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Official opening of Kilbeg Development Phase 1 and SMO Annual Lecture by Nicola Sturgeon, MSP, First Minister of Scotland

The first building in the new Kilbeg Development was officially opened today (Wednesday) by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon MSP.  The new building at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, the National Centre for the Gaelic Language and Culture, has been named “Ionad Iain Nobail” or the Iain Noble Centre, in memory of the late Sir Iain Noble who was instrumental in the establishment and early development of the College over 40 years ago.

Work began on Phase 1 of the major new’Kilbeg Village Development’ project, being led by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, in Sleat on the Isle of Skye in February 2014.  Along with the site servicing and infrastructure, which will enable the future elements of the Kilbeg Village Master plan to be delivered incrementally over a projected 20 year time frame, the Iain Noble Centre was built as an Academic, Research, Knowledge Transfer and Enterprise building.  Part of this new centre, built by Robertson Northern, is also home to key College staff who previously occupied the original Ostaig Steading buildings.

The Chairman of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Board of Directors, Lord Minginish , said: “I would like to congratulate everyone who has brought us to where we are today. There are too many to name individually butit would be appropriate to give thanks to the Government for their help at every stage of the development. By being with us today to officially open and name Ionad Iain Nobail the First Minister is demonstrating that continued support.  We are greatly indebted to every group involved in the funding of the project also. This is a great and historic day for Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, for Sleat and for the Isle of Skye: the first step in a development that will continue for the next twenty years.”

Funding assistance towards the £6.2m cost of Phase 1 at Kilbeg has been provided by the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish Government, the European Regional Development Fund (Convergence) of the European Union, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The Highland Council and the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Development Trust which incorporates the former Highland Fund and Urras na h-Aiseirigh.

Robert Muir, Area Manager for HIE Lochaber Skye and Wester Ross said “HIE are delighted that the first phase of the ambitious Kilbeg Village development has been completed successfully. We look forward to the long term benefits of this initial infrastructure investment being realised through future projects that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig develop on site”.

The project contractors, Robertson Construction Northern Ltd, completed the development in April 2015 and the Regional Managing Director, Frank Reid, said: “With this development, we were conscious that we weren’t simply working on a building, but something that would help stimulate the continuing success of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig – as well as contribute towards the economic growth of Skye and the wider Highlands and Islands area. It was vital then that this project reflected the ambition, quality and significance of the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, so we are particularly proud to see it now and are certain it will fulfil this goal. We are honoured to have played an integral part in the development of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for Sleat ,Skye, and the whole Gaelic culture.”

Sir Iain’s widow, Lucilla, Lady Noble, said: “It gives me great joy to learn that the flagship building of A’ Chill’ Bheag is being named Ionad Iain Nobail. Given the challenges that he overcame in setting up Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, combined with his lifelong commitment and endeavour towards ensuring the future of the Gaelic language, culture and education,  it will also be appreciated that Iain’s name will continue in perpetuity at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.”

Sleat Community Council welcomed this latest phase of the College’s development and paid tribute to the vision of Sir Iain Noble. Their Chairman Roddy Murray said “This latest development  marks not only the continuing growth of the College but also the start of a new phase of Community involvement and diversification through the Kilbeg Village Plan. The Community Council looks forward to the provision of further enhanced facilities at Kilbeg which will benefit both the College and the community for generations to come”. 

The Kilbeg initiative will result in the creation of the first new’planned village’ on Skye, in almost 100 years and is, therefore, of great historical significance. It will also build upon the significant socio-economic impact which the College has had in the region since its founding by Sir Iain Noble in 1973.

After the official opening, the First Minister delivered the annual Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Lecture where she spoke of the relationship between Gaelic linguistic and cultural regeneration and the economic vitality of the country and, in particular, of what Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has contributed since the establishment of the College.

She praised Sir Iain Noble’s vision and the ways in which Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has grown over the years, in regards to both education and development, and in which the College is today a great example to the entire country.

She said: “When Sir Ian Noble established this college, his vision was partly based on the view that cultural regeneration would encourage economic regeneration. The two go hand in hand. That vision has been vindicated here on Sleat over the last four decades.”

She welcomed the Kilbeg Village project and said that it is truly encouraging to see the new buildings and developments at Kilbeg which are strengthening the local area and also showing the opportunities that we have available and the social and economic benefits that come from  revitalising Gaelic.

 “The new walls of the Kilbeg development demonstrate the contribution Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has made to Gaelic learning; to the regeneration of the Sleat peninsula; and to the culture and economy of the Highlands and Islands.”

The First Minister explained how Gaelic medium education had increased numbers of Gaelic speakers and how important it is that that these numbers continue to rise.

She said: “What we’re trying to do now is to ensure that our education legislation and schools system help rather than hinder the development of Gaelic.  So we’re adopting a proportionate and practical approach which will help to secure the language’s future.   We want more people to learn Gaelic, to use it, and to see its relevance in their everyday lives.  And in doing so, we will ensure that Gaelic contributes to the social and economic wellbeing of local communities.”

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig Principal, Professor Boyd Robertson commented: “Today marked an important milestone in the developing story of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig with the First Minister performing the twin  functions of opening the new Iain Noble Centre, the first stage of the ambitious Kilbeg Village Development and delivering the annual SMO lecture. She was the fourth First Minister to give the lecture and we were greatly encouraged by her recognition of the work of the College and her support for it.  She also exhibited a good grasp of the position of the language and the key role education and broadcasting play in reviving its fortunes.”

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