WILL signs in Gaelic be ready for the Scottish Parliament╝s opening on 1 July? Despite Gaelic minister Calum Macdonald╝s promise that they will, the Scottish Office admits that nothing has yet been put out to contract and Gaelic organisations are concerned that they have not so far been contacted.
GAELIC organisations must put more pressure on Government to ensure that the language will have as high a profile as possible from the day the Scottish parliament opens. So warns former MP
George Reid, the SNP representative on the Consultative Steering Group which advises on the parliament's working methods, points out that time is running out and everything needs to be arranged before the CSG next meets on 10 May.
Reid, a Gaelic learner, is particularly concerned that no list of Gaelicwords has yet appeared for bilingual signs. "The CSG has been working hardto ensure that Gaelic and Scots have a proper place in the parliament. Ourrecommendations on bilingual signage and on a record being kept of theparliament's proceedings in Gaelic have been accepted. Unfortunately noofficial word-list has appeared yet for the signs and I would ask promotional organisations to urge Gaelic minister Calum Macdonald to makesure the work is done in time."A spokesman for Calum Macdonald gave The Scotsman a commitment that thesigns would be ready to go up in the Assembly Hall by the parliament'sopening date, 1 July. But he admitted that nothing has been done as yet tocollect terms or put the translation work out to contract.Reid says there is very little time left. The CSG meets on 10 May andunless everything is in black and white by then he warns that theparliament will open without bilingual signs and that there may then be a10-month delay before they can be erected. "In addition to signs there arevarious other things the Gaelic organisations should be looking for.
For example, they should request immediately that successful candidates fluent in Gaelic should be allowed to speak in Parliament at the first opportunity."With regard to the Oath, it must be taken in English first but who knowsthat it can't be taken again in Gaelic. And if they move quickly perhaps the Presiding Officer may also manage to say a word or two in the languageon the opening day."Gaelic promotional organisations have reacted strongly to Reid's warning,and are astonished that no-one has yet contacted them about signage.
Donald John MacSween, chief executive of An Comunn, points out that signage is only part of Gaelic╝s visibility, and the language should have a major presence in the parliament╝s proceedings.
"The eyes of the worldwill be on the parliament on opening day. TV and media will be there fromevery country and it's important for Gaelic to be in evidence, not just onsigns but also in the parliament's proceedings. I'm glad that this warningis being given and if the Scottish Office wants somebody for translationwork, An Comunn would be willing to undertake it straight away."In addition to signs, vocabulary must be created for the workings of theparliament itself. What, for example, should be the Gaelic for 'FirstMinister'? Pr¤omh Mhinisteir perhaps, or Taoiseach? Last year theScottish Office gave ú10,000 to a body called the European LanguageInitiative (ELI) to produce a dictionary of Gaelic political terms, butthat project has not got past the first stage and the organisation is nowseeking more money. Comunn na Gřidhlig (CNAG) director Allan Campbell, who has liaised with the Scottish Office on this, accepts that progress hasbeen slow. "At the end of last year CNAG tried to seek funding to takeover the ELI project.
Unfortunately that application was turned down andthe Scottish Office is now looking for other ways of funding it."