Lack of Gaelic a ‘Missed Opportunity’ Police Chief Told

NEWS FROM CELTIC LEAGUE

The General Secretary has written to the Chief Constable of the new unified national Police Scotland force that was formed on 1 April 2013 through the merger of eight territorial police forces.

The new force – Police Service of Scotland – had been planned since 2011, following a consultation period undertaken by the Scottish Government, and has courted controversy not only from the unionist commentators, but also from nationalists, who are worried about the centralisation of the force and the potential job cuts that could result. In his letter below, Mr Tal-e-bot, focuses on the Gaelic language and culture and asks Chief Constable Stephen House if the way the force has developed is a “missed opportunity”. In addition and interestingly, the same questions have been listed at the end of the letter as those asked of the previous Chief Constables in the various Scottish forces that were in existence prior to the formation of the Police Service of Scotland.

The full text of the letter is set out below.

Stephen House
Chief Constable
Police Service of Scotland
stephen.house@scotland.pnn.police.uk
@policescotland
01259 732208
https://www.scotland.police.uk/
09/08/13

Dear Chief Constable Stephen House

Police Service of Scotland: Scottish Gaelic Linguistic and Cultural Identity

In 2008/9 the Celtic League ran a campaign to encourage police constabularies in the Celtic countries (including Scotland) to help develop their cultural and linguistic Celtic identity and to raise the profile generally of the Celtic language used traditionally in each of the respective Celtic countries.

As part of this campaign we wrote to all the different police constabularies in Scotland asking them to review their use of Scottish Gaelic in their force generally, especially in their public display of the language, such as on websites. As an example of good practice to follow we suggested that the different police forces explored how the Welsh language and culture was used in the North Wales police constabulary, both in their public use of Welsh and their general policy of promoting the language and culture among the force, which included the use of a distinct Welsh cultural badge on their uniform.

Our campaign received an overwhelmingly positive response from the Scottish forces that we wrote to, including from the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS). It was clear from the different responses we received that there was no consistent policy on the Gaelic language between the different forces in Scotland and it seemed that the question of a distinct Gaelic language policy had not previously ever been considered. However, it was noted in particular that the Northern Constabulary already used the Gaelic language on their property, some of the written material they produce is in English and Gaelic, identify Gaelic as a language and collect information about officers who have Gaelic as a first or second language.

We appreciate that there are not as many Gaelic language speakers in Scotland as there are Welsh speakers in Wales and that you may not see the police force as an organisation who job it is to promote and protect cultural and linguistic diversity outside of the realms of the law (even if that culture and language is distinct to Scotland), but the changes that have taken place within policing in Scotland over the last few years in the unification of the various police forces, should have led to a Scotland-wide approach and perspective. I am aware that you have stated in the past that you have no plans for dual language wording on uniform and vehicles, but this seems like a backward step. In our opinion a Scotland-wide view that includes the Gaelic language and Scottish culture should be an integral part of the identity of the new ‘Police Scotland’ force and was surprised to find that even your new website did not include any Gaelic language element to it, which to us in the League seems like another missed opportunity.

In view of the changes that have taken place over the last year in relation to policing in Scotland, I have copied below the questions that I originally asked each of the police forces in Scotland in 2008, because I would like to know if attitudes have now changed in relation to Gaelic language and culture in Scotland among the police.

As you will agree, we believe this campaign is important, because the police form an important part of the community it serves. We also therefore think that the police should represent and reflect the cultural and linguistic heritage of their community. With this in mind now, could you please try to answer the following questions as fully as possible:

1) Why isn’t your new website available in Gaelic and do you have plans to translate the website into Gaelic in the future?
2) Is there a requirement for your officers to be able to speak some Gaelic or show a willingness to learn Gaelic to enter the force? What is the percentage of Gaelic language speakers working in the Police Scotland force?
3) Are your officers able to attend free classes in Gaelic as part of their job, should they wish to do so and if not why? If they can attend free language classes, what are the requirements of the course and who manages it?
4) Do you have a specific Gaelic language policy for your force?
5) If I were to write a letter to Police Scotland in Gaelic, at any level and on any topic, would I receive a reply in that language?
6) Do you try to actively recruit people into Police Scotland from the different cultural communities that exist in Scotland and if so, how do you go about this?
7) How could, in your opinion, the Police Scotland show more of a commitment to Scottish Gaelic cultural and linguistic identity?
We have also copied this letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenneth MacAskill for his information.

Many thanks in advance and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
General Secretary
Celtic League
CC
Kenneth MacAskill MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice

kenny.macaskill.msp@scottish.parliament.uk

16/08/13

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

General Secretary, Celtic League:

gensec@celticleague.net

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

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