Sabhal Mor Ostaig Lecture 2007
The First Minister, Alex Salmond MP,MSP
Feasgair math agus failte ahuile duine.
Good evening and welcome everybody.
As Scotland's First Minister it is a great honour and a pleasure to deliver the annual Sabhal Mòr Ostaig lecture. And I am very grateful for this opportunity to show my deep affection and respect for Scotland's Gaelic language and culture.
I would like to thank Sheriff Roddy John MacLeod, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for the invitation to address you today.
We should take a moment to remember the late, great Farquhar Macintosh - a huge figure in Scotland's Gaelic culture and a major factor in the revival of the language. For forty years, Farquhar Macintosh helped shape Scotland's education policy and, since 1991, chaired the Board of Trustees of the Gaelic College at Armadale on Skye.
I know that Professor Norman Gillies has publicly paid tribute to Farquhar's contribution to the success of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Let me add my own gratitude to his.
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig College - and the related development of the University of the Highlands and Islands - are immensely important. Not just for the Gaelic language, but for all the people of Scotland.
My Government was elected in May this year with a mission and a mandate to renew Scotland. To restore our ambition and our self-confidence. To strengthen our democracy. And to lay the long-term foundations for the flourishing of Scotland's economy and society.
We want to build a 'Celtic Lion' economy in Scotland. And a strong economy and strong culture go hand in hand. That is true not just for Gaelic but for the whole of Scotland. We can only meet our ambitions for Scotland's society and culture by ensuring a bright future for Gaelic.
That is why at the elections to the Scottish Parliament, my party set out an ambitious manifesto to enhance the position of Gaelic across Scotland. That is why in its Budget, the Scottish Government provided unprecedented levels of funding for Gaelic.
And that is why this evening I will set out the steps that the Scottish Government will take to meet its commitments - in education, in language, in cultural policy - to promote the growth of Gaelic across this nation.
One of our first actions in government was to replace the old name of the Scottish Executive with the far more appropriate form, 'Scottish Government'. Of course the Gaelic version, Riaghaltas na h-Alba has always meant 'Scottish Government'. So not for the first time, the Gaels were one step ahead of the rest.
I hope no one here is in any no doubt about the change in our level of ambition for Scotland.
So this evening I will not give you an elegy - words to stir your hearts as our beloved Gaelic slowly fades away. And I will not be prescribing palliative care.
I want to put to you the Scottish Government's plans for the long-term recovery of Gaelic across this nation.
Later in this lecture I will set out the details of our plans for Gaelic, in relation to Scotland's economy and culture.
At this stage let me make three aspects of our vision absolutely clear.
First, the Scottish Government - just like the Scottish Parliament - believes firmly in equal respect between the languages of Scotland. We see the Gaelic language on an equal footing with the English language. And our actions as a government will bear this out.
Second, Gaelic is without doubt a national language for Scotland. While half of Scotland's sixty thousand Gaelic speakers live in the Highlands and Na h-Eileanan Siar, the remaining thirty thousand are spread across the country - with nearly six thousand in Glasgow alone. So as First Minister I want to see Gaelic thrive across the whole of Scotland.
Indeed we are departing from tradition by hosting this lecture in St Cecilia's Hall, in the heart of Edinburgh, rather than the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig campus on the Isle of Skye. This is not because I am a poor sailor and fear the voyage to Skye.
In fact, we are here this evening to show that Gaelic is not a regional language - it is a truly nationwide language. And the future success of Gaelic depends on attracting new speakers to the language here as much as its does on fostering Gaelic in its traditional heartland.
My third point is the most important. There has always been - and always will be - interdependence between the economic prospects of Scotland's Gaelic speaking population and the strength of our Gaelic culture. The language will thrive only once there are real economic opportunities for Gaelic speakers.
To put it another way: 'S e eaconomaidh a th'ann, amadan!
Or as Bill Clinton put it in English: 'It's the economy, stupid'.
I want to use this lecture to celebrate and to consider the position of Gaelic culture and language in the modern Scotland. And I will look at the main economic challenges that affect the heartlands of the Gaelic language - challenges which are in many ways similar to those that affect the whole of Scotland.
However, before we examine these twin themes of the modern economy and culture, I would like to look briefly at the history of Gaelic and its great contribution to the development of our country.
I began my academic life as a student of history at St Andrew's University. And while my career has taken several turns since then, I have never stopped being a student of history, or an admirer of this great nation of Scotland.
During my time in parliament I have taken a personal interest in Gaelic history and culture. And as a local MP I consider myself fortunate to have been involved with the Book of Deer Project. The Book, which is held at Cambridge University Library, is a tenth century Gospel book containing some of the oldest surviving pieces of Gaelic writing from early Medieval Scotland.
With their determination - and collaboration with the universities of Aberdeen and Cambridge, Aberdeenshire Council and BT Scotland - the team behind the Book of Deer Project aim to create an electronic archive of the Book, and to provide information on its linguistic, historical and theological importance.
Some of you may recall that ten years ago, alongside the return of the Book of Deer, I was arguing strongly for the return of the Lewis chessmen to Scotland. Sadly this campaign is as yet incomplete. Of the ninety-three pieces known to us today, the National Museum of Scotland holds only eleven. The other eighty-two remain in the British Museum in London.
I still find it utterly unacceptable that the Lewis chessmen are scattered around Britain in a bizarre parody of the Barnett Formula.
And you can be assured that I will continue campaigning for a united set of Lewis chessmen in an independent Scotland!
History of Gaelic and Scotland's Gaels
Let me move on to talk directly about the history of Gaelic and of the Gaels.
In many ways the history of the Gaels is the history of Scotland.
Consider the very name of our country: 'Scotland'. It is derived from the Roman name for the inhabitants of Ireland - people who spoke the language we now refer to as Gaelic and who travelled over to Scotland. Latin writers referred to these people as the Scoti.
Scotland's Gaelic origins date back to what is now Argyll in around the fifth century A.D. There is some debate about whether Gaelic evolved in Argyll and Ireland at the same time, or whether it was brought over the sea from Ireland. Certainly, by the sixth century, the Gaelic speaking kingdom of Dálriada, covering Argyll and parts of County Antrim, was established.
It was also at this time, in 563AD, that St Columba came from Ulster to the Isle of Iona - founding the monastery and, through Gaelic, bringing Christianity to Scotland, England and parts of Europe. Iona, of course, remains a place of pilgrimage and is the place of burial for several kings of Scotland, Ireland and Norway.
From their foothold in Dalriada, the Gaels gradually spread across the mainland and the Inner and Outer Hebrides. And by the 9th century, the Gaelic leader Kenneth MacAlpin united the Gaels and the Picts to become the first ruler of Alba. Or the first King of Scotland.
Over the course of the next few centuries a Highland-lowland divide developed as Scots and the English language spread throughout the south and Gaelic retreated to the north and west.
Many reasons are given for this retreat: the growth of trade; the establishment of the burghs; and the pattern of marriages among the nobility. However, one immediate and undisputable factor was the tragic death of Alexander III in 1286 - and with him, the Gaelic royal line - when, on the way to visit the queen in Kinghorn, Alexander was thrown by his horse and fell from a cliff.
But there has been nothing accidental about the other efforts to damage the Gaelic language. Often the attacks have been systematic and calculated.
I think of the Statutes of Iona in 1609 - passed in Scotland after the Union of the Crowns - which required Highland Chiefs to send their heirs to Lowland Scotland, to be educated in English-speaking Protestant schools. (As a result some clans, such as the MacDonalds of Sleat and the MacLeods of Harris, adopted the new religion - and obviously the language.) And I think of the denigration of Highland culture following the battle of Culloden. Of the Highland Clearances. And, much later - of the 1872 Education Act, which brought in English as the sole medium of teaching.
But despite all of that, our Gaelic language and culture has prevailed.
Modern Gaelic culture and language
Gaelic remains central fundamental to Scotland's identity, geography, history and cultural life.
The Gaels have always revered and respected the poet. In Duncan Ban Macintyre, Alexander MacDonald and in Sorley MacLean we perhaps witnessed Gaelic's finest exponents. And whose poetry - along with one of the early exponents of war journalism, Iain Lom - should not be unfamiliar to any educated Scot.
Of course, the remarkable reception given to those like Sorley MacLean stands in stark contrast to others. Legend has it that in Skye at the end of the 17th century, Mary MacLeod, one of the finest Gaelic poets, was buried face down at St Clement's Church in Rodel, Harris. This form of punishment was usually reserved for those accused of witchcraft. It was chosen for Mary MacLeod for daring to breach the convention that only men wrote poetry.
In the modern age, the Gaelic language has given us some of Scotland's greatest authors and poets. Men and women like Sorley MacLean, George Campbell Hay, Iain Crichton Smith, Aonghas MacNeacail and Mary Montgomery, have inspired generations of Scots with the power of their words.
And that flow of talent continues undiminished today, expressed through new forms and new media.
Just recently, the first full length feature film performed entirely in Gaelic (Seachd: the Inaccessible Pinnacle) was released to wide critical acclaim. Duncan Chisholm's beautiful production, Kin, celebrates the emotional connection of young Scots with the Gaelic heritage of their grandparents. The world's first Scottish Gaelic Christmas album was showcased in concert last week in Glasgow.
And the folk singer Julie Fowlis is enjoying tremendous success - and deservedly so. Julie is a great talent and a great example for other young Gaelic artists.
Elsewhere, the new Centre for Creative and Cultural Industries at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has the potential to emerge as the birthplace of a whole host of new and exciting Gaelic cultural products and services.
And the Year of the Highlands has also been a major step forward for Gaelic culture. Over 80 major events have been held throughout the Highlands, culminating in the Winter Festival in Inverness.
The Scottish Government has been instrumental in supporting the events, providing significant funding. And for this the preceding administration deserves much credit.
We have worked closely with Highland Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Funds have also come from other Councils across Scotland - Argyll and Bute, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Moray, Orkney and the Shetland Islands.
I will be proud to join many of you for the closing ceremony in January. And because most of the events held this year will now recur annually, we can be confident that this great event will leave a lasting cultural legacy for the Highlands.
And only this week I learned of an excellent new IT project for the Gaelic language, which uses algorithms to transform the Gaelic dictionary of Dwelly into a modern English-Gaelic facility. One of the developers, Tearlach Quinell, is a Gaelic speaker from Lewes. No, not the Isle of Lewis - but Lewes in Sussex. (And I hear from Angus MacNeil that his Gaelic is better than many native speakers.)
Despite all these encouraging signs, we cannot take Gaelic's future for granted, particularly when the number of speakers continues to diminish. As the stewards of Gaelic in Scotland, we are responsible for ensuring that the language is able to flourish.
Left untended and unsupported, languages can wither, and many die. With each language that is lost, the world loses everything that its speakers held dear - their culture, history, knowledge and worldview.
It's been said that the last speaker of one of the world's 6,000 languages dies every two weeks. And academics estimate that between 50% and 90% of the world's languages could disappear during this century.
We must ensure that there is no risk of Gaelic ever suffering that fate .
That is why the Scottish Government is not satisfied with maintaining the status quo for Gaelic. Instead, taking forward our national plan for Gaelic, we want to see the language thriving across Scotland.
The Government's Plan for Gaelic
The National Plan for Gaelic was launched in March this year, setting out a five year plan to develop the language, to encourage new speakers and to enhance the status of Gaelic.
In opposition, my party supported that plan. In both our manifesto for government and in Gaelic: It's Time, we made clear commitments to the Gaelic language. In particular we set an ambitious target to bring the proportion of Gaelic speakers at least back up to 2001 levels by 2021.
In government, we will make good on our commitments and deliver the national plan.
We will work to enhance the status and use of Gaelic. We will promote and expand Gaelic education provision at every level. We will secure progress in key areas of Gaelic development - pushing for urgent action in the main areas of the National Plan. And we will put our full support behind the new dedicated Gaelic digital TV channel.
Taken together, this is an ambitious programme that will help to safeguard the future of the Gaelic language. And it's a programme backed up by new financial resources - an additional £7.5m over the period of the spending review.
It's a sign of our commitment to the language that even in a tight financial climate we have allocated significant extra new money for Gaelic. This new funding includes £1m per year to be directed towards Gaelic education. £1m per year for the implementation of projects in the National Plan for Gaelic. And an additional £500,000 per year in support for Gaelic broadcasting.
The status of Gaelic
And we are not alone in supporting the language.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's historic decision last week to conduct all of their committee business in Gaelic sent out a message to the rest of Scotland about Gaelic's continued relevance in the 21st century.
We cannot, of course, expect every council immediately to follow suit. I can imagine for example that such a step would seriously complicate discussions in the Chambers of Edinburgh City Council. Though it might have the benefit of averting the expensive new scheme for Edinburgh trams.
But there are many actions that local authorities and public bodies can take to raise the status of Gaelic and promote the language. And the Scottish Government will take the lead by creating opportunities for the use of Gaelic in Scottish public life.
We will prepare a Gaelic language plan setting out how we will use Gaelic in relation to our corporate identity, our communications and documentation.
And we will ask Bòrd na Gàidhlig to strongly encourage public bodies to set out how they will use Gaelic in their work and in the delivery of their services. So I say to all of Scotland's bodies, there is a great deal more that we can all do to promote Gaelic. And we, as a Government, will lead.
Above all, education will be central to our effort to secure the future of Gaelic. My Government will ensure that Gaelic-medium education supports growth - and that future generations of speakers receive the full educational curriculum through the Gaelic language.
And this will not be a 'zero sum' approach. The Government does not believe that more children speaking Gaelic means fewer speaking English.
The academic evidence shows that bilingual children enjoy many intellectual advantages, regardless of which pair of languages they have. Studies from across the world show that bilingual children tend to have better literacy, better mathematical skills and are better at coordinating different types of information.
Therefore we want to focus on giving youngsters the opportunity to learn Gaelic at the earliest possible age.
Of course, many young Scots are already taking that opportunity. Throughout the country, there are more than 700 pre-school children attending 60 Gaelic medium pre-school units, almost 2,100 learning entirely in Gaelic at 62 Scottish primary schools. And across Scotland we have as many as 5,500 primary school pupils learning Gaelic.
I'm looking forward to opening Scotland's newest Gaelic school in Inverness early next year: Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis. As the nation's first purpose built Gaelic school, it offers 100 primary pupils and 45 nursery children the chance to play and learn in an environment that is entirely focused on Gaelic.
This is an excellent development. It is good for the language development of the pupils and we will seriously look at the possibility of more dedicated Gaelic schools in Scotland.
Over and above that we will target support to Councils to make progress with Gaelic education and encourage new Gaelic units and schools. And we will continue to support the recruitment of Gaelic teachers to ensure that we have the teachers in place to allow the expansion that we need to see.
We will also ask Bòrd na Gàidhlig to prioritise Gaelic education through the work of its National Gaelic Education Steering Group, and seek their advice in three areas. On targets for expanding Gaelic education. On measuring the level of demand for Gaelic language. And on preparing guidance for the promotion and delivery of Gaelic education.
And we will look to make progress beyond our schools too. We want to ensure that people have an opportunity to learn Gaelic at all stages of their life. As the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning showed when she took part in a Gaelic class at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig last month, it's never too late to learn.
I will expect further reports on progress but, by all accounts, Fiona impressed both students and staff.
It's great to see the progress Gaelic is making in the world of further, higher and community education.
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has a national role. It is a centre of excellence and is clearly the pre-eminent venue for Gaelic learning in Scotland.
Since its foundation by Sir Ian Noble in the 1970s, with Sorley MacLean among its early board members, the college has been at the forefront of Gaelic-medium education.
It may have begun life as a 'big barn', housing seven full time students. But today Sabhal Mòr has nearly 100 full time students. And it has 600 short-term students on residential courses on language, culture, traditional music and dance. There is no disputing its central place in the economy and in Scotland's Gaelic culture.
Opportunities for learning are growing through the Millennium Institute network and beyond. Indeed, the Scottish Funding Council's recent report on Gaelic education provision showed that there are 13 colleges and 7 universities offering courses in Gaelic in Scotland, a rising number of students studying Gaelic at our universities and as many as 300 lifelong learning courses on offer throughout the country.
The Scottish Government very much welcomes this report and the positive picture it provides. Those in this audience should be assured that this government will continue to emphasise to the Funding Council that we regard Gaelic as a priority area.
The contribution of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig brings us onto the issue of cultural policy for Gaelic.
We will work with Bòrd na Gàidhlig to make urgent progress on many aspects of the National Plan for Gaelic, particularly in the promotion of Gaelic in the arts.
As many of you know I - and the Scottish Government in general - take a keen interest in broadcasting.
This as an area where Gaelic speakers have not been slow to put themselves forward - and as a result have secured important and influential roles. We would hope to see this success replicated across many other areas of Scotland's economy and culture.
We fully support the need for Gaelic broadcasting, and we are absolutely committed to the establishment of a Gaelic digital service. This new channel can play an important role in securing the future status of Gaelic in Scotland and in the economic development of the Highlands and Islands.
So I was delighted that the Scottish Government was able to increase funding to the Gaelic Media Service by £3 million to support the new dedicated channel.
I am confident that both the BBC and the Gaelic Media Service will be able to respond to the issues raised by the BBC Trust and ensure that this service is of wider benefit for the people of Scotland - both in terms of education and attracting new speakers of the Gaelic language.
In the small and nearly independent Faroe Islands - which was an inspiration for Sir Iain Noble in setting up Sabhal Mor Ostaig - there are over 48,000 people. Although this is fewer than the Scots Gaelic population, the Faroes are able to support two television channels and four radio stations in Faroese - through a mix of public and commercial broadcasters.
So it should not be beyond us to maintain a single dedicated Gaelic television channel. And I would expect Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - and its new FAS centre for the creative industries - to be at the heart of the new channel and ensure its successful future.
Of course, the strength of Gaelic language and culture is inseparable from the future success of the Scottish economy.
At present our Gaelic funding is creating economic opportunities in publishing, in translation, in education, in arts, tourism and broadcasting in the Highlands and Islands.
However we must do more to ensure economic success and prosperity, and to empower our rural communities to take their destiny into their own hands.
Our Celtic cousins in Ireland put it bluntly: "No jobs, no people. No people, no Gaeltacht. No Gaeltacht, no language."
The Highland Clearances, one of the darkest periods in Scottish history, were an extreme and terrible illustration of the consequences of failing to provide economic opportunities in our rural communities.
In July this year, I was at Helmsdale to unveil a memorial statue dedicated to the men, women and children forced to leave their homes during that time.
Many of those who left found opportunity elsewhere in Scotland, in the thriving Gaelic communities in Partick and other parts of Glasgow.
But tens of thousands of Scots chose, or were forced, to leave these shores in search of opportunities in America, Australia and New Zealand and in Canada. And while we feel immense pride in their achievements and those of their descendents, we also feel enormous regret that they could not use of their skills and abilities for the benefit of this country.
So it is the mission of this government to build a Scotland where no-one has to leave in search of opportunity to fulfil their potential. And through the Globalscot network we will make every effort to create commercial opportunities for this country, working with successful Scots across the world.
We will focus on ensuring the sustainability of the Gaelic language - and on the strength of the local economy in the Highlands and Islands.
The defining ambition of this government is to deliver sustainable economic growth for Scotland, and to turn around decades of disappointment and underperformance.
We have the assets. skills, knowledge and ideas to match and overtake our closest neighbours. By that I don't just mean the rest of the UK, but also the small, independent countries, Iceland, Norway, Ireland and Denmark, that form an arc of prosperity around our shores.
These small independent nations have shown that in the 21st century, what matters most isn't size or geography. It's the flexibility of an economy to respond to new opportunities. Its capacity for innovation. Its stock of human capital.
There is every reason to feel confident about our economic future. Every part of Scotland has the potential to take us towards our goal.
Traditional industries like agriculture, forestry and fishing may have declined as a share of Scotland's economy - but they remain vital for the health of Scotland's rural communities. My Government will continue to support these sectors through our rural development programme - which will be worth £1.6 billion over the next seven years. And we will stand up for the interests of our farmers and fishermen in negotiations with London and in Brussels.
I believe that, with the right support, crofting will also continue to have an important place in the future of Scotland's rural communities. That's why the Scottish Government is committed to take forward the findings of the Shucksmith Inquiry, when it reports early next year. And it's why - earlier today - we launched a new consultation on expanding crofting outside the traditional crofting counties.
Above and beyond those traditional forms of economic activity, Scotland's Gaelic speaking areas are home to some of this country's most innovative and successful businesses.
Skye can boast high-tech software companies like Sitekit, doing business with more than 500 customers in 22 countries around the world.
In Ullapool, Invisible Heating Systems has been named by the internationally renowned US magazine, Fast, as one of the 50 key businesses helping to save the world.
Islay is home to the world's first commercially operated wave power station.
On Lewis, Camcal has just won a contract to build 49 turbines for an onshore wind farm in Turkey, guaranteeing jobs and a bright future for the company.
So let us never fall into the trap of assuming that economic opportunities in Scotland's Gaelic heartlands are limited to the traditional industries. There is massive creativity in these areas.
Scotland has an opportunity to lead the world in the field of renewable energy. We have vast potential in onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal power - equivalent to as much as ten times the capacity required to meet our peak demand for power. And so much of that potential is held throughout the Highlands and Islands.
I recognise that onshore wind power is a contentious issue for many people in Skye, Na h-Eileanan Siar, and other parts of Scotland. At the same time, we all accept that renewable energy is vital to reducing climate change.
That is why the Scottish Government has set out plans to triple the funding for community renewables and microgeneration - to reach £13.5 million a year by 2010. It's why we will provide the financial and legislative support to realise ten megawatts of marine energy in Scottish waters by 2010. And it's why the first challenge for our new £10 million Horizon Prize will focus on renewables.
However, we don't just need to focus on the newer forms of renewable energy. More than 60 years after Tom Johnson set up the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, hydro-electric power continues to have a role to play.
Indeed, this Government has just approved plans for a run-of-river Hydro electric scheme in Wester Ross, with a maximum generating capacity of three megawatts.
I've spoken about the various sectors which can create new opportunities for Scotland's Gaelic heartlands.
We will only unlock these opportunities if we have the necessary infrastructure in place - better transport links, improved communications and a high quality housing stock.
So this government will take action to remove the infrastructure barriers that stand in the way of sustainable growth. We will focus on putting in place the road, rail, sea and air infrastructure remote and rural Scotland, and particularly our island communities, needs.
The Skye Bridge, now toll free, has brought significant benefits to the local economy. And throughout the Highlands and Islands ferry services have been improved, and new bridges and causeways have been constructed.
But distance continues to impose a geographical tax on too many of our island communities - particularly on Na h-Eileanan Siar.
It currently costs as much to take a lorry from Stornaway to Ullapool as it does from Ullapool to Brussels. This is a heavy burden on companies on the islands that want to compete in new markets.
That's why our manifesto committed us to commission a study and a pilot project examining the use of the Road Equivalent Tariff as the basis for future ferry fares.
In government, we are fulfilling that commitment.
The first phase of the study is already underway and we will begin a pilot on Na h-Eilean Siar early next year. That will tell us how island residents, tourists, businesses and the freight industry will react to a significant reduction in fares. This will give the Scottish Government the evidence that we need to take informed decisions on the potential impacts across other routes.
And in the 21st century economy, telecommunications are just as important as transport links.
Only four years ago, as much as 30% of Scotland's households were without access to broadband, and the opportunities that it brings. Now the total is just 1%.
But because the market still has to deliver in some areas, the Scottish Government has launched a new scheme to bring broadband to all those households that need it.
Finally, housing. The future strength of our rural economies and communities will depend upon the availability of a sufficient and appropriate supply of housing.
Across the country - and especially in the central belt - there is a constant debate about the affordability of house prices and the availability of good quality social housing. The Highlands and Islands is no different.
And although median wages in the Highlands and Islands remain 10% below the Scottish average, house prices in the Highlands have risen faster than the Scottish average over the past three years.
The Scottish Government is determined to tackle these difficulties. That's why in October we launched a wide-ranging consultation on the future of housing in Scotland. We will do all that we can to ensure that housing supply meets the current and future needs of every part of Scotland - creating sustainable, mixed communities and a fair deal for tenants, taxpayers and first time buyers.
I encourage all of you with an interest to respond to that consultation.
Removing those and other barriers to success will create the space for opportunity and potential to thrive, but it will not guarantee success on its own. If we are to secure a more prosperous future, we must also ensure that we have the right skills and knowledge, and a focus on our sectors of competitive advantage.
Education is a vital part of that.
I've already spoken about the special cultural role of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and its place in spreading the Gaelic language. Sabhal Mòr and the 14 other partners in the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute are working to ensure that the region has the skills and human capital to support future economic success.
I have been deeply impressed by the progress of the Institute. There are superb new facilities, new courses and new research initiatives. In the last 4 years alone the number of students has risen by 40%. And vitally, graduates of the Institute are going on to find success.
I'm hoping that next year we'll be able to welcome the University of the Highlands and Islands as a fully-fledged university, so that talented youngsters are no longer forced to move in search of a university education.
Otherwise, we will continue to see a flow of talented and ambitious Scots moving elsewhere in search of opportunity. And Scotland will continue to have the smartest and most successful airport departure lounges in the world.
So the final thing we need to do is to create the opportunities and the sources of competitive advantage that will encourage young Scots to stay, and encourage new people to move in.
As the world becomes increasingly inter-linked and competitive, we know that our future economic success and prosperity will be predicated upon the strength of our human capital, and our ability to forge and to sustain competitive advantage.
So this government will use every tool at our disposal to build a Celtic Lion economy in Scotland. And we will take the right decisions to ensure that each and every part of the nation has the opportunity to create, and to share, in that prosperity.
Creating economic success is a huge part of the challenge. But it is not enough in itself. In the 21st century, a nation's sense of its identity and its history is also more important than ever before.
So as we look to secure our ambitions for this nation's future, we must recognise that a vibrant Gaelic language and culture are central to what it means to be Scottish in the modern world.
My Government's ambition is to see Gaelic emerge again as a truly national language - and to support a flourishing Gaelic culture and community as part of a resurgent Scotland.
We have made the scale of our ambition clear in our targets to see long-term growth in the number of Gaelic speakers. And we are backing up these targets with the new investment in the language and in Gaelic culture.
Above all, we will promote and expand the provision of Gaelic education at every level.
Education is at the heart of this government's overall mission. And it is the foundation of our policy for Gaelic.
Or, if you prefer: An t-ionnsachadh òg, an t-ionnsachadh bòidheach.
"Teach 'em young. Teach 'em good."