Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Bilingual signs given the ‘All clear’

Bilingual road signI’ve been watching developments stirring around the question of bilingual signs being used in Scotland.

In fact, it’s been well over two years, and I found the story of the how the question had arisen back then. Sadly, instead of a sensible discussion and analysis, much of the debate seems to have centred around they usual ‘council wars’, with one or other infighting faction furthering either the political agendas of its side, or the personal ambitions of the councillors. I asked: Who pays for bilingual road signs?

Although it could be interpreted as a literal question, that original question wasn’t completely intended that way, but was more of a metaphor or figure of speech, hinting at truth and relevance. As a result, I had to delete a comment added to that post, as it attempted to promote politically motivated views – and that’s one thing that doesn’t happen in this blog (unless I word things badly, because I’m not perfect.) Such comments always just slide straight through into the trash can.

At least there’s an arbiter in this case, with some sense being injected into the matter by Transport for Scotland:

Transport Scotland commissioned consultants TRL to review what effect bilingual signs may have on drivers.

In 2009, a government minister said there was anecdotal evidence of motorists performing u-turns on the carriageway after misreading the signs.

TRL said the signs may demand more attention, but did not increase risks.

Bilingual signs were installed on selected trunk roads in Scotland following a feasibility study in 2002.

The TRL study commissioned in 2009 was the first examination of what impact the signs may have on driver behaviour and accident rates.

In the newly published document, the consultants said: “The report suggests that while there is reasonable evidence to infer bilingual signs increase the demand of the driving task, drivers appear able to absorb this extra demand, or negate it by slowing down, which ultimately results in no detectable change in accident rates.

The findings went on to say that “Analysis of accident data in Scotland concurred with this conclusion, finding no evidence that accidents increased or decreased as a result of bilingual sign installation.”

I still think it was all a waste of time and money, simply because I have been holidaying in North Wales for almost two decades, and such signs are the norm there, not only on the road, but almost everywhere. As far I know, this never proved to be a problem, either for drivers, or for the traveller on foot

English-Gaelic road signs ‘not a crash risk’


03/09/2012 - Posted by | Civilian, council, Transport, Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. Interesting…the comment you removed, which was mine posted last night, was not politically motivated in the slightest. I responded to your accusation of a ‘nationalistic’ agenda behind Gaelic road signs, which is clearly not the case as the policy was initiated by the previous Scottish Executive (which was not ‘nationalistic’ learning). I am not pushing any political agenda, I am simply standing up for the increased use of Gaelic and countering your suggestion that there could be some sort of political motivation, as oppise to a genuine language rationale. If you have a problem with me challenging you on this issue, perhaps you could consider removing the ‘nationalistic’ suggestion from your previous blog post?


    Comment by David Balfour | 03/09/2012

  2. Well, there’s a surprise. The comment I expected here arrived in less than a day.

    Actually, your comment was very political, and referred to three political parties by name, and stated that it was party policy on the part of two of them to install bilingual signs.

    That means the motivation for the signs was not one of information to road users, but political, and that’s by your own words.

    It appears ti me, you have your own very nationalistic agenda that is blinding you to what I said, as I made not nationalistic references whatsoever, not would I. And since I did not make any such suggestions, there is nothing to be considered for removal from my posts.

    You may interpret or imagine them as nationalistic (or otherwise), but that’s what goes on in your own head, and I can’t be held responsible for that.

    I never normally even give political parties a free mention by name, and generally refer only to the events, unless their naming is unavoidable for some reason relevant to the story.

    I often refer to the Scottish Government – but I will never identify which party was in power at the time of the reference. If anyone thinks that makes any difference to the madness – they can go and look up the records and see which bunch of nuts was in power at the time.

    I suggest you learn to read, and recognise a touch of sarcasm (or maybe a lot of it) – if I need to put it into words of one syllable that you can understand, then I was having a poke at the motivation for these signs having nothing to do with the increased used of Gaelic, which I did not object to, or really even comment on in the earlier posts.

    I was, and freely admit that I was, having a poke at the councillors concerned, and the reported background to the grumblings about the signs, which (if you read back to three years ago) had nothing to do with the signs, their safety (or not) or even Gaelic – but came across as the usual sort of nonsense that takes place between councillors trying to gain popularity. A spat that came down to little more than: “We’re having these signs” responded to by little more than “Oh no you’re not”, followed by “Oh yes we are!”

    If you really wanted to promote the use of Gaelic, and not been blatantly political, you would just have congratulated the finding of the Transport for Scotland finding, and said, “Great, let’s hope we see more of these signs appearing”, instead of launching in two loads of tripe about political and nationalistic suggestions in a blog where it the last thing you will find.

    I am happily apolitical and treat all politics with the same contempt, and that goes for the daft nationalism you mentioned too 🙂

    It also has the effect of having everyone have a go at me, since each sees only the negative remarks against their preferred little dictator, and interpret this as being specific, rather than general.


    Comment by Apollo | 03/09/2012

  3. Must admit, I had to have a wee chortle after reading your response. Reverting to personal insult is always the sign of a weak argument that lacks are serious underpinning. I made no political argument, I simply pointed out – in response to your accusation that Gaelic roads signs were ‘nationalistic’ – that they policy to erect the current bilingual roads signs was made by parties that are not ‘nationalistic’ in their outlook. I named them as that is a matter of fact, not to promote one party over another. You have no idea what my political beliefs are or what party(ies) I vote for. You politicised your previous article by stating “It would seem to be more important to address Nationalistic desires to increase the profile of Gaelic with these signs, rather than road safety…” and suggesting a link with the current Scottish Government. I pointed out that you were wrong – the policy makers at that time not being ‘nationalistic’ and that the motive was to raise the profile of one of Scotland’s languages and that alone. Interestingly, it has been the current Scottish Government that called for a moratorium on bilingual signs until the safety research was carried out; the previous Executive pushed ahead without such an assessment. Gaelic is a key part of Scotland’s rich heritage, irrespective of political desires, and it’s only right that it’s fostered and safeguarded. As for Councillors, they have no say on trunk road signage; a wee bit of research would reveal that…


    Comment by David Balfour | 04/09/2012

  4. Oh dear…

    I just wasted some time on a reply to the preceding nonsense.

    Then I decided it was better to leave it there and ignore it (in return), as it’s impossible to argue against things you never said.

    It makes so many false statements about what I am supposed to have said in the earlier post, and completely misinterprets that content even after I tried to explain. The explanation was clearly a waste of time, as it seems to have been ignored in total.

    The comment does a better job of destroying its own credibility than I could.


    Comment by Apollo | 04/09/2012

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