speak the language, for example. More parents are also being attracted to the benefits of a bi-lingual upbringing – applications for spaces at the Gaelic Medium Primary School, in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow, in 2016 were 40 per cent up on the year before.

It will take time to develop these signs of growth. But Police Scotland’s Gaelic Language Plan could be one way of building on them.