The Editor Press & Journal
I am astounded by the comments of Councillor John Matheson of Nairn regarding Gaelic Medium Education (Press and Journal Monday 14 Nov 2005). Does the man in charge of the Council's resources not know that it costs the same for a teacher who speaks Gaelic as for one who speaks English and that is the only difference in a Gaelic Medium Class. Granted, there may be some additional cost associated with start up and the smaller class sizes in the early days but this will be marginal. If Councillor Matheson really wants to save money why hasn't he spoken up against the huge extra cost of the Schools Private Finance Initiative which is going to cost the Highland Council hundreds of millions more than the traditional method of financing? It appears he thinks it is alright for public money to go to line the pockets of private financiers but that he would deny his own claimed Gaelic tradition. With friends like Councillor Matheson Gaelic needs no enemies.
Yours sincerely. Dave Thompson
I was extremely angry, but not surprised, to read John Matheson'sill-informed comments regarding Gaelic medium education in Nairn. He saysthat the provision of a GME unit is financially 'bad timing' - for whom? MrMatheson fails to mention that 75% of the cost of a GME unit would be met bythe Scottish Executive, and that the local council is legally obliged toprovide GME education where a minimum of 4 children require it, (Nairncurrently has a list of at least 25 children whose parents want them to betaught through the medium of Gaelic. Local parents have tried three times toget a GME unit for the town, and have each time come up against a brick wallof intransigence. I was at a meeting a few weeks ago which was organised bya local parents' initiative for GME, at which Mr Matheson was present(although he declined to add his name to the attendance sheet), and it wasobvious from his contributions that the last thing he wants is a Gaelicschool for Nairn. He also thinks there is no Gaelic community in Nairn? I would suggest thenthat Mr Matheson obviously does not know his own town. Is he unaware of theexistence of the Gaelic pre-school nursery, the Gaelic toddler group, theGaelic choir and the Feis Inbhir Narainn which was such a success a fewweeks ago? As for Gaelic speakers, I was in the high street last Saturdayand in the space of 10 minutes I had spoken to two other Gaelic speakers,one a fellow learner and another native speaker. Moreover, the Gaeliclanguage classes are now well-established in Nairn. So if Mr Matheson thinksthat if Nairn gets a Gaelic Medium unit then he may not get re-elected in2007, perhaps this would be a good thing, given that he is so obviouslyout-of-touch with what is really happening in his own backyard.
Nairn is going to get a Gaelic Medium Education unit because enough parents want it, and I just hope that when we do, Mr Matheson does not use it as a scapegoat for any future plans going ‘pear-shaped’ as he put it. How easy it will be for him to put the blame for the local council’s failings on the Gaelic Medium Unit!
If you listen more carefully about the town perhaps you might hear a bit of Gàidhlig. There are around two hundred people in Nairn who can speak, understand or read Gàidhlig. I’m a learner but I get plenty of chances to speak with native speakers or other learners in Nairn, not quite every time I go up the High Street but near enough. I just heard about the item on this site from a friend who lives locally (she explained it to me in Gàidhlig). There is a Gàidhlig community in Nairn, John! Gàidhlig exists side by side with English . I was just on my way back from the museum, I’d been looking at Census information the Cawdor Heritage group had been working on, in 1901 there were 1007 people in the Cawdor area, 203 of them spoke Gàidhlig. They didn’t get the chance to have their children educated in the language, maybe it is time to put things right? You’ve put in a lot of work over the years for Nairn, please don’t be remembered for this!
I find it sad that there is such a struggle for people in Scotland to promote and celebrate their heritage and culture. Wales and Ireland look at their native tongue with pride and they thrive alongside English. As one of the parents involved with the request for the Gaelic medium,I would like to say this is the third attempt by parents in Nairn to get a Medium unit, the previous two attempts obviously did not come at the 'right time' either. We have the numbers , we can show continuity, the Scottish Executive will give 75% funding. If Nairn does not get the GMU the money will not be rerouted elsewhere within Nairn, our children will just miss out on a fantastic opportunity to keep gaelic alive, and hopefully help increase some of the statistics quoted from the Sunday Times. Finally for those who don't think there is a Gaelic community in Nairn, please come along to the Nairn Community Centre on the 3rd of December and join our thriving Gaelic community for a ceilidh. C Davidson, Inbhir Narann '
Response to Article in Press and Journal dated 12-11-2005 Article title: Challenge to Plan for Nairn Gael Primary School According to Mr Matheson, Gaelic Medium Education in pre-school has little effect. Little effect on what, might I ask ? Certainly not education. Gaelic Medium Education has been shown to, at the very least, produce equal positive outcomes regarding education and in many instances even better. I also question the supposition that it is, “ the wrong time politically” to grant parents request for a Gaelic Medium Unit. The time is, I believe, right, given that we have the historic Gaelic Act and are only a year and a half away from The Year of Highland Culture, what better time to promote Nairn as well as Gaelic (Pederson and Hecla Consulting, 2004 ). Pederson and Hecla identified that there would be substantial benefits from Gaelic development for Inverness and Nairn area. Benefits, which are already being felt, thanks to Gaelic, in the form of £1.8million generated for the area with 100 full-time jobs earning an average wage of £22.800. The time is financially ripe too, with 75% of the cost of a Gaelic Medium Education Unit being met by the Scottish Executive. I agree with Mr Matheson, when he says that, “you can’t retain a language unless it is the language of the home and the community”, but I disagree with him when he asserts that no community exists. A community, as defined by no less an authority than the Oxford Dictionary, does exist and is thriving. Ask any one who attends the Gaelic Choir, Croileagan (Gaelic nursery), various Gaelic Language learners groups or the Feis. You could also ask any other person of the 7.25% of the local population (Inverness and Nairn area) who have some knowledge of the Gaelic Language. I would certainly argue therefore, that there is a Gaelic Community in Nairn. Incidentally, the best way of ensuring the continuation of a Gaelic Community, according to Mr Matheson’s employers is, ”that education is the most important vehicle through which the decline of the language can be arrested and the route through which a renaissance in the language and culture be promoted. Highland Councils Gaelic Education policy seeks to do just that”. (Highland Council’s response to the Gaelic Bill). Given the opposition at times to Gaelic (something that has been described by the Education Minister Peter Peacock as, “a precious part of our history and culture”), I sometimes wonder if we have really come in the words of the same minister, “a long way since the dark days of 1616 when an act of parliament ruled that Gaelic should be abolished and removed from Scotland”.
Response to Article in Press and Journal dated 12-11-2005 Article title: Challenge to Plan for Nairn Gael Primary School I am dismayed but not surprised at Councillor Matheson’s views. It is attitudes such as his that hinder Gaelic Development in Nairn. As a parent of a child in the Nairn Gaelic Playgroup, who is involved in the third request for a Gaelic Medium Unit in Nairn, I would like to correct John Matheson on a couple of points. Two of the four local councillors were personally invited to the initial meeting between Parents and Highland Council Officials. Neither of the councillors was able to attend. We then sent detailed minutes of the initial meeting to them. They and Councillor Matheson were then invited to the second and most recent meeting. So it cannot be said that there has been no member involvement. As to the point ‘no Gaelic Community exists in Nairn, why then does Nairn have a large Gaelic Choir, a well attended and valued Gaelic Nursery, a Gaelic Parent and Toddler Group, Adult Gaelic Language Evening Classes and a Feis? As to it being the wrong time politically, there never seems to be a good time. Gaelic Medium Education in Nairn should have happened more than a hundred years ago. In 1826, 62% of the people in Nairnshire spoke Gaelic. If Gaelic Medium Education existed then, Gaelic would still be widely spoken in Nairn. Many people out with the area are amazed that a Highland Town the size of Nairn does not have a Gaelic Medium Unit within a primary school. In fact, I think Nairn is the only Highland town of its size not to have this facility. Thank goodness for the Gaelic Language Act passed recently. We now have a good chance of reversing the trend. As to finance, are the public aware, that 75% of the funding for Gaelic Medium Primary School Education comes from the Scottish Executive Budget and not Local Authority. Councillor Matheson, if you truly wanted to preserve Gaelic Language and Culture, as you say you do, you would have a ‘can do’ attitude rather than the negative and destructive attitude you portray in this article. You are a politician with a Gaelic Heritage, don’t bury your head in the sand. Time is running out.
Seonaid NicLeoid (Janice McLeod)