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Preserving Linguistic Heritage; a Study of Scots Gaelic

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Scots Gaelic, one of Europe's oldest indigenous languages, requires urgent action to arrest then reverse the decline in the numbers of its native speakers. Language is an integral part of the cultural identity of a group and the continuation of a traditional language is a prerequisite of the continuation of the cultural heritage of its speakers. However, linguistic rights are not afforded a high priority by the international community. This article will examine the position of Scots Gaelic in the context of the salient provisions of European Law. A brief historical account of Scots Gaelic will be provided prior to a more detailed analysis of the prevailing legal standards. The approach of the Scottish and UK Parliaments to the various legal instruments and to the language will then be assessed. It is evident that Scots Gaelic has little legal protection under national laws and it will be argued that the issue of the legal status of the Gaelic language must be addressed sooner rather than later in order to preserve the language and its associated culture. This inevitably means the Government taking action in excess of the minimum measures necessary to comply with the current international standards.

Affiliations: 1: Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland

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