Celebrating 10 Years of BBC Alba
Speech in the Scottish Parliamentary debate
19 September 2018
Tapadh leibh, Oifigear-riaghlaidh. Tha mi glè thoilichte gun tug Dòmhnall Camshron an deasbad seo air adhart.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I am very pleased that Donald Cameron brought forward this debate.
It gives me great pleasure to wish BBC Alba happy birthday.
It feels as though BBC Alba has been around for ever, but 10 years is a relatively short space of time for it to have had the impact that it has had.
It has been at the forefront of promoting the Gaelic language.
Its carrying of sport—not just shinty, but football and rugby—has promoted the channel to a much wider audience than the one that it might originally have been set up to serve, but that encourages others to listen to and gain an interest in our language.
It could be argued that the coverage of shinty has promoted the game and led to more young people becoming interested in playing it.
The more people who watch BBC Alba, the more who will be interested in learning our language and keeping it alive.
BBC Alba has a broad range of programmes for young viewers, including “Padraig Post”, through which it works in tandem with Gaelic-medium education to help young people to learn.
As we have heard, its news and current affairs programmes are excellent, too.
Historically, “Eòrpa” was recognised for its journalist content even before BBC Alba started broadcasting.
For learners like me, “Speaking Our Language” never goes out of date.
Sadly, Rhoda MacDonald does not seem to have aged at all, albeit that her hairstyle has changed a number of times over the series.
As well as serving our Gaelic speakers, the channel helps learners and promotes interest in Gaelic.
As someone whose first language was Gaelic and who has now returned to it as a learner, BBC Alba offers me an extra connection to the language and a way of keeping up my practice between classes through a wide range of programmes.
It enables learners young and old to have Gaelic embedded in more aspects of their lives, instead of it being confined to the classroom.
I have often heard people say that they know that we are keeping the language alive when it becomes the language of the playground rather than the language of the classroom.
Although keeping Gaelic alive must be the main aim, the channel has other, unforeseen benefits.
It has created jobs in the media, not just for Gaelic-speaking presenters but for people with all the other skills that are required in sound, film and production.
It means that young people from the Gaidhealtachd now have a range of careers to choose from and the ability to stay at home to pursue them.
One of the big problems in my region is depopulation, which happens for economic reasons.
People leave because there are few jobs and even fewer careers.
BBC Alba provides young people with a career to pursue that keeps them in our communities and gives them choices.
Our language is also important in keeping our history and culture alive.
The history and culture of communities in the Highlands and Islands is handed down through poetry, song and storytelling.
If we lose the language, we will lose that aspect of our heritage. BBC Alba also promotes those traditional arts, as well as contemporary arts.
What is sad is that Gaelic was much more widely spoken in the past across much of Scotland and in parts of northern England.
It has been lost from those areas and, with it, their culture and heritage has been lost.
BBC Alba’s programming is of a really high standard, and it holds its own against English-speaking channels and provides excellent value for money.
However, with more investment, BBC Alba could do so much more, and I urge the BBC to have a balance in funding to make sure that it gets a fair share of the cake.
As Donald Cameron said, when money is available, the bids to produce new and innovative programming far exceed the cash that is available to pay for it.
We must urge the BBC to make sure that BBC Alba gets a fair share.
Last new year, my husband had the flu, so I was at home in front of the TV, taking in the new year on my own.
I tried a number of channels before settling down to a wonderful concert on BBC Alba, which was very like a traditional ceilidh, rather than the forced kitsch that can sometimes be found on other channels.
As well as recognising the channel’s worth, we need to make sure that we support it.
Recently, Duncan Ferguson wrote that BBC Alba had done more to promote and protect Gaelic than the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, and he might be right.
However, having a Gaelic language act might help us to protect and promote BBC Alba, because if we take it for granted, we do so at our peril.
I am delighted to support the motion, and I hope that I will be wishing BBC Alba many happy returns for many years to come.
Co-Ià breith math! Happy birthday!