BRIAN Beacom's article ("Should Gaelic still matter? Let the war of the words begin", The Herald, May 9), correctly states that Gaelic is the indigenous language of Scotland, and this fact should not be forgotten. It was once spoken in every part of Scotland. Many, if not most, of Scotland’s place names are, or are Anglicised versions of, Gaelic names and place names form an important record of our nation’s history.

The English culture brought into Scotland over the centuries strangled Gaelic, and even tried to completely eradicate the language, dress and lifestyle of the people north and west in the 18th century. What is happening now is that many people are catching up on this tragic history –one which they did not have the opportunity to learn at school – and want to embrace the language of their land and ancestors.

I'm in my seventies and have recently started to learn Gaelic, thanks to the Scottish Government’s funding programme operated by Bord na Gaidhlig in Inverness. I have also organised classes locally with help from this funding, and many people have taken advantage of it. I may not end up a great Gaelic speaker, but to understand the structure of it – and to be able to pronounce the names of our mountains – in itself is an important and meaningful experience.

I have fallen for the language and, since starting, I feel in a way that I have "come home" because I now realise that it has always been in the background to my life – to our lives – place names, maps, pipe tunes, songs and our Scottish history. It’s a difficult language to learn in the sense that it looks different, sounds different and feels different, but that feeling is something special and is bonded by the fact that is has always been an integral part of Scotland.

Dennis White,

4 Vere Road, Blackwood, Lanark.

“DOES Gaelic matter?” is an appalling question to ask. Appalling because it is precisely the question that any colonial power asks of the native language of the area it is colonising. The question is surely framed in this way because it readily admits of the answer “no”. Ours is the language of education, of commerce, of civil(ised) discourse and of power, say the colonists. And if the native language matters to the native people, that matters little because they, being in some sense inferior, don’t really matter. That inferiority could be in status, education, power, or – as is the case with Gaelic speakers – in number.

So what should the question be? A legitimate debate will begin only when we have answered the question – does a people, native to a country, have the right to protect, develop, speak and be educated in, their native language? Without that, those who are actively hostile to Gaelic and who wish to see it die, will be able dishonestly to maintain the fiction that their concerns are simply with legitimate, practical issues (which certainly exist), and to avoid the major issue of principle in the question I have proposed.

Angus MacDonald,

6 Tarskavaig, Isle of Skye.