Cuts to a vital education service could affect the integration of non-native English speakers in Moray, it was claimed yesterday.
Plans have been announced to axe both beginner and intermediate ESOL English language classes run by Moray Council to save the local authority £20,000.
Seven lecturers and one coordinator could lose their jobs.
Foreign students keen to learn English can still attend ESOL classes at Moray College UHI, although these are offered at an advanced level.
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An officer from a Moray trade union with deep links to the Polish community has urged the local authority to carefully consider the proposals amid concerns that it could stop migrants from integrating with the rest of society.
Ewan McNeil, the international officer for Moray Unison and former president of the Moray Polish:Scottish Association believes the service is “extremely important” and needs to be saved.
He said: “ESOL allows people to integrate into the society and then utilise their skills from their native countries into local businesses, some who count on migrant labour to exist.
“Also for the multicultural aspects, keeping the ESOL classes would be a good message to anyone coming over as it is welcoming a multicultural society which is especially important with Brexit approaching.
“If this goes ahead, Moray migrants will feel they are not moving on due to their personal development and move back home, which means businesses will lose personnel and eight local people could lose jobs.”
Mr McNeil lived in Poland during the 1990s. His wife Adriana comes from Eastern Europe and is involved with ESOL and interpretation in Moray.
He added: “Folk from all over the world will be hugely disadvantaged if this happens.
“I used to live in Poland and felt extremely welcomed when there, and I like to think Scotland is the same.”
Moray Council leader Graham Leadbitter insisted that this was a difficult choice to make, but that the service is being removed.
He said: “This is a removal of the service the council offers, although Moray College offers a similar course and there is some cross-over so they can pick up some of the slack here.
“This service is in there with a list of things that are difficult to cut but we have to make difficult choices and are working hard to do that.”