Agendas, reports and minutes

Gaelic Implementation Group

Date: Thursday, 13 November 2014

Minutes: Read the Minutes

Minutes of Meeting of the Gaelic Implementation Group held in the Council Chamber, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Thursday 13 November 2014 at 10.30 am.


Mr C Macaulay
Mr D Fallows (Substitute)
Mr J McGillivray
Mr K MacLeod
Mr F Parr
Dr A Sinclair
Ms K Stephen

In attendance:

Mr J Steven, Head of Education, Care and Learning Service
Ms C McDiarmid, Head of Policy and Reform, Chief Executive’s Office
Mr K A Murray, Gaelic Development Manager, Chief Executive’s Office
Ms M A Macleod Mitchell, Gaelic Development Officer, Chief Executive’s Office
Miss J Maclennan, Principal Administrator, Corporate Development Service
Mrs F MacBain, Committee Administrator, Corporate Development Service

Also in attendance:

Professor B Robertson, Principal, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Mr D MacKenzie, Gaelic Development Officer, Skills Development Scotland
Mr D MacLeod, Gaelic Education Officer, Highland Council/Argyll & Bute Council

An asterisk in the margin denotes a recommendation to the Council.  All decisions with no marking in the margin are delegated to the Group.


In the absence of Mr H Fraser, in terms of Standing Order 11.1, the Group AGREED to appoint Mr K MacLeod, having being duly proposed and seconded, to preside as Chairman for the meeting.


1. Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr G Farlow, Mr C Fraser, Mr H Fraser, Mr J Gordon and Mrs M E Paterson.

2. Declarations of Interest

There were no Declarations of Interest.

3. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig – Presentation

Professor Boyd Robertson undertook a presentation providing an overview of the economic benefits of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (SMO).

In his presentation, Professor Robertson highlighted that SMO was a National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, providing a platform for linguistic, cultural, social and economic regeneration.  He explained the College’s mission and concentrated, in particular, on its economic impact both locally and nationally.  He provided information which detailed the number of posts employed (138 and 155 FTE within the Highlands and Islands and Scotland respectively) and the income generated (£3.5 and £3.9 million, again, within the Highlands and Islands and Scotland respectively).  The majority of employees lived in south Skye and the average earnings for jobs on campus were £26,700, notably higher than the Skye and Lochalsh average.  The local economy further benefited with around £385k being spent off site, mostly by students, events hosted at the College and bed nights for local hotels and Bed and Breakfast establishments and its success could be demonstrated by the fact that the population of Sleat had doubled since SMO opened in 1973.  The College had also been successful in attracting European Regional Development Funding for various projects, including the Fàs facility and Studio Ostaig, totally nearly £7m. 

Turning to the future, Professor Robertson outlined the plans for the Kilbeg development, a £41m project which would extend the college and provide up to 75 new housing units for mixed use, community sports and recreational facilities, a conference centre, hotel, café and retail and enterprise units.  This had already generated a substantial injection into the south Skye economy from spend associated with the capital expenditure of £6.2m on Phase 1 and, during the construction phase, the main contractor, Robertsons, and their sub-contractors had employed between 24 and 53 skilled tradesmen.  Over half of the jobs associated with Phase 1 at Kilbeg were based in the Highlands and Islands and 3 youth apprenticeships had been supported.  In addition, local jobs were being sustained at Sleat Community Trust by the College’s decision to source its biomass woodchip for the new 99kW boiler at Kilbeg through Tormore Forest.  This was as well as the College’s existing annual spend of £40k with the Trust in supplying woodchip fuel for the College’s 500kW boiler at Àrainn Chaluim Chille.

Members thanked Professor Robertson and, during discussion, welcomed the remarkable increase in population in Southern Skye as a direct result of SMO, as well as the economic benefits the college had brought to both the local and wider communities, with students from around the world enjoying its courses. Additional benefits included improvements to roads and transport links.

Sir Iain Noble, 3rd Baronet of Ardkinglas and Eilean Iarmain (8 September 1935 – 25 December 2010) was praised for his vision and role in founding SMO in 1973.  Some Members commented positively on time they had spent at SMO and urged others to sample one of the shorter Gaelic language courses, should the opportunity arise. It was confirmed that plans were underway to investigate the provision of a summer school, particularly once the conference centre had been completed, as well as the possibility of developing an outreach post in Inverness.  At present all UHI students could access SMO Gaelic courses via Video Conferencing, and currently over half of students were distance learners.

It was suggested that the paper produced by Highlands and Islands Enterprise regarding the economic impact of Gaelic and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the local economy be circulated to Members of the Group.  In particular, it addressed many of the arguments made by those who still opposed the funding of Gaelic initiatives.

The Group:-

i. NOTED the presentation; and
ii. AGREED that the paper produced by Highlands and Islands Enterprise regarding the economic impact of 
Gaelic and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the local economy be circulated to Members of the Group.

4. Gaelic Language Plan 2012-16, Theme 5 “What we will do for Gaelic in Economic Development" Implementation Report      

There had been circulated Report No GIG/18/14 dated 30 October 2014 by the Head of Policy and Reform providing the first update on the implementation of Gaelic Language Plan (GLP) 2012-16 Theme 5, “What we will do for Gaelic in Economic Development”. 

The Economic Development Theme had two strategic commitments, which were detailed in the report, and practical examples of how each of these was being met were provided.  The Scottish Traditional Music Awards and Celtic Media Festival were to be held in Inverness on 13 December 2014 and 22-14 April 2015 respectively, both events providing a high profile and multi-media platform for Gaelic and bringing significant economic benefits to the Council area.  In partnership with others, the Council would continue efforts to heighten the profile of Gaelic related careers and skills through initiatives which included Gaelic Career events, which had taken place on 31 October 2014 in Inverness, and the establishment of a Gaelic Employment and Skills Partnership. Work was being undertaken in conjunction with the Council’s Development and Infrastructure Service to encourage local businesses to provide Gaelic signage.

Members welcomed the work that was being undertaken but suggested that more should be done outwith Inverness, citing the Highland Folk Museum as an example of somewhere which would benefit from an increased Gaelic profile. In relation to smaller shops and businesses, it was confirmed that assistance could be provided with translations and audio recordings on request.

The Group AGREED:-

i. to welcome the Scottish Traditional Music Awards and the Celtic Media Festival being held in Inverness and to explore how to attract Gaelic-related high profile economically and culturally beneficial events, which might be hosted in Highland;
ii. to renewed activity and action on the Gaelic Employment and Skills Partnership and engagement with the Government’s Labour Market Intelligence specialists;
iii. to encourage the marketing of Gaelic Careers and Job Opportunities with the Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Skills Development Scotland and others; and
iv. to foster and develop the economic potential of partnerships including the Blas Festival, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, Fèis Rois and An Comunn Gàidhealach.

5. Royal National Mod Inverness 10-18 October 2014 – Initial Report on Delivery 

There had been circulated Report No GIG/19/14 dated 1 November 2014 by the Head of Policy and Reform providing an initial report on the partnership delivery around the Council’s hosting of the Royal National Mod in Inverness which took place between 10-18 October 2014.

Media coverage and comments had been positive and over 3,000 competitors had taken part with an additional 8,500 visitors to the area.  100 events had formed the largest ever Fringe Programme in Mod history and, consequently, the Mod was believed to have generated significant income for the local economy.  An Economic Impact Study was being prepared and the Council expected to receive a draft before the end of the year, with An Comunn Gàidhealach to make a presentation to the Group’s next meeting on 19 February 2014.  A summary of the high profile events which the Council had been directly involved with during the Mod was provided. 

During discussion, Members praised the competitors and referred to several Gold Medal winners. Eden Court was considered a good venue but it was pointed out that spectators had had to pay to enter each separate competition room, making it expensive for those viewing several competitions. With this in mind, it was requested that An Comunn Gàidhealach be asked to give consideration to a day pass or multi-competition ticket for future Mods. It was emphasised that the Fringe events had been an excellent tool to involve people not directly interested in the Gaelic language, as had the international shinty-hurling match.

Having commended the success of the Inverness Royal National Mòd and Fringe, the Group AGREED that the Chief Executive of An Comunn Gàidhealach present the recommendations and findings of the Economic Impact Study to the Gaelic Implementation Group on 19 February 2015.

6. Gaelic Language Plan 2012-16 Theme 2 “What we will do for Gaelic in Education" Implementation Report    
There had been circulated Report No GIG/20/14 dated 30 October 2014 by the Head of Education providing an update on the implementation of Gaelic Language Plan (GLP) 2012-16 Theme 2, “What we will do for Gaelic in Education”. 

The report provided information on a wide range of local and national level initiatives across the five strategic aims contained in Theme 2, in addition to statistics illustrating Gaelic Education provision in Highland for 2013/14 and the national picture for the same period.  Members were reminded that the Council’s website contained an online map to show parents, and parents who might be considering moving to Highland, the locations where the Council provided Nursery, Primary and Secondary Gaelic Education.

Members were introduced to Mr D MacLeod, the Gaelic Education Officer shared between Highland and Argyll & Bute Councils, whose role was to support pupils and teachers in both areas. Various projects from the report were highlighted as follows:-

  • £50k of funding had been received from the Scottish Government to support Gaelic Medium Education (GME) in 5 locations across Scotland, 2 of which were in Highland;
  • a survey of teachers in Highland had produced around 600 responses, of which 30 had expressed a willingness to undertake training for Gaelic Language in Primary Schools and almost 60 had indicated an interest in teaching through the medium of Gaelic.  Work was to be undertaken to identify and contact those teachers;
  • there were now 25 Gaelic Pre-school voluntary groups providing early years contact for around 300 children;
  • work was ongoing on the new Gaelic school in Portree, which was due for completion in 2017, and in Fort William, where the new school was due to open on 5 August 2014;
  • a 3-18 campus was being constructed in Tain; and
  • Gaelic Education Statistics for 2013-14 were due shortly but officers were pleased to report that there had been a significant increase in P1 entries.

During discussion, Members welcomed the update and praised the turnaround in GME.  It was important to encourage parental uptake of Gaelic and the support available to parents was summarised.  Reference was made to the benefits of bi-lingualism in general and to a recent project which had involved GME pupils visiting a Care Home to speak in Gaelic to residents for whom Gaelic had been their mother tongue.

The Group AGREED:-

i. to early engagement with Bòrd na Gàidhlig regarding the national marketing initiative that included two areas in Highland, namely Dingwall and Tain;
ii. to take urgent action with Bòrd na Gàidhlig to address staffing issues in the Pre-school sector;
iii. to the updating and publication of all the Gaelic Education statistical data and the Online Gaelic Education Map, when the School Census figures are made available; and
iv. agree to further scrutiny of the All Teacher Survey data to identify the opportunities for sourcing Gaelic teachers within the Highland teacher population. 

7. Skills Development Scotland – Presentation
Mr Derek MacKenzie, Gaelic Development Officer, undertook a presentation providing an overview of Gaelic Development within Skills Development Scotland (SDS). 

Common objectives of SDS’s Gaelic Language Plan included the promotion of training and learning and the development of careers, skills and apprenticeships.  Work was being undertaken to re-establish the Gaelic Employment and Skills Partnership and to promote opportunities in GME, including teacher employment, as well as to factor Gaelic into national Labour Market Intelligence.  Reference was made to the recent Gaelic Careers Event which had taken place in Inverness and had been attended by around 200 pupils in S2 and S3. Current projects also included the improvement in skills development for early years education and the development of a Gaelic Careers website. Early Years childcare, Social Care and future Careers events also featured on the horizon.

Members thanked Mr MacKenzie for his presentation and commented that the use of Gaelic by Care Home staff was to be encouraged and should be promoted by any means possible, with apprenticeships and job matching being suggested. This would be of considerable benefit to those learning Gaelic and to Care Home residents whose native language was Gaelic. Similarly, engagement with NHS Highland on the provision of care at home could be used to emphasise the benefits of promoting Gaelic where appropriate.

The Group NOTED the Presentation.

8. Forward Planner for Gaelic Implementation Group Meetings in 2015 – Themes and Presentations                                                                                    

There had been circulated Report No GIG/21/14 dated 30 October 2014 by the Head of Policy and Reform providing information on a selection of partners with whom the Council had regular contact and with whom the Council delivered elements of the Gaelic Language Plan.  The report proposed the Primary Gaelic Language Themes to be reported on at each of the 2015 Gaelic Implementation Group meetings plus a schedule of partner organisation presentations to complement debate and discussion on the implementation of the Plan. It was pointed out that there were 5 Themes, yet only 4 meetings scheduled for 2015 and therefore 1 meeting would cover 2 themes.

The report reminded Members that, in implementing its objectives for Gaelic, the Council worked in close collaboration with the Scottish Government, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and a wide range of organisations.  An overview of each of these organisations was provided detailing when they had been established, their purpose and the work currently taking place in partnership with Highland Council. 

In discussion, it was confirmed that the Council was now a registered ILA provider and work was underway to establish how this would be implemented.

The Group AGREED the 2015 Gaelic Implementation Group programme of business agendas and presentations, as detailed in the report.

The meeting ended at 12.15pm.