GAELIC is vital to Scotland’s future and a forum launched yesterday heard that the Scottish Government will ensure that those who want to learn and speak the language are given the support they need.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, was speaking at the first meeting of a new Strategic Leadership Forum to discuss growth and development of Gaelic education, along with 50 directors of education from 19 local authorities, other senior leaders from across Scotland and representatives from Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Education Scotland.

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The forum is aimed at helping councils develop a clear plan of action to drive forward the teaching of the language through greater collaboration, better understanding of duties and access to funds that help to boost Gaelic education. Its ultimate objective is to give all those involved a clear route to deliver the Gaelic National Plan and the Faster Rate of Progress initiative.

The main purpose of the former is to encourage and help more people to use Gaelic more often and in a wider range of situations, while the latter focuses on Gaelic Medium Education (GME), drawing together national organisations around themes supporting the language.

An initiative from Bòrd na Gàidhlig led to the forum being set up, after its education team established a working group comprising representatives from the board, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland. This working group reflected on the current needs of GME and the best way forward, and launched the forum as a way of providing wider support for directors and senior officials.

“The Scottish Government’s aim is to see an increase in the number of people speaking, learning and using Gaelic and today’s Strategic Leadership Forum will make an important contribution to this aim,” said Swinney.

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“We see Gaelic as vital to the future of Scotland as a nation and to our cultural identity. We want to make sure those who wish to learn and speak the language are supported and given every opportunity to do just that.

“It is vital that local authorities who work hard to promote and support Gaelic and provide the chance for young people to learn Gaelic are given assistance and are able to work in partnership as they continue to develop the language.”

Jim Whannel, Bòrd na Gàidhlig director of education, added: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig is committed to supporting partners to deliver for Gaelic.

“We want the communities who speak Gaelic to continue to grow and thrive.

“This new Strategic Leadership Forum will help all those local authorities also committed to that aim of charting a clear path forward that takes us all towards the goal of more people, both young and old, committing to learning and using the language.”

The launch comes amid increasing interest in the language, with more than 65,000 people signing up for the learning app Duolingo, which launched a Gaelic course on St Andrew’s Day.

Interest has also grown with more popular children’s books appearing in Gaelic, including The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson and various adventures of the comic warrior Asterix by René Goscinny.