The creation of a new £1.7million education, language and heritage centre on the island of Islay will take a big step forward early next month, when a fully constituted company will be established to move the project to completion.
Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile, the Islay Columba Centre, is to be created on the site of a 100-year-old cottage hospital at Gartnatra, just east of the island's main township of Bowmore. It will provide a range of courses in the Gaelic language, arts and history, and its development is to be overseen by Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the immensely successful Gaelic College in Skye - which in turn means that the Islay development will be directly linked to the University of the Highlands and Islands.
"A key strength of Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile," said Norman Gillies, director of SMO, "will be found in the range of community groups, learning institutions and local industry, all collaborating to make the venture a success.
"It already has the support of Government, public sector and educational bodies, Islay businesses and the community. But much remains to be done, especially in the area of securing capital, and on 3rd February we will be meeting to form the company to take the Centre through to completion."
The Islay Columba Centre is to be established partly in overdue recognition of the island's immense - but lately neglected - role in Gaelic history. It is also recognised that such a centre would create much needed immediate and ancillary long-term employment in Islay.
"If we could generate half the impact which Sabhal Mor Ostaig has had on the Sleat area of Skye," said Scotland
Office Minister Brian Wilson, "then Ionad Chaluim Chille Ile would very rapidly repay the investment of money, effort
and hope which is being placed in it."