Short Life Working Group on Economic and Social Opportunities for Gaelic: report

A report to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy containing the recommendations of the Short Life Working Group on Economic and Social Opportunities for Gaelic.

1 Executive Summary

In March 2022, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy convened a Short Life Working Group (the group) with an aim to strengthen Gaelic by means of a focus on economic opportunities and to strengthen the economy by making the most of Gaelic opportunities.

This report outlines the context in which the group has operated, some of the challenges facing Gaelic as well as the considerable opportunities for social, economic, cultural, education and wellbeing outcomes.

The group's recommendations, and the areas to where these should be directed, fall under the following categories:

  • Population and Infrastructure
  • Public Sector and Gaelic Plans
  • Communities
  • Education
  • Key Sectors

Key messages in relation to those recommendations are as follows:

  • Support for Gaelic has already delivered a range of outcomes, but there is significant potential for greater prosperity from further investment in a range of initiatives which support the acquisition and use of Gaelic.
  • Communities across Scotland should benefit from investment in the skills and industries of the future.
  • The demographic trends facing the communities in which Gaelic is spoken must be acknowledged and there must be greater urgency in empowering people to ensure the viability of their communities, with the Gaelic language much more to the fore in considerations as to how this may be achieved.
  • While Gaelic development in places across Scotland should be supported, special attention must be paid to the needs of a range of Key Gaelic Communities.
  • The needs of the Gaelic language must be considered more fully across all areas of public policy and all levers, current and future, should be utilised to better support the language.
  • Access to Gaelic education should be enshrined in legislation alongside an expansion at all levels which, with improvements, will help provide confident Gaelic speakers and deliver economic outcomes.
  • There should be increased activity in Key Sectors – early years & social care, the creative industries, culture, heritage, tourism, sport, food & drink and the natural environment as the main drivers of social Gaelic use and economic outputs.
  • Increased funding will be required to stimulate more activity but investment will deliver social, economic and wellbeing outcomes.
  • Gaelic is not only for the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig to support and a range of public bodies and local authorities must have a greater role in ensuring its future as well as the potential it presents for economic wellbeing.
  • More ambitious Gaelic Language Plans must be in place, aiming to make an appreciable difference to Gaelic and there must be a means to better ensure their delivery.

Finally, the group seeks a mechanism to monitor, on an annual basis, the extent to which its recommendations are being delivered.

The following is a summary of the group's recommendations. Please see section 3 for context and details of the bodies recommended to lead and be involved in delivering each one. Colours reflect the expected timescale for implementation explained in section 3.

In relation to Population and Infrastructure the group recommends that:

3.1.1 As a matter of urgency, infrastructure challenges – housing, transport and digital connectivity - which undermine the 'parity of starting point' for NSET ambitions are addressed.

3.1.2 The Convention of the Highlands and Islands consider the potentially disproportionate impact a lack of affordable housing has on Gaelic-speaking communities, with a view to ensuring more flexible policy and faster provision of housing.

3.1.3 NSET Entrepreneurship focus should extend to Key Gaelic Communities and support Gaelic entrepreneurs with enhanced incentives and support for business start-ups.

3.1.4 A voluntary 'fair chance scheme' be explored in relation to selling homes inviting relevant bodies to work with estate agents to enable prioritisation of housing allocation.

3.1.5 A scheme be developed to help sustain Key Gaelic Communities with the provision of grants to enable individuals on low or modest incomes to own their own home, either through the acquisition of a site for a self-build, or the purchase and improvement of an existing property for use as their sole residence. This could perhaps be achieved through reorientation of existing Rural and Islands Housing Funds programmes.

3.1.6 In Key Gaelic Communities, landowners should articulate and demonstrate how they support the language in their Land Rights and Responsibilities statement, in particular evidencing initiatives and support for projects delivering social and economic outcomes for the Gaelic language.

3.1.7 Adequate affordable homes should be available with a clear strategy to ensure population retention and criteria for allocation aiming to enable and encourage the use of Gaelic in communities which have a significant cohort of speakers, primarily Key Gaelic Communities.

3.1.8 In recognising the significant cultural strengths of the area, including the Gaelic language, the Highlands and Islands Regional Economic Partnership (REP) should progress the development of a unique socio-economic plan based on supporting and growing the number of Gaelic speakers.

3.1.9 'Gaelic economic zones' be explored, offering tax breaks including (but not limited to) VAT and rates relief for businesses undertaking Gaelic-related activities or whose business demonstrates significant Gaelic impact. These could be aligned to the proposed Gàidhealtachd or any area in Scotland with a qualifying business.

3.1.10 Initially, the Western Isles and Skye should be considered for an entrepreneurial campus approach incorporating Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, UHI North, West & Hebrides, and the creative industries cluster among others. Such a campus could lead on minority language solutions that could be exported across the world and extended to other areas to foster greater collaboration.

3.1.11 Issues relating to housing and community-owned assets in Key Gaelic Communities caused by intestacy should be highlighted and campaigns such as the Crofting Commission's succession advice amplified.

3.1.12 There should be consideration of whether a task force is needed to further assess all aspects of public policy and their effect on Key Gaelic Communities along the lines of the recently established Commission for Welsh-speaking Communities.

In relation to Public Sector and Gaelic Plans the group recommends that:

3.2.1 Where a body has a duty to produce a Gaelic Language Plan and a remit which includes sectors with potential for economic growth, in addition to any corporate outcomes they must consider and articulate a strategy for Gaelic as an asset within their operations.

3.2.2 The system of Gaelic Language Plans (GLP) is reviewed to ensure stronger, deliverable commitments and inclusion of support for GLPs produced voluntarily, without a notice from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, which may have a positive impact in communities and aid delivery of statutory plan recommendations.

3.2.3 The Statutory Guidance on Gaelic Language Plans is reviewed with an aim to secure more ambitious GLPs while strengthening measurement and delivery.

3.2.4 Legislation should be strengthened to ensure delivery of GLPs and consideration given to the need for a Gaelic Language Commissioner with a remit to monitor the compliance of public bodies with its provisions.

3.2.5 Initiatives in key sectors, in receipt of public money, should be required to manifest cognisance of Gaelic in product/services, and/or marketing, or justify its exclusion.

3.2.6 Ar Stòras Gàidhlig should be updated to give an up-to-date picture of economic growth related to Gaelic since the original study was published in 2014.

In relation to Communities the group recommends that:

3.3.1 A network of properly resourced Gaelic Officers should be maintained over a sustained period to act as stimulators of a range of Gaelic social initiatives within Key Gaelic Communities as well as other areas. There could be a range of management arrangements in place, but there should be learning opportunities attached to the roles.

3.3.2 Adequate childcare services should be available in Key Gaelic Communities, with appropriate Gaelic medium training for playleaders, through foundation apprenticeships and other means, in immersion methods to ensure as many parents as wish to are available to work, as well as acting as a feeder to Gaelic medium education.

3.3.3 Public sector roles in Key Gaelic Communities should be designated, as far as possible, as Gaelic essential, particularly those which align with key sectors offering maximum economic and social potential for Gaelic. This Gaelic essential designation should extend to recruitment for any island-based public sector role undertaken remotely.

3.3.4 Entrepreneurial training and awareness of relevant elements of language planning should be offered to Gaelic organisations and third sector bodies such as community and heritage trusts, as well as the network of Gaelic Development Officers, to ensure they are better supported and adequately equipped to realise economic and social opportunities at community level.

3.3.5 Opportunities should be developed for the provision of Gaelic medium training and service delivery in the Health and Social Care Sector which has the potential for significant economic impact, particularly in island and rural communities, in addition to linguistic and wellbeing benefits. This could start in schools through an expansion of Foundation Apprenticeships delivered in Gaelic, already available in childcare and media in a small number of schools.

3.3.6 Support should be available for communities to create or acquire assets which offer spaces which would generate economic activity and enable greater social use of Gaelic, or to access existing spaces such as community schools.

3.3.7 As far as possible within the public appointments process, there should be a mechanism for the positive recruitment of local, Gaelic-speaking residents to the boards of public bodies and other committees whose activities affect Key Gaelic Communities.

3.3.8 Consideration should be given to the further potential of Settlement Officers - who facilitate people moving to, and living in, island communities - to promote the importance of the language in Key Gaelic Communities, as well as resettling people at various transition points.

3.3.9 Guidance from the Scottish Government on proposals for the introduction of Local Place Plans should consider a designation of Areas of Linguistic Sensitivity where policy intervention may be required to support and strengthen Gaelic with the development and strengthening of community agency and participation a primary aim.

3.3.10 The legal requirement for Island Community Impact Assessments should ensure linguistic impacts are properly considered and a good practice guide should be available on undertaking community consultation in a way sensitive to the needs of Gaelic in the context of Local Place Plans.

In relation to Education the group recommends that:

3.4.1 In order to fully realise economic, as well as educational, benefits a strategy is developed urgently to begin overcoming the disparity in provision in Gaelic secondary education, which inhibits fuller language acquisition and confidence in language use, with the aim of ensuring a broad range of subjects is available through the medium of Gaelic to certificated level.

3.4.2 A new initiative is introduced urgently to attract new teachers while pro-actively persuading teachers qualified to teach in Gaelic, who do not currently, to work in Gaelic education. Both strands may require the establishment of a range of financial incentives, support and confidence-building initiatives to enhance the appeal of teaching in Gaelic.

3.4.3 As far as possible teacher education should be delivered through the medium of Gaelic with new concerted efforts to ensure GME teacher education is (i) incentivised centrally and (ii) made as accessible as possible, including through the employment of distance learning, as long as that does not compromise the Gaelic language skills acquisition required to produce successful teachers.

3.4.4 Adequate, regular support for early years practitioners and Gaelic teachers be put in place to improve conditions and retention, including immersion techniques, ongoing CPL in language skills and the provision of a wider range of quality resources to negate the need for teachers to produce so much of their own materials.

3.4.5 A range of initiatives continue to be supported to facilitate Gaelic learning among adults in communities, the media, online and in further and higher education establishments.

3.4.6 Gaelic education should be developed at all levels, with access improved through transport and use of technology, where appropriate, and acknowledgement of the economic, as well as educational, benefits from improved and expanded provision. In particular, consideration should be given as to how a legal right to Gaelic education may be implemented to ensure expansion in provision and improved access.

3.4.7 To begin improving the secondary Gaelic medium offering, relevant local authorities should consult on the potential to designate certain secondary schools as Gaelic medium schools which, through annual reporting, would demonstrate clear ambitions to develop Gaelic secondary provision, even if there are challenges in the short-term.

3.4.8 A range of Gaelic medium Foundation Apprenticeships should be available in S5-6 for pupils wishing to pursue careers in early years & social care, the creative industries, culture, heritage, tourism, sport, food & drink and the natural environment where the use of Gaelic would be an advantage or its promotion encouraged.

3.4.9 Gaelic language teaching for learners be compulsory for all S1-S3 pupils in secondary schools in Na h-Eileanan Siar, Skye & Lochalsh, Lochaber, Tiree and Islay along with access for those wishing to gain a qualification in S4-S6. This could apply in other places where GM pupils feed into secondary schools, for example Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

3.4.10 Statutory Guidance on Gaelic Education should be reviewed and refreshed and its status promoted widely within Scottish education with a range of mechanisms put in place, through policy, annual reporting and school inspections, to ensure adherence to its principles by local authorities and education policymakers.

3.4.11 A Gaelic medium curriculum is developed which is not a translation of the English curriculum but includes ongoing language acquisition, learning about Scottish history, the richness of Gaelic culture and concepts unique to Gaelic, such as the environmental stewardship inherent in dùthchas with a potential tie to 3.5.5.

In relation to Key Sectors the group recommends that:

3.5.1 While acknowledging the potential of Creative Scotland's Place Partnership Programme, a national Gaelic Arts Strategy be developed outlining ways to support and enhance the economic opportunities for those working in the arts and screen industries where Gaelic is the medium of delivery or is related to the work being undertaken in the artform.

3.5.2 In recognition of the economic, social and educational importance of the broadcast and digital media, increased funding should be made available to MG ALBA, and others, to enable the development of a range of new programmes, a larger proportion to be made in Key Gaelic Communities, for broadcast on television, radio and on digital platforms with a strong language policy which increases the use of Gaelic with optional subtitles.

3.5.3 The partnership established by VisitScotland to support Gaelic tourism should be continued with a wide range of bodies working towards improving the Gaelic experience for visitors.

3.5.4 A range of industry training opportunities should be developed to prepare people to work in the media, as far as possible through the medium of Gaelic, to increase employment opportunities, use of Gaelic and provide a range of transferable skills.

3.5.5 As called for in a 2021 scoping exercise for NatureScot, Ecosystem Services and Gaelic, further research be undertaken exploring the role Gaelic language and culture, and its relationship with the Highland landscape, has in promoting self-esteem, health and wellbeing with a view to improving knowledge, access and creating social and economic opportunities relating to the natural environment.

3.5.6 In addition to specific recommendations in 3.5.1-3.5.5, economic opportunities should be strengthened by increasing support for Gaelic organisations, companies and individuals working across the range of key sectors to expand provision, employ more people and strengthen communities further.



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