Cash-strapped council’s across Scotland will have to fork-out thousands of pounds to teach children Gaelic – even if there is no history of it in the area.
Under controversial SNP plans, every local authority will have to be prepared to provide youngsters with an education in the language, which is only spoken by a small proportion of Scots.
Critics have said the move amounts to Nicola Sturgeon’s party “riding roughshod” over other “distinctive” dialects – such as Doric – but supporters believe it will help promote the language.
The Scottish Government’s education minister Dr Alasdair Allan added the amendment that says “every education authority must promote the potential provision of school education in the area of the authority”.
Last night, the Scottish Liberal Democrats education spokesman, Liam McArthur MSP, said: “In Orkney, where there is no tradition of Gaelic, and where education budgets are already stretched, it is difficult to see why this issue should be given priority over other demands on council spending.
“Politics is about priorities and the notion that teaching Gaelic might be considered a priority in Orkney schools will leave many people scratching their head.
“It is out of step with the distinctive linguistic, historic and cultural heritage of Orkney and shows, once again, that Scottish Ministers are happy to ride roughshod over local decision-making.
“There is no doubt that efforts to promote the Gaelic language are welcome and necessary.
“However, Ministers’ plans for a nationwide ‘entitlement’ are disproportionate and fail to respect the distinctive cultural heritage of diverse communities across Scotland.”
The Scottish Government said the proposal had been “greatly exaggerated” – saying there will be no entitlement to such lessons without “solid evidence” of parental demand and general need.
“This will not be expected or imposed on any area without good evidence of parental demand. The trigger in the Bill, when it was introduced and now after changes have been accepted, is a certain level of parental demand.
“Authorities with no Gaelic medium provision have been asked only to publicise the right of parents to request Gaelic medium primary education.”