The threat to the future of Gaelic

What's the Gaelic for ''can of worms''? Because it's time to open one up by asking tough questions of the Gaelic lobby. Number one is why are we failing to save the language and failing badly in spite of massively increased resources?
In 1991, when the census figures revealed a drop in the number of Gaelic speakers from around 79,000 to 67,000, there was consternation. Government had to do more, it was said, to save the ancient language which held the key to understanding the hearts and minds, the songs and poems, of our Celtic forebears.

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What is French for green?

"Ca c'est typique! Tu ne comprends pas qu'on vit dans une société de consommateurs?" Pupils from Shawlands academy in Glasgow staged a play about the politics of conservation on an unused island in Pollok Park, an island they reclaimed themselves, wading out in welly boots to cut back the shrubbery and create a natural auditorium.

The Litter Pickers, which featured an argument between Greek goddesses Aphrodite and Hestia - in French - won the school a language award, and was gamely performed alfresco despite skies that threatened rain.

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Has the fire gone out of the nation?

In Agnes Owens's hard, bright little black comedy set in Glasgow, Bad Attitudes, the anti-hero Mrs Webb enlivens her dull life by complaining to the council about her nuisance neighbours. ''Fancy him calling you a cow,'' another character remarks to her. But, more concerned with regulating her neighbours' bad behaviour than dealing with her own
problems, killjoy Mrs Webb seems emblematic of the new Scotland.

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'Fourteen into three won't go'

'See that building over there?" My guide points down the road to a white monolith whose large windows dominate the surrounding landscape. "That's the social work department. And, see, if you were a battered wife going in there to seek help, your man could stand here and see you going in and out and in every one o' they rooms. You'd get the hiding of your life when you came out. It's like a lot of things in Easterhouse, it's not very well thought out."

Residents of this sprawling Glasgow housing scheme, one of the most deprived in Europe, have their reasons for being sceptical of grand visions intended to improve their lives. But, in the case of a primary school reorganisation that is to shut 10 schools and four nurseries in the area, replacing them with three "campuses", they are less sceptical than actively angry.

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Fathers 4 Justice

It may be freezing but "a simmering pot of volcanic ash" is hotting up and ready to explode across Britain. So said a spokesman for the protest group Fathers 4 Justice yesterday, angry about the government's new child-access arrangements.
These men's anger cannot be doubted. From scaling the walls of Buckingham Palace to bombarding the prime minister with powder, their protests have become increasingly fierce and desperate. Now the government in Westminster has offered some changes, which have been dismissed as mere tinkering by the group. In fact, that is all they are. The package amounts to little more than a restating of the existing position that the court must protect the rights of children. That is all very well, but it does nothing to address the men's central complaint, which is that they say they are being systematically discriminated against.

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