Gaelic Arts and Culture Activities, paper to Unst Island Conference

Investing in Small Island Recovery:  Archipelagic Approaches to Sustainable Living


20 April 2012, North Unst Public Hall


Sustainable Economic Development versus Labour Market Escalators: The Role and Impacts of Different Agencies in Gaelic Arts and Culture Activities.


Mike Danson (University of the West of Scotland, Scotland) and Douglas Chalmers (Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland)


There is a positive link between a vibrant Gaelic cultural and artistic sector within the Gaelic heartlands of the Hebrides of north west Scotland and positive impacts on sustainability and growth of Gaelic-speaking communities. This is argued by both arts and cultural organisations but also by the economic development agency (HIE): “Investing in the native language and cultural traditions of the region…. can lead to population retention, inward migration, …greater entrepreneurial activity and business creation. Increasing cultural vibrancy… helps reinforce the culture of sustainable development across the region….the heart of everything that we do at HIE”.

Although they can lead to increases in the use of the language, attachment of local people to their community, and levels of local confidence, different investments and initiatives can create different outcomes. So, as well as community and private initiatives, significant public investment in the Gaelic media has been a strong provider of quality jobs and careers in the Gaelic heartland, helping to retain and attract families to the islands. However, there is a bias in the ‘Gaelic labour market’ in generating such public sector employment not in these areas but in the urbanised mainland cities. We explore the causes and dynamics of these developments and identify challenges for policymakers and supporters of the language and islands.

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