Boyd RobertsonA new Trust has been formed to support multi-million fund-raising plans which will underpin the further development of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - Scotland's national centre for the Gaelic language and culture in Skye. 
Urras Leasachaidh Sabhal Mòr Ostaig will be independent of the college and its creation was recommended in the MacTaggart Report which was commissioned two years ago to look at ways in which future fund-raising could be organised to support the work of the college and its expansion, both in terms of student numbers and physical infrastructure.
Donnie Munro, development director at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and now the Trust's chief officer, said: "This is a generally accepted model in much larger academic institutions which are constantly involved in fund-raising.  At Sabhal Mòr, to a quite remarkable extent, the people who are running the academic institution have also been involved in raising the money that has made expansion possible.  While Sabhal Mor itself will still be responsible for seeking public sector support, the Trust will take on the vital role of raising money from supportive individuals and organisations in the private sector".
The new Trustees, who held their first meeting at Ostaig this week, will be given an initial boost through the incorporation of funds raised over the years by two long-established organisations, the Highland Fund and Urras na h-Aiseirigh both of which have agreed to transfer their assets to the new body.
This will create initial endowment funds, which can be used to support student scholarships, of more than £500,000.  It has been agreed that the identities of both the Highland Fund and Urras na h-Aiseirigh will be retained in perpetuite as named funds within the wider work of the Trust, the aims of which will be both to add value to these funds and also raise money for capital projects.
Earlier this year, the Highland Fund - which has existed for more than half a century and was widely valued for its early role in promoting economic development, often through character-based loans - agreed to transfer funds of around £300,000  to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, rather than disburse them more widely as part of a winding-up process.
Urras na h-Aiseirigh was formed by Sir Ian Noble during the early days of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in the 1970s and has investment assets, also of more than £200,000.  Both bodies have nominated Trustees to the new body - Sir Ian and Donald Mackenzie from Urras na h-Aiseirigh and Murdo Morrison, a native of Lewis who lives in Lanarkshire, from the Highland Fund.
It was agreed this week that Mr Mackenzie, who is managing director of Dunvegan Builders,  will chair the new body while the other founding Trustees are former Gaelic Minister, Brian Wilson, who has a long association with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and Catherine MacLeod, currently a special adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer whose family connections are with Lochaber and Achiltibuie. Additional trustees will be co-opted over the next few months.
Mr Mackenzie said: "The work of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig needs to be supported by its many friends and allies, at home and abroad, who appreciate its crucial importance to the future of the Gaelic language. The expansion of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig over the past decade has been a phenomenal achievement but it became clear that a more structured approach to fund-raising would be required in order to support future developments".