Row over £10m Gaelic school opening on Isle of Skye

A new Gaelic school has opened in Portree, the largest town on Isle of Skye. Picture: Donald MacLeod
A new Gaelic school has opened in Portree, the largest town on Isle of Skye. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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A bitter row has broken out on the Isle of Skye over a new £10m Gaelic school, which one local councillor has dubbed a “disaster for community relations”.

Bun Sgoil Ghaidhlig Phort Righ - Portree Gaelic School - opened on Monday with a roll of 123 pupils.

The school is the fifth dedicated Gaelic specific school in Scotland – and the third in the Highland region - to offer pupils the opportunity to be educated in the form of Gaelic medium education.

But John Finlayson, a former head teacher of Portree primary school and a Highland councillor, said pupils in a small community should not be divided by language. He criticised the decision not to consider a dual campus project which would have seen English-speaking and Gaelic-speaking pupils mixing at break times.

“The questions being raised are not about the provision of Gaelic-medium education itself but about equity and fairness,” he wrote in an article for the West Highland Free Press.

“To offer a new £10m school to some children in a small community, but not to others who last month were taught in the same school, is totally unacceptable and insensitive.”

READ MORE: Edinburgh high school assured it won’t become Gaelic-only

Mr Finlayson, a Gaelic speaker, added: “The very least they should have done was to have made some tangible commitment to give the English-medium children a similar new school.”

“Whilst Gaelic-medium pupils and their parents are rightly excited about 21st century facilities and resources, English-medium pupils are left feeling second class citizens.”

The Scottish Government has pledged £4.75million towards the cost of the project in an encouragement for more families to seek bilingual education for their children.

Councillor Ronald MacDonald told the Press and Journal: “The opening of the school really cements Skye’s importance in being a cultural store for the Gaelic language.

“We do welcome the school and have to use it to promote Skye as a repository for the Gaelic language and its culture.”