Gaelic school comes a step closer

HIGHLAND is to consult parents after being given guarantees by the Scottish Executive that it will receive 75 per cent of the annual costs of running a Gaelic-medium school in Inverness.

This opens the way for a purpose-built Gaelic-medium primary as part of a pound;100 million public private partnership (PPP) to build or redevelop 24 schools across the authority.

Highland had already made a commitment to a Gaelic-medium school but insisted ministers would have to cover the bulk of the revenue costs. The news has delighted parents who have fought a long campaign to establish a school similar to that in Glasgow.

The move comes two months after councillors criticised Nicol Stephen, Deputy Education Minister, for comments following a visit to Inverness that the Executive was easing the shortage of Gaelic-medium teachers, seen as the main block to reviving the language.

Mr Stephen was accused of being badly advised and of failing to listen to the concerns of the council and other agencies promoting the Gaelic language.

In a letter to the authority, Mr Stephen states: "We would envisage that revenue support will be provided on a similar basis to that provided for the dedicated Gaelic primary school in Glasgow. This would involve specific grant of up to 75 per cent of the revenue costs incurred by the school in providing Gaelic-medium education."

Andy Anderson, education chairman, said: "The letter indicates that the Inverness Gaelic school will be treated in exactly the same way as the Glasgow Gaelic school. We can now start consultation with parents about the building of the new school under the PPP programme.

"That leaves us looking for 25 per cent of the revenue funding, but that is the kind of funding we have to provide for other projects when new demands come on us."

Iain MacIllechiar, parents' spokesman, said: "This is very good news and is as close as we can get to a guarantee that the school will now go ahead. There are plenty of potential sites on the Inverness local plan, and we must ensure that all the facilities that Gaels need are made available.

"We need facilities where the community can meet and we need sports, arts and drama facilities and a place where Gaelic speakers can come together."

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