Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Alastair M Scouller


  1.  I am a Gaelic-speaking Scot, resident for over 25 years in London. I occasionally run Gaelic courses on the island of Colonsay, in Argyll, a traditionally Gaelic-speaking area where I have a second home.

  2.  I see the proposed Communications Bill as an opportunity to extend the coverage of Gaelic television programmes, at present limited to Scotland and at certain times only, to the nation at large, by establishing a dedicated Gaelic television channel.

  3.  Although the number of Scots Gaelic speakers in the traditional Gaidhealtachd is now extremely low, there is a considerable diaspora throughout the country, in the Scottish Lowlands and in England, with an estimated 5,000 speakers in the London area alone. Most of these people have no access to Gaelic broadcasting. Radio nan Gaidheal is not available even in the Scottish Borders or Dumfries and Galloway.

  4.  There are also a large number of Gaelic learners, in all parts of the country, who would dearly love to have access to Gaelic broadcasts in order to attune their ears to live spoken Gaelic. This facility is currently denied them, although learners of most continental European languages have television and radio broadcasts in those languages readily available.

  5.  Although Radio nan Gaidheal is now available online—a welcome development—not everyone has access to the internet, and listening online often involves blocking one's only telephone line for the duration of the programme.

  6.  Having its own dedicated TV channel would also enable Scots Gaelic to present itself as a living language to the nation at large, thus enhancing its contribution to the native multi-cultural make-up of Britain. At a time when we are rightly concerned to accept the languages of ethnic minorities as an integral part of British society, it would be wrong to neglect those languages and cultures which pre-date the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.

  7.  For these reasons I would urge the inclusion of a Gaelic television channel in the arrangements proposed under the Communications Bill.

June 2002

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