Unfortunately, we are used to Gaels and their language being denigrated by some sections of the media in Scotland. Alan Roden, Scottish Political Editor of the Daily Mail, has stooped to a all-time low in seeking to make a connection between the modest sums spent on the language and the tragic death of young Keane Wallis-Bennett at Liberton High School.
The normal thing to do, in such circumstances, would be to write to the editor and complain, or send a reply. But that would only highlight the incident in the media yet again, causing unnecessary distress to Keane’s family. I’ll draw Alan Roden’s attention to what I write here and will leave it at that.
As Alan Roden well knows, since the number of pupils in Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce is so healthy, it is very unlikely that there are any additional revenue costs whatsoever associated with offering Gaelic medium education to the pupils there. If those pupils were not there, they would have to be educated somewhere else at the council’s cost. Had they stayed in Tollcross, the City of Edinburgh Council would have needed to invest in the buildings there as the school was overflowing.
Bonnington was a school that the City of Edinburgh Council allowed to deteriorate and it had been extensively vandalised. According to Alan Roden’s piece, councillors gave the go-ahead for £3.5m for Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce. Had the council been looking after its estate and the school had not suffered vandalism, the costs of re-opening it would have been significantly less. In the final analysis, the school attracted £1.8m from the Scottish Government that would not otherwise have been available to the council. The authority’s own contribution was £1.7m. The council’s capital spend on the new Gaelic school ensured that part of its estate was renovated and re-opened. It has been a success, as many of us knew it would be.
There is little doubt, if Alan Roden’s figures are accurate, that the City of Edinburgh Council faces difficulties in keeping all its schools in good repair. That is a situation replicated in authorities across the country. It has been like that forever.
It is baffling why Alan Roden hates Gaelic so much that he would come up with a headline like the one accompanying his article that seeks to blame the tragic death of a young pupil on the money spent on Gaelic provision. If that was not his motive, why was the £3.5m spent on Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce mentioned at all?
Whatever the cause of young Keane’s death, this is not a time to be apportioning blame. But what a sickening slur on those who attend and work in Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce that they should be associated in this way with a tragic incident at another school. An example of the worst kind of gutter journalism and unadulterated, inexplicable hatred towards Gaelic and its speakers from Alan Roden.