AN DO thilg sinn dìreach £2.5m sìos an stank?

Now, you will understand the last word of this translation but here’s the full sentence; Have we just thrown £2.5 down the stank?

The question arises because the Scottish Government has backed a project to create a “landmark Gaelic dictionary” and we, the unknowing, unconsulted, taxpayer, will fund it.

But this plan will throw up as many critical comments as there are Eskimo words for snow. The argument for the new dictionary is that it “aims to safeguard the future of the language.” Now, I could well aim to write the definitive Scots novel, give Andy Murray a tight five setter and set up a date with Emily Blunt. But you can be fairly sure it ain’t going to happen.

READ MORE: New Gaelic dictionary launched to preserve the language

The Scots Gaelic is dying according to Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Government’s Gaelic promotional body. It points out “intergenerational transmission has all but ended” and asks for “substantially increased state funding and strengthened legislation.” But will creating a listing of the Gaelic from its earliest written form to the present day provide the kiss of life?

The simple truth is most Scots don’t give a moncaid (monkey’s) about Gaelic. Yes, there are children learning the language right now in two schools Glasgow, and a third, in Govan, is planned for next year. It is also true it costs the taxpayer the same to send a child to a Gaelic school in Glasgow as any other.

However, these schools have most likely emerged at the insistence of middle class parents with romantic notions of cultural heritage and the tune of the Skye Boat Song floating wondrously in the back of their mind. And as sure as Angus Og had a best friend called Lachie, there will be debates about money spent on surrounding schools, as was the case recently with the Gaelic school in Portree in Skye.

The reality is, for most Scots, the language of the Hebrideans is harder to learn than trigonometry and almost unpronounceable. Once described by a comedy writer as “sounding like someone gargling with Irn Bru” it’s next to useless in an international context. It’s not like Spanish, which can can take you to South America for a year and help you buy bus tickets, pay for youth hostels or even chat to the local ladies about the meaning of life. Mandarin, or Russian, would be more useful in the modern world.

READ MORE: New Gaelic dictionary launched to preserve the language

The other problem for the Gaelic language in Scotland is we seem to get along fairly well with English. We’ve taken English and coloured it, derived from it and distorted it delightfully, without surrendering the essence of what makes us Scottish. We’ve made it our own, and as a result we have Kirsty Wark English, Trainspotting English and Alasdair Gray English.

The Gaelic lobby will argue that not to promote the language is to kill Scots culture. But what is Scots culture? There are more Polish speakers in Scotland. Is there as much of a case for bilingual Polish schools? Or Punjabi? Or Doric?

The Gaelic lobby is powerful (as I’m writing I can hear keyboard keys clattering out the words ‘Dear Ipso’) and it will no doubt complain that not to fund Gaelic development is to attack a racial minority, to deny fundamental rights.

They will argue bilingualism advantages the young mind and this is certainly inarguable; the learning of a second language improves practice and understanding of the first. They will argue if you don’t provide the platforms, the language will die out.

But does the Gaelic language need £20m backed BBC Alba, which seems dependent upon showing football matches to sustain an audience? Do we need to have a Gaelic signpost at Gilmour Street in Paisley? Yes, it’s nice for tourists to think they’ve arrived in Brigadoon but it all smacks of cultural fabric softener aimed at keeping the Gaelic supporters as sweet as tablet.

But perhaps we should let social Darwinism decide what happens to Gaelic. And if it has to go the way of Latin as a spoken language, so be it.

READ MORE: New Gaelic dictionary launched to preserve the language

Gaeldom will argue that Welsh is spoken in a third of schools. But it already had a wide support base, as is the case in the Republic of Ireland. And debates over the development of both languages rage on, with claims of cultural Nazism in Wales and Sinn Fein and the DUP making loud threatening noises across the debating tables in Northern Ireland.

Do we need this sort of division in Scotland, where there are less than 58,000 Gaelic speakers? Yes, we can’t be imperialistic, but investment should be proportionate. So why prioritise Gaelic? Why not let Gaelic speakers teach their children, pay for their own to learn the language and set up clubs and culture centres and spread the word?

The Scottish Government likes referendums so what about this for an idea; ask the public if they prefer the £2.5m should be spent on a big book of Gaelic words - or on 5000 MRS scans to detect early cancers.

A final thought; Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was written at a cost of 1500 guineas, which is equivalent to £220k today. Couldn’t Bòrd na Gàidhlig find young Gaelic Dr Johnson out there and let them collect the words?