We wouldn’t blow up Stirling Castle, would we? After all, it serves no practical purpose, public money is lavished on it but it’s only used as a leisure destination by those with an interest in long-gone history – it’s a hobby building. Sure, it was once the nation’s capital but that was ages ago. Sorry, Stirling. You’re time’s up.
I’m assuming this to be logical extension of Tory Party noises that Gaelic road signs aren’t worth the money because they’re the vestiges of a dead language kept artificially alive – one that belongs in the past.
This is a kind of cultural nihilism which argues that if it costs money and it isn’t relevant to you, it’s not worth supporting. And since language is only used for communication and most people talk English, well then…who cares about indigenous language?
Funny, isn’t it, how silver or bronze trinkets from another age can be dug up and wondered at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-27941100 and yet an ancient tongue bearing the sounds of the centuries can be discounted? In the delicate tones of Gaelic we hear echoes of our history in Dal Riata and through Kenneth McAlpin to the creation of Alba. It speaks to us as surely as the Lewis Chessmen in their walrus ivory tell us of the 12th century. We cherish the physical because we can handle its form but we are deaf to the culture in sound that a language embodies.
The scandal is that we very nearly lost Gaelic and the valiant efforts to reverse decline deserve all the support we can give them, road signs and all. (On which point there was an expert assessment done on the dangers or Gaelic signage for drivers and none were found. I would argue it makes you look momentarily more closely which is a good thing).
You have to laugh at the tangle they get into though. The resurgence in Gaelic was first funded not by mad Nats but by Britnats – the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher. In fact it needed a furious campaign in Cabinet committee by Malcolm Rifkind to get the millions released which sparked the television production sector on which much of the revival has been built.
The foppish comedian David Mitchell complains that road sings are being used as a nationalist political weapon which must be the first time the Road to the Isles has been weaponised. The truth was that the threat of losing the election for the Tories drove Rifkind to demand the money as a sop to Scottish sentiment, so if they are weapons, he started it! Actually, the Duke of Cumberland also used language as a weapon by trying to eradicate it along with everything else of Highland culture in his Unionist ethnic cleansing after Culloden.
The resonance of Gaelic, especially in song, transports us to a different Scotland and opens our imagination to the images, smells and sounds of the Gaeltacht, a reminder of where so many of our national stock and so much of our national story came from, though not me. But I don’t need its actual meaning to understand its sentiment.
Learning any second language uses parts of the brain that expand the mind of our children and make it easier to learn other tongues, something our education system is not good at. The language now offers through the Gaelic schools a future for the next generation with job prospects to match.
And what’s wrong with a colourful and eclectic culture which declares not everything and everybody is the same? Listen in to Hugh Dan as you watch the rugby or shinty and luxuriate in the knowledge that, though small, this is an endlessly interesting and diverse country.
And let’s keep Stirling Castle.
I’m still giving Kezia the benefit of the doubt. She’s still a bright new pin and hasn’t had time to get blunt or rusty and by God Labour need her to be at the top of her game. However….
I’m not seeing anything that lifts the Bateman eyebrows in surprise. Nothing to make me say: Better watch this one carefully. I do see a very different Labour leader in that she’s a younger woman and full of brio but she lacks ballast so far. I heard her interviewed on radio and she couldn’t articulate what she believed in. Her first appearance on Radio Four (now like the rest of news network beefing up Scottish coverage and about to appoint Sarah Smith as Scotland Editor, I suspect) and yet she failed to place herself in the public arena as a radical, a reformer, a socialist, a federalist or even just a manager. All she had was a briefing slogan – the SNP put the nation first. I put people first. (Except when abstaining on benefit cuts).
Asked if she was looking forward to a Corbyn leadership she sashayed this way and that and simply couldn’t answer beyond the vacuous ‘I’ll work with whoever is elected.’ That might have been acceptable if only the three management consultants were contesting the job on their own but with a stand out candidate like Corbyn, you simply can’t evade the question. Better to say: ‘Jeremy would be brilliant and completely different and would be welcomed by many Scottish members, including me. But I make policy for Scotland and would need to hear from him his proposals before I know if I can agree fully with him on all policies. Scotland is often a very different country with a very different opposition.’
She could even say he comes from a branch of the party she does not belong to but Labour stretches across all opinions and at least he is prepared to be radical ‘which I welcome’. Instead I’m afraid her predicament was summed up by a cruel tweet that she was waiting to see who won before making up her mind who to support. And that sounded bang on.
Incidentally, is she proposing to campaign on raising the top rate of tax? If so, doesn’t that mean under current plans she’ll be putting up all income tax, hitting ‘hard-working families’ as well as the wealthy? If additional control over taxes is to be delivered, it’s unlikely until 2018 at the earliest so for the Holyrood election next May, Labour are asking all people to vote themselves an income tax rise. If the plan is to force the Nationalists to declare their hand before the next round of powers are known in detail and approved, the SNP answer should surely be to wait and see. They can decide when the powers are to be implemented. Why campaign on raising taxes for all when you don’t have to? Could this be a mis-step already? (See, I’m biding my time and being generous).by