Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes will tomorrow (29 March) become only the second female MSP – and the first in the current Scottish Parliament chamber – to give an entire speech in Gaelic during a plenary debate.
Ms Forbes, who chairs Holyrood’s cross-party group on the language, is expected to give her whole contribution in Gaelic as MSPs consider a motion on Scotland’s support for the (UNESCO) Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Those in the chamber will be able to follow her speech as it is simultaneously translated through headsets.
Winnie Ewing gave a full speech in Gaelic back in 2000 whilst the Parliament met in the Church of Scotland General Assembly hall on the Mound in Edinburgh.
Fiona Hyslop and Linda Fabiani have previously given part of their ministerial responses in Gaelic in the present Parliament chamber, whilst several male MSPs including Alasdair Allan and Dave Thompson have given entire plenary speeches in the language.
Ms Forbes she said she hoped her contribution to the debate would raise the profile of the Gaelic language.
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has previously backed calls for the Gaelic language to be awarded UNESCO status in order to preserve its cultural heritage.
She said today: "Like most people in the Chamber, I fully support the Government’s motion to recognise our cultural heritage in Scotland and Gaelic is obviously one of our most powerful assets. It is not just the language, but the culture, music and literature that is embedded in the language. Whether one understands the language or not, it is clear that so much of our cultural heritage has been shaped by it.
"It is not a dead language, like Latin, but a living language which is generating new culture through music and the media in particular. I represent a constituency which still boasts communities who use Gaelic as the language of the home. Whilst it is a cultural asset of the past, it is still alive in Scotland today."
The chair of Holyrood’s cross-party group on Gaelic continued: "I chose to give my speech in Gaelic because I wanted to demonstrate that Gaelic isn’t just a language of the past, but it is a language of Scotland in 2018 too. I wanted to show and tell that Gaelic is an asset. There is a generation of Gaelic speakers who’ve benefited from Gaelic Medium Education, like myself, who are immensely grateful for our bilingualism and for the Gaelic champions who have fought hard to protect the language.
"Too many debates about Gaelic are negative. Some dismiss it as a product of political ideology, which is nonsense as I know Gaelic speakers who support every political party and none. Others claim it is money misspent, but considering the well-known benefits of bilingualism and importance of valuing our history, arts and culture, that is also nonsense. The rest of the world operates on a multi-lingual basis so it can only be good for us.
"As MSP for English speakers, Gaelic speakers and other language speakers, I hope my speech in Gaelic provides an opportunity to demonstrate that the Scottish Parliament truly is a parliament for everybody."