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Census Results Response

Cllr Paul Steele, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Cllr Donald Macsween, Chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Comataidh na Gàidhlig have responded to the publication of detailed census results.

The results published by Scottish Government underline population decline as a key challenge across every area of the Western Isles and for the first time indicates that the number of Gaelic speakers in the Western Isles has dropped below 50%.

Speaking on the population decline presented in the census results, Cllr Paul Steele, said:

“These results have underlined what we already know, the population in the Western Isles is declining and action must be taken to address it. With this in mind I would like to echo the comments I gave following the publication of the initial census results last year. It’s been clear for a number of years that the demographic makeup and the population figures of the Western Isles are heading in the wrong direction. We need more working age people living here, raising children in our communities and to encourage them Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has been working hard alongside partner agencies to create opportunities for people to do that. Work on projects such as the Uist Repopulation Zone and housing, employability, economic development and education are all ongoing and give plenty of reason for people to remain in the Western Isles, return following a period away or move here to contribute to our Islands.”

The decline of Gaelic speakers noted in the census results is connected to the general population decline of the Western Isles.

The steps being taken to improve the key areas of housing, employment, economic development and education are also key to maintain and increase the use of the language. Alongside this work Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is taking steps to gather information on Gaidhlig attitudes. Last year Comhairle nan Eilean Siar conducted a Gaidhlig attitudes survey of 16–24-year-olds.

The survey’s findings indicated that 89.4% of those who completed it felt Gaelic was important, with 71.25% describing their attitude towards Gaelic as positive.

Thuirt an Comhairliche, Dòmhnall Macsuain, Neach-cathrach Comataidh na Gàidhlig aig Comhairle nan Eileanan Siar,

“’S e adhbhar toileachais agus misnichd a th’ ann a bhith faicinn pisich anns an àireamh dhaoine a tha ag ràdh gu bheil Gàidhlig aca, gu ìre air choireigin, ge b’ air bith cò iad no càit às a bheil iad. Aig a’ cheart àm, ’s e bristeadh-dùil a th’ ann a bhith faicinn crìonaidh anns na h-Eileanan Siar agus san Eilean Sgiathanach. Ach, mar leis a h-uile cruinneachadh statistic a bha riamh ann, feumar a bhith faiceallach leis na co-dhùnaidhean a thathas a’ toirt asda!
 
“Chan eil teagamh gu bheil mòran adhbharan airson a’ chrìonaidh ann an àireamh luchd-labhairt sna h-Eileanan Siar: bàs seann daoine, nas lugha de chloinn gam breith, inbhich agus pàrantan aig a bheil Gàidhlig ’s nach eil ga cleachdadh san dachaigh no sa choimhearsnachd, coigrich a’ gluasad a-steach dha na h-eileanan ’s daoine òga le Gàidhlig a’ gluasad gu tìr-mòr. Tha a’ chùis toinnte agus iomadh-fhìllte.”
Bhruidhinn an Leas-Phrìomh Mhinistear, Ceit Fhoirbeis, bho chionn ghoirid mu cho cudromach ’s a tha e a bhith a’ ceangal leasachadh cànain ri taigheadas, obraichean agus an eaconomaidh san fharsaingeachd, ’s bha i cho ceart ’s a ghabhas. Tha sinne air a bhith a’ gluasad an taobh sin bho chionn greis ach chan eil sinn air a bhith dol fada gu leòr no luath gu leòr.
A thaobh bhuidhnean poblach, a leithid na Comhairlean, Bòrd na Slàinte agus Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd ’s nan Eilean, ’s mar sin air adhart, chan e dìth phoileasaidhean agus phlanaichean a tha na thrioblaid ach nach eilear air a bhith gan cur an gnìomh chun na h-ìre bu chòir. ’S e sin air a  bheil sinne gu bhith a’ cur ar n-aghaidh bho seo a-mach.

“’S e fìrinn na cùise ge-tà, ma tha coimhearsnachd dhùthchasach airson cànan a chumail beò, feumaidh na daoine a bhuineas don choimhearsnachd sin a bhith deiseil agus deònach a cleachdadh. Feumaidh iad a bhith a’ bruidhinn gu làitheil, rin cuid chloinne agus nam measg fhèin. A thuilleadh air a sin, feumaidh iad dèanamh cìnnteach gu bheil fios aig a h-uile duine, ’s gu h-àraidh luchd-ionnsachaidh gu bheil a’ choimhearsnachd a’ cur fàilte agus taic riutha-san a tha airson an sgilean cànain a leasachadh air an t-sràid, sa bhùth, sa gharaids no ge b’ air bith càite a bheil daoine a’ cruinneachadh. Sin, a bharrachd air rud sam bith eile, a tha dol a chumail na Gàidhlig beò mar chànan coimhearsnachd.”

Speaking on the Gaelic statistics presented by the census results Cllr Donald Macsween, Chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Comataidh na Gàidhlig, said:
“Seeing the number of people stating that they have some degree of fluency in Gaelic rise is encouraging and a cause for optimism, whoever they are or wherever they hail from. At the same time, it is disappointing to see a decline in numbers in both the Western Isles and Skye. But, as with every aggregation of statistics, one has to be careful in drawing conclusions.
 
“Without doubt, there are many reasons for the decline: older people dying, fewer children being born, adults and parents who are fluent in Gaelic not speaking it at home or in the community, people without Gaelic moving in to the area and young fluent speakers relocating to urban areas. The issue is complicated and multi-faceted.“

The Depute First Minister, Kate Forbes, spoke recently of how important it is to link language development to housing, employment and the wider economy, and she was absolutely right. We have been moving in that direction for some time, but not far enough and fast enough.

“For the Comhairle, and other public bodies, it’s not lack of policies and plans that is the problem, but that these have not been implemented properly to date. That will be our focus from now on.  The truth of the matter though is that if vernacular communities are serious about keeping the language alive, they have to be ready and willing to use it. We need to get the support right but it has to be spoken daily in the communities, to children and amongst themselves. Moreover, they have to make it known to one and all, especially learners, that the community welcomes and supports those who wish to improve their language skills, whether it be on the street, in the shop, in the garage, or wherever people gather. Ultimately, that above all else will decide whether Gaelic as a community language survives or not.”


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