Alasdair Allan MSP will today (Tuesday) lead a Scottish Parliament debate on the benefits of Gaelic-medium education (GME).
The Western Isles MSP, who will speak in the debate in Gaelic, will welcome Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s decision to enrol pupils entering Primary 1 into GME as the default choice.
The council adopted the GME policy - which was aimed at achieving “a significant rate of growth in Gaelic” in the islands – in December.
The debate comes after Scottish Tory Education spokesperson Liz Smith faced criticism for suggesting that educating pupils in Gaelic was a "worrying" and "troubling" move, which would put children at a “distinct disadvantage” to their peers.
Speaking in the debate, Alasdair Allan MSP will say:
“There are wide-ranging benefits to bilingualism, from increased creativity, to heightened cognitive abilities, to greater job opportunities.
“Having two languages makes the third - and the fourth - easier to learn.
“I commend Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on taking this progressive step to secure the language within its heartland.
“And I would urge them to continue to go further for the language.
“Knowing what we know about the cognitive, cultural and social benefits of bilingualism in a regional language or mother tongue, education in the Gaelic language should be offered in every school, to every child in the Western Isles, and continue to grow elsewhere too.”
Alasdair Allan S5M-20588
Gaelic-medium Education in the Western Isles
That the Parliament welcomes Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s decision to enrol pupils entering P1 into Gaelic-medium education (GME) as the default choice; recognises that parents can still choose to put their children into English-medium education (EME); further recognises that this decision was taken as a majority of parents were expected to enrol their children into GME in 2020; notes that the percentage of children entering GME in Na h-Eileanan an Iar has steadily increased over the last decade; further notes that increasing the level of GME enrolment to 55% was an action in the council’s statutory Gaelic Language Plan; commends Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for becoming the first council in Scotland to take this policy decision; further commends the council for taking what it sees as this progressive step to consolidate the national language in its heartland communities; understands that there is an overwhelming consensus among academics and researchers in support of the cognitive benefits of bilingual education, and reiterates the findings of the 2010 study by the University of Edinburgh, which it understands outlined evidence that GME pupils, on a whole, outperform their EME peers in English reading by P5.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has hailed the success of the Scottish Government Baby Box scheme – as new figures revealed that 465 families in the Western Isles have benefitted from a Baby Box.
Scotland’s Baby Box contains a selection of clothes, as well as every day must-haves, like a bath towel, a travel changing mat, muslin cloth squares, a bib, a digital thermometer, and books.
The box now also includes a reusable nappy voucher, which dozens of families in the Western Isles have taken advantage of.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“Every child, regardless of their circumstances, should get the best start in life.
“At the heart of the Baby Box is a message about tackling inequality, improving health and supporting new parents - which is why I’m delighted to see that 465 have been sent to families across the islands.
“96% of expectant parents are now requesting a Baby Box – and more than 120,000 have been delivered across Scotland.
“That’s a huge vote of confidence in the Baby Box, which will be vitally important in our efforts to ensure that all children get the best start in life.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed statistics published today showing that 215 families from the Western Isles have benefitted from new welfare payments introduced by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government opened the Best Start Grant for applications in December 2018. The payment provides parents or carers who get certain benefits or tax credits with financial support during the key early years of a child's life.
In the first year of their introduction, payments worth £620,491 have been made to island families. The Best Start Grant provides payments to eligible families at the birth of children, at nursery age and at school age.
Alasdair Allan MSP, who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee, commented:
“The SNP are determined to use our powers to build a social security system built on dignity and respect.
“The Best Start Grant provides crucial financial support to families at key stages of their children’s lives, and I’m delighted that hundreds of families in the islands have already benefitted.
“This is just one of the ways the SNP in government are working to tackle child poverty – with the first payments of the innovative new Scottish Child Payment set to be made this year.
“It’s also very welcome to see the work being done to make sure Scotland’s new social security regulations and payments are properly “island-proofed” following passage of the Islands Act 2018.
“Sadly the need to mitigate Tory cuts like the Bedroom Tax leaves us working with one hand tied behind our back. It’s time for Scotland to have full control of all social security powers so that we can build a fairer country.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has voiced concern on post-Brexit fishing agreements with the EU.
According to a memo leaked to the Press & Journal, the European Council has promised its members it will “demonstrate particular vigilance … in protecting fishing enterprises and coastal communities” – rubbishing the Tories’ promises that the UK will have complete control of its waters after Brexit.
Last week, Charles Grant, the director of the Centre for European Reform, told a Holyrood committee that senior UK Government officials had indicated they would “trade-off” or “bargain” with Scottish fishing to “get a better deal on financial services.” He added that the UK is prepared to “give access to EU boats in our waters otherwise we won’t be able to get anything on financial services.”
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“The Tories sold out Scottish fishermen on the way into Europe, and they look set to do the same on the way out. It would be a bitter irony if, despite the Tories’ promises, the one part of the European Union that was to remain after Brexit was the Common Fisheries Policy.
“The conduct of the UK Government throughout the Brexit process has left no doubt that they view Scottish fishing stocks as expendable bargaining chips. There is a real fear that the UK Government are set to pawn off fishing interests in return for concessions on financial services that benefit the City of London.
“Scotland is just a day away from crashing out of the EU against our will. We need some honesty from Boris Johnson’s Government on how they can secure all their promises on trade with Europe without putting fishing on the table.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan earlier today met with Minister for Connectivity Paul Wheelhouse MSP to discuss the discontinuation of the Connected Communities broadband service.
The publicly-funded wireless network, which has operated in the Western Isles since 2005, is set to cease at the end of March 2020. The Minister offered to meet with Alasdair Allan after the islands’ MSP raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament.
Since the roll-out of superfast broadband across the islands began in 2015, more and more households and businesses have been transferring to mainstream broadband services. HIE have indicated that the high fixed costs of the Connected Communities network mean it is no longer viable to continue the service for a declining number of customers.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“Since Connected Communities’ users received notification that the service would cease in March, I have received dozens of inquiries from affected households.
“There are significantly fewer people using Connected Communities since the roll-out of superfast broadband across the islands. However, for those 400 or so still on the network, the recent news that the service was set to shut down in March would have come as unwelcome news.
“I am grateful to the Minister for meeting with me, and for the attention which HIE have given to investigating options for Connected Communities users. Virtually all of the people who have contacted me so far have been found to possess a 4G signal suitable enough for home broadband.
ISLAND RADIO STATION AFFECTED BY CONNECTED COMMUNITIES CESSATION
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has taken up concerns expressed by Isles FM after meeting with directors of the organisation about the future arrangements for transmitting their programmes.
The communications link between the island station’s Seaforth Road studio and broadcast site at Eitshal is currently served via the Connected Communities network. When that ceases at the end of March the station will need to find an alternative link.
The local MSP recently met with Isles FM directors and has raised this issue with HIE to ask what can be done to allow the station to continue to broadcast.
Isles FM has been broadcasting since March 1998 and is operated entirely by a volunteer staff working out of Seaforth Road, Stornoway.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“Isles FM has an important place in the community and provides a valuable public service. It is vitally important that a solution is found which allows them to continue to broadcast and I have raised this issue with HIE, who I know have been seeking solutions to this issue.
“At a time when local radio stations across the country are being squeezed, the volunteers at Isles FM have done a great job keeping the station on-air and providing listeners with music, news and other content. I know HIE and the Comhairle have also given significant help and assistance to Isles FM, without which the station simply could not continue.”