UHI North, West and Hebrides - Stornoway campus

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Gaelic language and culture are an integral part of the nation's identity, and more than half of Scotland’s Gaelic speakers live in the Highlands and Islands. Our region is key in the vital social and economic role preserving Gaelic plays in vibrant, resilient communities and sustainable economic growth. 

Released this week (20 September 2023), our latest Gaelic Plan outlines HIE’s commitments. As an organisation we aim to provide equal respect – answering Gaelic enquiries with like responses, mainstreaming Gaelic in more of our activities, and encouraging and supporting businesses and communities to harness Gaelic as an asset.  

Gaelic culture and language are essential building blocks when working with communities to develop economic and social sustainability and well-being. They sit alongside our other key priorities including achieving net-zero emissions, promoting fair work, and retaining the local population.  

This ‘place-based’ approach to development is key to ensuring communities themselves are actively involved in shaping the support they require. So, it makes sense that we properly test out how the aspirations and aims of our policy reflect what our native speaking Gaelic communities want.   

New research initiative 

To gain a deeper understanding of individual preferences and motivation within Gaelic-speaking communities, a ground-breaking research project is getting underway. We’re working with the UHI Language Sciences Institute (LSI) to fund a research project. A four-year PhD student will live and work in two contrasting Gaelic communities - one in the Outer Hebrides and another elsewhere in the region. The research will explore a range of factors affecting Gaelic language use at family and community level, including the impact of public policy. Insights from this research will be instrumental in shaping future policy interventions for Gaelic not only in the Outer Hebrides but also across Scotland. 

The project is part of the Community Empowerment to Address a Re-energised Transition to Sustainability (CEARTAS) project. The PhD post starts in November, applications close on October 6, there’s more information here. 

What is CEARTAS? 

CEARTAS brings together various partners, including UHI, HIE, the Scottish Funding Council, anchor organisations within Gaelic communities, Bord na Gàidhlig, and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. The initiative aims to achieve several long-term benefits and impacts: 

  • Economic and Community Impacts: By exploring the Gaelic economy and viewing Gaelic as an asset, research will contribute to a better understanding of the connection between language use, economic effects, and community resilience. 
  • Improved Educational and Community Skill Levels: Prioritising Gaelic learning across all educational sectors to enhance language planning agencies' effectiveness. 
  • Solutions to Societal Problems: Addressing language shift from Gaelic to English and intergenerational issues to ensure the vitality and sustainability of Gaelic-speaking communities. 
  • Changes in Public Attitudes: Recognising the role of Gaelic in Scotland as it relates to equality and diversity issues in a multicultural society. 
  • Improvements in Public Service Delivery: Research will inform policy development regarding access to public services in languages other than English, benefitting not only Gaelic but other languages spoken in Scotland. 
  • Maximising Resources and Expertise: Creating synergies through partnerships to revitalize Gaelic language within community funding and cooperative development models. 

The commitment to preserving Gaelic culture and language is not only about heritage but also about fostering resilient communities and sustainable economic growth. By investing in research, education, and community empowerment, we aim to ensure that Gaelic continues to flourish and contribute to the nation's diverse and vibrant identity. 

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