May 31, 2003

Stranger in His Own Land

Stranger in His Own Land

Here in England, Scots are foreigners. I got no problem with that. They live in a different country and have a different legal system. Logically, in England, Gaelic is a foreign language.

But where else is Scots Gaelic a foreign language? In Scotland. When a Scots father tried to register the name of his newborn daughter in Gaelic, the local Register Office in Inverness refused. So he refused to register her birth.

The Inverness office told him to contact Edinburgh. The father, Austin Boyle, recounts, “When I got on to this fellow he said that Gaelic as far as their policy is concerned is a foreign language. He added that wanting to register the name in Gaelic would be similar to registering it in Sanskrit.”

This isn’t just the bungling of bureaucrats. A Scottish Executive spokesman confirmed that first names can be registered in Gaelic, but surnames and place names cannot. But that’s no different than with any other foreign language. Scottish newborns can be given first names that are Spanish or German or Swahili, but the surname must be in English. Gaelic, which has been spoken in the far reaches of northern Scotland since long before English was even a language, has no legal status.

This is the difference between Scotland and Wales. Scotland has a different legal system but no legal language, whilst Wales has the English legal system but full legal equality for the Welsh language. In Scotland you can learn Gaelic in school; in Wales you must learn Welsh in school and as of a couple of years ago even have to take a Welsh GCSE.

Back in Mr Boyle’s village of Erbusaig (and that is officially an English word?) he is still holding out. The General Register Office has said it will reconsider his request.

The Not-So-Loyal Opposition

One more bit o’ Scottish news…

The Queen will be visiting the Scottish Parliament next week. Pretty much everyone will be turning out in their good clothes. But not the six Socialist members. The Socialists are the ones who got left in the political lurch when the original socialist party, called Labour, shifted to right to get electable.

The Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan said, “Our MSPs have better things to do with our time than attend the nonsense of royal openings and receptions.” Given that they have no real power and being an MSP is a full-time job, I can’t imagine what they have better to do, other than searching far and wide for newspaper reporters who will listen to their anti-royalist drivel.

Posted by david at May 31, 2003 10:39 PM