Council ‘stops’ skipped Gaelic books going back to schools

Alison Craig, who is chairperson of Comann nam Pàrant an Òbain, with just a few of the Gaelic books salvaged from a skip outside a former education office in Dalintart Drive

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Argyll and Bute Council has apologised for dumping Gaelic school books in a skip by its old education offices in Oban, but parents who rescued 1,800 say they cannot redistribute these books back to schools because the council banned headteachers from talking to them.

The claim was heard at Wednesday’s meeting of the Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee, where councillors compared the ’embarrassment’ to the Martha Payne incident in 2012, when the council banned a nine-year-old pupil at Lochgilphead Primary School from posting reviews of school meals on her blog.

Alison Craig, chairperson of Comann nam Pàrant an Òbain, said: ‘Unfortunately I have become infamous for posting pictures of a skip full of Gaelic resources on Sunday.

‘Between myself and a few other parents within Oban, we have somewhere in the region of 1,800 books now sitting within our houses. I am trying to contact all of the head teachers and/or the heads of Gaelic throughout the Gaelic medium units within Argyll and Bute Council. What I have found today, on phoning these schools, is these head teachers and heads of Gaelic have been told not to speak to me.

‘I don’t now know who needs what and in what Gaelic medium units because the education department has told them they are not allowed to have contact with us. So what am I now to do with the books?’

The move baffled the meeting’s chairperson, veteran councillor Elaine Robertson, who gave up mid-sentence trying to conceive an explanation.

She said: ‘I can only think that…well, I can’t,’ she said, defeated. ‘I am surprised and sorry to hear that because in the circumstances it would have been helpful to know if any other school or medium required any further resources.’

Ms Craig added: ‘There are still two units left outside what was the education department in Dalintart Drive. I want to know what’s in those units. If there are Gaelic medium resources, what’s going to happen to them, where is it going to go?

‘I very much want to work collaboratively with the council, but I feel at the moment when it comes to Gaelic, we are at the very, very, very bottom of a very, very, very long list.’

Councillor Roddy McCuish said: ‘There’s no excuse. That skip’s in a very public place, one of the most popular walks in Oban. For anyone not to realise what they were doing there, I really am astounded at that. This is the same department that many years ago was involved in the Martha Payne incident, which was an embarrassment as well.

‘These books should have been offered right across the community, other schools, even right across Scotland. We have to find out what’s in these two containers. If there’s more of that stuff in there, let’s not miss the opportunity to get them distributed to people who need them.

‘Oban needs a standalone Gaelic school. There is nothing surer. There is funding from the Scottish Government. We had the opportunity at Dunbeg. It was suggested at Dunbeg that we move the whole Gaelic medium unit out to the old school at Dunbeg, and we get a new school down where the development is.’

Ms Craig responded: ‘That is something that we looked at. That is something Comann nam Pàrant funded, in terms of having to have various different processes before it was something the council looked at. And, again, it was shoved over to one side.’