Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has called on the UK Government to ensure that regional and minority languages, including Scots Gaelic, are given enhanced status in the UK Government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations.
The European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages currently confers protection to Irish, Scots Gaelic, Cornish and Welsh languages and encourages the promotion of these languages in educational and cultural contexts. The UK signed and ratified the treaty in 2001, but the UK Government have so far failed to commit to retain the protections conferred by the Charter post-Brexit, and imbalances remain in the classification of languages that have protected status in UK public bodies which deal with reserved issues across the whole of the UK.
Ms Thewliss has written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley MP, asking the Government to bring forward legislation to guarantee the status of all languages that are currently protected by the Charter and to ensure that Irish, Scots Gaelic and Cornish are given the same status as English and Welsh by public bodies who deal with matters reserved to Westminster.
Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:
“Scots Gaelic and other languages play an important role in the UK’s cultural and national life. I am fortunate to be the constituency MP for Glasgow’s two Gaelic Schools and I know from speaking to parents that there is increasing demand for these languages to be part of the educational and cultural life of the UK.
“With Brexit negotiations starting to take shape, there is a very real risk that the cultural diversity of the UK could be watered down by the loss of these significant protections through the automatic withdrawal from Treaty obligations that would occur when the UK leaves the EU.
“Significant imbalances already exist in the promotion of regional and minority languages in the UK. Although the Scottish Government has made significant progress in promoting the Gaelic language in devolved areas, UK public bodies are under no obligation to use the language when contacted by members of the public who use it. Far more needs to be done to ensure that these languages are treated equally by bodies which deal with reserved matters.
“As a minority government which depends on the votes of MPs from across the UK, there is a real opportunity for the UK Government to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the UK’s nations and ensure that this heritage is preserved in the Brexit process. I hope the UK Government will recognise the need for all the devolved nations to be involved in the negotiation process and guarantee the protected status of these languages now.”