Following an announcement by Scottish Ministers, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig will receive an additional £3.5 million in core funding that recognises the college as a national centre for the development of the Gaelic language and culture. The additional money comes after a review carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the funding, financial management and governance arrangements of the college; and the new money is seen as testimony to the good governance and high educational standards of the college.

The Minister with responsibility for Gaelic, Peter Peacock MSP, visited Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (Monday 15th May 2006) where he announced the new improved core funding package. The Minister for Education and Young People explained that the Gaelic college will receive an additional £3.5 million in core funding over four years from the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council. The increase follows key recommendations made in the independent review of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Scottish Executive.

The review examined in depth: the college’s structures for the delivery of its courses, senior management, leadership, strategic and operational plans, and many other aspects key to the success of the college.

Mr Peacock said: “Our ambitious plans for the Gaelic language and culture need somewhere like Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a national centre where Gaelic can be developed and promoted. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is a high quality unique institution embracing education, arts and culture and economic development activity. It is a key centre for ideas and innovation within Gaelic.

“That’s why I’m delighted that we have been able to strengthen the college’s financial situation with this funding package, designed to support the college’s ambitions for, and work towards, Gaelic development. SMO has an extremely important contribution to make both to the promotion of Gaelic in Scotland and to the economy of the Highlands and Islands.”

According to College Director, Professor Norman Gillies, the new funding package recognises the effectiveness of the college’s holistic approach in supporting and revitalising Gaelic, and the sound financial management that has underpinned their continued growth.

Professor Gillies said: “The announcement by Peter Peacock today is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it makes good First Minister Jack McConnell’s promise in 2004 when he delivered the Sabhal Mòr Lecture. He said at the time, ‘We regard Gaelic development as a priority and through the funding council we intend to recognise further the exceptional status of this institution. This should allow the college to be optimistic as it seeks to meet new standards of excellence in the future.’ The announcement by Peter Peacock gives us increased core funding and official recognition as a national centre for the development of the Gaelic language and culture.

“The scrutiny report by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that our holistic approach to maintaining and revitalising Gaelic is the right one. It also recognised good governance and reaffirmed the college’s reputation for high quality educational leadership. The review also spoke of the high quality of teaching and the resultant successful learning.”

In their review PricewaterhouseCoopers state: “In evaluating the current operating and financial position of SMO, acknowledgement needs to be given to the commitment of a Board of Trustees and a group of staff who have dedicated time and effort to realise their vision for the establishment of a Gaelic medium higher and further education institute. This drive and enthusiasm have enabled Sabhal Mòr Ostaig to emerge from the site of semi-derelict farm buildings in 1973 into a vibrant higher and further education institute where the teaching and learning activities and facilities are regarded as being of the highest quality.”

The review pointed out that Sabhal Mòr had:
• contributed to the revival of interest in the Gaelic language, culture and heritage;
• laid the foundations for a further and higher education infrastructure to support growth in the skills and number of Gaelic language speakers;
• developed a research capacity dedicated to supporting the Gaelic language;
• supported Gaelic broadcasting through the provision of vocational training and research; and
• stimulated the local economy around the area of Sleat.
PricewaterhouseCoopers also said that SMO would continue to make an important contribution to securing Gaelic by:
• the promotion of further and higher education in the Gaelic medium;
• creation of a new generation of Gaelic speakers through the provision of short courses and access courses;
• supporting the development of a future workforce of Gaelic speakers for key sectors, e.g. broadcasting, teaching, economic activity, tourism, public sector;
• undertaking of research in relation to the Gaelic language and culture; and
• enhancing the status of and confidence in the Gaelic language through conferences and events hosted at the Skye campus and elsewhere.

Chairman of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Board of Trustees Dr Farquhar Macintosh said: “As chairman of Trustees, I would like to thank the Minister very much for his visit to the college and his support over the years for our work and mission. I am grateful to him for taking that support a stage further and recognising in word and in deed the financial provision that Sabhal Mòr requires if it is to succeed in playing its proper part in securing the future of Gaelic as a living language.”

Speaking about the PricewaterhouseCoopers review, Dr Macintosh said: “The rigorous review appreciated the tremendous commitment of staff in bringing Sabhal Mòr so far on so little, and made crystal clear the need for adequate recurrent core funding to ensure planning stability and an appropriate expansion of course provision. The Minister’s announcement will undoubtedly strengthen the college’s financial foundation. However, as the review indicates, there are essential areas of development in terms of research and estate provision that cannot be ignored. Above all perhaps, we need early action on Gaelic-medium teaching – the key to growing the language. As the sole college teaching all its courses through the medium of Gaelic, we have a central role to play in this area in collaboration with the existing colleges of education. Having taken the immensely important first steps, the Trustees are confident that the Minister will now take the remaining steps and equip Sabhal Mòr to play its full part in enabling Gaelic to take its proper place in a smart and successful Scotland.”

Scottish Ministers decided to award the core funding increase detailed in option 3 of the review, which was the best and most ambitious of the three funding options suggested by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Gaelic college.
This means that within the current Spending Review period Sabhal Mòr Ostaig will receive an extra £755,000 in 2006-07 and £800,000 in 2007-08. Ministers will then aim to further increase that figure to £950,000 in 2008-09 and £950,000 in 2009-10. This funding is in addition to the core funding provided by the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council. Over half of the extra cash will come from resources earmarked for further and higher education, with the remainder coming from other education budgets.
Deputy First Minister and Lifelong Learning Minister Nicol Stephen, whose department along with that of Peter Peacock’s will fund the increase, said: "The Gaelic language is a vital part of Scotland's past and a key element of our future. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has an important role to play in providing valuable support, not only for fluent Gaelic speakers but also for learners. I am delighted that the executive's lifelong learning programme is helping support these developments. This will allow the college look to the future, build on its successes and meet the challenges of tomorrow."
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, recognised by many as a flagship institution within Scottish education, was in 2002 one of only two Scottish Centres to be awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Innovation and Excellence in Higher and Further Education.