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Scots Gaelic becomes an EU language

The European Union is going to have to hire yet another set of translators, after a formal agreement was reached to accept Scots Gaelic at EU level.

From now on Scottish Gaelic speakers can write directly to EU bodies in their mother tongue if they wish and receive a reply in that language. Scottish ministers can also speak Scottish Gaelic in meetings with other EU ministers and regional representatives.

The deal was sealed in a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Brussels yesterday by the UK's EU ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch, and by Donald Henderson, Scotland's EU director.

Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy said: "Allowing Gaelic speakers to communicate with European institutions in their mother tongue is a progressive step forward."

Sir Kim said: "These arrangements will help to build a closer link between EU institutions and speakers of Scottish Gaelic by allowing them to raise their concerns and have them addressed directly in their native language. It also further promotes the long and rich cultural heritage of the Scottish people here in the EU."

But when The Independent contacted the Scottish Office, the Scottish Parliament and the Scotsman newspaper to see if these statements could be provided in Gaelic, we were told that no one there could speak the language.

The EU has 23 "working" languages, into which all EU documents and debates are translated and interpreted. But pressure has been growing for at least partial recognition for other languages in Europe.