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Gaelic rolls set for big rise

As the Scottish Executive this week beefed up the educational aspects of its draft Bill on Gaelic, a major new target was revealed in Wednesday's spending statement by Andy Kerr, Finance Minister - a 20 per cent increase in the number of pupils in Gaelic-medium primary schools by December 2009, from 1,980 to 2,400.

Executive support for Gaelic-medium education overall is set to rise from pound;3.4 million to pound;4.3 million by 2007-08.

Following consultation, Peter Peacock, Education Minister, who has responsibility for Gaelic, has agreed to give powers to Brd na G...idhlig to issue statutory guidance which will specify entitlement to Gaelic-medium education. But the minister has stopped short of making it a statutory right.

Mr Peacock acknowledges that this was demanded by "a significant majority" during consultation on the draft Bill. But the Executive says there was no clear consensus on how this should be done, and it is also wary of imposing rights that would be resisted in such non-Gaelic areas as Shetland and the Borders, for example.

The minister takes the view that he already has enough powers, via the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000, to get tough with authorities if he has to.

He intends to demonstrate the worth of these existing powers by issuing guidance under the 2000 Act. It will be up to Brd na G...idhlig to police it.

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