Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today expressed concern at moves by the Scottish Government to put into law a nationally-set entitlement to education in Gaelic.
The Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee today considered amendments at Stage 2 of the Education Scotland Bill, during which the Minister, Dr Alasdair Allan successfully introduced changes that would introduce what he called ‘an entitlement’ to Gaelic education.
The Bill sets out that “every education authority must promote the potential provision of school education in the area of the authority.”
The consequences of these provisions could mean that Orkney Islands Council and local schools in Orkney may be required to prioritise spending to ensure that there are teachers and other resources available to provide Gaelic medium education in the islands.
Orkney’s MSP today reiterated his concerns about the implications this nationally set ‘entitlement’ could have for areas such as Orkney, with no tradition of Gaelic-speaking, when it comes to setting education priorities based on local needs.
Following the Committee proceedings, Mr McArthur said:
“Previously, the Scottish Government proposed to introduce a clear and consistent process for assessing requests by parents for Gaelic medium education. That was a reasonable position and one that would have helped safeguard and promote the use of Gaelic in areas where demand is high.
“Unfortunately, the SNP have now decided to go further and create a presumption in favour of requests for Gaelic education in any area across the country. The Minister told the Committee today he wanted there to be an ‘entitlement’.
“In Orkney, where there is no tradition of Gaelic, and where education budgets are already stretched, it is difficult to see why this issue should be given priority over other demands on Council spending. Politics is about priorities and the notion that teaching Gaelic might be considered a priority in Orkney schools will leave many people scratching their head.
“It is out of step with the distinctive linguistic, historic and cultural heritage of Orkney and shows, once again, that Scottish Ministers are happy to ride roughshod over local decision-making.
“There is no doubt that efforts to promote the Gaelic language are welcome and necessary. However, Ministers’ plans for a nationwide ‘entitlement’ are disproportionate and fail to respect the distinctive cultural heritage of diverse communities across Scotland.”