BILL Brown’s letter (March 8), in a diatribe against the use of Gaelic on the side of police vans (or anywhere else, I imagine) is actually an attack on human rights which, admittedly, are being eroded by the Union he upholds.

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act of 2005 is about according Gaelic the same respect given to English and encouraging a “generosity of spirit” towards Gaelic across Scotland.

That is an attempt to right past wrongs of discrimination against the language which, at several points in history, was officially banned. The language was equated with ignorance and poverty by its detractors, undermining the self-esteem and confidence of native speakers which I witnessed first-hand when, as a student, I worked as a peripatetic book seller for the Gaelic Books Council on Lewis, Scalpay and Skye in the 1970s.

Thanks to the Act and other efforts to bolster the use of Gaelic against all the odds, the language survives and thrives and has provided Scotland with its greatest poet of the 20th century in any language, the late Sorley MacLean.

It is sad that anti-Gaelic discrimination still persists in the dark, dreary utilitarian view of Scotland Mr Brown and his ilk possess.

Duncan MacLaren,

Flat 14, 20 Montrose Street,


AS a native Gaelic Speaker, I was surprised to see the headline on Bill Brown’s letter (“Why do we need police in Gaelic?”). In “the olden days”, the Glasgow Police were known as the ‘Highland Mafia’; not because of any criminal reason but because they were usually large of frame, disciplined and less likely to be corrupt; and a comforting sight on Glasgow streets at nighttime.

We, in Scotland, have such a surfeit of languages to choose from for our vocabulary: Scots, also known as Lallands (originally from the ‘Lowlands’ and later still from North Scotland area) known too as Doric (it just means a “rustic” shade of Scots), or even earlier, Norn from the Northern Isles when they became Scots in the 15th century. We are rich in choice.

I use either Gaelic or the “Queen’s English”. There are still quite a few of us around.

Dr Lachlan Buchanan MacDonald,

73 Gartmore Road,


I ALWAYS pay attention to contributions by Bill Brown’s letters, finding them, for the most part, illuminating. In this case, I fear he has fallen foul of the misinterpretation of the Words of MacLennan (the standard Gaelic/English dictionary).

The Gaelic language is exact. His use of the compound word, “einnsean-smalaidh” to describe a fire-engine is inaccurate. An “einnsean” is merely an engine; the assumption that wheels come as standard is a false one.

To ensure that your engine is going anywhere to be of assistance necessitates the use of the word “carbad’ in the compound word, “carbad-smalaidh”, a fire-chariot, wheels definitely included. The plural of this might be interpreted as “chariots of fire” and bring to mind images of feats of athleticism performed on virgin sands but I wouldn’t chance it, not on Traigh Mhor, not on the Isle of Barra. With the plane landing on the beach, twice daily, such activity would be deemed “hazardous” and a definite breach of health and safety guidelines. Le durachd, Tioraidh. (Best wishes, cheerio.)

Maureen McGarry-O’Hanlon,

Dalvait Riverside,


BILL Brown criticises the use of Poileas Alba on police vehicles as “shabby Nationalist politics”. This development stems from the Gaelic Language Act passed by the former Labour-Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive. The Act stipulates that the public profile of Gaelic is to be raised.

The Gaelic Language Act has huge support in the Scottish Parliament, which accepts that Gaelic is an important part of our national heritage. Mr Brown gives his address as Milngavie, from the Gaelic “muileann-gaoithe”, meaning “a windmill”. So even Mr Brown uses Gaelic, probably on a near-daily basis.

“Poileas” is also reflects the Scots pronunciation of “polis” for police.

Tom Johnston,

5 Burn View, Cumbernauld.

I HAVE no quibble about our police force also being called Poileas Alba. But, for the sake of language equality and in deference to Lowland Scots, shouldn’t police cars also carry the words “Ra Polis”?

James Gracie,

Tolbooth Cottage,