Highland Council urged to be more ambitious with Gaelic
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.’