Matthew MacIver, the chairman of Bòrd na Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Development Agency), called on students graduating from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig to build on the progress witnessed over the last 25 years in the regeneration of the Gaelic language, and to take advantage of the new opportunities that have arisen through the Gaelic Act and other recent key developments for the language.

Mr MacIver was speaking at the college’s 23rd annual graduation ceremony last week (Friday 5th October) when around 40 students graduated. He said: “It is a great honour to be here and I feel very privileged that you have asked me to give this speech tonight. This is one of the highlights in the Gaelic year. I say that because Sabhal Mòr Ostaig symbolises in many ways the hopes and the aspirations of all of us who fight to save the Gaelic language.  This college has been a beacon for many years and a light shines down here in Sleat which has illuminated many parts of the road leading to the revival of our language.” 

Addressing the students Mr MacIver said: “Tonight is about you – people who have committed themselves in academic terms to the language and who I hope will become the leaders of the future. That future is, I believe, one filled with hope and with confidence. Why do I say that?  I say that because in the last 25 years Gaelic has made more progress than any other minority language in the world. That progress has come about not because the system was favourable to us but because many people and many organisations fought very hard for everything that we managed to get. It is that pressure that has brought us into a new world.”

The Bòrd na Gàidhlig chairman added that the Gaelic Act had provided a statutory foundation which increased greatly the opportunities to promote and revive the language.

Mr MacIver explained to the students his vision for the future of the language which would see growth and further progress through cooperation with and the work of communities, Gaelic organisations, local authorities, through new Gaelic schools, through new learning opportunities for fluent speakers, through the media and new technology, and he added that he one day would like to see a Gaelic university.

He said: “As a community we must now look ahead with a confidence but with some strategic awareness. I am convinced, for example, that we need now to develop a leadership culture in Gaelic. We really have come to a stage in our development where we need people to manage organisations, we need people to manage the development of the National Plan and we need people to manage the growth of Gaelic. We need people who are strategic thinkers, we need people who are qualified in leadership skills and who are capable of using new methods and ideas to drive Gaelic forward into this new century. And again it is to organisations like this that we will have to look. Places like Sabhal Mòr Ostaig who now have to be even more ambitious in their quest for a new Gaelic world.”

Speaking to the graduates the Chairman of Sabhal Mòr’s Board of Trustees Roddy John MacLeod said: “With regard to success, we have proof positive over and above our own assessment. I am talking about the recent review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE). The Inspectors looked at ten areas and we were awarded the highest grade – “Very Good” – in seven of those areas and the second highest grade – “Good” – in the other three. However, if it wasn’t for you as students there would be no college. While the HMIE report endorses the hard work of everyone at the college, it is Sabhal Mòr’s constant ability to attract significant numbers of students and those students’ success in their chosen careers that offers the best evidence of this institution’s success.”

A total of 37 students graduated from a variety of educational programmes including: Diploma in Gaelic Media, Higher Education Certificate in Gaelic and Communication, An Cùrsa Comais, Diploma HE in Gaelic and Related Studies, BA Gaelic Language and Culture, BA Gaelic and North Atlantic Studies, BA Gaelic and Media Studies, BA (Hons) Gaelic Language and Culture, MSc in Sustainable Mountain Development from Perth College.