Letter to Stewart Stevenson from a Gaelic activist

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Letter to Stewart Stevenson from a Gaelic activist

Unread post by Gràisg » Tue Mar 10, 2009 7:29 pm

Seo leth-bhreac de litir a sgrìobh Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh coir don Mhinister:

Dear Stewart Stevenson,

I was intending working on some poetry this evening, but it will have
to wait. I have just read of your imminent decision to delay (at best,
for years, at worst, for ever?) bilingual Gaelic-English signage on
the A9 and on other Scottish roads. This pending yet another
bureaucratic report, such as have for fifty years been strangling
Gaelic, scrolling like an interminable premature obituary determined
to fulfill itself. And you are about to add yet another wretched
chapter. You are about to lift the still-warm fallen quill to continue
writing one of the longest death-warrants in history (does your hand
not sense the approving touch of such a lineage of imperial
forebears?) I am astounded, outraged, sickened. How can I begin to
convey to you some practical implications? Let me try...

I have a rock-solid lifelong commitment to Scottish independence (I am
now 60 years old). I have never voted other than SNP. I have canvassed
a number of times for the SNP. As has my brother. As did our late
father (in fact I am not sure it wasn't he who signed up Alex Salmond,
but maybe that's just a family myth...) However, I also have a
lifelong commitment to Gaelic. If it came down to it, I would have to
choose a Gaelic-proficient Scotland within the UK, to a Gaelic-
deficient Scotland outwith the UK. Why? Because for me the "republic
of the mind" is the prerequisite of all else. Independence begins in
thought. And nothing defines thought more than language (when did you
last read your Orwell?) Some of us have begun to appreciate that
Gaelic can enable a dimension of "Scottish" independence (indeed of
"human" independence) on a profoundly existential level, whatever the
regime in Edinburgh.

Whether by intent, by fright, or by benightedness, you seem about to
torpedo whatever incredibly hard-won if modest progress Gaelic signage
has made over decades. Decades sullied with often cynically launched
(and even more often cynically ignored) reports. So I must tell you
with the coldest of clarity, Mr Stevenson, that should you employ this
discredited timeworn tactic, I will not again vote SNP until your
insufferable decision be reversed. I will also exert such influence as
I can to convince others to join me. Indeed, I am making a move on
this forthwith by copying this letter to an online Gaelic forum and to
a number of your own colleagues. I will duly post it on my (high-hit)
website. Can you hear the scunner in my tone, Mr Stevenson? I do hope
you can, because it is on the point of entering my bones. And you can
be very sure that I am not alone in this. In a sense it is not I who
speak to you, but generations of high-minded, honest citizens who have
struggled within the law to get their own place-names signed in their
own language. Some societies would consider that an elementary right.

A report on the safety-implications of bilingual signage? How about
lifting the phone and talking to someone in the Welsh Assembly? You
could have your answer within the hour. Confirm the matter with an
email to Ottawa. Maybe even remind yourself of that old "Scotland in
Europe" mantra, and check out Brussels. Then let your fingers do the
walking in the yellow pages and find a half-decent graphic designer
who can lay out a bilingual sign in a manner which doesn't confuse
anyone. As an art-teacher, I don't consider that to be an immense

You must surely realize that you are playing into the hands of every
petty-minded, mischievous, letter-page-befouling, anti-Gaelic bigot
out there. These are such as will cheer your decision, sir. Perhaps as
you lie abed at night, ere you sleep, you will hear soughing on the
wind their distant voices, lauding your name. Perhaps as you drive
down your Gaelic-free A9 they will honk their horns and flash their
lights in exuberant recognition, shouting to their children "That's
Stewart Stevenson, kids! Can you believe it? Those obnoxious Gaels were
within a whisker of getting signs on this road, but thanks to him, we
are safe!"

Yours sincerely,
Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh.
Last edited by Gràisg on Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread post by Seonaidh » Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:29 pm

De thachair sa Chuimrigh? Ma tha cuimhne ceart agam, ghabh a' gaoth a dh'aireamh mor dhen sanasan Beurla sa Chuimrigh, chaidh feadhainn eile an "eadar-theangachadh" agus fhas eile dubh. An-de sin, fhuair a' Chuimrigh sanasan da-chananach.

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