(204)  Gaelic Language Bill

On 13 November 2002 Mike Russell MSP (SNP) introduced the in the Scottish Parliament.  The Bill requires certain public bodies to publish, maintain and implement plans to give effect to the principle that in the exercise of the functions of these bodies the Gaelic and English languages should be treated on a basis of equality.  The plans will show the steps that the public bodies will take regarding the use of Gaelic in connection with their functions.  The Bill specifies the minimum content of the plans and how the plans should be managed and reviewed.  Initially the duty to prepare a plan will only apply to bodies exercising functions in certain areas of Scotland (i.e. the local government areas of Highland, Western Isles, that part of Argyll and Bute which is the area of the former Argyll and Bute District Council and the islands of Arran, Great Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae). The Scottish Culture Minister, Mike Watson, has indicated that the Scottish Executive does not support the Bill, although it has been reported that consideration is being given to legislation giving Gaelic speakers the right to have their children educated in that language where there is a demand for it (Scotland on Sunday, 6 Oct 2002).

On 20 January 2003 the Executive announced that existing road signs would be replaced with new bilingual signs on a number of trunk roads that pass through communities where Gaelic is spoken and which lead to west coast ferry ports. The new signs will be erected on the following routes:

A87 Skye Bridge to Uig A87 Invergarry to Skye Bridge A887 Invermoriston to A87 A830 Fort William to Mallaig A835 Ullapool to Dingwall/Tore A828 Ballachulish to Connel Bridge A85 Tyndrum to Oban A83 Tarbet to Kennacraig / Campbeltown A82 Tarbet to Inverness

On 13 February 2003 the Registrar General’s Report to the Scottish Parliament on the 2001 Census revealed that in 2001, 58,650 people aged 3 and over spoke Gaelic compared with 65,980 in 1991 – a fall of 11 per cent.