Gaelic Policy


Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is responsible for providing all Local Government Services including:

  • Education: Primary, Secondary and Special Needs
  • Social Services: Children, Families, the Elderly, those with learning difficulties, mental health
  • Transportation: Highways, Public Signage, Ferry Services
  • Environmental: Environmental Health, Consumer Protection, Animal Health, Private Sector Housing, Recycling
  • Sustainable Communities: Economic Development, Community Education
  • The Comhairle is committed to safeguarding and promoting the Gaelic Language and its use, and will continue to lobby the Scottish Executive to ensure the development of the language through statute
  • In its dealings with the public and in the exercise of the democratic process, the Comhairle shall treat Gaelic and English on the basis of equality

The Comhairle's objectives are to:

  • enable everyone who receives or uses Comhairle services, or contributes to the democratic process, to do so through the medium of Gaelic or English, according to personal choice
  • promote the use of Gaelic in the Western Isles
  • exploit the potential of Gaelic as a means of creating employment opportunities in the Western Isles
  • encourage the use of Gaelic by other public bodies which have dealings with the Comhairle, and to support and encourage the use of Gaelic by organisations and businesses which provide services to the public in the Western Isles
  • develop the ability of pupils and students to be confidently bilingual in order that they can fully participate in the bilingual community of which they are a part
  • establish Gaelic as an administrative language for the Comhairle by providing facilities for in-post training and to enable staff to develop their linguistic skills
  • ensure that service through Gaelic is available as a right without having to seek it out expressly
  • ensure that technological advances, such as broadband, are used to attract new Gaelic related businesses to the Western Isles

The Policy

The overall aim of the Comhairle's policy is that the Western Isles should be a fundamentally bilingual community in which Gaelic and English have equal validity as the languages of communication .

In implementing this aim certain fundamental points must be recognised:

  • the policy should be seen as an integral part of the work of the Comhairle permeating all services
  • it should contribute to the major objectives of the Comhairle and should reflect the Comhairle's Mission Statement and Key Tasks
  • particular emphasis should be placed on the employment creation potential of the Gaelic language
  • the Western Isles is still a bilingual community
  • the continued positive and active support of the Comhairle is necessary, both directly and in encouraging such support from other organised bodies, but all such efforts will only be successful if they encourage and stimulate the use of Gaelic, in all types of settings

In 2001, the Comhairle established Sgioba na Gàidhlig, whose main function is to facilitate the delivery of the Comhairle’s Gaelic Policy.

The Comhairle: Members and Officers


  • The Comhairle seeks to encourage the use of Gaelic in both formal and informal settings
  • Members and Officers are encouraged to participate in Comhairle Committee business through the medium of Gaelic. Simultaneous translation is available to facilitate this

Comhairle Papers

  • All agendas for Comhairle and Committee Meetings will be bilingual
  • Major reports and Policy documents will be produced in bilingual format: e.g. Annual Report, Structure Plans, Policy guidelines, etc
  • Minutes of Meetings conducted bilingually will be produced in both Gaelic and English


  • The Comhairle endorses the terminology of 'Faclair na Pàrlamaid' and recommends the use of the associated Interactive On-line Service:


  • Pages on the Comhairle's web-site will appear in Gaelic and English


  • Comhairle Members who are bilingual should set an important example by using Gaelic to communicate with their constituents, with officers and with each other on Comhairle business

Bilingual Staff

  • Staff who are bilingual should use Gaelic wherever appropriate for communication. Staff who are bilingual but not literate in Gaelic will be given the opportunity to achieve literacy in Gaelic

Non-bilingual Staff

  • Staff who are not bilingual will be encouraged to learn Gaelic and should be given the opportunity to do so


  • Bilingualism is a factor of importance in some staff recruitment procedures. Certain posts, by their very nature, are designated as Gaelic essential. These posts should be advertised in Gaelic only. All other posts advertised should indicate that the Comhairle operates a Gaelic Policy. Recruitment processes to have regard for the capacity of the service to be delivered in Gaelic


  • he Comhairle has agreed as a long-term aim that teachers in charge of primary classes should be Gaelic speakers. Primary teachers who are not bilingual should be encouraged to learn Gaelic, and be given an opportunity to do so, in order that they are able to contribute to the full in a bilingual context

The Public: Delivery of Services

Bilingual Service

  • The Comhairle's objective is where possible to enable everyone who receives or uses Comhairle services, or contributes to the democratic process, to do so through the medium of Gaelic or English, according to personal choice

Written Communication

  • Members of the Public who write to the Comhairle in Gaelic will receive a reply in Gaelic
  • All public notices published by the Comhairle will be bilingual, other than notices appearing in Gaelic language publications which will appear in Gaelic only


  • Stationery will be bilingual and templates will be available to facilitate this


  • Advertising in Gaelic will be used as appropriate

Comhairle Offices and Buildings

  • Bilingualism will be evident to members of the public entering any Comhairle Office or other Comhairle buildings and staff engaged in reception duties, either personally or by telephone, must be bilingual


General Aim

  • The Comhairle's provision of bilingual education is a key feature in the Comhairle's Gaelic Policy. It will be the element that makes the greatest demands on the Comhairle's resources, both finance and manpower, and which makes the greatest impact. The aims of formal education are to enable children who go through Gaelic Medium Education to become equally literate and fluent in the use of Gaelic and English and to make provision for all other children to have access to Gaelic in the curriculum. The Comhairle also aims to enhance young people's awareness of the heritage and culture of their community through the formal and informal curriculum. The Comhairle should aspire to provide Gaelic Medium Education as the principal means of tuition in the first two years of primary school whilst maintaining a capacity for English Medium Education on an area basis

Pre-school Education

  • The Comhairle, in partnership with the voluntary sector will promote and support provision of Gaelic pre-school education
  • The Comhairle will actively promote the uptake of Gaelic Medium Education to parents of pre-school children

Primary Education
Gaelic Education Medium

  • The specific aim of the Comhairle, is that children who go through Gaelic Medium Education will be as literate and fluent in Gaelic as in English when transferring from primary to secondary education. These children will acquire language skills in both Gaelic and English through both languages being used as a means of learning. There will be an initial immersion phase in Gaelic with the gradual introduction of English

Gaelic in non-Gaelic Medium classes

  • In the case of children who are not in Gaelic Medium classes, it is the aim of the Comhairle to make provision throughout primary school to engage in activities that are related to Gàidhlig or Gaelic learners curriculum

Secondary Education

  • Gàidhlig and Gaelic learners' courses will be made available in the first 2 years of secondary education and thereafter schools should enable and encourage pupils to continue with the study of Gaelic in their ensuing years of secondary education as part of their language entitlement
  • the use of Gaelic as a means of instruction in secondary schools will be encouraged in a range of subjects

Further Education

  • The Comhairle will continue to support the development of the Gaelic Degree Courses and other related learning programmes at Lews Castle College


  • The Comhairle will support the production of Gaelic books and other materials by providing an annual financial allocation through local and inter-authority agreements

Social Work

General Aim

  • The Council through the Social Work Department is responsible for providing other personal services, which deal more directly with the immediate and personal needs of clients. It is desirable that, wherever possible, staff involved in the provision of these services should be able to use either language in their daily contacts with members of the public. The Gaelic Policy will be integrated into the planning and implementing of the joint futures programme with Western Isles Health Board for Community Services

Residential Homes

  • Residential Homes will aim to promote a Gaelic ethos and to assist with this aim bilingual staff should be appointed whenever possible

Home Carers

  • Where the client indicates a preference for a Gaelic speaking Home Carer, the Comhairle will aim to realize that preference


  • Telephone operators for the Faire operation must be bilingual

Children's Support Services

  • Bilingual members of staff will be available to help families requiring support services for children for which the Socialwork department have responsibility

Development Department

Arts and Culture

General Aim

  • The bilingual nature of the community will be reflected in the social, cultural and recreational activities, which will be promoted by the Comhairle

Library Service

  • Through the library service the Comhairle purchases and provides for lending most books, which are published in Gaelic. Increases can be anticipated in both the output of Gaelic publications and in the demand by readers for them as the literacy in Gaelic rises and the Comhairle will require to provide the resources to meet these

Arts and Entertainment

  • The Comhairle will be increasingly engaged in supporting the Gaelic arts

Museum Service

  • The Museum service will take account of the bilingual heritage of the community in its exhibitions and will ensure that interpreation is given in both languages, including verbal interpretation

Community Education

  • The Comhairle will ensure that the Gaelic language is a key feature in the work of the Community Education service, and that resources are deployed to promote Gaelic literacy at community level. Community Education provision should ensure that it has the capacity to deliver the service through the medium of Gaelic

Comuinn Eachdraidh

  • The Comhairle will continue to support and encourage the work of the Comunn Eachdraidh movement and its development

Economic Development

The Comhairle will provide assistance through the Gaelic Economic Development budget and has indicated in its publication Creating Communities of the Future, that Promotion and Development of Culture and Heritage, particularly Gaelic, is one of the key drivers to economic regeneration in the Western Isles.

  • To raise the profile of Gaelic by increasing job opportunities through the stimulation of Gaelic related economic activity and business development
  • To raise the profile of Gaelic by increasing job opportunities through the stimulation of Gaelic related economic activity and business development
  • To promote the generation of profitable partnership amongst the local communities, businesses and other bodies utilising the Gaelic language and culture

Technical Services

General Aim

  • Where there is daily contact with members of the public by professional, technical and clerical staff, ideally they should be able to communicate in Gaelic

Comhairle Buildings

  • All signs within Comhairle buildings will be bilingual with the Gaelic name first and in a bolder type to give prominence to the language

Street names

  • All street names in the Western Isles will be bilingual with the Gaelic name first and in a bolder type to give prominence to the language

Place Names

  • Placenames in the Western Isles should appear in Gaelic only. It may be necessary to have some exceptions to this policy, in cases where Gaelic and English vary significantly e.g. an t-Ob and Leverburgh

Directional Signs

  • All directional signs in the Western Isles will be bilingual with the Gaelic name first and in a bolder type to give prominence to the language

Traffic Signs

  • The majority of road signs are in a form prescribed by statute and since they are predominantly pictorial or diagrammatic, there will be no pressure for change at this stage

Public Signs

  • As well as setting an example on its own buildings, the Comhairle will encourage other public and commercial bodies to display their names and the services they provide in both languages

Other Bodies

Role of the Comhairle

  • The Comhairle has to take a lead in developing bilingualism in the Western Isles, but as well as setting an example, it must be able to provide encouragement, advice and assistance to other bodies which are active in the community, ranging from State agencies to private, commercial undertakings and to voluntary bodies. As part of the Community Planning process, Sgioba na Gàidhlig will work with the Community Planning Partners, specifically through the Gaelic Language and Culture Forum, to promote and develop the Gaelic Language and Culture

Government Departments

  • Sgioba na Gàidhlig will have a lobbying brief for Gaelic in discussions with the Scottish Executive. The Comhairle will also liaise with the Gaelic Officers within the Scottish Parliament to raise the profile of Gaelic at national level
  • The Scottish Executive Education Department has a huge role to play in terms of Gaelic curriculum development and research at every level, and the Comhairle will continue to support SEED to gain maximum benefit for the Western Isles


  • The Churches have the distinction of using Gaelic in formal and professional situations and it is important that they continue to play a role in developing the language. A Gaelic Medium approach to Sunday School would complement the bilingual education available in schools

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Western Isles Enterprise occupy an important position in relation to their remit to promote social and economic developments in the Highlands and Islands and the social aspect of their remit should enable them to provide finance and expertise for projects in support of the Gaelic language and culture

Western Isles Health Board

  • The Western Isles Health Board is of particular importance by virtue of the number of staff that is in daily contact with members of the public in different situations, with children through health visiting, health education and the school medical service. It is particularly important that the Board continues to develop its bilingual approach in the services, which they provide, in parallel with the Comhairle’s Gaelic Policy
  • The Comhairle in partnership with the Health Board will continue to develop Gaelic language policies across joint services

Gaelic Organisations

  • The Comhairle will continue to will work in close co-operation and will provide support for their activities, both at national and international level, to promote the Gaelic language and culture

Industry and Commerce

  • Private, commercial and industrial organisations will be encouraged to use Gaelic. The use of Gaelic by the private sector in advertising will also be encouraged. Sgioba na Gàidhlig will offer support and assistance to organisations seeking to advertise their services bilingually

Voluntary Organisations

  • Community Organisations such as Councils of Social Service, Community Councils and Common Grazings Committees will be encouraged to use Gaelic as a medium of communication at their meetings and in written communication where practicable



  • The Comhairle will continue to support the work of the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee
  • The Comhairle will encourage Gaelic broadcasting companies to base their operations in the Western Isles
  • The Comhairle will continue to seek a daily news programme to be broadcast from the Western Isles
  • The Comhairle will continue to press for a Gaelic digital television channel to be based in the Western Isles
  • The Comhairle will work with media services (Broadcast, print and electronic) in order to exploit the opportunities that these services provide, not only in communication through Gaelic but in job creation and support of other Gaelic initiatives