Gaelic, hailed the announcement that the government is to sign the Council of Europe Charter for Regional or Minority Languages as 'a
crucial enhancement of the status of Gaelic.'
The government's decision to sign the Council of Europe Charter for
language in Scotland under Part III, when the necessary procedural
arrangements are in place, was announced yesterday in answer to a
parliamentary question. The Scots language will be covered by Part II
of the Charter
Mr Wilson said:
'The specification of Gaelic in the United Kingdom's ratification of
the Council of Europe Charter is a crucial enhancement of the status of the language.
'The government has done much to promote Gaelic in Scotland
especially through our support of Gaelic-medium education, which is
now an important factor in ensuring the future of the language.
However, it is a tribute to the Gaelic-speaking people of Scotland who
have maintained, developed and made demands on behalf of the
language, that we are in a position to sign up to the provisions of the Charter.
'The philosophy of the Charter is that cultural diversity is an important part of our common European heritage, which should be maintained, celebrated and developed. Gone are the days when minority languages would be seen as a threat to national unity. Today's announcement allows us to build on what has been achieved for Gaelic and ensure that never again is this integral part of our heritage neglected.'
1. The Council of Europe drew up the Charter in 1992 for the
purpose of encouraging the preservation and the promotion of
indigenous minority languages throughout Europe.
2. There are two levels of adherence. Signature commits member
states to the principles of the Charter which are set out in its Parts I and II. At present 16 of the 40 member states of the Council of
Europe have signed the Charter.
3. Ratification commits member states to applying a minimum of
35 paragraphs or sub-paragraphs chosen from among the 65 paragraphs
or sub-paragraphs of Part III of the Charter. Of these 35 paragraphs at least one must be chosen from Article 9 which concerns judicial
4. The Charter came into force on 1 March 1998, when a fifth
State ratified it. In ratifying the member state must specify one or
more languages for which it will undertake to apply at least 35
paragraphs. The government meets these requirements in respect of
the Welsh language in Wales. In Scotland a provision needs to be
made for the use of Gaelic in the courts before the government can
specify Gaelic in Scotland under Part III of the Charter. This provision will be made later this year for the use of Gaelic in defined circumstances in civil proceedings in areas of Scotland where Gaelic speakers form a substantial proportion of the population.
5. The Charter calls for action to safeguard the languages, to
facilitate the use of the languages in public life, and to promote mutual understanding between all the linguistic groups in the member states.
The provisions of Part III are more exacting, and cover obligations in
education, the judicial system, public services, the media, and
economic and social life.
6. The position of the Scots language is different from that of
Gaelic. By applying Part II of the Charter to Scots the government will be recognising the distinctive nature and the cultural value of the language. Scottish studies are included at all stages in the school curriculum through to Higher Grade and Sixth Year Studies, and the Higher Still courses will provide further opportunities for the study of Scottish literature. Study can also be undertaken at university level.