A controversial new ruling that means councils could have to be able to provide education in Gaelic has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.
Under the Education Bill, which was agreed by MSPs yesterday, Scotland’s local authorities could now have to teach in the language if parents request it – even if the area has no history of Gaelic speaking.
The change has drawn scorn from opposition politicians, who argue it is a costly burden on councils who are already facing having their budgets slashed.
The Scottish Government last night defended the move, saying it would only be implemented when “justified” and if there was enough demand for it.
But Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said: “Once again, the Scottish Government has refused to recognise that there is no tradition of Gaelic in Shetland.
“Yet Shetland Islands Council could be left in a position where it is forced to use some of its already stretched budget to fund Gaelic education.
“I know that many parents, teachers and pupils in Shetland will wonder why their government impose an approach to education that would take money away from the needs of schools across the islands.
“It’s time for the Scottish Government to recognise that a one size fits all approach to education is not right.
“Indeed, if the government were ever to look at Shetland’s historical language connections they would find that we have far more ties with Norwegian than Gaelic.
“Our primary school teachers are already helping pupils with languages – languages the next generation need and want to learn.
“Forcing Gaelic on Shetland is not the right approach.”
A spokeswoman for Education Minister Alasdair Allan said: “Through this education bill, the SNP has created a presumption in favour of Gaelic medium primary education where there is parental demand for it and where it can be shown to be reasonable for local authorities to provide it.
“No local authority will have to provide Gaelic education where there is no demand or justification for it.
“But unlike the Liberal Democrats, we keep our promises to the electorate. And our commitment to Gaelic is resulting in more children growing up learning and speaking one of our indigenous languages.
“That’s surely something all MSPs should celebrate.”