• October 18, 2015


Following today’s announcement of the language initiative for Police Scotland I thought I would republish the Police Report compiled in 2007/8 by the General Secretary into language attitudes in all the Police Services in the Celtic countries:


At the 2007 AGM in Cymru the following resolution was passed:

1. The Celtic League supports the Chief Constable of North Wales Police, Richard Brunstrom, suggestion that the police units in Gwynedd wear their own distinct Welsh uniform and for his idea to be emulated throughout Wales.


After writing to all 4 police constabularies in Wales, asking the Chief Constables if they would consider adopting a distinct police uniform and badge like that of Brunstrom’s officers in Wales, some interesting replies were received:

Gwent Police: Mike Tonge

Thanked us for telling him about development
Would raise the matter at the next ‘all Wales’ constables meeting

South Wales Police: Barbara Wilding

Only an acknowledgement of letter.

North Wales Police: Richard Brunstom

Letter sent congratulating him on his initiative and telling him about the adoption of our resolution by the League.

Brunstrom wrote that the previous Friday the North Wales Police Clothing and Equipment Committee (which he chairs) adopted the Welsh dragon badge to their operational uniforms. He commented that adding the words ‘Gwlad, Gwlad’ to the badge were decided because it made our badges look too ‘busy’, although it was agreed it was a nice idea. He further said:

“I’m sure you will agree that the new badges look splendid, symbolic of the re-emergence of Wales as a true nation, of which we are proud.”

Powys Police: Andrew R Edwards (Acting Chief Constable)

Powys police have no plans for a change of uniform and would have to consider any development to improve on their uniform “very carefully”. Edwards said that he had noted the development of the police uniforms in the North Wales Constabulary, but he and his staff felt that they were too paramilitary an image for his mainly rural force.

Edwards said that their uniform incorporates a silver Welsh dragon, which he wears with pride.

After discussing the responses with the League’s DoI, we thought it would be interesting to see what sort of commitment other Constabularies in the Celtic countries had to the Celtic languages and cultures. I therefore wrote to the constabularies in Alba, Kernow and Mannin, the results of which are shown below:


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.”


Devon and Cornwall Constabulary: Stephen Otter

This is the only constabulary (with the exception of Breizh) in the Celtic countries that is not administered by a police force based within the nation.

Despite sending a letter (and several reminders stating that the League was still waiting for a response) no reply has been received (or even an acknowledgement of our letter).


Isle of Man Constabulary: Mike Langdon

Correspondence here was with Deputy Constable Gary Roberts, after Chief Constable Mike Langdon thought it best he dealt with the reply in view of the fact that Roberts was Manx.

Roberts said in his second letter of 28th February 2008:

“There is a danger that simply adopting symbols or using language in an inappropriate way can be seen as a gesture, or even a gimmick.”

“…the Chief Constable and I are instead determined that all recruitment to the Constabulary for at least the next five years will be solely from within the island. In the past considerable numbers of officers have been imported from the United Kingdom. This approach, whilst understandable, does not help to embed the Constabulary within the community. Furthermore, a staff development strategy should help ensure that all ranks within the Constabulary are occupied by locally developed officers within a reasonably short period of time.”

“I consider that the Constabulary already possesses a unique feature: the white helmet. A recent review of our uniform was built around preserving this iconic feature. As police services in the UK are adopting new, functional uniforms based around black polo shirts or tee-shirts, it is important to note that the Constabulary has no intention of following suit.

You also touch upon our distinctive badge. Actually we have three distinctive badges: a helmet plate, a badge for flat caps and a special cap badge for senior officers.”

“I can see the merits in using a Manx word for police on the sides of vehicles. Indeed, you will see such a phrase on this letterhead. However at the present time I do not have any plans to change things.”
In Roberts next letter, dated 21st April 2008, he said that the:

“…Constabulary intends to place the Manx Gaelic phrase “Meoiryn Shee-Ellan Vannin” onto all of its marked police cars. Work will be undertaken when vehicles undergo routine maintenance with a likely completion date being towards the end of the Summer 2008.”


Cymru constabularies: With the exception of South Wales Constabulary (and North Wales Constabulary, who are doing a good job), the other two constabularies seem open to suggestions as to how they could promote Welsh language and culture. Further dialogue is needed with Gwent police and a request for information as to how the ‘all Wales’ meeting of Chief Constables went and what was decided.

South Wales Constabulary is the biggest Welsh constabulary and covers one of the more anglicised areas of Cymru. Further research is needed here to assess how far their commitment to Welsh language and culture stretches.

Alba Constabularies: I would say that there is potential in the Alba constabularies to foster change with regard to their provision of the Gaelic language. They don’t seem to have thought through their language policies in great depth and further research will need to be taken in order to assess if they are fully meeting the demands set out in the Scottish Language Act. Pressure applied by other campaigners on the constabularies to use Gaelic would be useful here, especially in the request of specific information (e.g. policies) in the Gaelic language and asking for the website to be translated into Gaelic.

There is also potential here I think to apply pressure on the constabularies to add Gaelic language to all their police vehicles and signs, in the light of the action undertaken by Mannin constabulary.

Devon and Cornwall constabulary: they don’t seem to have any commitment whatsoever to Cornish language or culture. This is despite the fact that their Chief Constable is head of the Race and Diversity business area for the Association of Chief Police Officers for England and Wales. Otter has been heavily criticised in the past by other police officers about his racial and equality commitment, in particular by a high ranking Asian Metropolitan police officer a few years ago.

There are a number of areas the League could campaign for here.

Mannin Constabulary: After their initial cool reply, it was indeed a surprise to receive news from them that they had decided to use a Manx Gaelic phrase on all of their police vehicles, which would be completed fairly quickly (by end of summer 2008).

Also encouraging was the Manx force commitment to recruit for the constabulary from the island over the next 5 years. If this constabulary can do this, then there is no reason why the others shouldn’t, in particular North Wales Constabulary and Northern Constabulary, where levels of Welsh and Gaelic spoken among residents is high.

It was also interesting to note that the Chief Constable passed the League’s letter onto his Deputy, whom he thought was better qualified to respond, being a Manxman.

The Manx response shows that constabularies are open to dialogue and the League should engage with the different constabularies further perhaps to offer suggestions.

It was my intention to write to the Garda, Northern Ireland Police Service and the police in Breizh this year, but failed to do so. I will undertake this task after this AGM.

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot
General Secretary
June 2008”


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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