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'Nonsense' says minister in Gaelic places row

A depute minister has described as "complete nonsense" claims that he has been unwilling to meet Highland councillors to discuss the provision of training courses in the Highlands and Islands for Gaelic-medium teachers.

Alasdair Morrison, deputy minister responsible for Gaelic, and Peter Peacock, former deputy education minister and once convener of Highland Council, have been accused of failing to fulfil promises to ensure there are enough teachers to support the growing demand for Gaelic-medium classes.

Michael Foxley, a councillor from Lochaber, warned there was still "a dire shortage". In the whole of Scotland only eight new teachers were set to qualify, he claimed, yet Mr Peacock had given an assurance that there would be 150 in the next three years.

Although Lews Castle College in Stornoway has been chosen as the first to offer teacher training in the Highlands in association with Jordanhill, Mr Foxley said Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic college on Skye, had told him it had no funding to develop teacher training and could not have a course running until autumn next year.

He added: "We are still just as badly of as we were 10 years ago. There is a serious resource and teacher training problem and we need the Executive to stop spinning and start delivering."

Mr Morrison said it was "complete nonsense" to suggest he had failed to discuss Gaelic-related issues with Highland, citing a recent meeting with senior councillors. He also rebutted the claim over Lews Castle and said a course this autumn would have places for 10 students.

The Stornoway college is, coincidentally, in Mr Morrison's Western Isles constituency.

Bruce Robertson, Highland's director of education, commented: "The course should be delivered across the Highlands and Islands and should be taught in Inverness and Sabhal Mor as well. We should also embark on a new kind of teacher training programme, because the worst we can do is to transfer traditional methods.

"We need a new way of working for the 21st century and, unless we address this, I have serious fears for the Gaelic language."

David Green, principal of Lews Castle College, confirmed that the Gaelic-medium course will start in September and said it could be delivered by distance learning.

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