John’s Speech from the National Plan for Gaelic debate.

’S e latha math a th’ ann. ’S toil leam a bhith ag èisteachd ri Gàidhlig anns a’ Phàrlamaid againn.

Tha mi às na Cluainean, baile beag snog ri taobh Loch Lòchaidh ’s faisg air a’ Ghearasdan. Cha robh Gàidhlig aig mo phàrantan ’s cha robh Gàidhlig san sgoil agam. A-nis tha sgoil ùr Ghàidhlig anns a’ Ghearasdan. Tha an nighean agam, Ruth, agus an dithis nighean aice, Daisy ’s Aimee, fileanta.

Tha mi a’ smaoineachadh gum feum a h-uile duine sabaid airson na Gàidhlig.

Mar as àbhaist, feumaidh mi ràdh nach eil ach beagan Gàidhlig agam, ’s feumaidh mi Beurla a bhruidhinn an-diugh.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

It is a good day. I like hearing Gaelic in our Parliament. I am from Clunes, a small village beside Loch Lochy, near Fort William. My parents did not have Gaelic and there was no Gaelic at my school; now there is a new Gaelic school in Fort William. My daughter Ruth and her daughters Aimee and Daisy are fluent in Gaelic. Everyone should fight for Gaelic.

As usual, I must say that I have only a little Gaelic and must speak in English today.

The member continued in English.

It is important that we give a hearing to one of Scotland’s national languages. I want to talk briefly of my other two grandchildren who are residents of Catalonia. Having travelled South America with their parents, carrying rucksacks, they have settled in Catalonia and are at the first and second stages in a Catalan school. They speak English and they already understood Spanish; now they speak Catalan and Spanish, or Castilian, as they would call it. That is a broadening experience.

Liz Smith touched on bilingualism. As a councillor in Highland Council, I encountered much ill-informed discussion about Gaelic, so I decided to promote the benefits of bilingualism. Quite frankly, it does not matter what the other language is, but in Scotland there is the option for it to be Gaelic.

I will cite information from the bilingualism matters website:

“Research has shown that bilingualism is beneficial for children’s development and the future. Children exposed to different languages become more aware of different cultures, other people and other points of view. But they also tend to be better than monolinguals at ‘multitasking’ and focusing attention. They are often more precocious readers, and generally find it easier to learn other languages. Bilingualism gives children much more than two languages!”

I am sure that I am not the only MSP who is approached about the availability of languages in school, and it is right that Liz Smith recorded Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s concerns about the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, which I am sure the cabinet secretary has heard.

There is a rich opportunity in bilingualism, and a lot of people want to take it up.

In the previous session of the Parliament, I was pleased to be successful in getting an amendment agreed to on the trigger point for Gaelic’s availability in local authority areas. I also did work on Gypsy Traveller sites in a previous session, and it seems to me that there is a common link, when we consider the disparaging comments that are made and the local authorities that do not provide sites and have their heads down. We need to get everyone involved.

Tremendous work is going on—members talked about the statistics, and we can make a lot of that.

The cabinet secretary used the word “attachment”, which I thought was important. I was born and brought up in the Highlands and I have to say that Gaelic was not on my radar at all—it was a language that older people spoke. I did French at school, as did many other people. Now, many people in Scotland, across the Highlands and Islands and beyond, are making a good living and embracing our culture. There are many fine examples of that. I particularly like that Griogair Labhruidh raps in Gaelic—I am sure that the cabinet secretary is familiar with his work, which will be an important part of his record collection. It is about attachment; Gaelic should not be seen as remote.

In that context, I very much align myself with the comments about the fèis movement and BBC Alba. It is great that people understand “cairt-bhuidhe”—yellow card—because they frequently watch BBC Alba. It is not tokenism—we often talk about the quality of journalism, and “Eòrpa” is one of the few programmes that takes a wider perspective and has a positive outlook.

There are challenges with Gaelic-medium education, one of which is that many qualified teachers who are fluent Gaelic speakers do not feel that they have the necessary writing skills to take up posts. There have been a lot of good initiatives in that regard, which I am sure will continue.

Portree Gaelic school has been mentioned. My word, we have some ability in the Highlands—indeed, elsewhere, too—to turn an amazingly exciting and positive story into a negative. Members who follow the Daily Gael on Twitter will know that the opening of the school has not opened a “Portal to hell”; it is a very positive news story and I am sure that there are more such stories to come. I particularly welcome the additional money for the new school in Glasgow.

Mòran taing.