POLICE have been accused of wasting cash on a “vanity project” after unveiling their first Gaelic-branded van in a region where fewer than 1% speak the language.
Dumfries and Galloway police division posted pictures of the van bearing the word “Poileas” on the bonnet and “Poileas Alba” on the sides.
Hundreds of baffled social media users responded by asking the force why dual language branding was needed in an area where only 0.8% have any skills in the language.
Iain D. Renicks commented: “Yeah we have a lot of gaelic speakers in Dumfries and Galloway. NOT!”
Niall Campbell said: “Total waste of money. Dumfries and Galloway has one of the lowest percentage of Gaelic speakers in Scotland. There are other minority languages with a far greater number of speakers. There’s nothing wrong with speaking Gaelic (my mother spoke it in the past) but let’s get real…..we are talking about using finite resources on a vanity project when people are using food banks!”
Stephen Macdonald said: “That’ll keep the three people in Dumfries happy that actually speak Gaelic.”
Morag Coupland added: “As a native Gaelic speaker I think this is such a waste of money in Dumfries and Galloway.”
Josh Horobin commented: “What a waste of money nobody speaks it let alone reads it. How about fixing pot holes and road inside of wasting it on stickers.”
Others were furious at the allocation of funds, as they believe there are better things to spend the money on.
Murray Bainbridge said: “Meanwhile rural police stations are being closed across the region due to lack of funding. I’m sure local residents will be pleased to see where the money has gone.”
Euan Walker commented: “What a waste of taxpayers money, typical of SNP government.”
Chris Pocock added: “What a waste of money, POLICE is more or less universally recognised.”
Gerald Bell said simply: “Total waste of public money. Disgraceful.”
However, Shaun Kirkpatrick suggested users were overreacting to the scheme. He said: “No money was wasted on this, it’s a new van and all Police Scotland vehicles will come with this livery. People are getting worked up for no reason.”
While others suggested a common Scot’s slang word would have been more appropriate for the area.
Kenny Robertson joked: “I think it’s already pronounced ‘polis’ as it is without wasting public money on a language nobody uses, especially in this area.”
Carys Christie added: “Really in this country it should be POLIS.”
The new branding is part of Police Scotland’s five-year Gaelic plan to be rolled out across the country.
According to the most recent census in 2011, Dumfries and Galloway was the second bottom council area for Gaelic language skills across the country.
Only 0.7968% of the population were recorded as being able to speak, read or understand the language.
North Lanarkshire has the fewest Gaelic speakers at 0.72%. The area with the most is the Western Isles with 61.2%. Highland is next at 7.4%.
Information, gathered through a separate Freedom of Information request to Police Scotland, reveals that only 26 police officers and two Special Constables are registered as having a “Skill/Specialism of Gaelic language”.
In the force’s most recent quarterly report on police officer numbers, at the end of June 2017, they noted 17,251 working full time.
This equates to just 0.16% of the force having some knowledge of Gaelic.
Police Scotland were previously ridiculed in 2015 for spending cash rebranding a helicopter in Gaelic.
Nationalist MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh tweeted a picture of herself sitting in the helicopter with “Poileas Alba” plasted across the side.
Social media users at the time criticised the move, as the force was still reeling from a series of scandals – including the tragic case of M9 crash victims Lamara Bell and John Yuill.
The couple lay in a crashed car for three days, despite the accident being reported to police.
Colette Sherry, Head of Commercial Services at Police Scotland, said: “As part of our Gaelic Language Plan, which we are required by law to implement, from September 2017 every new marked vehicle will be dual-branded as and when they come on to the fleet.
“There will be no additional cost to the Service, which will take a number of years to achieve.”
The Force also said the first of its new branded vehicles had been introduced to the fleet in Inverness and Aberdeen.