Schedule 1 — BÒRD Na GÀIdhlig

Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:00 pm on 21st April 2005.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 4:00 pm, 21st April 2005

Group 6 is on members of Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Amendment 2, in the name of John Farquhar Munro, is grouped with amendment 3.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat

Tha mi toilichte a dh'èirigh a bhruidhinn a-rithist ann an Gàidhlig air an latha mòr seo ann an eachdraidh nan Gaidheal. Tha mi toilichte leis mar a chaidh cùisean suas chun an seo.

Tha na puingean a tha mi airson togail an-dràsta a' bualadh air na buill a bhios a' suidhe air Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Tha mi dhen bheachd gum biodh e gu math freagarrach nam biodh buill a' bhùird fileanta ann an Gàidhlig. Chan eil sin a' ciallachadh gu bheil mi an aghaidh duine sam bith eile aig nach eil Gàidhlig a' tighinn faisg air a' bhòrd. Tha mi airson cothrom a bhith aig a' bhòrd duine sam bith a thaghadh aig a bheil sgilean proifeiseanta a nì feum dhan bhòrd. Leis an sin, chan eil mi a' faicinn gun dèanadh na h-atharrachaidhean milleadh mòr air obair a' bhùird. Tha am bile ag ràdh gum bi ballrachd a' bhùird air a dhèanamh suas de

"gun a bhith nas lugha na 5, no nas motha na 11, buill chumanta".

Tha sin freagarrach gu leòr. Ach chan eil mi a' faicinn carson gu bheil sin a' ciallachadh nach biodh cothrom aig a' bhòrd a tharraing duine sam bith a dhèanadh feum no cuideachadh dha.

Tha mi dhen bheachd gum biodh e gu math freagarrach dà phuing a chur còmhla ann an atharrachadh 2 agus atharrachadh 3, a tha a' bualadh air fear-cathrach a' bhùird. Tha mi dhen bheachd gur còir an neach-cathrach a bhith fileanta ann an Gàidhlig. Leis an sin, tha mi a' cur air beulaibh na Pàrlamaid gur còir buill Bòrd na Gàidhlig, agus gu h-àraid fear-cathrach a' bhùird, a bhith fileanta ann an Gàidhlig.

Tha mi a' gluasad atharrachadh 2.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

Again, I am pleased to stand here and speak in the Gaelic language. This is a historic day for the Gaels and I am very pleased with matters up to now. The points that I wish to raise relate to the members who will sit on Bòrd na Gàidhlig. I think that it would be very appropriate if the members of the bòrd were fluent Gaelic speakers. That does not mean that we would want to prevent anyone who does not have Gaelic from coming anywhere near the bòrd. I want the bòrd to have the opportunity to select people who have professional skills that would be useful to it. I do not think that the amendments will create any great difficulty for the bòrd's work. The bill states that the bòrd should have

"no fewer than 5, nor more than 11" members, which is appropriate. However, I do not see why the bòrd should not have the opportunity to attract people who it believes could be useful to it.

I thought that it would be useful to bring together two points in amendments 2 and 3. Amendment 3 relates to the chair of the bòrd. I am of the opinion that the chair should be a fluent Gaelic speaker. I suggest to the Parliament that the members and, in particular, the chair of Bòrd na Gàidhlig should be fluent Gaelic speakers.

I move amendment 2.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative

Amendments 2 and 3 are very much the work of John Farquhar Munro. As one would expect on a subject of this nature, his wise counsel should be heeded. He is saying that members of the bòrd should be able to speak the Gaelic language. His amendments go far deeper than just the issue of Gaelic. If we are to pursue excellence, we must have highly qualified individuals who know what they are talking about and what they are saying.

John Farquhar Munro speaks Gaelic extremely well. I have no doubt that, if a poll were taken of all others who speak Gaelic, they would agree almost unanimously that the bòrd, which is to spearhead the promotion and encouragement of Gaelic in Scotland, should include people with a range of different experiences and expertise, but that it would not be unreasonable to insist that they should all have the Gaelic. One would invariably find that members of boards for the promotion of French, German or Italian would have a basic knowledge of the subject concerned. I understand that the bòrd's proceedings will be conducted mainly in Gaelic, so a working knowledge of Gaelic should be a prerequisite of membership. We should not shrink from the promotion of minimum standards. It will be a dark day when the Parliament is afraid of recognising merit or the pursuit of excellence. It cannot be suggested that it is unreasonable for members of the bòrd to have the Gaelic.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

One or two names have popped on and off my screen. If members wish to speak, they should be clear that their request-to-speak buttons are on.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I support the amendments in the name of John Farquhar Munro. We think that it is sensible that the members and, in particular, the chair of a board that is appointed with the express purpose of promoting Gaelic should be Gaelic-speaking people. For the reasons that Lord James Douglas-Hamilton outlined, it would be a perfectly sensible proposition to have Gaelic speakers running the show as far as the promotion of the Gaelic language is concerned. The Scottish National Party is happy to support—in English, unfortunately—amendments 2 and 3.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I understand clearly what drives John Farquhar Munro on this issue and have some sympathy with the sentiments behind his amendments. I expect that the working language of Bòrd na Gàidhlig will always be Gaelic. If not all the members of the bòrd are fluent speakers, a clear majority of them always should be. I cannot envisage circumstances in which the chair of the bòrd would not be a Gaelic speaker.

The make-up of the current bòrd demonstrates that a potential candidate's mastery of the language will be a matter to which ministers will have regard when making appointments. However, as John Farquhar Munro said at stage 1, the bòrd must welcome support from people who do not speak Gaelic, but who have special skills and interests. For absolute clarity, in case I did not understand properly what John Farquhar Munro said, the bòrd has no power under the bill to co-opt members who are non-Gaelic speakers on to the bòrd, and although it can create committees on to which members can be co-opted, those members would have no voting rights. So it is not possible to co-opt a non-Gaelic speaker on to the main bòrd in the way that I think John Farquhar Munro suggested.

I agree with the point that was made in the Education Committee's stage 1 report that the ability to speak Gaelic should not be prescribed in statute as a prerequisite for bòrd membership. The committee recognised that there might be benefit in ministers having flexibility to appoint members with, for example, experience of the development of another minority language. I can also envisage a circumstance in which people who have empathy with the language, who understand the threats that it faces, who are experienced in public policy development in education, for example, could make a positive contribution to the work of the bòrd.

Without wanting to be pedantic, I do not wish to get into circumstances in which any minister has to make fine judgments about an individual's level of language skill in order to make an appointment to the bòrd. I can think of a number of people—some of whom sat in the past where Alex Neil sits today—who might not be regarded as fluent Gaelic speakers, but who I would not want to be prevented from making a contribution to the bòrd if they were otherwise suitable.

That said, I repeat that I cannot envisage a circumstance in which the clear majority of bòrd members will not be fluent Gaelic speakers and further, I make it clear that I expect that Gaelic will always be the working language of the bòrd. I cannot envisage a circumstance ever when the chair would not be a Gaelic speaker.

With those assurances, I ask John Farquhar Munro not to press amendment 2.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat

I clarify that I suggested that anybody who had an expertise or professionalism from whom the bòrd wanted to take advice could be taken not on to the bòrd, but into a committee meeting where the bòrd could make use of their expertise and professionalism, even though they were not a Gaelic speaker. I suggested clearly that all members of the bòrd should be Gaelic speakers.

With those few words, I press amendment 2.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 4

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Crawford, Bruce, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fabiani, Linda, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McLetchie, David, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Munro, John Farquhar, Neil, Alex, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Turner, Dr Jean, Watson, Mike, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Curran, Frances, Gorrie, Donald, Leckie, Carolyn

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 37, Against 57, Abstentions 3.

Amendment 2 disagreed to.

Amendment 3 not moved.

Amendment 8 moved—[Peter Peacock]—and agreed to.