The practice of multilingual policy in Scotland: discourses, practices, and debates

Nighet Nasim Riaz

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentation


The aim of this paper is to examine how heritage languages from majority and minority communities are promoted and protected through policy and practice in Scotland, where Gaelic and Urdu are the two case studies under discussion. Gaelic is taught throughout Scotland and spoken by 1.1% of the population who are White Scottish, and is part of a wider political construct to reclaim Scotland’s history, culture and language as an aspect of Scotland’s national identity. Urdu is a heritage language spoken by 0.5% of the Scottish population, who are predominantly of Pakistani heritage and Muslim. Urdu is a SQA modern language which has been taught in four secondary schools in Glasgow with high Pakistani student populations for over 30 years. However, there is a discrepancy in how these two languages are perceived by policy makers, local authorities and schools. Gaelic is protected by legislation, funding, and promoted throughout the country by the Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, local authorities and other public bodies. However, there is no such provision for Urdu.

Discourse analysis is used to examine narratives discussing the linguistic heritage of people living in Scotland through policy, literature and the media. Preliminary findings have revealed that language policy does not meet the needs of Urdu speaking communities, their children and young people in schools. Urdu is being systematically erased from the secondary school curriculum in the four schools in Glasgow, and not introduced at primary schools in wards with large Urdu speaking communities. This raises questions
about the validity of the current government’s civic nationalist narrative, as the Urdu speaking community is insidiously moved further from its cultural and linguistic heritage; whereas Gaelic is imbued with value, high status, identity, belonging and nationalism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sep 2019
EventThe Inclusion, Mobility and Multilingual Education Conference: Exploring the Role of Languages for Education and Development - Amari Watergate Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand
Duration: 24 Sep 201926 Sep 2019


ConferenceThe Inclusion, Mobility and Multilingual Education Conference
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