Gaelic-Medium Education

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:05 pm on 28th November 2001.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 5:05 pm, 28th November 2001

The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S1M-2222, in the name of Maureen Macmillan, on Gaelic-medium education.

Tha sinn a-nis a' gluasad gu gnothach bhall agus deasbad le gluasad le Maureen Nic Ille Mhaoil air foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig. Tha mi a' gairm Maureen Nic Ille Mhaoil.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the critical situation facing Gaelic-medium education as a consequence of the current shortage of Gaelic teachers; further notes the continuing shortage of university graduates intending to enter Gaelic-medium teaching, and urges the Scottish Executive to put into place without further delay (a) a review, update and implementation of the recommendations contained in Comunn na Gàidhlig's proposed national policy for Gaelic Education, Framework for Growth, which was submitted to the Scottish Office in 1997 and (b) the recommendations contained in the report by the General Teaching Council for Scotland Teaching in Gaelic-medium Education—recommendations for change which was submitted to the Scottish Executive in 1999.

Note: The member who lodged this motion has provided the following translation—

Gu bheil a' Phàrlamaid a' toirt fa-near an suidheachadh èiginneach anns a bheil foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig air sàilleibh gainne luchd-teagaisg le Gàidhlig; a' toirt fa-near cuideachd a' ghainne de cheumnaich bho oilthighean a tha am beachd a dhol a-steach airson teagasg tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig, agus a' cur ìmpidh air Riaghaltas na h-Alba na leanas a chur an cèill gun dàil (a) sgrùdadh, cunntas as ùr agus buileachadh air na molaidhean a bh' anns an aithisg aig Comunn na Gàidhlig a thaobh poileasaidh nàiseanta airson foghlam Gàidhlig, Innleachd airson Adhartais, a chaidh a chur gu Oifis na h-Alba ann an 1997 agus (b) na molaidhean a bh' anns an aithisg aig Comhairle Teagaisg Choitcheann na h-Alba, Teagasg ann am Foghlam tro Mheadhan na Gàidhlig—molaidhean leasachaidh, a chaidh a chur gu Riaghaltas na h-Alba ann an 1999.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 5:08 pm, 28th November 2001

It must seem strange to those watching and listening to this debate that I am opening it with a speech that is not in Gaelic, but in English. I am an example of a lost generation of Gaelic speakers who were educated at a time when speaking Gaelic was thought to hold one back. Parents did not pass on the language. All my primary school teachers spoke Gaelic, but in the staffroom, not the classroom. When I suggested that I might take Gaelic at secondary school, I was dissuaded from doing so because, I was told, it would be of no use to me whatsoever.

The language almost disappeared in the 1950s and 1960s and I hardly felt more than a nostalgic pang until, as a teacher, I became aware of Gaelic-medium education in the 1980s. The school I taught in, Millburn Academy in Inverness, had a Gaelic-medium primary as a feeder school and Gaelic-medium pupils were together in one class for Gaelic, history and geography. I taught them English, so I was the English teacher for the Gaelic-medium class. There were only about five pupils in the first year, but the numbers steadily grew year on year.

Coinciding with that, I decided to learn Gaelic and had as my teacher Alasdair Campbell, a bhoxer from Lewis. I will tell members not of our hilarious times but of my realisation that a good few people in the class were there to learn Gaelic because their children were at Gaelic-medium playgroup or Gaelic-medium primary school. Sometimes, one parent was a Gaelic speaker, occasionally neither was, although there might have been a Gaelic-speaking grandparent. Sometimes there was no family Gaelic connection but a realisation of the importance of Gaelic to Scottish culture and the wish to see it grow and become viable as a language again.

What is important about the GME movement is that it is a grass-roots movement that began because parents want it. Organisations such as Comhairle nan Sgoiltean Araich supported parents and helped to get playgroups off the ground. The expansion of nursery education since 1997 has helped the expansion of GME and as more Gaelic-speaking children have gone into primary school, demand for such education in primary and secondary school has also expanded. GME is written into the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000 as a national priority.

There are 34 Gaelic-medium nurseries with more than 400 pupils; 60 GME primary schools with nearly 2,000 pupils; and 14 secondary schools with more than 300 pupils. There is an evident fall-off at secondary level, which is primarily due to teacher shortage. In fact, the whole of GME threatens to founder through such a shortage. If GME founders, the language itself will not survive. We need 20 to 25 new entrants a year. Although we might achieve that figure this year, it is only a bare minimum. We need a supply teacher pool; we need special educational needs teacher provision; and we need to roll out Gaelic as a subject throughout the secondary curriculum right up to higher standard.

Throughout the year, constituents have expressed concern about this issue. For example, in March I received a letter from a constituent who said that

"all that has been achieved in the past years is being eroded through teacher shortage".

In April, another constituent from Inverness said that

"the whole issue of teacher shortage" filled her with

"dread and foreboding".

In May, a constituent in Islay informed me that

"the number of children going into GME is increasing annually yet the teacher recruitment crisis continues".

Finally, a student from Sutherland wrote to me in September, saying:

"I regret that during my entire education in Sutherland, I only had the opportunity in my 5th year to learn Gaelic. This situation has worsened since then."

At Comunn na Gàidhlig's annual congress in June, speaker after speaker sounded a warning that GME, and, with it, the whole language, is running on to the rocks. Teachers cannot be plucked from the air. Where will they come from? There are three sources. First, there are school leavers who have come though the Gaelic-medium system and who want to teach. However, as I was told last Friday at Portree High School, there are problems as youngsters who wish to teach find that they have to fund themselves for an extra year to bring their Gaelic up to scratch. They should be financially supported to do that.

Furthermore, it is difficult to attract boys straight into teaching, although the new McCrone pay scales might help. We should not, therefore, concentrate resources on the bachelor of education degree to the detriment of the postgraduate certificate of education, as many Gaelic-speaking graduates will decide on teaching after their degree rather than before it. Funded Gaelic-immersion courses must be made available to new graduates, and training colleges should admit all qualified applicants. New teachers are inclined to stay and teach Gaelic-medium education in the central belt, however, and the Highlands and Islands find it difficult to attract young graduates to remoter areas.

The second source of teacher recruitment is Gaelic-speaking teachers who are currently teaching English medium. That is particularly the case in the Highlands and Islands. Such teachers would be willing to make the change if they could do the conversion course at home. I know from talking to Highland Council that that is perfectly feasible. The facilities exist, but we need a funding stream for immersion courses. As a result, I ask the Executive to consider this suggestion as a small investment that would pay large dividends. Although Highland Council will give teachers leave of absence to take on a Gaelic conversion course, not all local authorities do.

The third source is Gaelic speakers who are not teachers. As we are currently recruiting mature entrants into teaching, why can we not have specific advertisements for Gaelic-medium teachers now that training courses can be delivered in rural areas as well as in the cities? Jordanhill College is liaising with Lews Castle College to deliver Gaelic-medium training. What about Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and other learning centres throughout the Highlands? Greater flexibility in teacher training delivery would enable more people to access it.

I appreciate that the minister is new to her brief. I hope that she will be informed by the debate. Comunn na Gàidhlig's national policy document, which was submitted four years ago, has never received a reply. The ministerial advisory group on Gaelic will present its report next week. I hope that it will bear fruit. I also hope that it is a good omen that one of the signatories to my motion, Cathy Jamieson, is now Minister for Education and Young People. There is a lot that the Executive can do to change the funding and delivery structures and to lean on recalcitrant councils.

Last of all, I ask all the Gaelic speakers in the gallery who are not teachers to consider a change of career. We must ensure that when parents put their children into a Gaelic-medium nursery, there will also be a primary and secondary-level Gaelic-medium unit for them, to secure the future for the language.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 5:15 pm, 28th November 2001

Bruidhnidh mi sa Ghàidhlig aig an toiseach, agus an uair sin sa Bheurla. Fàilte ris na Ministearan ùra le cùram airson na Gàidhlig—'s e obair mhòr a th' aca, ma tha iad airson Gàidhlig a shàbhaladh.

Tha mi taingeal do Mhaureen Nic Ille Mhaoil airson a' chothrom seo airson deasbad air ceist chudromach: Dè a-nis airson na Gàidhlig? Agus dè a-nis airson foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig?

Anns na bliadhnaichean a dh'fhalbh, bha clann na Gaidhealtachd a' bruidhinn na Gàidhlig, ged a bha na tidsearan a' bruidhinn na Beurla, ged a bha a' Ghàidhlig an aghaidh nan riaghailtean. Ach anns an linn seo, linn an fhoghlaim, agus linn nam meadhanan, bàsaichidh a' Ghàidhlig mura faigh i cuideachadh bhon stàite agus àite ann am foghlam. Tha foghlam tro mheadhan na Beurla a' faighinn a' chuideachaidh sin mar-thà.

Mar a bhios fios aig a h-uile duine ciallach, feumaidh barrachd chloinne a bhith bruidhinn Gàidhlig. An-diugh tha 's dòcha timcheall seachd mìle duine cloinne a' dèanamh sin. Chan eil iad uile anns na sgoiltean Gàidhlig. Chan eil ach mìle, ochd ceud trì fichead agus a dhà ann an aonadan Gàidhlig—dìreach ceud nas motha na bh' ann ceithir bliadhna air ais. Ged a bha foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig a' fàs gu luath còig no deich bliadhna air ais, chan eil e a' fàs an-diugh.

Ann an Alba an-diugh, chan eil foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig a' fàs cho luath 's a tha na seann Ghaidheil a' bàsachadh.

Tha mi duilich—'s dòcha nach e sin an dòigh is fheàrr air a chur—ach sin mar a tha e. Ach—agus seo an rud a tha cudromach—chan eil adhbhar sam bith carson nach urrainn dhuinne rudeigin a dhèanamh airson sin atharrachadh. Aig deireadh an làtha, tha a' Ghàidhlig mar phàirt dhen chùram againne anns a' Phàrlamaid seo.

Bidh pàrantan a' sgrìobhadh thugam fad an t-siubhail, ag ràdh gu bheil iad a' lorg àite ann an aonad Gàidhlig airson a' chloinn aca. Ach chan eil na tidsearan ann. Fiù 's ann an colaistean nan tidsear—Cnoc Iòrdan agus Caisteal Leòdhais—chan eil ach dòrlach oileanach a' dèanamh chùrsaichean.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

I welcome the new ministers with responsibility for Gaelic.

I am grateful to Maureen Macmillan for this opportunity to have a debate on an important question: where now for Gaelic and, specifically, where now for Gaelic-medium education? In years gone by, Highland children spoke Gaelic even though their teachers spoke English, even though Gaelic was against the rules, but in this age of mass education and mass media, Gaelic will die without some state assistance and without a place in education. English-medium education gets that assistance as it is.

As every sensible person knows, more children need to speak Gaelic. Today, there are perhaps 7,000 children who can speak it. They are not all in Gaelic schools, though. There are only 1,862 in Gaelic units, which is only 100 more than there were four years ago. Although Gaelic-medium education may have been growing quickly five or 10 years ago, it is not growing today. In Scotland today, Gaelic-medium education is not growing at the rate at which old Gaelic speakers are dying. I am sorry—that may not be a nice way to put it, but that is how it is. However—and this is the important bit—there is no reason why we cannot do something to change that situation. At the end of the day, Gaelic is the responsibility of the Parliament.

Parents are always writing to me, saying that they are struggling to find a place in a Gaelic unit for their children. The problem is the shortage of teachers. In the teacher training colleges such as Jordanhill College and Lews Castle College, only a handful of students are doing courses that lead to qualifications to teach in Gaelic.

The member continued in English.

The burden of the argument is not that nothing is being done, but that not enough is being done. The reality that we must face and be honest about is the fact that Gaelic is dying. As I just said, Gaelic is unfortunately dying because Gaels are dying and we are not bringing forward a new generation of Gaels who can speak the language and enliven the culture.

Over the past two days, I have held a number of conversations with senior individuals in the Gaelic world who were prepared to say, privately, that Gaelic was better off under Westminster—what an indictment of this Parliament.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

No, not under the Conservatives; under Westminster. For once in my life, I pay tribute to Brian Wilson

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

It will definitely not become a habit. Even Brian Wilson was called the minister with responsibility for education and Gaelic, yet after two and a half years of this Parliament we still have no minister for Gaelic. How can things be getting better if there is no minister for Gaelic?

I welcome the new minister, although Gaelic is not in the responsibilities listed in her title, and I hope that she will work hard for Gaelic. I also pay tribute to Alasdair Morrison. He and I have fought on many occasions in this chamber, and sometimes outside it.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Metaphorically speaking.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Metaphorically speaking, as Mr Wilson says—although not entirely. However, despite the fact that I have questioned many things about him and many of the things he has said, I have never questioned his commitment to the language. Without a commitment to the language in the Parliament and the Administration, Gaelic will die. That is the real task that the minister faces. What she is taking on, as part of her wide brief, is nothing less than responsibility for the future of the language.

There are young people in the public gallery today who are in Gaelic-medium schools. The budget that exists for Gaelic-medium education is static and, as the Education, Culture and Sport Committee discovered, it will not rise in the next three years. Gaelic is dying and we have to do something about it "without further delay", to quote the motion. This debate must be the last debate on this subject and there must now be action. The responsibility for that lies with the minister.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour 5:21 pm, 28th November 2001

Tapadh leat. Tha mi toilichte dha-rìribh cothrom fhaighinn pàirt a ghabhail anns an deasbad seo. Is e a' chiad rud a bu toigh leam a dhèanamh meal-an-naidheachd a chur air mo bhana-charaid Elaine Mhoireach. Tha mi a' guidhe gach soirbheachadh dhi anns an dreuchd ùir aice, chan e a-mhàin a thaobh na Gàidhlig ach anns na cuspairean eile. Tha mi toilichte a ràdh—agus bhiodh i a' dùileachadh seo co-dhiù—gum bi mise a' toirt m' uile thaic dhi anns na mìosan agus na bliadhnaichean a tha romhainn.

Bu toigh leam dìreach puing no dhà a thogail air na thuirt a' bhean-phòsta Nic Ille Mhaoil. Tha mise ag aontachadh gu bheil staing ann a thaobh gainnead luchd-teagaisg, ach feumaidh sinn aithneachadh gu bheil adhartas air tachairt. Mhìnich a' bhean-phòsta Nic Ille Mhaoil mar a tha foghlam Gàidhlig air leudachadh thairis na bliadhnaichean a dh'fhalbh. Tha an-diugh 60 sgoil Ghàidhlig ann. Tha mise ag iarraidh gum bi 60 sgoil Ghàdhlig eile ann anns na bliadhnaichean ri teachd. Thathar a' dèanamh adhartais.

Tha mi dìreach ag iarraidh freagairt a thoirt dhan phuing a thog Mìcheal Russell gu robh a' Ghàidhlig nas fheàrr fo Westminster na tha i fo sgiath na Pàrlamaid seo. Chan eil sin fìor. Rinnear adhartas mòr ann an 1997 nuair a bha Brian MacUilleim na mhinistear airson foghlam agus Gaìdhlig. Bha Calum Dòmhnallach anns an dreuchd às a dhèidh. Chaidh a' Phàrlamaid seo a stèidheachadh agus bha mise an uair sin anns an dreuchd. Tha mo bhana-charaid Elaine Mhoireach a-nis san dreuchd sin.

Rinnear adhartas mòr anns na bliadhnaichean sin, ach an-diugh bheiribh sùil air cia mheud ministear a tha a' suidhe an seo an-diugh. Tha Elaine Mhoireach ann. Fad bhliadhnaichean, bha Peadar Peacock, a tha na shuidhe an siud, ag obair às leth na Gàidhlig air Comhairle na Gaidhealtachd. O chionn bhliadhna, bha mo charaid Ailean MacUilleam gu math taiceil dhòmhsa san dreuchd agus sinn ag obair gu dlùth 's faisg air a chèile a thaobh na Gàidhlig.

Tha Lewis Dòmhnallach na Ghaidheal eile a tha na mo charaid. Tha e taiceil agus tha e a' dearbhadh sin le bhith a' cur an nighean òg aige dhan aonad Ghàidhlig ann am baile Obar-Dheathain. Tha mi a' cur fàilte air oir bidh e cuideachd a' coimhead às dèidh chùisean air Ghaidhealtachd le Iomairt na Gaidhealtachd agus nan Eilean. Tha mi a' guidhe gach soirbheachadh do mhaighistir Dòmhnallach.

A bharrachd air sin, tha tèile an seo a tha taiceil dhan Ghàidhlig 's a chaidh cuideachd a h-ainmeachadh mar Mhinistear an Fhoghlaim agus Daoine Òga, Cathy Jamieson. Nist, mur eil dearbhadh gu bheil an t-àite seo taiceil 's gu bheil am pàrtaidh againn taiceil dhan Ghàidhlig chan eil fhios agam dè eile a dh'fheumas sinn a dhèanamh.

Ach anns na mionaidean a tha romham, bu toigh leam dìreach a ràdh gu bheil mi cuideachd a' toirt fiathachadh do Elaine Mhoireach tighinn dha na h-Eileanan Siar a dh'fhaicinn dhi fhèin coimhearsnachd Gàidhlig, sgoiltean Gàidhlig agus, a-niste, colaiste ag obair còmhla ri Oilthigh Shrathchluaidh, a tha a' cur cùrsa air chois far an urrainn luchd-teagaisg a-nist a bhith air an trèanadh airson pàirt den ùine anns a' cholaiste agus cuideachd air tìr-mòr. Tha sin gu bhith air a leudachadh a-mach, le taic bhon Riaghaltas againn, gus am bi an cùrsa sin air a theagasg làn-ùine anns na h-Eileanan Siar. Bhithinn cuideachd a' sùileachadh gum biodh sin an uairsin air a sgaoileadh a-mach gu colaistean eile a tha fo sgiath oilthigh na Gaidhealtachd.

Tha mi cuideachd a' cantainn ris a' mhinistear ùr gum feum i obrachadh—bidh i a' dèanamh sin co-dhiù—leis na ministearan eile, gu sònraichte Peadar Peacock. Tha sinn cuideachd fortanach gur e Leas-mhinistear an Ionmhais agus Seirbhisean Poblach. Mar a tha fios aig a h-uile duine againn, tha Peadar eòlach air gnothaichean agus cùisean agus deasbadan co-cheangailte ri cuspair sam bith ann an Riaghaltas a tha a' bualadh air ionmhas. Tha fios agam gum bi Elaine Mhoireach agus Peadar ag obair gu dlùth le chèile.

Bheirinn aon rabhadh dhan mhinistear ùr agus is e comhairle a th' ann cuideachd. Tha taic gu leòr bho luchd-poileataics anns a' Phàrlamaid, ach feumaidh sinn dèanamh cinnteach gu bheil an aon taic a th' againn anns an raon phoileataigeach cuideachd a-measg oifigearan an Riaghaltais. Anns na mìosan agus na bliadhnaichean a tha ri teachd, tha mi an dòchas gum bi an taic sin a cheart cho follaiseach taobh a-staigh oifisean an Riaghaltais.

Tha seachdain mhòr romhainn mar Ghàidheil far a bheil co-dhùnaidhean agus ceum eile gan gabhail a thaobh cruthachadh buidheann leasachaidh airson na Gàidhlig. Bithear a' gabhail ceumannan ro dheireadh na bliadhna agus, còmhla ri na ministearan eile, tha mi làn chinnteach gum bi mo bhana-charaid Elaine Mhoireach a' dèanamh adhartais an sin. Bidh mi a' coimhead air adhart ri bhith ag èisteachd ris na co-dhùnaidhean aice mu dheidhinn a' bhuidheann sin, oir tha e gu sònraichte cudthromach gun tèid a' bhuidheann ùr a chruthachadh anns an dòigh anns an tèid a mhìneachadh le maighstir Peacock aig coinneamhan.

A thaobh a' mholaidh, tha foghlam Gàidhlig bunaiteach airson nan Gaidheal. Tha e bunaiteach airson cànan sam bith. Tha e mar aon de na prionnsabalan air am feum sinn a bhith a' togail. Is e fear de na bunaitean cudthromach a th' ann. Tha fios agam gu bheil ministearan ann a tha làn thaiceil agus gu bheil taic ann bho bhuill phàrlamaid bho gach pàrtaidh—fiù 's bhon phàrtaidh aig Mìcheal Russell. Chan ann tric a bhios mise ag aontachadh ri Mìcheal Russell. Chan urrainn dhomh smaoineachadh air aon chuspair air am bi mi ag aontachadh leis ach, a thaobh na Gàidhlig, cha mhòr nach eil sinn air an aon ràmh. Leis na faclan sin, bu toigh leam a bhith a' guidhe gach soirbheachadh dhan mhinistear ùr. Tha fios aice fhèin a-nis dè an obair a tha roimhpe.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak in today's debate. I congratulate Elaine Murray and I wish her every success in her new post, with regard not only to Gaelic but to everything else in her remit. I know that she will expect me to offer my support in the months and years ahead and I will be glad to do so.

I agree with Maureen Macmillan that there is a problem with the supply of teachers, but we should recognise that there have been developments. As Maureen Macmillan suggested, Gaelic-medium education is developing. We have 60 Gaelic-medium schools in Scotland and, in a few years' time, I want there to be another 60.

Michael Russell suggested that Gaelic did better under Westminster rule that it has done under the Scottish Parliament. That is not true. We have made great developments. Brian Wilson was the minister with responsibility for Gaelic and Calum Macdonald was giving assistance. I was the Scottish minister with responsibility for Gaelic and now my friend Elaine Murray is. Observe the members sitting here today. Peter Peacock spent years working on Gaelic in the Highlands. Allan Wilson and I have worked together on Gaelic. Another Gael, Lewis Macdonald, is not only supportive of the language but sends his daughter to a Gaelic-medium unit in Aberdeen. He will work with Highlands and Islands Enterprise on issues relating to the Gaidhealtachd. I wish him every success in his new post. Cathy Jamieson, the Minister for Education and Young People, is also supportive of Gaelic. If that list does not demonstrate that this party supports Gaelic, I do not know what does.

I invite Elaine Murray to the Western Isles to see the Gaelic community and schools there. She can also see a college that is working with the University of Strathclyde to develop a postgraduate Gaelic teaching course. The Executive will help that to develop and it will shortly operate as a full-time course. We hope that the course will spread to other colleges under the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The new minister will be working with other ministers, especially Peter Peacock, who is familiar with matters relevant to this debate. We are fortunate that he is the Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Services as any question of Government policy ultimately comes down to finance.

There is much support in the Scottish Parliament for Gaelic, but we have to ensure that that support is reflected in the Scottish Executive. I hope that that support will be apparent in the months and years ahead.

We have a big week ahead of us. Steps will be taken with regard to the Gaelic development agency before the end of the year. I am sure that Elaine Murray will make progress on that. I would like to hear her conclusions about that group. It is important that the group be set up in the way that has been suggested at previous meetings.

Gaelic education is fundamental for the Gaels. For any language, education in that language is fundamental. There are principles on which we must build. I know that there are ministers who are fully supportive. Even Michael Russell is fully supportive. It is not often that I agree with Michael Russell. I cannot think of one subject on which we agree, except on Gaelic.

I wish Elaine Murray every success. She now knows what work is ahead of her.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat 5:26 pm, 28th November 2001

Tha mi fhèin a' cur fàilte air a' mhinistear ùr, Elaine Mhoireach, agus tha mi an dòchas gum bi i a' toirt taice dhan Ghàidhlig airson iomadach bliadhna.

Tha àite sònraichte aig a' Ghàidhlig ann an Alba. Bhathar ga labhairt an seo bho chaidh eachdraidh a chlàradh an toiseach. Tha beartas a dualchais agus a cultair air a bhith na mheadhan dealbhaidh air fèin-aithne na dùthcha an-diugh. Bu chòir do phoileasaidh air foghlam Gàidhlig seo a nochdadh cho math ris a' bhuaidh a bha aig linntean a dh'fhalbh.

Bho chionn beagan bhliadhnaichean tha ath-bheothachadh air tighinn air a' Ghàidhlig a tha na adhbhar misneachd dhan a h-uile duine. Tha bàidh phàrantan dhan chànan, taic phoileataigeach eadar na pàrtaidhean agus barrachd maoin o bhuidhnean poblach nan comharran air an seo. Is e an t-amas a tha aig "Innleachd airson Adhartais" togail air na leasachaidhean a rinneadh thuige seo agus structar a chruthachadh air ìre nàiseanta a bhios na chuideachadh airson a bhith cinnteach gun cùm a' chùis a' fàs.

Tha foghlam Gàidhlig agus foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig cudthromach bhon ìre fo aois sgoile gu àrd ìre. Mar sin, bu chòir gum biodh e na phrìomh amas den phoileasaidh nàiseanta dèanamh cinnteach gu bheil raon farsaing de roghainnean rim faotainn ann am foghaim Gàidhlig agus foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig.

Ged a tha a h-uile taobh de dh'fhoghlam Gàidhlig cudthromach, thathar a' gabhail ris gu bheil àite sònraichte aig foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig agus gum bu chòir am prìomh àite a bhith aig an seo. Bu chòir gum faicear e mar shiostam leantalach on ìre fo aois sgoile gu àrd ìre.

Tha cuid de cholaistean, de dh'aonadan luchd-teagaisg agus de roinnean Ceiltis oilthighean a' tairgsinn chlasaichean ann an Gàidhlig do luchd-ionnsachaidh agus do dh'fhileantaich. Tha an solar seo a' cur ris an àireamh de luchd-labhairt litearra na Gàidhlig aig a bheil comas air obair a ghabhail ann an Gàidhlig 's ann am foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig agus bu chòir misneachd a thoirt airson a leudachadh.

Tha na h-ionadan sin cuideachd a' toirt trèanaidh a tha ag ullachadh nan oileanach, gu dìreach no gu neo-dhìreach, airson obraichean ann an teagasg Gàidhlig agus tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig bho ìre fo aois sgoile gu àrd ìre, ann am foghlam coimhearsnachd, craoladh Gàidhlig agus airson na ministrealachd.

Tha an sòlar seo na phàirt chudthromach den bhun-structar airson leasachadh a leanas ann am foghlam Gàidhlig san fharsaingeachd agus bu chòir cumail a' toirt taice dha.

Tha trèanadh luchd-teagaisg a' cur feum air aire shònraichte. Gu h-àraidh, tha gainne luchd-teagaisg tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig a' cur luathas adhartais ann an cunnart agus feumar an àireamh a chothromachadh leis an iarrtas cho luath 's a ghabhas. A bharrachd air sin, feumaidh trèanadh luchd-teagaisg a bhith a rèir nam feumalachdan aig foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig. Bu chòir gun còmhdaicheadh seo teagasg ann an Gàidhlig agus na prìomh sgilean co-cheangailte ri teagasg tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig. Tha mise a' dèanamh dheth gu bheil uallach air buidhnean proifeiseanta mar an GTC aithne a thoirt do chùrsaichean mar sin an car teisteanais.

Cha leig mi a leas do dhuine sam bith a-staigh an seo ach thathar a' moladh gur e comataidh nàiseanta air foghlam Gàidhlig, le taic on lagh a' toirt inbhe thèarainte dhan Ghàidhlig, an dòigh as fheàrr air seo a thoirt gu buil. Is e ceist eile a tha sin agus tha mi an dòchas gun tachair sin ann an ùine nach bi fada. Airson crìoch a chur air gnothach, bhithinn airson cantainn nach e strì a tha a dhìth oirnn ach adhartas. Mòran taing.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

I, too, welcome the new minister, Elaine Murray.

I hope that she will assist Gaelic for many years.

Gaelic has an important place in Scotland. The culture and heritage of Scotland are rich. A policy on Gaelic education is needed. The Gaelic renaissance that has begun in the past few years is encouraging for all of us. Parental and cross-party support exists for Gaelic-medium education. The support that we find in public bodies is also indicative of the renaissance.

We must build on the developments that have come our way and create a structure at a national level that will assist in ensuring that Gaelic continues to grow. We need a framework for growth. Gaelic-medium education is important at every level, from pre-school to secondary school. We wish there to be a national policy for Gaelic so that Gaelic-medium education is successful.

Every level of education is important and Gaelic-medium education is important. We believe that it should have a central place. It should continue from pre-school to secondary school. Some teacher-training colleges and Celtic departments offer Gaelic classes to learners and fluent speakers. That provision adds to the number of people who are able to do jobs in Gaelic. We should encourage the development of that sector.

We want not only Gaelic teaching posts; we also want Gaelic jobs in community education, the media and the church. Such provision is an important part of the structure for Gaelic and we should give every support to it. Teacher training needs close attention. The shortage of teachers puts Gaelic-medium education in a critical state.

We must get more teachers as soon as possible. In addition, the training of teachers must be in accordance with the needs of Gaelic-medium education. They should be taught the main teaching skills and the main skills needed for Gaelic-medium teaching. The General Teaching Council for Scotland should be involved in that. I do not have to tell anyone here that a national committee for Gaelic education with legal support for secure status for Gaelic has been proposed as the best way to bring that to fruition. That is another question, but I hope that that security for Gaelic will happen in the near future.

It is not that we need to keep campaigning; it is that we need to make progress.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I have been very generous with times for the Gaelic speakers. I would be grateful if the three members who have still to speak could keep their speeches to about three or four minutes.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative 5:31 pm, 28th November 2001

I commend Maureen Macmillan for bringing this debate to the chamber. The Scottish Conservatives have always been supportive of Gaelic. The Conservatives inherited a situation in which Gaelic was dying, but they kick-started the recovery and an industry of broadcasting and information technology that has flourished. Alasdair Morrison said in Parliament in 2000:

"Eighteen years ago, a bright new sun shone on Gaelic education."—[Official Report, 2 March 2000; Vol 05, c 390.]

I took that as one of his rare compliments to the Tories.

The sky has now clouded over somewhat and further inspiration is vitally needed to reinvigorate Gaelic, which is a central plank of Scottish heritage and culture—that rich culture of poetry and music so ably demonstrated by Duncan Macintyre of old and Sorley MacLean more recently.

As I have said before, protecting and promoting Gaelic means protecting and promoting the people whence the language comes. The prediction that the population of the Western Isles will fall by 14 per cent over the next 10 years must ring alarm bells in the Gaelic camp. The Scottish Executive must do more to reinvigorate the primary industries of farming, fishing and tourism.

If the Gaelic language is to survive, the young must be taught; we will need more new teachers to ensure that that happens. Scottish parents should have the right to choose Gaelic-medium education for their children. Gone, thankfully, are the days at the turn of the previous century when children were banned for speaking Gaelic in the playground. We have made progress.

In 1993, there were only 60 teachers in primary Gaelic posts; now, there are 150—but that is still not enough. The figures for secondary schools, where only 54 teachers exist, are now really critical. That is borne out by the fact that the number of Gaelic-medium primary pupils in the 60 units that exist in 2001 is 1,860, while the number of secondary pupils in the 14 units that exist is a meagre 300.

On 7 February 2000, the Deputy Minister for Children and Education, Peter Peacock, acknowledged the need to increase the number of Gaelic-medium teachers by 150 in the next seven years. I hope that Mike Watson, or our new minister with responsibility for Gaelic—whoever he or she is, perhaps Elaine Murray—will agree with what Peter Peacock said then and do something about it.

Language experts say that if a language is spoken by fewer than 50,000 people it will die. We are perilously close to that figure now. Before the language dies, the major problem must be addressed. Gaelic teacher training must be made more available in the areas where Gaelic is still spoken. At present, it is easy enough to do a course in Gaelic learning—at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Lews Castle College or other educational establishments in the Highlands and Islands—but if someone wants to get a teacher's training certificate, they must spend two to three years either at the Jordanhill campus of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow or at Northern College in Aberdeen. I might add that such courses are not available in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city, which seems absurd.

The lack of local facilities makes Gaelic teacher training extremely difficult for men and women with families and commitments at home. I call on the Scottish Executive to provide valid Gaelic teacher training courses in the Gaelic communities, based on existing further education centres such as Lews Castle College and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and perhaps on branches of the University of the Highlands and Islands such as Argyll College near Oban. I see no reason, with distance learning and online facilities becoming more prevalent and accessible, why the main language part of such courses could not be done at the UHI information technology outlets in such places as Barra and Tiree.

In the past, a great deal has been done through the scheme of specific grants for Gaelic, which was started by the Conservatives. That work must be built on to draw up a national strategy for Gaelic-medium education, in which the Executive, local authorities, parents and other interested groups would all have an input.

I would like the Executive to consider what is done in the Basque country. The methods used to promote the minority language there have been very good.

Comunn na Gàidhlig's framework was drawn up four years ago. Why has there been no formal response to it by the Executive? That framework should now be updated to help produce a national policy for Gaelic. There is a great urgency for plans to be put in place now if there is to be any significant increase in the number of Gaelic speakers in the future.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour 5:35 pm, 28th November 2001

Bu toigh leam beagan a ràdh às leth na Gàidhlig—ach ann am Beurla, tha mi duilich.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

I would like to say one or two things about Gaelic, but I am afraid that it will be in English.

The member continued in English.

Before the interpreters go apoplectic, that was my only sentence in Gaelic.

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

I was trying to say that I would like to say a little in support of Gaelic, but in English, I am sorry to say. Without making a habit of it, I join my colleague Alasdair Morrison in paying tribute to Michael Russell for having the courage to deliver at least three quarters of his speech in Gaelic, which I do not think I could do.

I sympathise with Maureen Macmillan's position. Like many Scots, I am a second-generation Gael, born in the Highlands but now living in the central belt, with no Gaelic to speak of. That is despite the fact that I am the son of a Gaelic speaker and my father is the chairman of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on Skye.

I welcome the debate, because the key to the long-term success of the current revival of the language is education and, in particular, the expansion of Gaelic-medium provision. That cannot be achieved until we resolve the chronic shortage of Gaelic-medium teachers, which has resulted in a serious slowing down in the rate of growth of the number of Gaelic-medium schools or units within schools, which are necessary to change the age profile of Gaelic speakers and to ensure a self-sustaining state for the language.

Currently, about 2,000 children are in Gaelic-medium primary and secondary education. It has been estimated that we need to increase that number fivefold to maintain the current population of Gaelic speakers, let alone reverse the decline. That underlines the nature of the crisis and the need for urgent action to speed up the pace of development.

The first requirement is an immediate, intensified recruitment drive. The Scottish Executive's intention to train 150 Gaelic-medium teachers over the next seven years is very welcome, but almost certainly underestimates the need. The priority entry to teacher education courses of 30 to 35 Gaelic-speaking students a year until supply and demand are in balance would be nearer the mark.

Fundamental changes need to be made to the initial training arrangements, in student selection, course design, certification by the General Teaching Council for Scotland and the organisation of the provision offered. Those essential reforms are set out in the GTC's report, and must be implemented speedily as part of a realistic programme of teacher recruitment and training.

The most important and immediate requirement is the appointment of an individual to write and develop a course to meet the skills that are required in the Gaelic-medium classroom. That individual could work with a steering committee representing the major interests in the Gaelic-medium education sector As was also recommended in the GTC report, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, as the only Gaelic-medium college, should have a central role to play in the programme. However, the stark fact is that the present system of formula funding, which is based on the number of students, does not do justice to the varied roles that a small college such as SMO plays. That poses a real threat to the college's continued existence. Today, the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee heard evidence about that from the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It is essential to address that and to devise a more appropriate funding mechanism to secure the college's long-term viability.

If we are to use current mechanisms, the best way forward is through recognising the college as a national centre of excellence, with integrated funding and taking into account its many functions. Such a step would build on our commitment in the programme for government, which noted the key role played by the college in maintaining Gaelic and Gaelic culture as an integral part of our national identity.

The Scottish Executive must reaffirm its commitment to the revitalisation of Gaelic by putting in place a national policy that brings together the essential elements of provision and funding. It must start by increasing investment in Gaelic-medium education.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative 5:39 pm, 28th November 2001

I welcome the new Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Elaine Murray, to the chamber and I look forward to hearing her response to the debate. I also welcome the opportunity that Maureen Macmillan has given us today by securing the debate.

I had intended to attend just to listen intently, in my capacity as Conservative spokesman on education, but I was moved to speak by what I heard Mike Russell say. After five minutes, I felt that he had made a lot of platitudes without saying what, fundamentally, he believes should be done.

Unlike Mike Russell, Ken Macintosh—with whom I rarely, if ever, agree—made an able contribution to the debate, because he offered options and actions, which is what the debate needs. For too long, we have talked about what needs to be done, but achieved little.

One does not have to be a Gaelic speaker to support the Gaelic language—we know that. A minister does not have to have the title "Minister for Gaelic" to support the Gaelic language. Those facts have been demonstrated, both during the debate and in the past.

Mike Russell says that Westminster was better than the Scottish Parliament. I am sorry to disagree, but Westminster was partly responsible for the decline of the Gaelic language. If he does not believe that, I do not understand why he is a member of the SNP.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

I will not take an intervention—I do not have enough time.

When it comes down to it, only one member—Michael Bruce Forsyth—provided additional spending and took additional action. He did not have the title "Minister for Gaelic", nor did he have any relationship with Gaelic, but he believed that it was quite proper that more should be done to save the Gaelic language and he was right.

We need action, not words. I have looked at John Farquhar Munro's member's bill, which I applaud. I cannot yet support his bill, because I cannot see the detail that is necessary for my support. However, I would like to support the bill and I look forward to the debate that we will have on it, so that we can find a way to support it.

I know that we need more Gaelic teachers. We must find mechanisms to allow people who have Gaelic ability to get out and teach. We must remove the regulations that are in their way. That is what MSPs should be doing.

We find challenge funding and all kinds of funding all over the place. How can we find ways of funding Gaelic-medium education and Gaelic units? If we can fund community schools—and what is the Gaidhealtachd if it is not a community?—we can fund more places and more teaching in Gaelic. That is what we must do.

As a Conservative, I say that Gaelic-medium education is not a party-political issue. This debate is about saving a dear part of our culture. We need action, not platitudes or words. I applaud Ken Macintosh's speech and I look forward to the minister's speech. Let us move on from posturing or saying, "Gaelic is great. We all support it." Let us have practical and workable proposals that can be costed. Then we will be truly able to support and save the Gaelic language.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour 5:43 pm, 28th November 2001

I thank members for their kind wishes.

I start with two apologies. First, I have been Deputy Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport for less than 25 hours and may not yet be quite up to speed with the issues. Secondly, I am not able to contribute in what was undoubtedly the language of some of my forebears. Like many Scots, I have lost that part of our culture, but the Executive is considering how people can regain it.

I welcome the debate, which was initiated by my colleague Maureen Macmillan. I am well aware of her hard work as chairman of the cross-party group on Gaelic. She has done a great deal to promote interest in the language. I also pay tribute to Alasdair Morrison's work as minister for Gaelic.

Education through the medium of Gaelic began as recently as 15 years ago, but it has been a success story and has helped the language's prospects. Maureen Macmillan's motion covered three main issues, which I will deal with in turn.

The first issue is teacher supply, which was referred to by a number of speakers, including Mike Russell, Maureen Macmillan and Ken Macintosh. I am happy to look into some of the suggestions made by members. For some years, the University of Strathclyde has taken five or six Gaelic-speaking candidates on to its post-graduate certificate in education course, and the total number of Gaelic-medium teachers who qualify in primary education has averaged at around 12.

However, when the Scottish Executive asked local authorities how many Gaelic-medium teachers they would need for primary schools over the next seven years, the answer was that they would probably need around 20 a year to replace retiring teachers. That is considered by some to be an underestimate and, from Ken Macintosh's comments, he is probably among them. The teacher work force planning exercise is conducted annually. Local authorities are once again being asked to identify their need for Gaelic-medium teachers.

The Executive has advised the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council that Gaelic-medium teaching should be regarded as a priority subject. As a result of that pressure, the funding council concluded that the guidance was not sufficient and allocated additional funding for 10 places at the University of Strathclyde for Gaelic-medium teaching. This year, the University of Strathclyde has taken 12 Gaelic-speaking candidates on to its PGCE course. Across Scotland, 24 Gaelic-medium primary teachers are expected to graduate at the end of the current academic year. That means that the number of Gaelic-medium teachers who come out of the system will have doubled.

The Executive has also provided funding for education authorities to enable Gaelic-speaking teachers to train for Gaelic-medium education. We have set up a website with important information that is available in Gaelic. I am confident that those measures will help to tackle the demand for Gaelic-medium teachers. The measures will need to be maintained for a few years so that we can overcome the backlog to which several members referred.

On initial teacher education for Gaelic-medium teachers, it is not only the numbers of entrants but the quality of the education that is of concern. The GTC report "Teaching in Gaelic-medium Education—Recommendations for Change", to which Ken Macintosh referred, reviewed the training of Gaelic-medium teachers and made recommendations on courses, on student selection and on teacher qualifications. The report also identified a number of possible options for the teacher education institutions to implement developments in Gaelic-medium teacher education. The Executive welcomed the publication of the report. I am sure that the GTC and the teacher education institutes will push to put the recommendations into operation.

In 1997, the Gaelic education group saw a need to strengthen confidence in the future of Gaelic-medium education. Its report called for a national committee on Gaelic education to co-ordinate planning and, as has been mentioned, for a statutory right to Gaelic-medium education.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I appreciate what the minister says, but the Parliament had an opportunity, through an amendment to the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Bill that I lodged and which was supported by John Farquhar Munro, to establish in law the right to Gaelic-medium education. The amendment was voted down by the minister's colleagues. Also, the budget for Gaelic-medium education will be static for the next three years. I do not expect the minister to respond to that point, but will she make it her priority to find out whether that right can be provided in law. Without such a right, very little can be done.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I recall that the matter was raised, but I think that there was an issue about the competence of the amendment. Indeed, local authorities' views on the issue would also need to be discussed.

Michael Russell said that the budget is now static, but the truth is that the budget has been increased by £200,000 a year for the past four years and now amounts to £2.8 million. That is thanks to the work of people such as Alasdair Morrison and Peter Peacock. The number of schools and the number of pupils in Gaelic-medium education have increased, although I admit that the rate of increase has slowed down and needs to be looked at.

Peter Peacock and Alasdair Morrison concluded that a better system that was more responsive to parents' wishes was needed. The Executive has made provision for that through the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000, to which Maureen Macmillan referred. Education authorities are now required to include in their annual statement of improvement objectives what they are doing in Gaelic-medium education and what they plan to do. That gives a clear opportunity to parents and parents' organisations to express their views on the service to the education authorities. The first annual statements of improvement objectives are due by the end of this year.

I hope that all who are interested in Gaelic-medium education will take the opportunity to make their views known to their education authorities. Requests for Gaelic-medium education should be made in writing to the authority—in each academic year if that is required—and copied to the Scottish Executive education department.

I agree with Brian Monteith that one need not be a Gaelic speaker to support Gaelic. Gaelic is crucial not only to the Gaelic-speaking community but to us all. Scottish Gaelic is part of the cultural wealth and diversity of Europe.

The Executive has already taken steps to develop Gaelic-medium education. Teacher supply is being expanded. New consultation arrangements are in place. I inform Mike Russell that Gaelic has a place in the education system, which is becoming more and more capable of meeting the demand from parents and pupils for Gaelic-medium education. I will be happy to continue to discuss Gaelic-medium education with my colleagues in the education department as, obviously, it is a joint responsibility.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Tha sin a' toirt an deasbad gu crìch.

Following is the simultaneous interpretation:

That concludes the debate. I close this meeting of Parliament.

Meeting closed at 17:50.