Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is organising a series of community conversations on Gaelic’s future as a community language in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Tiree.

Consultations will establish an open forum to discuss and determine appropriate actions in securing the language within the islands.

The recent publication of a comprehensive sociolinguistic study into the use of Gaelic in the vernacular island communities, titled ‘The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Communities’, concluded that the language will fall into obsolescence unless significant changes are made in approach and strategy.

Alasdair Allan MSP is working with the authors of the study from the Soillse research team based at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and a cross-party group of MSPs.

This report was devastatingly clear in its conclusions. "The marginal levels of societal and familial transmission of Gaelic, combined with low levels of youth socialisation through Gaelic, are clear indicators of the peripheralisation of the Gaelic-speaking networks in the islands.

"These remaining Gaelic networks will not survive anywhere to any appreciable extent, under current circumstances, beyond this decade.

"Given that the Gaels are now experiencing the final social phase of ethnolinguistic erasure, the limited relevance of Gaelic bodies and their current policy initiatives are now a significant hindrance to the Gaelic group in efforts to engage positively with challenging circumstances."

Eight community meetings will take place in the late autumn across Na h-Eileanan Siar, Skye and Tiree to engage island residents and organisations. Residents will also have the option to submit written opinions as part of the process.

As well as discussions about Gaelic usage in the home and community, the meetings will also gauge opinion on whether a Gaelic community cooperative – Urras na Gàidhlig – could be an appropriate structure to coordinate and drive forward local development actions under the direct control of the Gaelic-speaking community.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “The language’s visible decline in community and family usage is a serious concern to everyone working to foster a thriving, sustainable society in the Western Isles. The language forms a vital part of the cultural ecosystem which informs our shared identity, values and wellbeing.

“Against the continued loss of Gaelic, however, I am aware of extensive support and goodwill for the language amongst islands residents. We need to engage all parties in ensuring that future solutions are rooted within the community.

“Where do we want to see Gaelic in the next decade? We need to have a broad conversation about the language’s future and determine appropriate steps to get us where we want to be. Ultimately, this should start and end with the community, with the government playing a crucial role in supporting them to realise this.”

Meeting locations will include the isles of Lewis, Harris, North Uist, South Uist, Barra, Tiree and the community of Staffin in the Isle of Skye, and dates will be forthcoming. Due to COVID-19 government public health guidelines, the exact form of the meetings, whether hybrid or virtual, is still under consideration.

A research digest of The Gaelic Crisis book is available here: https://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/t4-media/one-web/university/research/lsi/research-digest-gearr-iris-rannsachaidh-/Summary-Research-Note-on-The-Gaelic-Crisis_English.pdf