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Ms Sturgeon’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes backed a proposal for housing developments where residents must speak Gaelic, or commit to learning it. The concept by language campaigners would see English-only speaking people banned from living in the developments, which could be widely prominent across the Scottish Highlands.
Currently, only around one per cent of the population can speak any Gaelic, meaning most Scots would be barred from applying to live there unless they committed to learning it.
In a column for The Herald after a Highland Gaelic campaign event last weekend, she said: “This is probably the most controversial thing I’ll say to you – I would be very supportive of that.
“There are big issues in terms of conflict with equalities legislation, because of perceived discrimination.
“But I think we need to take increasingly positive action and intervene in trying to support Gaelic-speaking communities.
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“The one caveat I’d make to that is that you cannot artificially create communities.
“So right now I would far rather focus on saving what we have.”
MSP Alexander Stewart, the Scottish Tories Housing spokesperson, branded Ms Forbes comments “unhelpful”.
He added: “Housing should be available on a needs basis for Scots, not on if you speak English or Gaelic over the breakfast table.
“With the SNP Government on track to miss their affordable housing target, the focus should be on delivering roofs over people’s heads rather than unhelpful ideas.”
Ms Forbes, the MSP for Skye and Lochaber, speaks Gaelic fluently and has bemoaned the decline of the language, adding: “Gaelic is extremely fragile right now.”
According to the 2011 Scottish census, 57,375 people (1.1% of those aged three or over) reported as able to speak Gaelic.
Academics from the University of the Highlands and Islands said Gaelic is “in crisis, and that within remaining vernacular communities of Scotland, the social use and transmission of Gaelic is at the point of collapse”.
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They claim the language could be dead by 2030 unless the Scottish government takes radical action to save it.
Professor Conchur O Giollagain, professor of Gaelic research at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness, added: “Our statistical evidence indicates that the Gaelic vernacular community is comprised of around 11,000 people, of which a majority are in the 50 years and over age category.
“The decline of the Gaelic community, as especially shown in the marginal practice of Gaelic in families and among teenagers, indicates that without a community-wide revival of Gaelic, the trend towards the loss of vernacular Gaelic will continue.”
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