Highland Council will receive £3 million over two years to build a new Gaelic school in Portree in 2015, Alasdair Allan, Minister for Scotland’s Languages, announced this week.
An additional £250,000 will also be invested in Gaelic learning for early years, to encourage sustained growth in the number of pupils going through Gaelic-medium education and encourage parents to choose bilingual schooling.
The school has been costed by the council at £8.3 million but another £3.7 million still has to be found to provide a new 40-bed hostel.
On a visit to the site where the new school will be built, Dr Allan said: “The new Gaelic school in Portree is being created as a result of extensive consultation and a continued demand for parents to offer children bilingual education. This funding recognises the growing interest in Gaelic-medium education in the Highlands, and all across Scotland, and is part of our commitment to encourage a new generation of speakers.
“The additional £250,000 for early years will support younger children and will build on the excellent work that Highland Council has done to take Gaelic beyond the classroom and create activities for all ages to use the language in day-to-day life.
“What we have seen in the last year is that offering Gaelic to young people is making the greatest impact on halting the decline in the language, with the most recent census figures showing an increase in all categories for the under-20s for the first time.”
The minister also visited Elgin Hostel where the new early years accommodation will be until the school is built.
He was joined by Eilean a Cheò ward members Drew Millar and Hamish Fraser.
Councillor Fraser, chairman of the Council’s Gaelic Implementation Group, said: “The support of the Scottish Government for this exciting new Gaelic-medium primary school is very welcome indeed. Skye is a heartland of the Gaelic language in the Highlands and I have absolutely no doubt that the new stand-alone school in Portree will prove a great success and nurture many more Gaelic speakers.”
Comann nam Pàrant Port Rìgh chairwoman, Annika Rawlings, said: “Comann nam Pàrant Port Rìgh warmly welcomes the support from the Scottish Government which gives us certainty, after many delays, that the Gaelic School in Portree will now proceed.
“We are a voluntary group of Gaelic-medium parents and the group has been campaigning since 2007 for a stand-alone Gaelic school. Following a statutory consultation in 2008, the Highland Council agreed that a Gaelic school should be established but it was only finally approved in the council’s capital plan earlier this year.
“We are delighted the Scottish Government has made a substantial contribution to the capital cost of the Gaelic school. The combination of a determined effort on the part of parents, the intervention by the Scottish Government and a change of administration at the Highland Council has led us to where we are today with a guarantee that Portree will, at last, have a Gaelic primary school.”
Portree Primary School pupils Cameron MacPherson and Ian Cormack are pictured with Alasdair Allan (above) as they survey the setting for the new Gaelic school in the town.