Bob Myles accused of “wilful ignorance”

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Councillor Bob Myles has been accused of “wilful ignorance” over his opposition to Gaelic and English language signage in Angus.

Councillor Myles voiced concern over Angus Council’s plans to promote the Gaelic language in the area, suggesting it could further stretch the authorities already limited cash budget.

David Morrison, from Monikie, said in a letter: “It was with a mixture of astonishment and amusement that I read that the former council leader, Bob Myles, is so bereft of historical appreciation that he doesn’t even seem to know the derivation of the place he lives!

“I understand that Councillor Myles stated at a council meeting that there was no history of Gaelic in the county. I can only say that I am glad that Councillor Myles is not responsible for education in Angus.

“In fact Gaelic was the main language in the area for hundreds of years; his own farm, Dalbog is pure Gaelic “dal bog, the marshy field”. As he proceeds to his council meetings he will pass a burn called Bonsagart Burn, “Bon sagart, the base of the priest”, presumably a hiding place during the Reformation?

“Continuing on his journey he will pass Inchbare “Innis bearr, the cropped field”, on past Balnabreich “bal nam bruach, the township on the brae”, past Tollmuir Wood, “Toll mor, big hole”, then Finavon “fionn abhainn, the white river” and Bogindallo “bog an dolaidh, the marsh of loss” before reaching Forfar, which lies at the gateway to Strathmore, “Srath Mhor, the great valley”. And these are just a tiny fraction of names in Angus (Aonghas) which are Gaelic in origin.

“It may surprise Councillor Myles to learn that the Thane of Glamis, Macbeth “MacBeatha mac Fionnlaigh”,and indeed Duncan, Macduff and all Shakespeare’s other colourful characters in “the Scottish Play”, didn’t really speak Elizabethan English at all, but Gaelic. And Gaelic was spoken widely in the Angus Glens until into the early 20th century. If I remember rightly, the last native speaker died in Glen Clova some time before the Second World War.

“With the council heavily promoting heritage tourism, it is a great shame and more than a little embarrassing that the former leader of our council, till recently one of the main figureheads in the county, appears to have no idea nor indeed no interest in his own heritage, far less of the area he used to lead. Genuine ignorance can be excused but wilful ignorance is a bit harder to forgive!”

Angus council’s plans are part of a Scottish wide initiative created by the Scottish Parliament’s Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 which was passed by the Scottish Parliament with a view to securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland, commanding equal respect with the English language.

The Act requires the public sector in Scotland to play its part in creating a sustainable future for Gaelic by raising its status and profile in the community, workplace, home and in places of learning.

It also established Bòrd na Gàidhlig, a statutory, non-departmental body to promote the use and understanding of the Gaelic language throughout Scotland.

Part of the Bòrd’s role is to require public bodies to prepare and publish Gaelic Language Plans. Angus Council is one of many public authorities to be issued with a statutory notice to produce a Gaelic Language Plan.

The draft Plan must undergo a six-week period of public consultation prior to being submitted the Bòrd by April 1 for approval. The consultation period is set to finish tomorrow (Thursday).

Councillor Myles has argued that the money outlined for this initiative could be better spent else where.

He said: “If the Scottish Government want to develop the Gaelic language they should ring fence the spending for it. They haven’t - so it’s up to each council how their budget is spent and I think there are better usages for the money.”

Addressing the history of the Gaelic language in Angus, Councillor Myles commented: “In Angus the basis of names is largely Pictish, which was the historic language of the area. There was perhaps some Gaelic spoken in the middle ages, but it has never been the prominent language.”

Councillor Myles has said he backs the idea to teach a second language in schools.

He commented: “I’m happy for people to learn the language and encourage the learning of it, but I don’t see the need to have dual language road signs and so on for the very few who can speak the language but who are also fluent in English.

“It is a good idea of those out in the Western isle who have a larger number of Gaelic speakers, but I don’t see the need for it in Angus.”