Ceartas

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In the early 1980s in Scotland, Ceartas ([ˈkʲʰarˠʃt̪əs̪] About this sound listen ) was a protest group which attempted to publicise the unequal treatment of the Gaelic language. The name is the Gaelic word for 'justice'.

The group was founded in 1981, in the wake of the failure of MP Donald Stewart's private member's bill, which had sought for Gaelic the same status enjoyed by Welsh in Wales. Some of those who travelled to London to observe the progress of the bill, most of them students from Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Glasgow, met afterwards to discuss non-violent direct action, a tactic which had played a key role in the campaigns of Cymdeithas yr Iaith in Wales. Key figures were Iain Taylor, Stephen Maceachern, Anne Martin, Kay Matheson and the MacDonald brothers. Picking up on the on-going road sign controversy, they defaced road signs around Scotland, and painted the slogan Ceartas airson na Gàidhlig (Justice for Gaelic) across roads. An anonymous statement was released to the press, resulting in widespread public attention. Ultimately Iain Taylor was arrested, though never convicted.

In court, a witness on Taylor's behalf attempted to give evidence in Gaelic and was forbidden to do so. This appeared to contradict a 19th-century precedent which allowed the use of Gaelic in court, and this resulted in a legal review which established the principle that Gaelic could be used in court only if the witness could not speak English. This principle remained until the Scottish Parliament's Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 gave the language the status which the Ceartas group had argued for.

More recently, however, ceartas slogans have again been springing up around the Highlands of Scotland, Argyll and also in and around Glasgow, and also Edinburgh. The reason for this is unknown, however is believed to be due to the limited scope of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 and the sizable number of public bodies operating in Scotland (often those bodies dealing with reserved matters) who have appeared to resist the spirit of the 2005 act.

Source[edit]

Roger Hutchinson, A Waxing Moon: The Modern Gaelic Revival, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 2005. ISBN 1-84018-794-8.