Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

– in the Scottish Parliament at 3:10 pm on 6 March 2003.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 3:10, 6 March 2003

A-nis, tha sinn a' gluasad gu deasbad na Gàidhlig.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

We now move to the debate on Gaelic.

The member continued in English.

The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-3618, in the name of Michael Russell, on the general principles of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill. I remind members that sections of the debate will be conducted in Gaelic. Non-Gaelic speakers can obtain translation by using their headsets, which should be tuned to channel 1.

The member continued in Gaelic:

Tha mi a' gairm Mhìcheil Ruiseal gus an deasbad fhosgladh.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

I call Michael Russell to open the debate.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 3:33, 6 March 2003

Tha an deasbad seo an-diugh a' comharrachadh na darna oidhirp reachdail gus Beurla agus Gàidhlig a chur air stèidh cho-ionann ann an sùilean lagha na h-Alba. Chaidh a' chiad oidhirp a dhèanamh le Dòmhnall Stiùbhart, ball Pàrlamaid airson nan Eileanan Siar, ann an Taigh nan Cumantan anns an Fhaoilleach 1981. Chaidh taic a thoirt dhan bhile aige le, am measg dhaoine eile, Dennis Canavan. Ann an aithisg Hansard airson an deasbaid, bha òraidean làidir ann a bha a' toirt taic do inbhe laghail dhan Ghàidhlig, mar a bha againn air aig an àm, bho iomadh ball Pàrlamaid thar nam pàrtaidhean, a' gabhail a-staigh òraid chumhachdach bho Sheòras Robastan.

Ged a bha cruaidh fheum air an reachdas seo ann an 1981, tha tòrr a bharrachd feum air a-nis. Tha àireamh luchd labhairt na Gàidhlig fhathast a' crìonadh, le nas lugha na 60,000 duine ann a-nis le coimeas conaltraidh anns a' chànan. Ged a tha na figearan as ùire bhon chunntas sluaigh air nochdadh gu bheil barrachd dealais is barrachd ùidh ann anns a' Ghàidhlig am measg na h-òigridh agus am measg na feadhna nach eil a' fuireach ann an cridhe na Gaidhealtachd, is e fìrinn na cùise gu bheil a' Ghàidhlig a' gluasad nas fhaisge agus nas fhaisge air a' bhàs.

Agus cha bu chòir teagamh sam bith a bhith air duine mun bhàs a tha sin. Bidh cànan a' bàsachadh àiteigin air an t-saoghal gach cola-deug. B' urrainn dhan Ghàidhlig bàsachadh mar na cànanan eile sin. Bàsaichidh i mur a bi oidhirp daingeann ann gus a cumail beò.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

Today's debate marks the second attempt to put the English and Gaelic languages on an equal footing in the eyes of the law of Scotland. The late Donald Stewart, who was member of Parliament for the Western Isles, made the first attempt in the House of Commons in January 1981 and among the supporters of his bill was Dennis Canavan. The Hansard report of the debate contains strong speeches in favour of what was then called "legal status" for Gaelic by a number of MPs from across the parties, including a particularly impressive speech by George Robertson. The legislation was much needed in 1981, but it is needed even more now. The number of Gaelic speakers has continued to decline; fewer than 60,000 people in Scotland are able to communicate in the language.

Although the most recent census figures show an increasing commitment to, and interest in, Gaelic from the young people and those who do not live in its heartlands, the reality of the situation is that Gaelic is moving ever closer to extinction—let no one be in any doubt about the possibility of that extinction. Every fortnight, a language dies somewhere in the world and Gaelic could die just like all those languages. It will die unless there is a determined attempt to keep it alive.

The member continued in English.

There are more than 6,000 languages in the world and perhaps as many as 90 per cent of those languages are at risk. Somewhere in the world a language dies every fortnight. Gaelic can die just like all those other languages and it will die unless we do everything that we can—this afternoon "we" means each one of us in this chamber—to keep it alive.

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill, which I introduced on 13 November, seeks to give the Gaelic language the secure status that it needs so that it can begin to overcome generations of neglect and even hostility and to give it the chance, to be frank, to survive. Mine is a modest bill that has limited scope. It will lay on a number of public bodies within a defined geographical area—that area could be expanded by statutory instrument—a duty to prepare and implement Gaelic language plans. It also specifies a limited name and shame sanction against those that do not.

The bill's inspiration lies in a number of reports and consultations on Gaelic, some of which were commissioned by the Executive. For example, the report of the ministerial advisory group on Gaelic, which was delivered to the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport in March last year, had as its first recommendation:

"That immediate action is taken to develop and implement a Gaelic Language Act to establish secure status for the language. The creation of such an Act is seen as vital by the Gaelic community ... in establishing community confidence and in securing the future prosperity of the language."

The detailed proposals of the bill mirror closely some of the provisions of the Welsh Language Act 1993, which has been on the statute book for more than 15 years. Indeed, the definition of secure status is drawn from that act. The bill is also close to some of the ideas in the report on secure status that was drawn up by Comunn na Gàidhlig in 1997.

Secure status has been the aim of those who are involved in, and who have worked for, the Gaelic language for many years. I acknowledge freely that secure status—the recognition in law of the need to treat Gaelic and English equally—is not the only strategic tool with which to start to rebuild the language. It is clear that family transmission in the home; education—Gaelic-medium education and the teaching of Gaelic as a second language; broadcasting, in particular radio; publishing; the arts; and the use of Gaelic in commerce are all vital, but secure status would underpin all those other actions.

Secure status would be both symbolic and practical in its effect. It would be symbolic because the passage of the bill in this parliamentary session—which is still possible, despite what others say—would tell this nation and the world that Scotland cares about its culture and that it will work to save the parts of that culture that are endangered. The bill's passage would be practical because the bill takes the first steps towards ensuring that Gaelic is recognised by public bodies, and towards making certain that its use is at least thought about, planned for and made possible by those bodies.

Secure status can and should go further. It should provide a legal right to Gaelic-medium education and it should be introduced into other areas of life, including—this is important—business and commerce. Secure status should have an influence on the media and the Parliament, but those things will have to wait because they are outwith the scope of the bill. However, a member's bill can start the process.

We should remember that secure status as I have expressed it was the policy—and apparently still is the policy—not only of the SNP, but of the Executive parties. Legislation to establish secure status was promised by the Executive parties and by the SNP prior to the 1999 elections. Since then, as the minister and his predecessor know, I have consistently offered my support for the introduction and passage of such a bill. Indeed, as an incentive for movement, I lodged a proposal for such a bill three years ago, but during all that time I have continued in private and public discussion with the key players, because so many want the bill to succeed.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I acknowledge the member's commitment—which he has shown from the beginning of this Parliament—to the protection of the Gaelic language.

I represent a constituency in Glasgow that has a large number of Gaelic speakers who are mainly concentrated in Partick. If Parliament agrees to the general principles of the bill today, how will it help my constituents in Glasgow who wish to protect the Gaelic language? Will it assist them?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I think that it will assist them. I accept the point that Pauline McNeill makes and I will say something specifically about Glasgow later in my speech.

The Executive's failure to bring forward a plan for a bill—finally shown in its reaction to the MAGOG report—made it painfully clear that the only way forward in the first parliamentary session of the first Scottish Parliament in 300 years would be to introduce a member's bill. Much has been made, including by the minister, of the supposed "lateness" of the bill. I admit that it is late; secure status is at least two generations late. We can, however, achieve secure status and we can achieve it now.

I am grateful to all those who have helped with the bill: to my co-sponsor John Farquhar Munro; to the many organisations that gave evidence at various stages; to the individuals who advised and discussed the proposals; to the non-Executive bills unit under its leader David Cullum, who I drove almost mad; to the Gaelic officers of the Parliament, Alasdair MacCaluim and his predecessor Alex O'Henley; and to the members of the cross-party group on Gaelic. I am especially grateful to the members and clerks of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee who undertook thorough and detailed scrutiny of the bill over no less than five evidence-taking sessions. The committee's report is valuable, well informed and makes many positive suggested amendments.

I turn to the question of amendments. I have said repeatedly that I am open to anything that can make the bill better. I have also made it clear that getting on the statute book legislation that says, as the bill says, that

"the English and Gaelic languages should be treated on a basis of equality" is a prize for which it is worth compromising.

The evidence to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee shows that there are two main areas of concern. First, there is a strong feeling that the bill should apply, from the start, to the whole of Scotland. I still feel that there are practical reasons for doing things in the way that is set out in the bill. Pauline McNeill made an important point and I accept that the application of the approach that is set out in the bill, particularly in the case of Glasgow, but also in other areas, could create anomalies and difficulties. I am open to the committee's suggestion that further evidence should be taken and that there should be amendments to the bill that would widen its scope. That said, a concomitant change to the bill would have to be made to allow for variation in language plans in different parts of the country. That happens in Wales, as Mr Jenkins and other members know from the evidence that Education, Culture and Sport Committee members heard at stage 1.

I turn to implementation. Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba, in its strong support for the bill—for which I am very grateful—said that it wishes to be deeply involved in the process. In the past, the minister has indicated that one of his objections to the bill is that it does not mention that board. Of course the minister knows that the bill cannot mention the board because the board has not yet been established in statute. If the minister establishes the board in statute, everybody—I repeat, everybody—would be delighted to have the board involved. Only the minister can establish the board in statute.

With fewer than 60,000 speakers, Gaelic is now in the intensive care ward of the world's languages; it needs urgent attention. I acknowledge the Scottish Executive's, and the minister's, commitment to Gaelic and I applaud the establishment of the board. All of us, however, admit that those actions are nowhere near enough. We need more opportunities for learning Gaelic, more work on Gaelic in the home, more emphasis on radio, and more promotion of the importance of Gaelic.

What is needed, most of all, is determination and political will. Determination and political will have brought other languages in the world back from the edge of the grave, so it can be done, because it has been done elsewhere with great success. Gaelic is not, as some would have us believe, ill-suited to the modern world. It is no better or worse as a means of communication and as a world view than English or any other language. Gaelic has been, as all the threatened languages of the world are, a victim of economics and politics, but economics and politics could breathe new life back into it. The passage of the bill through its first stage today would be an expression of the determination and political will of the Parliament and of a new Scotland to work to do precisely that—to bring the language back to life.

Conversely, rejection of the bill would tell the Gaelic community and the world that, in this "three voiced nation"—as it is called by the Gaelic poet Iain Crichton Smith in words that Tom Fleming read in the chamber on the Parliament's opening day—we are still not prepared to take all the necessary and increasingly urgent steps that are required to preserve and protect a unique part of our culture and our national life; one for which we alone have the responsibility.

Presiding Officer, I have the honour to move the first ever legislative motion in Gaelic in the Scottish Parliament and probably in our country's history.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill.

The member continued in Gaelic.

Agus, anns a'Ghàidhlig, Gu bheil a' Phàrlamaid a' toirt taic do phrionnsabalan coitcheann Bile Cànan na Gàidhlig (Alba).

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour 3:45, 6 March 2003

I want to thank the Education, Culture and Sport Committee for the time that it has set aside to consider in depth the issues that have been raised by Michael Russell's Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill. I congratulate the committee on the thoroughness of its evidence taking and the clarity of its report.

It is fair to say that our wider programme of support for Gaelic provides the background and context for the Executive's consideration of the bill and its principles. Its record on Gaelic since 1999 means that the language is now available at all levels of education and with improved resources and materials. In Gaelic-medium education, numbers of pupils and units are increasing, attainment levels are high and—crucially—we are training more teachers year on year.

The evidence that was submitted to the Education, Culture and Sport Committee has been thoughtful and informed and I note that there was a considerable overlap between the concerns that I raised in my evidence and the conclusions that the committee reached in its report. In particular, the committee saw the merit of the Executive's argument that there is no need for a reference to the ombudsman in the bill and that, once amended, the bill "could dovetail into the work of the Executive and of Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba".

I want to summarise our continuing concerns about the bill. The Executive considers language planning to be important. Indeed, that is self-evident, given that we have established Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba for that purpose at national level, and we have encouraged public bodies to adopt a positive approach. However, any such planning should be based on promoting Gaelic language and culture and facilitating its development, not on a stipulation that English and Gaelic must have equal status in every part of Scotland. We cannot accept that provision as part of the bill, although we should not ignore the fact that there is considerable Gaelic developmental activity outside the areas that are listed in the bill.

We note the committee's comments in paragraph 44 of the report on the duty to prepare language plans that apply to the whole of Scotland. That is one of our areas of concern, so we welcome the fact that the committee will take further evidence on that important point.

We must balance the placing of a general duty on all public bodies to prepare Gaelic development plans with a recognition that what is appropriate in areas in which there are considerable numbers of Gaelic speakers will differ significantly from what is appropriate in areas in which Gaelic speakers are few. Merely to apply the tests that the bill sets of what is "appropriate and reasonably practical" would be insufficient. Any provision would need to take particular account of the numbers of speakers in an area and of demonstrable demand.

The committee also expressed uncertainty about the financial memorandum that was submitted, so further consideration of that important issue is also required. The matter is of considerable significance to the Executive; indeed, it would be more significant if the bill's provisions were to be extended beyond the areas that are specified in it. I speak from experience when I say that members who introduce legislative proposals should have them appropriately costed and that any projected costs should be updated as appropriate during consideration of the bill. [Interruption.] Mr Monteith might laugh; however, that is what happened during the passage of the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.

It is not sufficient merely to provide the minimal information that Mr Russell has provided in the bill's financial memorandum at introduction. It is wrong to create legislation that would impose unquantified demands on public bodies, which is why I wrote to Michael Russell asking him for the additional information that is necessary to assist the Executive in drawing up a financial resolution. He has written back to me saying that it is up to the Executive to come up with that information; however, that is really not the case, and his response shows that he really misunderstands the procedure behind member's bills.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I am happy to provide the letter for the Parliament's consideration. I should point out that it does not say what Mike Watson suggested. Rather, it makes three comments: first, it points out that the minister is the former convener of the Finance Committee and is no slouch at criticising financial resolutions, although the Executive has often been found wanting in that regard; it has been difficult to assess certain aspects of legislation. Indeed, the Education (Graduate Endowment and Student Support) (Scotland) Bill had those problems.

Secondly, as the minister knows, it is necessary for a financial resolution to be in place before stage 2 starts. However, any such resolution must reflect the bill as introduced. The bill has not yet been amended and I cannot guess what the amendments will be. If it were amended, work would have to be done on amending the financial resolution.

Thirdly, if officials of the Parliament and the Executive have views about the costs, the proper and sensible thing for them to do is to meet and talk about such matters. However, I have also said that it would delay stage 2 if the financial resolution were not approved, so it should be approved now.

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour

Surely that was one of the longest interventions in this session of the Parliament.

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour

I have the member's letter here, but I do not propose to quote from it.

It is incumbent on any member who is introducing a bill to provide information on the possible costs, even if those costs are not quantifiable. We have a reasonable right to expect to see the best-case and worst-case scenarios. Members cannot expect the Executive or the Minister for Finance and Public Services to sign up to an open-ended agreement and write a blank cheque. I was suggesting that Mr Russell should come up with more details, even if they are just within certain parameters. He cannot expect us to rely on the initial information that was submitted when the bill was introduced.

I have also noted that the committee recommended that the Executive should consider establishing Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba on a statutory basis. I should correct something that Mr Russell said in his opening remarks; I did not give evidence to the committee that one of the problems was that the bill did not mention the question of Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba. When I gave evidence on 21 January, Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba had not yet had an opportunity to consider the bill because it had held its inaugural meeting only four days prior to that. That was my point.

Although giving Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba legal status might be considered at a later date, we are advised that trying to do that through the bill as drafted could be outwith the general principles of the bill.

Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party

I am grateful to the minister for giving way. Has Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba now met and has it reached a view on whether it is in favour of the bill?

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour

As is well and publicly recorded, Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba considered the bill and is generally supportive of it, but believes that the bill should be amended to cover all Scotland, and that it should create legal status for Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba as a non-departmental public body. Of course, the board is already a non-departmental public body and is functioning effectively across the full range of its responsibilities, as it has done since it was formed in January.

The Executive agrees that the geographical scope of the bill, as well as the other matters of concern to which I have referred, including the likely burden on public bodies, requires further consideration. For that reason, I welcome the fact that the Education, Culture and Sport Committee intends to reconsider those issues in special meetings later this month.

We believe that the bill as it stands has significant shortcomings, which are reflected in the committee's views and recommendations. In view of the committee's intention to take further evidence on important aspects of the bill before it proceeds, I am pleased to signify that the Executive will support the motion, which will allow that to happen.

Photo of Irene McGugan Irene McGugan Scottish National Party 3:53, 6 March 2003

It is with pleasure that I speak in support of Michael Russell's Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill.

The Gaelic language is in an extremely precarious position. That fact was confirmed—although we did not need it to be—by the recent census figures. The policy memorandum for the bill pre-empted that bleak assessment by stating that

"The use of the Gaelic language has been shown to be declining".

That is why the bill's stated aim is to stop that decline by taking the first steps towards making Gaelic a normal part of everyday life in Scotland and, at the same time, reminding many Scots of its existence.

Virtually the entire Gaelic community wants the bill to be passed and has said so. However, it is not just Gaelic speakers who care about Gaelic and who do not want to contemplate what Scotland might be like without it. Many people who are not Gaelic speakers support the bill's aims because they empathise with the language and culture. They understand that support for language use is needed in order to ensure that people can retain their sense of identity. The continuing vitality of our heritage languages is not important only for the communities who speak them; it enriches our entire society.

Let us be clear what the bill is about. It is not about bilingual road signs appearing all over the place and it will not require translation of every single document in public use. It will not require simultaneous translation—such as we are using today in the chamber—to be available everywhere we go. The purpose of the bill is to place a duty on certain public bodies to prepare, publish and implement a Gaelic language plan. When those bodies prepare such plans, they are to give effect to the principle that Gaelic and English will be treated on a basis of equality in exercising their functions. The principle that Gaelic and English should operate on a basis of equality is important and sends out a strong message about the language's intrinsic worth.

Most of the evidence that the Education, Culture and Sport Committee received supported the view that Gaelic needs to be promoted and secured to survive, and most witnesses supported the bill. The findings mirrored those of consultations that were undertaken by Comunn na Gàidhlig and for the Macpherson and Meek reports, which showed the desire for a bill on the Gaelic language.

In his evidence to the committee, the minister confirmed that the Executive's commitments include working towards secure status for Gaelic, and that he wants to increase the number of trainee teachers in order to provide a future for the language. The Executive's approach and the bill are not mutually exclusive—supporters and even the proposer of the bill acknowledge that the bill is just the start of a necessary process.

Overwhelmingly, evidence suggested—the committee agreed—that the bill should be extended to apply to all public bodies throughout Scotland, to avoid potential division in the Gaelic community. The committee's report identified options to deal with the undoubted practical difficulties that would arise from that.

We could do worse than taking our lead from the Welsh Language Board, which told the committee that its language schemes were developed as authorities arrived at positions from which they could implement the schemes. That board made it clear that every language scheme would differ from the schemes before or after it and would reflect where the body involved operated. If we were to follow that principle, the bill would require public bodies to produce a Gaelic policy according to the strength of the language in the areas that they serve.

The committee recognises that enforcement of the plans or schemes needs to be re-examined, but acknowledges that that relates to the role of Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba. The committee supports the overwhelming view from evidence that the board should be established formally in legislation and that its roles and responsibilities should be defined clearly.

The passage of the first Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill in the first Scottish Parliament for 300 years would be of huge symbolic value and would start the practical process of stabilising and rebuilding the Gaelic language. What could be more appropriate than the first Scottish Parliament in 300 years adopting a law to improve the status of Gaelic? Gaelic is a living entity and, like other living entities, it needs support and care. It is heartening that the argument has moved on from being about the merits or otherwise of supporting the language to how that can best be done. Gaelic can best be supported through legislation.

Supporting the bill at stage 1 would be a magnificent gesture on the part of all MSPs, but it would be more than a gesture to support the bill, with amendments, at stages 2 and 3 in order to help to secure the future of Gaelic as a viable language. I ask members to support the bill. [Applause.]

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Order. I say gently that we do not allow applause from the public gallery, because we might also have abuse or be shouted at from there, as happened the other day.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 3:58, 6 March 2003

I welcome the bill and congratulate Michael Russell on introducing it. I am aware of the hard work that he put into it over a long time. I hope that he will forgive for me saying that the proposal is modest but nonetheless worthy. It will take Gaelic a step forward. A more comprehensive bill that sought to address secure status more fully would have been welcome, but I appreciate the difficulties that producing a member's bill on a larger scale presents. The bill is at least a step in the right direction.

I am proud of the record of previous Conservative Governments on supporting Gaelic. During our time in office, we passed several relevant pieces of legislation, such as the British Nationality Act 1981, which specified that knowledge of Gaelic would satisfy the language conditions for naturalisation; the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, which placed a duty on education authorities to provide for Gaelic teaching in Gaelic-speaking areas; the Grants for Gaelic Language Education (Scotland) Regulations 1986, which provided a scheme of specific grants for Gaelic education; the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985, which allowed for financial support to organisations to promote the Gaelic language and its culture; and the Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996, which placed a duty on the Secretary of State for Scotland to make payments for a Gaelic broadcasting fund. In 1979, under a Labour Government, there was no funding for education or broadcasting. The only sum that was available for Gaelic was a grant of just over £60,000 that was given to An Comunn Gaidhealach. By 1997, public support for Gaelic had increased to more than £12.5 million.

I would like to outline briefly current Conservative thinking on Gaelic. Governments cannot make people speak Gaelic or create a demand where none exists. However, Governments can and should respond to demand that exists and create an environment in which those who wish to learn, speak and conduct their affairs in Gaelic have the opportunity to do so.

In recent years, there has been a welcome resurgence of interest in Gaelic, particularly among the young. However, that has not always been matched by Government support. For example, there is a growing demand for Gaelic-medium education, but local authorities have sometimes been slow to respond to that demand, which has hampered the development of the language. Conservative members have previously made the point—and I do so again—that we must empower parents and give them real rights to Gaelic-medium education for their children. There should be a right, subject to demand, to establish their own Gaelic-medium schools with direct state funding.

I would like to make a few points about the specifics of the bill. I would have liked to have seen a specific reference to Gaelic-medium education in the bill, but I appreciate that that might be outwith its scope. I am concerned that the bill extends only to certain parts of Scotland. Much of the new interest in Gaelic comes not from the traditional Gaelic-speaking areas, but from our cities—Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Aberdeen. In many ways, the future of the language is in those areas, so why should they be excluded from the bill's ambit?

On section 1(3), I question whether it is realistic to say that

"the Gaelic and English languages should be treated on a basis of equality."

I appreciate that that is a fundamental point for Michael Russell, but I am aware that even some activists in the Gaelic community do not consider that objective to be achievable. We need assurances about exactly what impact such proposals would have if they were to be implemented. I have no doubt that if the bill progresses—and I trust that it will—such points can be addressed at stage 2.

Opponents of public support for Gaelic sometimes use the argument that nowadays more people in Scotland speak Urdu or Punjabi than Gaelic. Even if that is true, it misses the point. Gaelic is a unique part of our Scottish heritage and that brings an obligation on us to try to preserve and strengthen it. There are millions of Urdu and Punjabi speakers elsewhere in the world and even if those languages were to die out in Scotland—which I do not advocate—they would survive and prosper elsewhere. Gaelic is our responsibility and ours alone.

Why should we encourage Gaelic? Why should we not just let it die? Whether or not we speak Gaelic and whether or not we know people who speak it, it is one thread in the complex tapestry that gives us our Scottish identity. If we lose Gaelic, we will all be diminished, whether we are Gaels or not.

The bill will not be the salvation of Gaelic, but it is a small step in the right direction and will therefore receive Conservative support. I am pleased to hear that it will have Executive support. I trust that such support is not just a token, but that the Executive will ensure that the bill will complete its passage through the Parliament before the end of March. Michael Watson's speech was a little mean-spirited and nit-picking, but I hope that he is genuine in his support for the bill.

In this historic first session of the Scottish Parliament, we have an opportunity to pass a bill that will benefit our ancient Scottish language. I hope that we will do so in order that future generations of Scots—whether or not they are Gaelic speaking—will look back on today as a day that made a difference.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat 4:04, 6 March 2003

): Tha mi a' cur fàilte air a h-uile duine dhan deasbad shònraichte seo mu dheidhinn Gàidhlig. Cha leig mi leis innse do dhuine sam bith an-seo, gu bheil àite glè shònraichte aig Gàidhlig ann an cridhe agus ann an anam ar nàisein phròiseil. Bha Gàidhlig air a bruidhinn tron eachdraidh sgrìobhte againn agus tha an dualchas cultarach beartach aice air cuideachadh ann a bhith a' cruthachadh inbhe nàiseanta ar dùthcha san latha an-diugh, a dh'aindeoin nam buaidh de linntean de leth-bhreith agus a dh'aindeoin a' chrìonaidh a thachair mar thoradh air a sin.

Anns na beagan bhliadhnaichean mu dheireadh, tha Gàidhlig air ath-bheothachadh ann an dòigh a tha glè bhrosnachail. Tha seo air a bhith follaiseach bho thaic làidir nam pàrantan airson a' chànain agus airson a' chultair, a tha a' ciallachadh gu bheil na h-àireamhan de chloinn ann am foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig a leudachadh. Bu chòir dhuinn a bhith a' coimhead air seo mar fhear de na prìomh amasan againn agus bu chòir dhuinn a bhith a' coimhead air foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig mar shiostam coileanta bhon sgoil àraich gu foghlam aig an treas ìre.

Gus an neart cudthromach seo a chumail a' dol, feumaidh sinn dèanamh cinnteach nach eil Gàidhlig a' crochadh air deagh rùn poileataigeach agus a bhith so-leònte ma bhios atharrachaidhean poileataigeach agus riaghlach ann—rud nach bi a' brosnachadh chosnaidhean tèarainte airson luchd-teagaisg.

Feumaidh aire shònraichte a bhith air a toirt air trèanadh luchd-teagaisg. Tha dìth luchd-teagaisg airson foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig gu h-àraid a' cur bacadh air astar an leasachaidh. Feumaidh cothrom a bhith ann eadar iarrtas agus solair cho luath 's a ghabhas. Feumaidh colaistean agus oilthighean a bhith air am brosnachadh agus feumaidh taic a bhith aca ann a bhith a' cruthachadh chùrsaichean mac-meanmnach agus ann a bhith a' leasachadh a' churraicealaim ann an dòigh a tha a' coileanadh feuman luchd-teagaisg na Gàidhlig.

Tha adhartas ann an leasachadh na Gàidhlig air a bhith cho slaodach 's a ghabhas agus tha e mar gu bheil na bacaidhean a tha gan cur oirnn a' fàs nas àirde gach ceum a ghabhas sinn air an t-slighe. Mar eisimpleir, ann an 1980, chaidh buidheann obrach Gàidhlig a stèidheachadh le Bòrd Leasachaidh na Gaidhealtachd is nan Eilean gus ro-innleachd a mholadh airson na Gàidhlig. Ann an 1982, mhol a' bhuidheann dhan Riaghaltas gum bu chòir bòrd Gàidhlig a bhith air a stèidheachadh gus comhairle a thoirt dhaibh air cùisean Gàidhlig. A dh'aindeoin sin, cha do ghabh an Riaghaltas ris a seo.

Thuirt Seòras Younger nach maireann, aig co-labhairt Ghàidhlig aig Sabhal Mòr Ostaig ann an 1986, nach maireadh a' Ghàidhlig beò tro reachdas bhon Riaghaltas. Mairidh i a-mhàin, thuirt e, ma tha daoine airson 's gum mair i beò. Ach ma chuireas coimhearsnachd na Gàidhlig na prionnsabalan aca an cèill mu dheidhinn na Gàidhlig, feumaidh an Riaghaltas an uair sin a bhith a' freagairt le taic reachdail.

Tha sinn a-nis an seo às dèidh cha mhòr 20 bliadhna is sinn fhathast a' feitheamh gu foighidneach airson taic reachdail. Chan eil teagamh sam bith ann mu dhòchasan na coimhearsnachdan Gàidhlig. Rinn iad sin follaiseach. Tha ùidh mhòr agus taic mhòr bhuapa agus tha iad air togail fhaighinn a chionn 's gu bheil Riaghaltas na h-Alba air Bòrd na Gàidhlig a stèidheachadh gus leasachadh na Gàidhlig a bhrosnachadh agus a stiùireadh.

An-diugh, ma-thà, tha cothrom againn mu dheireadh thall a bhith a' toirt taic do Bhile Cànan na Gàidhlig (Alba). Ma thèid aontachadh ris a' bhile, bidh seo a' comharrachadh latha ùr airson na Gàidhlig agus bheireadh e togail do na coimhearsnachdan Gàidhlig. Chan eil teagamh air sin. Chan eil am bile a' sparradh Gàidhlig air duine sam bith far nach eil iad ga h-iarraidh. B' urrainn do na crìochan a tha gam moladh anns a' bhile a bhith gan atharrachadh aig ìre 2 no ìre 3. Mar sin, tha mi ag iarraidh air na buill uile an taic a thoirt dhan bhile. Chan urrainn dhuinn fuireach fad 20 bliadhna eile mus bi reachdas ann. Tha cothrom againn an-diugh.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

I welcome everybody to this special debate on Gaelic. I do not have to tell anyone here that Gaelic has a special place in the heart and soul of a proud nation. Gaelic was spoken throughout our recorded history and its rich cultural heritage helps to create the national identity of this country today. Despite the effect of centuries of discrimination and despite the decrease in the numbers because of that, in the past few years Gaelic has seen an encouraging revitalisation.

That revitalisation has been obvious through the strong support of parents for the language and the culture, which has resulted in an increase in the number of children who go through Gaelic-medium education. We should see that as one of our main aims. We should see Gaelic-medium education as a complete system from nursery education to tertiary education. To maintain the momentum, we must ensure that Gaelic does not rely on political good will and is not vulnerable to political and legislative changes, which would not encourage secure employment for teachers.

We need special recognition for teacher training. The shortage of teachers for Gaelic-medium education is holding back the rate of development. We need to achieve a balance as soon as possible between demand and provision. Colleges and universities must be encouraged and supported in creating imaginative courses and in developing the curriculum in a way that meets the needs of Gaelic-medium teachers.

The progress in Gaelic development has been slow. The hurdles seem to become higher and higher with every step that we take on the road. In 1980, a Gaelic working group was established by the Highlands and Islands Development Board to recommend a strategy for Gaelic and, in 1982, the group recommended to the Government that a Gaelic board be established to advise it on Gaelic matters. The Government did not take up that recommendation.

At a Gaelic conference at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in 1986, the late George Younger said that Gaelic would not survive through Government legislation; it would survive only if people desired it and if the Gaelic community implemented its principles with regard to Gaelic, the Government would then have to respond with legislative support.

Twenty years later, we are still patiently awaiting that legislative support. There is no doubt about the hopes of the Gaelic community, as it has made those clear. There is great interest in Gaelic and great support for it. The Gaelic community has been given a boost by the establishment by the Executive of Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba to direct the development and promotion of Gaelic.

Today, at long last, we have an opportunity to support a Gaelic language bill. If the bill is accepted and agreed, it will mark a new day for Gaelic and it will without doubt boost the Gaelic communities. The bill will not force Gaelic on anybody. The boundaries that are recommended within the bill could be altered at stage 2 or stage 3. I urge all members to support the bill. We cannot afford to wait a further 20 years for legal status. We have an opportunity today.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour 4:09, 6 March 2003

Anns na ceithir bliadhnaichean a chaidh seachad, tha sinn air adhartas fhaicinn ann an iomadach roinn co-cheangailte ris a' Ghàidhlig. Chaidh rudan a dhèanamh chan ann a-mhàin leis an Riaghaltas agus a' Phàrlamaid seo, ach tha ar caraidean ann an Westminster a' dèanamh an t-uabhas obrach cuideachd. Tha ball Pàrlamaid Calum Dòmhnallach a' strì agus a' coiteachadh mar a tha Bile Conaltraidh a' dol tro Phàrlamaid Bhreatainn. Tha ministearan eile mar Brian MacUilleim, Eilidh Liddell agus Anna NicGuaire a' cumail taic ann an diofar dhòighean cuideachd.

An-diugh, tha sinn a' beachdachadh air bile buill airson na Gàidhlig. Mìneachaidh mi mo bharail air a' bhile an ainm Mhìcheil Ruiseal an ceartuair, ach bu toigh leam an toiseach sùil aithghearr a thoirt air ais air na ceithir bliadhna a dh'fhalbh agus gu sònraichte a choimhead air an sgìre Pàrlamaid agam fhèin, na h-Eileanan Siar. Tha mise toilichte le tòrr dhen adhartas chaidh a dhèanamh, mar eisimpleir, ann a bhith a' trèanadh luchd-teagaisg. Tha fios againn gu bheil beàrn mhòr againn ri lìonadh ma tha sinn airson an t-iarrtas nàiseanta airson luchd-teagaisg a shàsachadh, ach tha sin a-nis ga dhèanamh. Tha Colaiste a' Chaisteil ann an Leòdhas, ann an co-bhoinn le Oilthigh Shrath Chluaidh, air a bhith ag oideachadh luchd- teagaisg. Ann an ùine ghoirid, tha Colaiste a' Chaisteil air barrachd adhartais a dhèanamh airson na Gàidhlig na ionad foghlaim eile ann an Alba.

Tha Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, mar a dhùilicheadh, air leth taiceil cuideachd. Tha barrachd is cairteal de chloinn nan Eilean Siar a' dol tro foghlam Gàidhlig. Is sin adhartas math ach feumar barrachd a dhèanamh agus an àireamh a leudachdadh bliadhna an dèidh bliadhna. Anns na h-Eileanan Siar, tha suidheachadh nan ealan, craoladh agus roinntean eile nas treasa na bha iad o chionn ceithir bliadhna. Chan eil mi idir ag ràdh nach eil feum air barrachd a dhèanamh airson a' chùis a dhèanamh nas cinntiche. Feumaidh sinn cumail a' strì aig a h-uile ìre. Mar a dh'ainmich buill eile na bu tràithe, tha sinn fortanach gu bheil an deasbad air gluasad anns na ceithir bliadhnaichean a dh'fhalbh. Tha an deasbad ann an Alba a-nis cus nas fallaine. Chan eil an deasbad chun na h-aon ìre far a bheil sinn a' faighneachd am bu chòir dhuinn taic a thoirt dhan Ghàidhlig ach ciamar as urrainn dhuinn dèanamh cinnteach gu bheil an taic agus an t-airgead gan cur dha na h-àiteachan ceart.

O chionn ceithir bliadhna, thuirt am pàrtaidh Labarach gun obraicheadh sinn a dh'ionnsaigh inbhe thèarainte airson na Gàidhlig. Bha am poileasaidh sin ceart aig an àm sin. Bha againn ri amas air rudeigin bunaiteach a chur air dòigh an toiseach, agus tha sinn a-nis air mòran de na rudan bunaiteach sin a dhèanamh.

A thaobh a' bhile aig Mìcheal Ruiseal, tha mi ag aontachadh ris nuair a thuirt e gu bheil uireasbhaidhean mòra ann. Feumar faighneachd cuideachd carson a thug e cho fada do Mhaighstir Ruiseal am bile seo a chur fa chomhair na Pàrlamaid. Nach eil e idir a' tuigsinn mar a tha am Pàrlamaid seo ag obrachadh?

An dèidh sin a ràdh, tha mi a' dol a thoirt taic do phrionnsabalan a' bhile, ach aig an aon àm mìneachaidh mi na h-uireasbhaidhean a tha anns a' bhile. Na bu tràithe an-diugh, thug mi sùil air na thuirt mi anns an deasbad san t-seòmar seo o chionn trì bliadhna. An latha sin, thuirt mi:

"Tha Gàidhlig na neamhnaid luachmhor ann an cridhe 's ann an anam na h-Alba. Chan eil i air a cuingealachadh le crìochan teann. Chan eil i air a crodhadh ann an cùiltean cumhang. Tha Gàidhlig nàiseanta, Eòrpach, agus eadar-nàiseanta. Tha i bunaiteach do dh'Alba. Chan eil i idir air an oir no air chul-fraoin."

Nam bheachd-sa, tha sin a' soilleireachadh na laigse a tha sa bhile aig Maighstir Ruiseal. Tha Mìcheal Ruiseal a' feuchainn ris an cànan a chròthadh ann an cùl leatha fhèin aig àm nuair a tha sinn uile a' strì airson a leudachadh agus a h-àite ceart a thoirt dhith san dùthaich againn. Mar a thuirt mi,

"Feumar a dèanamh gnàthach agus a còraichean a dhèanamh tèarainte. Tha iomadh rud prìseil ann an dualchas na h-Alba, ach, nam bharail-sa, chan eil nì a tha cho aosda, cho domhainn agus cho prìseil ri dìleab na Gàidhlig." —[Official Report, 2 March 2000; Vol 5, c 382-3.]

Tha an deasbad seo air leth feumail, dìreach mar a bha a' chiad deasbad a bha againn anns a' Phàrlamaid o chionn trì bliadhna—a' chiad deasbad Gàidhlig ann am Pàrlamaid ann an Alba ann an 700 bliadhna. Tha mi an dòchas gu bheil mi air beagan mìneachaidh a dhèanamh air suidheachadh agus seasamh a' phàrtaidh agam. Tha mi air fheuchainn a' mìneachadh dè a bha sinn a' sùileachadh o chionn ceithir bliadhna. Tha mi an dòchas cuideachd gun dèan sinne cinnteach gu bheil sinn a' gluasad ceum air cheum a dh'ionnsaigh inbhe thèarainte. Tha mi làn chinnteach, an dèidh an ath thaghadh, gun gabh am pàrtaidh Labarach na ceumannan ceart a thaobh lagh a stèidheachadh.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

In the past four years, we have taken a number of important steps in many relevant areas to advance the cause of the Gaelic language. We should not be mindful only of what the Parliament and the Executive have done—our colleagues at Westminster are also doing their bit. My friend, Calum MacDonald MP, has been working with and lobbying the Government as the Communications Bill has made its progress through the UK Parliament. The ministers Brian Wilson, Helen Liddell and Anne McGuire are also hugely supportive.

Today, we are examining the principles of a member's bill. I will shortly give my view of the bill, but I would like to take a quick look at the past four years, especially in my constituency, the Western Isles. I am pleased with some of the progress, particularly the training of much-needed teachers, but we must continue to train more teachers to satisfy the ever increasing demand in schools throughout Scotland. Structures and courses to do that are in place—in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde, Lews Castle College is involved in pioneering work to train teachers. Lews Castle College has advanced a great distance in a short time.

As one would expect, the Western Isles Council is supportive and more than 25 per cent of pupils in its schools are educated through the medium of Gaelic. That is good progress, but we must build on that year on year and encourage more parents to recognise the benefits of Gaelic education. In the Western Isles, the Gaelic arts, broadcasting and other areas continue to develop in an ever-improving environment, but that does not mean that there is not more to do. We must not be complacent; we must and will strive to do more in every field and at every level. As has been mentioned, in the past four years, the debate about Gaelic has moved on and is healthier. We are now asking how we can ensure that the support and money goes to the right places.

Four years ago, the Labour party pledged that we would make progress towards achieving secure status for the language. That was the right policy at the time because we had to focus on the fundamental challenges.

I agreed with Mike Russell's analysis of his bill when he conceded that it was flawed and had many weaknesses. One must ask oneself why it took Mr Russell so long to produce a bill and why it was produced at such a late stage in the parliamentary session. Does he not know how the procedures work?

I will support Mr Russell's bill, but I will mention some of its weaknesses. Earlier today, I looked back at the debate that we had on the issue three years ago. I will repeat two points that I made on that day. First, I said:

"Gaelic is a precious jewel in the heart and soul of Scotland. It is not constrained within strict boundaries or herded into tight corners. Gaelic is national, European and international. It is fundamental to Scotland; it is not on the periphery or on the fringes."

In my opinion, that point crystallises the weakness in Mike Russell's bill. He is trying to ghettoise the language into a tight corner at a time when we are trying to improve matters.

We must secure the rights of Gaelic because, as I said,

"There are many precious components in the heritage of Scotland, but none is as ancient, as profound and as worthy as the Gaelic legacy."—[Official Report, 2 March 2000; Vol 5, c 388.]

The debate is useful, as was the debate we had on the issue three years ago, which was the first such debate in the Parliament in 700 years. I hope that I have outlined my party's view on the issue and what we have done in the past four years. We are moving step by step towards secure status for Gaelic. I am sure that, after the next election, the Labour party will take the right steps to achieve that.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing Scottish National Party 4:14, 6 March 2003

Tha mi uabhasach toilichte a bhith ann am Pàrlamaid na h-Alba a-rithist, agus tha mi uabhasach toilichte cuideachd gu bheil deasbad againn an-diugh. Tha mi duilich nach eil mi fileanta anns a' Ghàidhlig fhathast, ach gheall mi gu càraid agam, Kay Matheson, cailleach na cloiche, gum bithinn fileanta mus bithinn sean.

Is e a' Ghàidhlig a' chànan a bhruidhinn iad ann an Gàradh Eden. Is e cànan romansach a tha anns a' Ghàidhlig. Thuirt mo sheanmhair gum biodh Gàidhlig a' cur bacadh oirnn. Tha sin fada ceàrr. Ma tha dà chànan aig cuideigin, bidh iad a' smaointinn ann an dà dhòigh agus bidh e tòrr nas fhasa dhaibh a bhith ag ionnsachadh chànanan eile.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

I am happy to be in the Scottish Parliament again and I am pleased that we are having the debate. I am sorry that I am not fluent in Gaelic yet, but I promised my friend Kay Matheson, better known as cailleach na cloiche, that I would be fluent before I was old.

Gaelic was spoken in the garden of Eden. Gaelic is a romantic language. My grandmother said that Gaelic would hinder us, but that is completely wrong. If someone is bilingual, they think in two ways and it is much easier to learn other languages.

The member continued in English.

We were told by our grandparents that Gaelic would hold us back but, as I have just said, that is nonsense. It is proven to everyone's satisfaction that if someone speaks two languages they can think in two different ways, which makes their thought processes more subtle. They can also much more readily learn other languages. That was not believed when children went to school with no English and left school with no Gaelic, when the language was persecuted and all the discrimination that John Farquhar Munro mentioned took place.

My own story about Gaelic—apart from that of my Gaelic grannie who did not want to pass the language on—concerns my wish to join the Gaelic choir at Queen's Park school. I was quite a good singer, but I was turned down because I did not have the Gaelic. If I had been allowed to join that choir in my youth, my Gaelic would be much more fluent than it is now. The headmaster of the school was the then president of An Comunn Gaidhealach, so that did not say much for that organisation's attitude, which was exclusive rather than inclusive. My lure to Gaelic has, therefore, been music. The music is magnificent, and I have listened to it for many weeks of many Mòds.

Nevertheless, Gaelic is a language of enormous literature and poetry. When I was a member of the European Parliament, I was, for some years, the chair of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages. I visited many places where there is a declining language, such as Sard, in Sardinia. Breton, on the other hand, seems to have mastered the decline that was happening in Brittany. John Hume and I lodged a budget line for lesser-used languages. There is great European sympathy for the situation. I do not think that the Urdu question is really relevant, as Urdu is not in danger of extinction. Even if no Urdu speaker were left in Scotland, Urdu would still be Urdu in all its literature. The position is not the same. However, within these islands we have seen Cornish and Manx go.

For many years of my parliamentary career in Europe, I sat with the members of Fianna Fáil, who all had quite a bit of Irish. John Farquhar Munro mentioned compulsion. The Fianna Fáil members had been forced to learn Irish to higher level to get into university. They were all forced to go to an Irish language summer school, although I think that they would have had a rattling good time there. That was the tradition. There was quite a lot of compulsion, although the requirement to learn Irish to get into a university has now been removed. The Fianna Fáil members were not natural Gaelic speakers, and there was resentment among some of them about the compulsion, so I am not in favour of compulsion. I am with John Farquhar Munro on that.

"A Fresh Start for Gaelic" discusses secure status. It says:

"There is a very strong feeling within the Gaelic community that at best the timetable" that was set out for Gaelic in the promises of the Government's manifesto

"has been extended, or at worst that all parties have reneged on their commitment".

I do not see any argument against granting Gaelic secure status. It is a step forward. The financial difficulties can surely be resolved. Gaelic is worth a blank cheque.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat 4:19, 6 March 2003

I congratulate Mike Russell on bringing the bill before the Parliament and giving us the opportunity to debate the ways in which we might reverse the alarming decline in Gaelic speaking in Scotland. It is a great pity that my colleague, Baroness Ray Michie, was not elected to the Parliament and has not had the opportunity to contribute to the debate. She is passionate about the Gaelic language and its future and she would have been one of the key signatories to the bill, supporting Mike Russell all the way. It is, therefore, regrettable that she is not here to take part in this debate.

I believe that my constituency of Argyll and Bute has the second largest number of Gaelic speakers of all Parliamentary constituencies. I might be corrected on that, but a large number of Gaelic speakers live on the islands and on the mainland within my constituency. I am not a Gaelic speaker. Indeed, I occasionally struggle with the English language, never mind a second language. However, I strongly support the Gaelic language and I believe that we must take all possible steps to secure its future and to turn around the decline in Gaelic speaking throughout Scotland.

I regularly visit schools throughout my constituency and Gaelic is taught in many of them. I see at first hand the benefits for children who are being educated in both English and Gaelic. Teachers and parents tell me that learning in both languages stands their children in good stead for the future and improves their ability to learn other languages. Dr Ewing made that point and she said, rightly, that learning in Gaelic helps children to think more diversely. There is proof that learning in Gaelic is good for children. Parents and teachers tell me that religiously when I visit schools to listen to Gaelic classes.

I do not need to be persuaded that the bill is needed and that it can bring benefits. However, I welcome Mike Russell's acknowledgement in his opening statement that achieving secure status alone will not be enough to save the Gaelic language. I accept his argument that securing the language's status will help to underpin the language's future in Scotland. However, there are fundamental concerns about how the bill's objectives can be delivered on the ground.

In my constituency, the fundamental barrier to the stabilisation and resuscitation of the language is the shortage of Gaelic teachers. That continuing concern is relayed to me as I go round the schools. In every school that I visit the teachers and education officials say that there is an unmet need in their area and that if they had more Gaelic teachers they could educate more children in Gaelic.

The bill, of course, does not address that fundamental concern. However, I suggest that the issue of the shortage of Gaelic teachers must be addressed. If it is not, the bill's objectives will not be achieved. I would appreciate it if Mike Russell would address that fundamental point in his winding-up speech. It seems to me that the bill and the shortage of teachers must be addressed simultaneously. If we pass the bill, we must have sufficient Gaelic teachers to deliver the language to the widest number of children.

I have two other concerns, which are both about local authorities. Do local authorities and other public bodies have the resources, in terms of the numbers of Gaelic speakers that they employ, to meet the bill's requirements? Argyll and Bute Council has genuine concerns about its ability to do so. What would the penalties be if a council, for whatever reason, could not fulfil the proposed act's objectives, not from a reluctance to do so but because, for example, of a lack of Gaelic teachers or Gaelic-speaking employees? I would appreciate an explanation of how such a situation would be addressed.

I also have concerns about the ghettoising of the Gaelic language into the small geographical area that the bill outlines. I listened to Mike Russell's reasons for going down that route. Nevertheless, if we are to stem the decline of the Gaelic language, surely it must be encouraged throughout Scotland. We must address that head-on because we cannot duck it. I ask Mike Russell to explain in more detail why he took the approach of encouraging the language only in a narrow geographical area rather than adopt the Welsh approach. I understand that, in a significantly large area of Wales, Welsh was not previously spoken.

I will support the bill's principles and I believe that Parliament must do so also, otherwise Parliament will send out a signal to Scotland that it is not serious about saving the Gaelic language.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 4:24, 6 March 2003

I support the principles of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill, which Mike Russell promoted and which is being debated. I know that he has put much effort into the bill and he is to be congratulated on that. Mike Russell knows, because I discussed the matter with him, that I have deep reservations about the details of the bill as introduced.

I am disappointed by the narrowness of the bill's application. Many Gaelic campaigners share my view, as Mike Russell knows. For example, the view was expressed at the cross-party group on Gaelic in the Scottish Parliament that zonal proposals were dangerous and that the bill had the potential to create divisions. We must ensure that that does not happen.

The scope of the bill should not be limited to the Gaidhealtachd. That gives the wrong message to Scotland, marginalising Gaelic at a time when we want it to be accepted as a normal language for the whole country. Gaelic belongs to all of Scotland, not just to some of the crofting counties. There are Gaelic speakers and there is Gaelic-medium education throughout the country—in Glasgow, as Pauline McNeill noted, and in Sarah Boyack's constituency. There are people who are interested in Gaelic although they do not speak it, and people who do not speak it, but send their children to school to learn it.

No authority or agency should use the bill's present form as an excuse to cut back on its provision for Gaelic. Currently, over 20 local authorities in Scotland apply for a specific grant for Gaelic, an indication of the widespread interest in the language. The bill should be amended so that it applies throughout Scotland in a flexible way. Areas such as Orkney or Shetland should not be burdened with legislation that has little relevance there; that would create bitterness. The formula used in the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000 could be used by local authorities and public bodies to assess the need for Gaelic in their areas and to act accordingly—with the caveat that the decisions be examined so that we are sure that no hidden need is being stifled.

The Education, Culture and Sport Committee should take additional evidence from the local authorities outwith the Gaidhealtachd to see how flexibility might be built into the bill if it were amended to include all of Scotland. It is a pity that the bill has come before us at the eleventh hour, at the very end of this parliamentary session, in a form that is difficult for some of us to accept. The Parliament should not pass a bill that is less than what we aspire to. Mike Russell has indicated his willingness to amend the bill to address our concerns. I hope that that can be done.

The debate on this bill and other debates in the chamber have raised the profile of Gaelic in Scotland. The Executive is also to be congratulated on its support for Gaelic. The recommendations of the ministerial advisory group on Gaelic are being rolled out. Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba has been set up and has a key role to play in overseeing any Gaelic language bill. That is why I am confident that there will soon be a Gaelic language bill, if not in this Parliament, then in the next. I commend the bill to the chamber.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

If Jamie Stone makes a brief speech, we will have time to hear a brief speech from Jackie Baillie as well.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 4:28, 6 March 2003

Tha neamhnaidean Gàidhlig againn fhathast air costa an ear Chataibh. Tha iad anabarrach prìseil, agus feumaidh sinn feuchainn ris an sàbhaladh.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

We still have pearls of Gaelic on the east coast of Sutherland. They are deeply precious and we must try to save them.

The member continued in English.

The pearls of Gaelic that I spoke of are hanging on by their fingernails. There is a rich variety of Gaelic—Sutherland and east Sutherland Gaelic, north-west Sutherland Gaelic, Sgitheanach Gaelic and Lewis Gaelic are all different—and that variety is like a multifaceted diamond. It is hugely important.

There are now fewer Gaelic speakers on the east coast of Sutherland than there are fingers on my hand. However, I believe that this bill—even at one minute to midnight, which we have now reached—would halt that fatal decline. Variety is hugely important and I urge members to support the bill.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

As that speech was so short, we can have a full-size speech from Jackie Baillie.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

Well, in that case—[ Laughter. ]

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 4:29, 6 March 2003

It is worth remembering that, aside from Nova Scotia, Scotland is the home of the Gaelic language. That gives us a unique responsibility as guardians of our cultural heritage.

I am not interested in an artificial reculturalisation of Scotland. The Labour party and I are committed to ensuring that Gaelic is recognised as an official language in Scotland with the same status as English so that, protected, it may flourish. That is why, with one important reservation that I will deal with later, the Labour party supports the principles of the bill.

Equal status is important, but if that equal status is not linked to a perceivable change, we will be paying only lip service to our heritage. True security for Gaelic will come from the way in which its new status is incorporated into policy.

The bill can only ever be considered as one step on the way. The broader commitment to protecting Gaelic is much greater. Those of us who consider the bill to be a one-stop answer to our responsibilities will be disappointed, because, as we have heard already, it does not address the important issue of Gaelic-medium education, which is essential for the survival of the language, as is the training of more Gaelic teachers. The Executive has made those matters priorities.

We must put the bill's proposals in the context of considerable Executive progress. The Executive has already shown its commitment to a secure future for Gaelic in Scotland. The fact that we have a Cabinet minister with responsibility for Gaelic for the first time is a start, although that means very little without policy progress and implementation. However, there is plenty progress to show. Perhaps the most significant development is the creation of the new Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba, which met for the first time, as we heard, last month and of itself should provide a significant boost to the language's status in Scotland.

The majority of the evidence that the Education, Culture and Sport Committee received reflected my main reservation about the bill—its geographical coverage. As local authorities will be in control of their own plans, I can see no reason to limit the bill to a particular area. An amended version of the bill to require all local authorities to prepare language plans would also allow for flexibility between council areas on the simple basis of need.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I welcome the committee's acknowledgement of the need for a bill that is not modest, but applies to the whole of Scotland. I strongly support Jackie Baillie's point about Gaelic-medium education, as I have a Gaelic nursery and a Gaelic-medium education unit at Tollcross in my constituency. People are committed to Gaelic-medium education. If the bill is passed, the committee's commitment to amend it at stage 2 will give us a much stronger bill, not the modest bill about which several members have talked. I would welcome that as a local MSP.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

Sarah Boyack is right. We should acknowledge that Gaelic speakers and supporters live in all areas of the country. A geographically limited approach could end up creating new divisions.

There has been considerable development and activity in areas that are not listed in the bill. We have heard about the examples of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Although the bill is of greater significance to some areas than it is to others, a broad, nationally targeted piece of legislation will ensure that nobody is discriminated against on the basis of their postcode.

If we agree to extend the bill to all Scotland, as I believe that we should, the committee will need to take further evidence. In particular, it would be useful to consider further how we implement the bill alongside local authorities and whether the provisions on language plans will need to be amended to reflect the new flexibility that I mentioned.

We need to be sure that we get it right so that we can ensure the future prosperity of Gaelic in Scotland. The debate is a chance for us to make the most of a new momentum. Maintaining that momentum and taking the time to produce good, practical policy are not mutually exclusive. I therefore urge members to support the bill's principles.

Photo of Ian Jenkins Ian Jenkins Liberal Democrat 4:33, 6 March 2003

I make it clear that, when the bill first came before the Education, Culture and Sport Committee, I was very sceptical. Indeed, I am on record as having expressed reservations about secure status for Gaelic. I saw problems with the bill everywhere. I worried about the potential for political manoeuvring and unreasonable demands for extra money. I worried about Gaelic signs sprouting up all over the country in places where no Gaelic has ever been spoken and about councils having to take on extra staff.

At that point, the principle bothered me because of the way that I thought it might turn out in practice. A turning point in my attitude to the bill came when I asked Professor Kenneth MacKinnon to give examples of how Gaelic had been discriminated against through the lack of its recognition as a national language. Professor MacKinnon told me that a recent application to the National Lottery for assistance for playgroups, which was being funded for English-language playgroups,

"was turned down with the specific explanation that Gaelic is not an official language."

He also said:

"One can go into a telephone booth in a railway station in Scotland and press a button for the Welsh language, but there is no button for Gaelic."—[Official Report, Education, Culture and Sport Committee, 10 December; c 3298.]

According to BT, that is because Welsh is an official language, whereas Gaelic is not. Rightly or wrongly, that made me angry, and if it made me angry, what the heck did it do to people that speak Gaelic?

It seems utterly wrong that a person speaking or writing in a living, indigenous language with a long history and tradition in our nation should be made to feel that his or her language is thought of as second class and is undervalued and treated with a lack of respect by institutions and public bodies, which have a duty to serve the public. That is a wrong that must be righted. I recognise that the Executive has done a good deal for the Gaelic language, expanding support for Gaelic-medium education, recognising the importance of Gaelic broadcasting and establishing the Bòrd Gàidhlig na h-Alba. It seems, however, that as far as a Gaelic language bill was concerned, the Executive has been procrastinating. I believe that the committee was convinced of that. A push was needed, and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill now before us gave us an opportunity to move things forward.

There are many flaws and problematic elements about the details of the bill, but if we accept that its central principle is based on a wish to legitimise Gaelic as a language to be treated with equal respect to English, I must urge Parliament to support it.

There are three particular provisions that seem to be problematic. First, there is the initial division of Scotland into a Gaelic area and a non-Gaelic area. In particular, there is the omission of Glasgow and Edinburgh. That seemed to fly in the face of the whole idea of Gaelic having a national identity and national status. Like others, I suggest that we make changes in that direction.

Secondly, the financial resolution dealt only with the establishment of Gaelic language plans. As Mike Russell admitted, it did not, and could not, give details of the costs of the long-term implementation of those plans, which may differ in different parts of the country.

Thirdly, I have doubts about the precise meaning of the term:

"on a basis of equality".

Did that really mean the sprouting of Gaelic-language signs across the whole country? Did that really mean that somebody could demand that a policeman in Dumfries should speak to him in Gaelic? Nothing so extreme is in any way foreshadowed under the terms of the bill. The phrase "basis of equality" is used in the Welsh Language Act 1993, and the evidence that was presented to the committee gave us comfort in that regard. The Welsh Language Board has successfully implemented a policy of gradualism—not fundamentalism—in rolling out the provisions of the 1993 act. There have been good examples of public bodies in Scotland already treating Gaelic with respect and giving it the legitimacy that it deserves. They include the National Museums of Scotland and the Scottish Arts Council, which have honourable records in that regard.

The formation of a language plan by public bodies need not be an onerous task, nor do the provisions of such a plan need to be unduly burdensome. As others have said, there is real flexibility and reasonableness in the bill's provisions as they are envisioned by the Education, Culture and Sport Committee. I commend the committee's report to the Parliament, as well as the bill. I do not ask the Parliament today to support the details of the bill, in which there are many difficulties and which needs much revision, but there is an issue of cultural justice here. I believe that the central principle of the bill should be acknowledged by the Parliament and should be given our support at stage 1.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative 4:38, 6 March 2003

"Can you tell me where my country lies?

Said the unifaun to his true love's eyes".

Where indeed is our country? What is it? What makes us Scots? Where is the heartbeat? We could debate those questions for a whole day and more, but what is beyond dispute is that the Gaelic language and the wider Gaelic culture form part, not just of Scottish culture, but of British culture too. Gaelic is a treasure of emotions, imagination, creativity, romance and tragedy, and it deserves our support. It deserves the support even of monosyllabic monoglots such as me.

There have of course been criticisms of the bill, which is to be expected—no bill attracts no criticism. Some deep analysis took place during the committee's scrutiny and evidence taking, and I believe that many of the contradictions with which people are concerned will be ironed out at stage 2, if the bill reaches that stage. For instance, there is concern that there is not immediate national coverage for the bill, and that is to be met by amendment. On the other hand, the minister has suggested that criticism might arise in the case that there is national coverage, given the costs that that will bring. The Parliament will have to face up to such dilemmas at a later stage. In our party's view, we should amend the bill to give it national coverage.

That is the correct way to go, because the bill provides flexibility in the Gaelic language plans. The fact that those plans reflect local need should assuage all the concerns that people have about signs springing up everywhere and every museum or gallery exhibit having to be identified in Gaelic. Let us be honest: we should put ourselves into the minds of Gaels who saw that every sign in their land was in English. Let us think about how they felt and analyse what we should have done then, against how we treat Gaelic now. We must ensure that our actions are appropriate and can develop. If movement is too fast and forces itself it will create a backlash that will work against the interests of Gaelic and Gaelic culture. Let us take the modest step that Mike Russell suggests, but let us amend the bill to make it more workable.

There has also been concern about the phrase "basis of equality". As Mike Russell said, that concern stems from the Welsh Language Act 1993, which the Conservatives developed. That key phrase was tested at the Education, Culture and Sport Committee, and, indeed, Ian Jenkins and I made many attempts to find a better phraseology. However, we were told that trying to explain it better and refine it to relieve concerns in fact made difficulties with the bill more likely. Therefore I am satisfied that the phrase "basis of equality" is required in the bill.

In a sense, secure status is mainly symbolic. However, it is an important symbol to many people, therefore it deserves support. It has been said—and it is almost a truism—that Gaelic-medium education is the salvation that we must push forward. However, there are difficulties with the number of Gaelic-medium teachers and with councils—such as the City of Edinburgh Council obstructing the path. Those difficulties must be overcome. By obtaining secure status for Gaelic, we can encourage that process.

Mike Watson seemed not mean spirited, but grudging about the bill. I have seen him speak more warmly; admittedly, that may be explained by the fact that there were 200 Gaels in the audience at the time.

A mind is like a parachute—it functions only when it is open. I welcome Mike Russell's open attitude to reform. I hope that the minister will also have an open attitude to the bill at later stages.

Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party 4:42, 6 March 2003

I gather that I was showing up on the Presiding Officer's screen as Alex Neil. That is truly terrifying for all concerned.

This could be a special day for the Parliament, whose reputation has been battered and bruised in the Highlands and Islands, as it has across Scotland. However, with this emotive and symbolic legislation the Parliament can send out a very strong message. It is not every day that we get to kick-start the process of saving a national language.

I pay tribute to Mike Russell for the work that he has put into the bill and for his speech today. He said two things of immense importance. First, he said that the bill is achievable. This measure has not been introduced just to fill time in a debating chamber at the fag end of a Parliament. It is an opportunity to revitalise the Gaelic language and to pass legislation. If members of the Parliament want to pass the bill, that will happen.

Secondly, Mike Russell's speech embodied the consensual approach to this issue that is essential. After all, the Parliament was supposed to be about consensus. Mr Russell mentioned that the bill or similar measures were promised in the manifestos of the Liberal Democrats, the Labour party and the SNP. We can work together to make this happen.

In that context, Alasdair Morrison's speech was particularly depressing. His inability to rise to the occasion never fails to surprise me. We can all disagree with aspects of the bill, but let us do so with dignity rather than with a sneer. Mr Morrison accused Mike Russell of introducing the bill late in the day. Perhaps he would like to reflect on why it was left to Mike Russell to do that, given that when he was the minister responsible for Gaelic he had the opportunity to introduce precisely such a bill—an opportunity that he chose to let pass.

The Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport identified a number of problems with the bill. He asks some legitimate questions, but the problems with the bill are by no means insuperable. He made the point, which other members have made, that there is confusion about whether equal status should apply throughout Scotland or, as in the bill, only in certain areas of Scotland. The minister disagrees with the committee—it is his right to do so—but the logic of that is that he supports the original bill. I have to say that I do not really care that much which way the bill goes, as long as we get the Parliament to vote to put the bill through.

Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party

No, I will not give way at this point. I draw to members' attention the committee's report, because it details innovative prospects for getting around the problem. It suggests that, rather than drawing arbitrary lines on a map, we could use a more sophisticated demographic profile and consider areas such as Edinburgh, or Glasgow, or any area where there is a demand. There is a way around the problem.

The minister went on to argue that because of the lack of financial detail, the bill as it stands is flawed. I suggest a number of things to the minister. First, until we know which of the amendments is going to be accepted, it is impossible to know how much the provisions will cost. If they are to apply nationwide, the financial imperative will be different from what it would be if they were to apply on the restricted basis that Mr Russell proposed.

I refer the minister to the evidence given to the committee by the Welsh Language Board, which stated:

"Too often, investment in Welsh-medium or Gaelic-medium education or public services is perceived as investment in Welsh or in Gaelic. That perception is mistaken. Such investment should be seen primarily as investment in education or better service provision, rather than as something additional. Language is a part of society; it should not be seen as something that is apart from society."—[Official Report, Education, Culture and Sport Committee, 14 January 2003; c 3397.]

On that basis, we have to consider the measures in the bill in a wider frame.

Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party

I am sorry, but I do not have time. I say to the Executive that the one thing that we need to hear from the minister when he sums up is that the Executive will give the bill parliamentary time and lodge amendments to give it every prospect of being on the statute book. Nobody can know the result of the election and, frankly, this issue is far too big for us to get involved in petty point scoring. If the minister wants to work with the rest of the parties here, we can get the bill through. The bill is an opportunity; it is essential and symbolic and it can be the catalyst for retaining and revitalising the Gaelic language and culture.

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour 4:47, 6 March 2003

The debate has been enjoyable, and whatever Brian Monteith said about my mood—whether it is downbeat or otherwise—that is not the way that I feel, so I am sorry if that is the way that I came across. I thank the interpreters for the assistance that they have provided this afternoon, which has been valuable.

It has been claimed that the bill will start the process of rebuilding the Gaelic language and will begin repairing what some have described as the damage of centuries. That is hyperbole, because it is not the start of the Gaelic revival and passing the bill will not be the end of it. Nor would support for the bill be the only indicator of support for Gaelic. I have already outlined the effects of the Executive's record on Gaelic. Despite what has been said, it has contributed to the vitality of the language.

The language's future is crucial. The numbers learning in Gaelic-medium education are the key. I think that Winnie Ewing mentioned her grandmother. I had a great-grandmother who spoke only Gaelic. That was lost to my family and I did not even discover that fact until about two years ago. I do not want other families to suffer that fate. That has informed the approach that I have taken in my dealings with Gaelic in my ministerial portfolio.

Murdo Fraser accused me of nit-picking in relation to the bill. I am guilty as charged. It is the minister's job to nit-pick, and I will not apologise for that. It is important that bills have proper consideration. On Duncan Hamilton's point about there being time for the bill to complete its progress, I do not know whether there is time between now and the end of the month. The fact that the bill was introduced just 17 weeks prior to dissolution is no reason for us to telescope the process and not give it proper consideration. I do not think that anybody here would recommend that, because we all know that law put together hurriedly is often later much regretted.

I stress a point that George Lyon and John Farquhar Munro mentioned. Teachers are the key, which is why, as I said, we are putting the bulk of our resources into and focusing our attention on ensuring that as many teachers are trained to be able to teach in Gaelic as possible. There is obviously a limit. We can make places available in teacher training colleges—and places are increasingly available—but people have to want to come forward and take up the available posts once they have qualified.

Pauline McNeill mentioned the developments in Glasgow. The Gaelic-medium school—Bunsgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu—is a good example of those developments. Its numbers have reached record levels. I have had a meeting with the board and the head teacher, Donalda McComb, to try to find increased accommodation. The most interesting statistic is the fact that 60 per cent of the parents of children at the school do not speak Gaelic. That underscores the point that George Lyon and John Farquhar Munro made.

I also take on board the point that John Farquhar Munro made about the need to find a balance between demand and provision. That is important, and we are working towards such a balance in our provision.

We have considered the bill from the point of view of what is necessary to support the effort that is already going in. As I have said, substantial amendment of the areas in which the bill is defective is necessary. During the debate, members have acknowledged that by expressing concerns about the bill's practical impact.

I do not accept Duncan Hamilton's point that there is an absolute divide between saying that, in the areas that it covers, the bill is fine as it is, and saying that it would cause a problem if it were extended to cover the whole of Scotland. For a start, it would be a considerable time before there was a sufficient number of teachers to allow the bill to be introduced throughout Scotland in places where there is demand.

I want an increase in the number of teachers and in the number of places at colleges. We are working towards that. That is what will secure the future of Gaelic language and culture. We must ensure that the people who want to have their children taught in Gaelic-medium education have the opportunity to do that, and that, as those children grow up, Gaelic is a living language and a living culture. That is how we will secure the future of Gaelic.

I echo the point that Ian Jenkins made about there being Gaelic road signs between Hawick and Jedburgh, which I am sure would give him the shivers, Tayside police having to produce their annual reports in Gaelic, and all public officials having to learn Gaelic. Those chestnuts are not the issues—they are not what the bill is about and it is not helpful to make such suggestions.

I must return to the point that Duncan Hamilton made about the financial information. The information is unsatisfactory. When one does not know what amendments there will be, one must be prepared to provide examples of the cost parameters, which will depend on the nature of the amendments that are lodged. I have made that point already. It would not be beyond Michael Russell to do that and I hope that he will do so. If he wants to work with officials in doing that, such assistance will be made available to him.

The Executive will support the motion.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I call Mike Russell to wind up the debate. You have eight minutes, but it would be helpful if you could shave a little bit off that.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 4:52, 6 March 2003

I will do my best to shave a little bit off my speech.

I welcome the Parliament's positive support for the bill. Although I would be grateful if members supported the bill at stage 1, that is not the end of the process. As members—especially Murdo Fraser—have indicated, stage 1 of the bill represents the start of a process that can be completed in this parliamentary session.

Like Duncan Hamilton, I want to address the point that was made by Alasdair Morrison and Maureen Macmillan, who is convener of the cross-party group on Gaelic in the Scottish Parliament. They asked me why I did not introduce the bill earlier. I plead guilty to trusting the word of the Deputy Minister for Highlands and Islands and Gaelic, who, in October 1999, said that he had the matter on a fast track. I did not know that Alasdair Morrison would let down the Gaelic-speaking people of Scotland and his constituency. If I did not know that then, I know it now.

The bill is perfectly possible to achieve. The reality of the situation is that the bill can be achieved if members choose to vote for it because they want it to be achieved.

I will respond to the positive points that have been made in the debate. The model for the debate is undoubtedly Ian Jenkins, who changed his mind during the stage 1 process. He admitted that.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

He could change it again.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

He could. Like me, the convener of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee has long experience of Mr Jenkins changing his mind during meetings. Having changed his mind on the bill once in five weeks, he has stuck to that position. Ian Jenkins is a model for the bill, as he saw the reality of the situation. I pay tribute to the members of the committee who saw the reality of the situation and recognised that the bill was necessary. I pay tribute, too, to Winnie Ewing, whose lifelong dedication to the cause was reflected in her speech today.

Unusually, I pay particular tribute to George Lyon, who asked the most—[Interruption.] It is possible; this is a most unusual day. He asked the most searching questions of any member about the bill. He asked about the detail of the bill and the things that needed to be done. I will respond to him.

First, education is absolutely central. A member's bill of this nature cannot of itself produce new teachers, but it can produce a new confidence within the community, a new determination and a new feeling on the island of Ìle in George Lyon's constituency, where I was on Monday, that it is worth while pursuing the matter. It takes time to produce teachers. I say to the minister that teachers cannot simply be produced from Gaelic-medium education; other ways will have to be found. Let us get the bill in place and work on that.

Secondly, on resources, some councils are already spending money on Gaelic, but the wisest evidence, from the Welsh Language Board, made the clear point that that is integral to work, not extra to it. The bill might mean changing some patterns of work, but if additional resources are required—and I shall deal with that in my comments to the minister in a moment—that will need to be addressed head on.

There is no penalty in the bill. In one area, I departed from the Comunn na Gàidhlig proposals, because the reality of the situation is that the Comunn na Gàidhlig approach of fining or setting up punitive sanctions does not work. Ultimately, the only sanction in the bill is naming and shaming those who do not implement it, but I hope that by that stage people will realise that they should be doing so.

Finally, George Lyon asked how we can open up the whole issue and spread it across Scotland. Indeed, that point was referred to again and again. The Education, Culture and Sport Committee's view—and I respect that view—was that Gaelic should be seen as a national language. In those circumstances, there should be a wide responsibility, but George Lyon's points about resources reflect upon that too, because if resources are limited, it might be wiser to apply them in a smaller area for more effect at an earlier stage, rather than spread them more widely.

I am open to how that debate progresses. If the bill is amended to make it apply across Scotland, there will have to be a concomitant amendment that does not lay a heavy duty on, for example, Shetland or Orkney. Indeed, it is perfectly possible, using the example of Gaelic in the education national priorities, to have an authority say in the first phrase of a Gaelic language plan, "We are not having a Gaelic language plan because we do not need one." That would be the situation, I am sure, for Orkney and Shetland, although they might want to—generously—publish a leaflet or two and perhaps do it in Old Norse as well.

The reality of the situation in Mr Lyon's constituency—which is, I am sorry to disappoint him, the constituency with the third-highest concentration of Gaelic speakers—is that Gaelic is a vital part not just of social development or community development, but of economic development. Investment in Gaelic in that place will pay dividends.

I will address the minister's question on resources. I will take up his generous offer; I am happy to meet his officials to discuss the matter. We operate in this Parliament by the standing orders. The financial memorandum as submitted conforms to rule 9.3.2. It had to, otherwise the Presiding Officer would not have given the bill a certificate of competence. The bill has been introduced under that memorandum. If the proposals in the bill change after stage 1, of course there will be a changed financial memorandum, but the introduction of the financial resolution—which only ministers can do—is dependent on the stage 1 process. The information is in the memorandum. It conforms to the stage 1 process, therefore it conforms to the standing orders of the Parliament. I would be happy to have a meeting with officials, but the minister knows that, if the financial resolution is not moved, stage 2 cannot move ahead. Developing the financial resolution and then moving it are something that we can do jointly.

Many other points were raised in the debate, which was, by and large, positive and good-tempered.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

No, I am afraid that I cannot, because I am almost out of time; I am in my last minute.

Mr Monteith answered Mr Fraser's question about the use of the phrase "basis of equality". It was a Tory phrase in a Tory act. It was the best phrase for the time and, after extensive investigation, it remains the best phrase now.

I ask members to support the bill at stage 1. More important, I ask members to realise that there is a will and a commitment in Scotland to have the bill not only pass at stage 1, but complete its passage and be in place—[Interruption.] Members in the back rows of the Labour benches might still be sniping, but we will attempt to have the Parliament pass the bill. We will attempt to honour the commitment that exists in Scotland and to do what we can to save the Gaelic language.

I commend the bill to the chamber.