Alasdair Morrison, Deputy Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister with responsibility for Gaelic, spoke of the "bright new sun" that shone on Gaelic education 18 years ago when the first playgroups were established, of which there are now 33. Gaelic-medium teaching takes place in 59 primaries and 13 secondaries offer selected subjects.
Mr Morrison signalled his intention to provide more money so that teachers in secondary schools are properly prepared to teach through Gaelic and said that on a recent trip to Dublin he visited a secondary where through Gaelic 800 pupils learn every subject. "It is an exceptional school," he said. "That is what we should be aiming for."
He warmly commended Glasgow for establishing the first all-Gaelic school forprimary pupils and, in what was taken as a veiled rebuke to Labour-run Edinburgh, which decided not to go ahead immediately with a similar school pending further investigation of parental demand, said: "If Gaelic education is to make further progress more schools of this kind must be established, in both rural and urban areas, in communities where the language is still robust, and in places where parents see the value of bilingual education.
"The Executive will be willing to work with local authorities to bring this about. More schools like the Glasgow Gaelic School are needed."
Brian Monteith, the Tories' education spokesman, reminded MSPs of the party's record of support for Gaelic, increasing funding from pound;163,000 in 1979 to pound;12.5 million by the time it had left office - a rise of 7,500 per cent.
Mr Monteith called on the Government to provide direct grant aid to establish Gaelic schools, with self-government by parents, based on the "ideal example" of the opted-out St Mary's Episcopal primary in Dunblane.