Inverness councillor Jim Crawford has described the Scottish Government’s plans to invest an additional £4 million to teach school pupils Gaelic as “a waste of resources”.
Scottish minister for languages, Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, announced the extra cash would be made available over the next two years so extra places can be offered for Gaelic classes across the country to meet a rise in demand.
But Mr Crawford accused the Scottish Government of using Gaelic as a “ploy to boost Yes votes” in next year’s referendum for independence.
He said: “Spending this money is purely Alex Salmond’s way of saying, ‘We want to make you all feel more Scottish and vote that way next September’. This is outrageous.”
The Independent councillor claimed under 2 per cent of
people in Scotland can speak Gaelic and children would be better off learning a foreign language such as Chinese because it would help them in later life in terms of gaining employment.
He said: “If you want to have a future in Europe then there is no point in having Gaelic. That is only useful if you want a job in the Western Isles.
“At a time when Highland Council is trying to save money in its education budget, this amount of cash is outrageous.
“Kids who want to progress in the world should be learning the likes of Mandarin, German or Spanish.”
But other councillors yesterday welcomed the funding, saying it was vital in order for the language to remain part of Scottish culture.
Councillor Alex MacLeod, the SNP Gaelic spokesman, of Landward Caithness ward, said: “I very much welcome the additional support for Gaelic education. Hopefully we can see the lion’s share here in the Highlands, where Gaelic education is among our top priorities.”
Minister Mr Allan said: “Attracting children to Gaelic is imperative to maintaining the language as a vital part of our culture. We have made it our goal to increase speaker numbers and preserve Gaelic as a vibrant part of our culture.
“We know that the overall number of speakers has been in decline for some time, reflecting the fact that traditional Gaelic speakers have tended to be in older age groups.
“That is why encouraging a new generation of Gaelic speakers is so important to the future of the language.”
In July, Mr Crawford lodged a formal complaint with Scotland’s public standards watchdog after Mr Salmond and his wife Moira held up a saltire behind Prime Minister David Cameron’s head as tennis player Andy Murray won Wimbledon.
The councillor said at the time: “I was disappointed at the First Minister’s behaviour. It was quite disgraceful for a man of his position.
“He embarrassed himself and the people of Scotland for political gain.”