THE case of Sine Halfpenny attracted considerable media attention here in Scotland and in her home country of Canada when the UK Home Office refused her a visa just as she was about to be appointed as a Gaelic teacher on the Isle of Mull.

It was taken up by local councillors and MSP Mike Russell, as well as then Education Secretary John Swinney, but the Home Office refused to budge.

Halfpenny, from the town of Antigonish, in Nova Scotia, has now settled there working as a supply teacher, but she was back in Scotland yesterday, where she told The National how she felt like a terrorist going through immigration at Glasgow Airport.

“They had my whole case file up on the computer and I had to basically re-tell it to verify it was me,” she said.

“I had to talk to the officers there, promise them that I wasn’t staying, wasn’t looking for work or working while I was here and that I had a return ticket. It feels ridiculous in a way.

“I always have to be aware of something that happened a couple of years ago is flagged in their system like I’m a terrorist. It’s weird. Now there’s no more random security checks – I get security checked every time I fly somewhere.”

Halfpenny said she could not previously talk about the job at Bunessan Primary on Mull because she did not want to jeopardise her chances of gaining the required visa.

However, she said her prime objective had been to get a teacher for the three pupils and she was glad that had been achieved.

“Originally when I applied for the job I had been teaching in China and the thought of having a job in my field – because in China I’d been teaching English – was great and a slower pace of life because it was very hectic in China.

“At the time I thought it would be so much fun and it turned into what some people described as an ‘international incident’ when it was raised in the Scottish Parliament.

“CBC Radio got a hold of it and it turned into this big monstrous thing outside of me.

“But just the fact that those kids needed a teacher and they got one it was ridiculous how we ended up having to get there.

“They were without a teacher and it affects their education – some people say ‘it’s only three kids’ and yes, it’s three young lives in the foundation years of their education, and their families who’d been trying to get Gaelic for years.

“I know one family and it’s only their youngest daughter who’s been able to do Gaelic.

“Messing with communities which had no power over their education was so unfair.”

Halfpenny, whose family roots go back over three centuries to Lochaber and Skye, is staying with friend, Gaelic artist and campaigner Ariel Killick – an Australian-born descendant of Scots who were forced off their lands during the Clearances.

Killick said the last visa refusal for Halfpenny came around June last year when Nicola Sturgeon mentioned it at the SNP conference: “It was a diplomatic disaster for the diaspora, a complete trashing of two Homecoming Years’ legacies from 2009 and 2014, of taxpayer-funded investment. Total insensitivity and ignorance … of not just Gaelic but the Highlands and Islands population problems, Gaelic teacher supply problems and history.”

Although she does not see herself returning to live in Scotland, Halfpenny said this had not coloured her view : “It was very clear that the Scottish Government wanted me here. They really did fight to get me here and it was really England that snowballed it all in red tape.”