(Please see the UPDATES and the NB/ at end)
Efforts by the [self-]important Gaelic Committee on Highland Council to spread the use of bilingual Gaelic-English road signs on trunk routes into and out of the area are being called into question, at long last, by evidence (so far anecdotal) that they impede driver understanding of the directions being given and may lead to accidents. Before ploughing on with installing more of these bilingual signs into and throughout the region, studies are being called for by Stewart Stevenson, Scottish transport minister, to determine what problems, if any, can be quantified.
I tried to make the last part of the previous paragraph as 'neutral' as possible, but let me be clear - I consider some of the bilingual Gaelic-English signs a positive menace and have on occasions 'whizzed' past an example of these signs at 50 or 60 MPH in my car and questionned whether I was on the correct road, mostly roads with which I am perfectly familiar. The problem is that the Gaelic version appears above the English version in the same [or larger?) size of typeface and in a brighter and more prominent colour, which possibly only makes it appear bigger.
Unfortunately Highland Council's Gaelic committee chairman, Hamish Fraser, has 'form' on this issue, receiving criticism from a Caithness councillor as long as three years ago for arrogantly riding roughshod over criticism of the road-sign language policy he advocates.
(Other articles I have written about Gaelic language issues may be found here and here, both written during 2005 when a Gaelic Language Bill was being debated by the Scottish Parliament.)
UPDATE: (Wednesday 18MAR09 09.30 RST) Very interesting comments to this article; commenters have flung the term 'racist' in my direction - specifically commenter 2 ("Mac 'ic Iain") and commenter 4 and 6 (both by "AaronK"). Whilst I dispute the use of the term 'racist' in this context in relation to the opinions I have expressed (perhaps a 'linguistic imperialist' might be a better term to use as although that is not true either at least it bears some relation to the matters under discussion), I decided to do a little research to try and identify who these two for all intents and purposes 'anonymous' commenters are.
"AaronK" seems to be in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) and using a Shaw Communications Inc internet connection, with IP 126.96.36.199.
"Mac 'ic Iain" seems also to be in Calgary, Alberta (Canada) and using a server at "Calgary Roman Catholic School" as the internet connection, with IP 188.8.131.52.
Interestingly, a couple of moments before the timestamp of "AaronK's" first comment (comment 4) there was a visit from another western Canadian origin based on searches involving this blog article seemingly from Richmond, British Columbia (Canada), also using a Shaw Communications Inc internet connection, with IP 184.108.40.206.
What seems clear, therefore, is that I have offended one or perhaps two "Gaels" in western Canada. Tough! I do wonder if the offence taken may have causes in addition to the purported 'racism' with which I am charged, given that I am gay and that one of the commenters, at least, seems either to teach at or attend the "Calgary Roman Catholic School"; I will fling around a term of my own - the Catholic Church is not known as tolerant in its attitudes towards human sexuality and I believe it is institutionally 'homophobic' and has historically, in many different countries, connived at covering up the sexual misdemeanors of priests in its service involving child molestation. The very recent comments of the Pontiff in relation to homosexuality highlight just what a sick organisation the Roman Catholic Church is; it is not alone as a religious organisation in having 'weird' views about human sexuality, of course. I consider myself an atheist, although my family background is mixed Protestant (Scottish) and Catholic (Republic of Ireland).
Finally, I have observed in my site visit statistics that this article has been viewed both by people in Nairn (where I have my Scottish home) and by people visiting from the Scottish Parliament and from Scottish Media Group, none of which have resulted in the hysterical reactions, or any reaction, of my correspondents from Calgary, Alberta (Canada). I think that factor is quite telling.
2nd UPDATE: (Wednesday 18MAR09 10.20 RST) In "AaronK's" latest comment, full of the usual pseudo-scientific linguistic/racial mumbo-jumbo, he comments: I am not the one making racial categories, whereas he stated earlier that I exhibit 'racist' views and in an earlier comment made this remark: Just because you're Scottish does not mean you are not hostile and yes racist towards Gaels and Gaelic, presumably because he considers use of the word 'Gael' to be a racial category. His comment that he is not the one making racial categories is demonstrably not in accordance with the facts.
3rd UPDATE: (Wednesday 18MAR09 10.30 RST) In "AaronK's" latest comment (he really is obsessed!) - I always tell my family and friends that I'd love to see some of the Gael-haters attempt to get away with some of their comments in North America. This idiocy about Gael-haters is complete rubbish, unless you want me to agree that I hated the grandfather that I loved (the Scottish one) or the other grandfather that I loved (the Irish one). Ah yes, gun-toting North America - perhaps that kind of reaction to 'dissident viewpoints' goes in the US and even in western Canada, but I doubt if it would have much traction in Ottawa at federal level, from what I know of Canadian politcs. Most amusing - you seem to have no sense of irony "AaronK" - lol.
4th UPDATE: (Wednesday 18MAR09 10.45 RST)Did I use the word 'obsessed' in relation to "AaronK"? Well, all I'll do now is simply quote his latest comment in full - it's a real yawn-fest - it's like reading some obsessive tract on matters that only a few individuals have the remotest interest in. As for why the people who matter, those who actually live in Scotland, should have the remotest interest in what an anachronistic sect has to say about politics here, it's a mystery to me: No Bill, wrong again. Scottish Anglo society is the one that developed the idea that Gaels are a separate and inferior racial group. You are the one engaging in mumbo jumbo. You have merely assumed the attitudes of the culture you were raised in vis-a-vis Gaels, and the idea that they are an inferior group. In the historical context this has referred to more than just language, but to the very people themselves. The comments that constantly emerge from the Gael-hating community in Scotland is inextricably linked to this ideology. The Irish (South and North) had enough of that partcular kind of interference in their internal affairs from North American IRA-supporters and funders, until the events of 11 September 2001 awakened them to the duplicity (or actually the politically disastrous consequences for them domestically in the US of continuing support for a terrorist organisation) of their historic analyses in relation to their ancestral homeland.
I have decided I have been tolerant long enough - any further comment on this blog article will be deleted.
PS/ I have so far had to delete a further 6 or 7 comments from "AaronK"; I will continue doing so until he gets bored and stops posting his bile here. Luckily we will soon reach the 2-week stage when Blogger automatically asks for blog-owner approval before permitting comments to appear, even in blogs like mine which do not require moderation for recent post comments. PPS/ I am getting fed up of having to delete "AaronK's" increasingly-hysterical comments, so I have altered the default settings for commenting in this blog by reducing the period when unmoderated comments are permitted to appear without my prior approval. PPPS/ I notice that "AaronK" is in the process of deleting many/all of his own comments, which results in the message "Removed by the comment author" appearing where the comment was. I am now deleteing that remaining reference so comments HE has deleted will appear never to have existed in my blog; however, I maintain an offline record of ALL his comments for archival purposes. PPPPS/ "AaronK" seems now to have finished his work of deleting most if not all of his comments, but I plan (when I get a moment) to repost them all, including my own comments interspersed with his, in a new blog article so that he cannot hide from the hysterical tone of all, and the threatening nature of some, of his comments, not to mention the whining "why is the world so cruel to me" tone of one or two of them. (Note added on Wednesday 18MAR09 at 18.37 RST - You can now read that later blog article here.)
NB/ I have just come across an article on this topic in Graisg's (of the Gurn from Nurn blog) in his blog dealing with Gaelic language issues. Obviously Graisg takes a somewhat different view of the issue of bi-lingual roadsigns than I do, but in actual fact there is not so much difference in our views as one might suppose. In fact I have absolutely no 'objection' to having bilingual road signs in Highland Region (or elsewhere in Scotland for that matter, if people want them), however I would like the majority language to be given at least equal prominence on such roadsigns; it is very noticeable that in all the photographs in Graisg's article, the languages used all have very equal prominence, or in a few cases the majority language has greater prominence. The same holds true in Spain where bilingual roadsigns are often used in specific areas, but great care seems to have been taken to ensure that all languages used are given equal prominence.