High­land Coun­cil urged to be more am­bi­tious with Gaelic

The Oban Times - - NEWS - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

A FOR­MER Fort Wil­liam coun­cil­lor is call­ing for more am­bi­tious plans from the High­land Coun­cil’s Gaelic Lan­guage Plan (GLP).

The plan, a statu­tory re­quire­ment for pub­lic bod­ies in Scot­land un­der the Gaelic Lan­guage Scot­land Act 2005, sets out how the ser­vice will har­ness and en­hance lan­guage skills within the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The lo­cal author­ity in­tro­duced the third draft, GLP 2017-2022 in June. It then went out for a six-week pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion which ended on Tues­day.

A coun­cil spokesper­son said: ‘The High­land Coun­cil has a clear fo­cus on in­creas­ing Gaelic use; to in­crease the num­ber of Gaelic speak­ers and to sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance the pro­file and con­tinue to cre­ate and gen­er­ate a pos­i­tive im­age of Gaelic.’

Doc­tor Michael Fox­ley, a coun­cil­lor for 26 years, was a mem­ber of the coun­cil’s Gaelic work­ing group and ac­tively in­volved with the two pre­vi­ous lan­guage plans. Re­spond­ing to the draft plan, Dr Fox­ley said: ‘The pro­posed GLP needs to be more am­bi­tious.’

Dr Fox­ley de­scribed cur­rent ef­forts to ex­pand Gaelic medium ed­u­ca­tion as ‘in­ad­e­quate, patchy and poor’. ‘We need to ac­tively and reg­u­larly pro­mote the ad­van­tages and ben­e­fits of be­com­ing bilin­gual in Gaelic and English - from pri­mary school at­tain­ment to em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­lay­ing de­men­tia,’ he said.

Dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion the coun­cil said the draft plan will have a strong fo­cus on try­ing to in­crease the use of the lan­guage by young peo­ple and fam­i­lies.

High­land Coun­cil leader coun­cil­lor Mar­garet David­son said: ‘The coun­cil is proud of its achieve­ments in strength­en­ing the lan­guage across its ser­vices and key part­ners.’

Dr Fox­ley said while it is great to see the im­pact of the new Gaelic School for greater Fort Wil­liam and the con­struc­tion of the new Gaelic school for Skye in Portree, he hopes an ac­tive pro­gramme to make all ex­ist­ing English nurs­eries bilin­gual within five years will be put in place. Dr Fox­ley said: ‘Ev­ery pupil in High­land high schools should have Gaelic as part of their Cur­ricu­lum for Ex­cel­lence timetable in S1- S2 and the op­por­tu­nity to in­clude it in their S3- S4 timetable.’

The draft plan shows a 1.7 per cent in­crease of Gaelic medium pri­mary school pupils in the High­lands, as well as 264 Gaelic nurs­eries/com­mis­sioned play­groups for 2016/17 - eight more than the pre­vi­ous year.

Dr Fox­ley added: ‘ As the coun­cil’s Gaelic work­ing group proved, once Gaelic medium units are es­tab­lished, the cost of ed­u­cat­ing pupils in Gaelic is cheaper than those in English only schools so in­creas­ing Gaelic ed­u­ca­tion saves money.’

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