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'Ignorant and damaging' remarks on Gaelic education spark apology demand from Ross MSP; Kate Forbes 'personally offended' by comments

By Hector MacKenzie

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A ROSS-shire MSP says she is "personally offended" by what she describes as "ignorant and damaging" comments about Gaelic medium education.

Kate Forbes, herself a product of the system, was reacting to comments made by a fellow MSP Liz Smith reported in a national newspaper.

In response to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) plans to make Gaelic medium education, rather than English, the default choice for all new primary one pupils, Liz Smith MSP described it as “a deeply troubling step” and “one that could put children… at a distinct disadvantage to their peers”.

The Scottish Conservative party's shadow education spokeswoman was quoted as saying that Gaelic "is a rich and beautiful language and one that should be encouraged at school, but not at the expense of English".

Ms Forbes, whose constituency office is in Dingwall, called for an apology.

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “I am a product of Gaelic medium education and so I’m personally offended by the suggestion that it has put me at a distinct disadvantage. On the contrary, I went to university, trained as a chartered accountant and now serve in the Scottish Government. My peers from school do various different jobs, and our lives and careers have been enhanced by Gaelic medium.

“By this logic, does education in every other language under the sun put children at a disadvantage to English medium education? Better tell the French, Spanish and Italian that – amongst many others.

“These remarks aren’t just ignorant, they are damaging. How far the Scottish Tories have fallen since the 1980s when it was under a Tory Government that Gaelic medium education first emerged. Sometimes the Tories think they are attacking the SNP by attacking Gaelic – that is nonsense. Gaelic speakers are citizens and voters like any other.

“There is still a stigma attached to Gaelic and the language is fragile. Either it dies out, thanks to baseless attacks like this and a lack of support, or it lives to see another generation. I’d like to see the Tories distance themselves from these remarks and, at the very least, apologise to Gaelic speakers who’ve done nothing to deserve this latest, groundless attack.”

Parents who want to opt out of the new Western Isles system can still have their children taught in English from P1.

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