AGM – Broad Agenda For GS Report On Host Country

The General Secretary’s report on Alba presented this year in the host country for the 50th Celtic League Annual General Meeting ranged over a broad agenda including the SNP success, the language, politics, the military, emergency services and the economy.

The full text of the report, by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, on Scotland is set out below and the GS elaborated in his address to the meeting on the subjects covered:

“ALBA

Elections 2011

The election results on 5th May were a major boost for the Scottish National Party (SNP) and nationalist in all of the Celtic countries. The party‟s unprecedented 69 (out of 129) seat win in the election, has given the people of Scotland the opportunity to successfully introduce into the Scottish Parliament its Referendum (Scotland) Bill and actually win the vote. The SNP fought a strong and positive election campaign and reaped the rewards under an electoral system that was designed to stop nationalists from doing just that.

Return of artefacts

The Wallace letter is to be returned to Scotland on long term loan under an agreement brokered between the National Records of Scotland and its current holders the National archive. This is a significant precedent and a development unlikely to have occurred if the Scottish Government had not supported the return of Scottish artefacts back to the country.

National Police and Fire Force

Scotland will merge all of its eight police constabularies to create a single national police force of Scotland and the second biggest force in the UK. In addition, Scotland will also create a national fire service too.

The vote on the police force issue will be made possible by the majority government that the SNP enjoys in Scotland. The idea has received the backing of senior police constables in Scotland and will help to further a greater sense of Scottish national identity and institutions that will create a greater sense of independence from England.

English Riots

Comments from the First Minister of Scotland in August 2011 about the English riots helped to further strengthen the difference between Scotland and England. The comments by Alex Salmond caused anger among Unionists who unsuccessfully tried failed to show that the First Minister was being smug and complacent. The comments and subsequent furore that resulted seemed to have furthered the SNP cause rather than dent it and is a good example of the political astuteness of Alex Salmond.

Gaelic resources: online resources, investment, MacKinnon call

A report by the Scottish Executive on „Attitudes Towards the Gaelic Language‟ was published in August 2011 and carried out by Scottish Opinion Survey (SOS). The report was based on research that aimed to find out about attitudes towards Gaelic among adult in Scotland. A brief summary of the conclusions were:

1. Awareness of Gaelic usage in Scotland was high
2. Knowledge of Gaelic was much more limited, with only very small
3. Numbers claiming to have any fluent Gaelic.
4. In some communities a negative attitude existed towards Gaelic in both the Gaelic and non-Gaelic communities
5. Motivation to learn Gaelic was linked to hearing more people speaking it.
6. Moderate support for the Gaelic language and for Gaelic to be used more in Scotland.
7. Weaker support attitudinally for Gaelic being encouraged and promoted, compared to the widespread strong agreement that Gaelic traditions should not be lost
8. 63% agreed that Gaelic should be encouraged /promoted within education, and 86% agreement for enabling school pupils to take Gaelic as a subject in school
9. Those aged 65 and over hold less positive views towards Gaelic

https://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/08/04160631/0

Professor Kenneth MacKinnon said in July 2011 that organisations that have been set up to promote Gaelic in Scotland should stand up for the language more. Professor McKinnin‟s comments followed a year of private research that the he undertook into how the Scottish media portrays the Gaelic language in Scotland.

A new online resource has been developed for use by public sector organisations to help employees learn Gaelic. The online resource was developed by Skye-based company Cànan and includes a series of introductory lessons and useful phrases that are aimed to help the civil servants in their job roles when dealing with the public. At the launch of the resource was the Irish minister of state with special responsibility for Gaeltacht affairs, Dinny McGinley.

Scottish Conservatives

The favourite candidate to take over the leadership of the Conservative Party in Scotland said that he will create a separate Conservative Party if elected. MSP Mundo Fraser says the Conservatives carry too much baggage in Scotland and claims a new centre-right party would attract more voters.

The party would sit with the Tories in the UK Parliament but have its own policies. The UK Conservative Party elected just one MP in Scotland at the last General Election last year. The only Conservative MP in Scotland and Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, has backed another candidate and said that if Fraiser creates another Party, he will continue to remain in the UK Conservative Party.

Trident

The Scottish Parliament called for the first time in May 2011 for the Trident nuclear submarine weapons system to be removed from Scotland. The move came after UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox last week began the process for a new generation of submarine-based nuclear warheads to replace Trident with the Clyde Naval base at Faslane, which is seen as the only realistic place to house the submarines in the UK. The Scottish Parliament has no say over Trident being based in Scotland, as defence is a matter wholly reserved to the UK parliament. In June 2007, the Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly against replacing Trident. A „State of the Nation‟ poll by the Scottish Express newspaper in September 2011 found that 40% of people wanted Trident to be removed from the Clyde, with 30% wanting it to remain. 10
Submarine

A nuclear submarine ran aground off the coast of Skye in Scotland in October 2010. HMS Astute – the world‟s most advanced nuclear submarine according to some accounts – ran aground with Commander Coles in charge. Suspicion for the sinking of the the Breton trawler, Bugaled Breizh, has been cast on Commander Coles in the past (see Breizh section below).

North Sea Oil

A poll in August 2011 by the Sunday Express found that 68% of people in Scotland supported revenues from North Sea oil to remain in Scotland. MSP Kevin Stewart said:

“Our North Sea oil and gas resources – a £1 trillion asset base – are set to generate an all-time record £13.4 billion in tax revenue this financial year.

In August 2011 the worst oil spill in a decade occurred in the North Sea when a leaking Shell pipeline was finally plugged coming off the Gannet Alpha platform, 112 miles east of Aberdeen. 200 tonnes of oil were reported to have been leaked in what the Department of Energy and Climate Change said was a „substantial‟ spill. An investigation by the Sunday Herald newspaper in Scotland found that Shell had been officially censured 25 times in the past six years for breaking safety rules, giving it one of the worst safety records of any major oil company in the UK. Environmental damage was reported to have been minimised with the early plugging of the pipe and scientists have concluded that there are no health concerns.

Referendum – AV

The decision to hold the AV referendum on the same day (May ) as the Scottish Parliament elections was criticised by the SNP. The First Minister of Scotland, who was in favour of reform, said that there was a risk that the Scottish people would not vote for AV, because of the timing of the referendum. Unionists argued that there would be a „constitutional‟ crisis if Scotland voted in favour of the reforms, while England voted against. Unfortunately, the people of Scotland seemed to change their minds within the last two weeks before the referendum.

There was not really an AV campaign in Scotland because, understandably, Scottish politicians were wholly occupied with the Scottish election.

Ironically one of the arguments that the unionist `No to AV’ campaigners were putting forward was that the AV system only produces weak governments. The Scottish result not only proved this argument is unfounded, but after the negative referendum campaign and subsequent result shows, the UK coalition Government – elected with the first past the post voting system – is extremely fragile indeed.

Referendum – Independence

The Referendum Bill was the centre piece of the governing Scottish National Party’s legislative programme for 2009-10 and when the SNP gained a majority in the Scottish Parliament in May 2011, the question was when and not if a referendum would take place. 11
Rather than set a specific date, SNP leader Alex Salmond is only prepared to say the referendum would be held at some point in the second half of the new parliament’s five-year term. Opponents want a referendum to be held now, while the SNP seem keen to help create better conditions for a positive result in a referendum. One of these conditions is to ensure that more significant powers are transferred to Scotland, such as greater financial control. It is also expected that the voting age in the referendum will be reduced from 18 to 16 years of age. The UK Prime Minister has said that the government would not prevent the referendum from happening.

A Scottish referendum on independence would give the Scottish people an opportunity for the first time to vote for self determination.

Scotland Bill 2011

The pro-union UK Government are still drafting the Scotland Bill 2011, which has broad support from the UK Labour Party, in addition to the coalition parties. The Bill came about as a result of the Calman Commission and aims to deliver new financial powers worth £12bn, allowing Scotland to control a third of its budget, but the SNP are not particularly keen to engage with a Bill that they see will lead to a „pocket money parliament‟ and have said that in its current form, they may not pass it.

BBC Alba (Freeview)

BBC Alba was available on Freeview from 8th June 2011 offering a good opportunity for the Gaelic channel to reach a far bigger audience and increase its viewers. The channel was originally only available on satellite. In October 2011, figures showed that 10 percent of the population of Scotland watched BBC Alba in the months of June to September, which are traditionally the lowest viewing months of the year of all channels. These figures are reportedly on par with the number of viewers who watch the 29 year old S4C TV channel in Wales even though there are approximately 10 times the number of Welsh speakers (611 000) than Gaelic (58 652). BBC Alba receives approximately 10 times less funding than S4C at 10 million pounds.”

For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary, Celtic League:

Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666

gensec@celticleague.net

The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.

ISSUED BY THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.

30/10/11

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