• October 18, 2015


The news today from Scotland that there is to be a major initiative to increase the use and profile of Gàidhlig (Gaelic) in both Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (see link):


As usual this is an area where the Celtic League were ‘ahead of the curve’ because starting at the 2007 AGM of the Celtic League a decision was taken to survey all Police Forces in the Celtic Countries with a view to promoting the use of the Celtic languages.

At the following AGM the General Secretary presented his ‘POLICE REPORT’ which was the outcome of an extremely exhaustive exchange of correspondence with forces throughout the Celtic countries.

The section on Scotland (there were several regional forces then as this predated Police Scotland’s formation) said:


Strathclyde Police: Stephen House

A very full and detailed response received, with many interesting comments. See letter.

Tayside Police: Colin McCashey

Whilst we have an ever increasing demand for linguistic services I am not aware of any previous requirement for a Gaelic language speaker, or indeed any additional requirement for bilingual signage.”

They also say that they have a “range of policy and guidance documents that support and underpin these issues and which acknowledge the religious, cultural and linguistic needs of all our members of staff.”

Central Scotland police: Andrew Cameron

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary: Patrick Shearer

Fife Constabulary: Peter Wilson

Grampian Police: Colin McKerracher

Lothian and Borders Police: David Strang

Northern Police: Ian Latimer

The reply was detailed and useful. Northern Constabulary did not write directly to the League, but rather their letter was addressed to Mrs Norma Graham, Deputy Chief Constable of Fife Constabulary, who may be the ACPOS representative (and may have been sent to the league by mistake). In addition to the information that is set out below from the ACPOS regarding the Northern Constabulary, Graham says:

Northern Constabulary would not consider changing its unique badge.”

Officers in Northern Constabulary are able to apply to attend further education and the Force is committed to continuous professional development of staff. Our policy of financial commitment to further study is dependent on the relevance of the course to the job requirements. That said, over the years a small number of officers have attended courses in Gaelic at Sabhol Mor Ostaig in Skye. Sabhol Mor Ostaig is the Gaelic College and part of the network of the proposed University of the Highlands and Islands.”

The Force does not have a Gaelic language policy per se.”

It is not uncommon for new officers and those who have entered the education system from within, particularly Highland Council or Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar, to have had an experience of Gaelic language.”

How Central Scotland Police could improve its cultural or linguistic identify is in some respects only a question they can answer. However, engaging with Bord na Gaidhig, Communn na Gaidhig may provide excellent external partners.”

Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS): Harry Bunch General Secretary

Even though I did not write to ACPOS, they sent me a letter saying that their view could be considered to be a reply on behalf of all the police constabularies written to (with the exception of Strathclyde Constabulary, which they thought was the only constabulary that had answered separately). Most of the information ACPOS used in their letter with reference to how the Scottish constabularies showed their Celtic linguistic and cultural commitment to Scotland came from the Northern constabulary.

They said that since Gaelic is mainly spoken in the Northern Constabulary and partly in Strathclyde, “Gaelic is included in languages available through current interpreting and translation provisions”.

Northern constabulary provides “Public Performance Reports from 2002/ 03 onwards, that are available in both English and Gaelic. Hard copies of publications” (but it is not sure here if they mean all publications or just those publications stated) are also available in both languages and the decision by the force to promote their Annual Report in Gaelic is a long-standing commitment.” Northern Constabulary also promote Gaelic on all its marked vehicles, literature and police signs with the words ‘Dion is Cuidich’, meaning ‘protect and serve’. They also have a unique badge adapted from a Celtic design and registered with the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

There is no Gaelic language policy in place in the Northern Constabulary, but they identify Gaelic as a language and collect information about officers who have Gaelic as a first or second language.

There is a generic Scottish police badge with the Thistle of Scotland surmounted by a Crown with the motto Semper Vigilo on a scroll below.

Police officers are also encouraged and supported, where appropriate, towards any learning and development opportunities, relevant to their duties and functions,” (but they do not specify of this means opportunities for learning Gaelic).

In conclusion, Scottish Police Forces are keen to ensure the service provided is all encompassing both for the public and staff, and in particular, all non-English speaking multi cultural communities. Therefore should evidence emerge to identify a specific need to service requirements for Gaelic within communities, it will receive appropriate consideration and attention.”

(Rhisiart Talebot extract from POLICE REPORT – CELTIC COUNTRIES)

It is clear from this report compiled almost ten years ago that there were differing attitudes to the promotion of the language. However the plans mooted today by the SNP government will make Police Scotland a truly National force that has pride in its culture and language and displays that fact:

Footnote; On an unrelated point the General Secretary’s POLICE REPORT is not on line as yet allow following today’s developments I intend to repost it.

It is vitally important that all the Celtic League material such as this report and others at the Celtic League Yahoo site are archived to the main site at present material compiled between 2000-2010 is not generally available. This is a situation that needs to be urgently rectified.”


Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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