Bord na Gàidhlig annual report reveals significant strides made in promoting and supporting Scotland’s Gaelic language and culture

Bòrd na Gàidhlig has made significant strides in promoting and supporting Gaelic language and culture in Scotland, the organisation’s 2018-19 annual report has revealed. It also demonstrates how Gaelic development contributes strongly to Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework.


The non-departmental public body helped thousands more children and young people learn and use Gaelic in the course of their daily lives over the course of the last financial year. It also achieved an increase in the number of adults learning or enhancing their Gaelic skills nationally.


Bòrd na Gàidhlig is working closely with 70 public authorities, with 54 of these having approved Gaelic language plans. In its stakeholder survey, Bòrd na Gàidhlig received a 100% full or partially satisfied rating from stakeholders, with none expressing any dissatisfaction,


According to the report, Bòrd na Gàidhlig received a total Grant-in-Aid allocation of just under £5.2 million – the financial allocation Bòrd na Gàidhlig is required to operate within by Scottish Ministers.


Of that total, £1.4 million covered core running costs, while £2.5 million went to Gaelic development funds – including community funding for people, projects and groups, including its Taic Freumhan Coimhearsnachd (Community Grant Scheme) – and £1.1 million towards the Gaelic Language Plans Implementation Fund.


In 2018-2019, Bòrd na Gàidhlig continued its support for people to develop their Gaelic skills at any age and these opportunities included: Supporting seven placements throughout Scotland in the Year of Young People 2018 in organisations such as Galson Estate Trust, Young Scot, An Àirigh, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, An Lanntair, Taigh Chearsabhagh and Theatre Gu Leòr. They also provided funding for the employment of a Digital Officer within MG ALBA who oversees, an integral website for Gaelic learners and speakers alike boasting around 30,000 regular users every month.


Interim Chair Mary MacInnes said Bòrd na Gàidhlig continued to work hard on implementing its ambitious Corporate Plan 2018-23, which sets out ways to get more people using Gaelic more often and in more situations.


She added that thanks to the new working group, working under the banner ‘a Faster Rate of Progress’, other public bodies had also unveiled commitments to boosting the profile and use of Gaelic in Scotland. These included VisitScotland publishing its first ever Gaelic Tourism Strategy, and Police Scotland adopting Gaelic in its new logo. This has dramatically increased the awareness of Gaelic throughout Scotland.


She said: “The annual report and accounts for Bòrd na Gàidhlig detail the significant progress we have made in promoting and supporting the Gaelic language and culture.


“It has been heartening to see participation in learning and using Gaelic continue to grow, particularly among younger language activists, and many public bodies create their own Gaelic plans. The impact of these on the visibility and normalisation of Gaelic cannot be understated. Together, we are ensuring Gaelic’s place at the heart of Scottish national life.”


Chief executive Shona MacLennan cited work being undertaken to improve the organisation. She said: “We recognised the need to develop our leadership skills and work to increase openness and transparency across the organisation.


“We have been addressing these issues through the commissioning of a review of our remit and leadership structure, alongside a programme of development for senior managers. We also conducted an annual staff survey where we recognised a need to improve communication, engagement and wellbeing of our staff. In order to address these, we are working towards the Investors in People standard.”


“Our work shows how Bòrd na Gàidhlig is committed to seeing Gaelic develop and flourish in Scotland.”

Bòrd na Gàidhlig statement on the Audit Scotland Section 22 report

This Bòrd na Gàidhlig Section 22 report is based on the Governance and Transparency Report, presented to the Audit and Risk Management Committee earlier this year. This is the most in-depth audit the organisation has ever undergone. It follows an extremely busy three years for Bòrd na Gàidhlig with many changes in structure and procedures taking place. The chief executive was charged with making these changes by the Board.


Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s board recognises the findings, which focused on its governance, leadership and management as well as its openness and transparency, were not all good news for the organisation.


The Bòrd na Gàidhlig board recognises the need to develop new ways of working and has embarked on a comprehensive programme of change. These changes across the whole organisation include:


  • Reviewing the board’s remit and governance
  • Reviewing Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s management structure
  • Reviewing communication and collaboration with others, both internally and externally
  • Developing the board and senior management’s skills and knowledge
  • Creating a training plan for the board, senior management team and staff
  • Developing a culture of greater openness and transparency


This programme is already underway, with more than 50% of the actions recommended being implemented within four months of receiving the report, and the remainder on target to be completed by the end of this financial year.


Mairi MacInnes, Bòrd na Gàidhlig Interim Chair, said: “Periods of change are difficult for any organisation, so Bòrd na Gàidhlig is not unique. This report has highlighted many of the challenges we have faced during the past three years, particularly in terms of the volume of work we have to deliver every day, our recruitment challenges and our limited resources. For the organisation to grow and achieve the commitments in our Corporate Plan 2018-23, we must continue to review all of our work and make changes where necessary. We remain committed to completing our programme of change, to help Gaelic flourish in Scotland and for Gaelic communities to continue to grow and thrive.


“All those involved in Bòrd na Gàidhlig recognise the need for and are thoroughly committed to finding a way forward so the recommendations made in the report are implemented and we are happy to explain the organisation and our decisions to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee if required.


“However, it is also important to highlight the significant and forward-thinking programme of work that we have delivered over recent years.


“Among our most notable achievements were gaining ministerial approval of the National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-23, which has been widely welcomed and received substantial cross-party support as well as acclaim from language planners in other minority languages.


“We maintained the annual budget in an increasingly challenging fiscal environment, as well as increasing both the use, learning and promotion of Gaelic in Scotland and also the number of public authorities actively involved in the Gaelic language.


“We developed new national initiatives, such as A Faster Rate of Progress, led by Depute First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney to deliver a range of key commitments in the National Gaelic Language Plan.


“In 2017 we gained Ministerial approval of the Statutory Guidance for Gaelic Education through a collaborative working group led by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.


“Finally, as well as increasing demand for Gaelic medium education in Scotland, we developed new three-year funding agreements which will enable increased planning, development and efficiency for the main community organisations involved in using, learning and promoting Gaelic.”


“We all want Bòrd na Gàidhlig to be a success story – taking on board this report’s findings will help us work towards that goal.”

Gaelic Community Groups welcome opportunities

Bòrd na Gàidhlig is welcoming organisations in Scotland which support and promote the Gaelic language to apply for grants of up to £5,000, after launching its community funding scheme for 2020/21.

A budget of £125,000 has been set aside for Taic Freumhan Coimhearsnachd community grants scheme and organisations committed to delivering a local project that promotes Gaelic are encouraged to apply.

Last year Bòrd na Gàidhlig awarded funding to 74 projects – including voluntary organisations, social enterprises, sporting, religious, school and arts groups.

Among those awarded cash last year was Garrabost Free Church which used £3,200 from Bòrd na Gàidhlig along with other funding, to help digitally preserve a rare set of recordings of islanders on Lewis reciting the New Testament.

The recordings from the 1980s were of the congregation of Knock Free Church, now merged with Garrabost, and it is hoped these recordings will become a valuable resource for all those learning the Gaelic language.

Also Urras an Taobh Sear (Staffin Community Trust) was awarded £3,400 to continue its unique course it has been running since 2013, entitled Àrainneachd, Cànan is Dualchas (Gaelic in the environment) at Staffin on Skye, one of the most beautiful locations in the country.

Birks Cinema Trust, which runs the community-owned Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross, was provided with £1,300 to help run a Gaelic cafe and Gaelic events.

Mairi MacInnes, Bòrd na Gàidhlig Interim Chair, said this year’s scheme above all wants to help support projects promoting extra-curricular Gaelic use for GME pupils, promote the use of Gaelic in the home, encourage Gaelic in communities and help more adults learn and use Gaelic, and promote better access and awareness of Scotland’s Gaelic heritage.

She said: “All 74 projects we awarded funding have done fantastic work promoting and developing the Gaelic language.


“The Knock Free Church recordings represent an amazing resource, while Urras an Taobh Sear’s Àrainneachd and Birks Cinema Trust’s cafe and events are hugely popular.


“We at Bòrd na Gàidhlig are delighted to support them and urge many more organisations committed to promoting and growing Gaelic to apply for this latest round of funding.”


David Murray, Garrabost Free Church Clerk to Session, said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s funding from its Taic Freumhan Coimhearsnachd fund enabled us to digitise and clean sound files of an audio version of the Gaelic New Testamant which was produced by members of the congregation in the 1980s. We also received funding from the Point and Sandwick Trust to complete the project.


“Without the Taic Freumhan Coimhearsnachd funding it is likely that these audio recordings would have been lost, as the cassette tapes were old and very few sets of the audio recordings remain. The fund allowed us to employ a local IT specialist to undertake the work of digitising and cleaning the recordings.


“The Audio Recording of the New Testament is a rich archive of local Gaelic speakers and we are delighted that it has been preserved. We hope to produce a website to host the sound files in the near future.


“The Taic Freumhan Coimhearsnachd fund is a great help for Gaelic development work which goes on at community level.”


Sìne Gillespie, of Urras an Taobh Sear, said: “Àrainneachd, Cànan is Dualchas is a course created by Roddy Maclean for fluent and near fluent speakers of Gaelic. The course provides students with teaching tools that are indispensable not merely for educators but for anybody who is passionate about Gaelic Scotland. Students learn that there are 130 Gaelic words to describe a mountain. Of particular joy and usefulness are Roddy’s lists of Gaelic names for seabirds, wildlife and Scottish trees.


“Students who undertake this course gain access to a wealth of material that connects the language, culture and environment of Gaelic Scotland. Àrainneachd, Cànan is Dualchas represents, after all, the lifetime’s work of a Gaelic ambassador at the height of his powers. And ACD is strengthened further through its rootedness in a community where fluent Gaelic is spoken eloquently.

“Staffin Community Trust would be unable to host this marvellous course without financial assistance. We have been very fortunate to receive a grant over seven summers from Bòrd na Gàidhlig.


“We and our partners are indeed grateful to Bòrd na Gàidhlig who – through their Taic Freumhan Coimhearsnachd scheme – have helped us in the community of Staffin to build richly on our reputation as an excellent location for Gaelic courses in the outdoors.


“As a community trust, Urras an Taobh Sear is mindful of the related economic benefits as well as those that come from investing in the proactive development of our unique and precious Gaelic language.”


The closing date for applications is Tuesday 21st January 2020. Application forms can be found at

Bord na Gàidhlig funds unique digital Gaelic education project hailed as ‘Netflix for Reading’

The organisation has backed Giglets Gàidhlig, which provides online learning for students in Gaelic schools throughout Scotland using a cloud-based system, to the tune of £147,000 over three years.


Already more than 90% of Gaelic Medium Education (GME) schools are using or are trained on Giglets Gàidhlig’s system, with 600 teachers and 4,500 pupils registered.


Jim Whannel, Bòrd na Gàidhlig Director of Education, said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig is delighted that Giglets Gàidhlig is proving such a success story.


“We believe Giglets Gàidhlig is a perfect fit for the ultimate aim of Bòrd na Gàidhlig – to help Gaelic flourish in Scotland through people learning the language in an enterprising, fun yet academically challenging way.


“Its aim is to give children a love for reading and provide teachers with a rich collection of texts and resources. It supports multiple media, such as graphics, pictures, animations at key moments of the story, so every child and teacher can use it in Gaelic.


“We believe Giglets Gàidhlig will continue to help pupils, teachers, schools and the Gaelic community in Scotland as a whole to work towards our goal.”


Headquartered in Kilmarnock, Giglets Gàidhlig is a K-12 company involved in early years, primary and early secondary education. The project is supported by several hundred Gaelic resources aligned with Curriculum for Excellence, with 45 Gaelic voiceovers professionally recorded and published.


It also provides a library of hundreds of texts and thousands of curriculum-aligned resources, and provides educational training and support services. It also partners with Stòrlann Nàiseanta, the organisation which is the main producer of Gaelic educational resources.


It is the brainchild of Dr Karsten Karcher, chairman and founder of Giglets Education. He says Giglets Gàidhlig provides a low cost, scalable, cloud-based learning platform and software-as-a-service (SaaS) that improves learning experiences for teachers and pupils.


Also vital to the edtech system’s success is it is education first and technology second.


He said: “Its content consists of a library of online titles, both fiction and non-fiction. They are delivered in a totally accessible way according to the abilities of the student reading them – be it novel, newspaper or cartoon style.”


Aimed at those aged between three to 14, Giglets Gàidhlig is accessible on tablet, computer, and mobiles. Dr Karcher says texts also have full voiceovers.


He added: “Giglets Gàidhlig is unique in terms of the number of schools engaged – thanks to its aim to reverse a fall in reading standards. It also helps reduce teachers’ workloads by reducing preparation and marking time, and provides data and analytics to teachers, schools, local authorities and governments.


“Ultimately Giglets Gàidhlig helps teachers raise standards and supports them in engaging pupils and involving parents while providing valuable information to reinforce their judgements about a learner’s progress.”


Giglets Gàidhlig is supported by the Gaelic Local Authority Network (GLAN) as well as all 14 Scottish local authorities involved in GME. They are Highland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Argyll and Bute, Glasgow, Perth and Kinross, Aberdeen City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh City, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, Angus and Inverclyde Councils.


Giglets Gàidhlig is also supported by Gaelic teaching organisations, University of Edinburgh, University of Strathclyde, University of the Highlands and Islands, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and Newbattle Abbey College in Midlothian.




Media Contact: Elaine Fee on 07540 124245 or Philip Gates on 07525 645350


The Gaelic awards

Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the daily record were proud to host the most prestigious night of the year within the Gaelic community calendar. Celebrating Gaelic culture, education and language highlighting the excellent work undertaken to maintain growth and heritage.

The awards are now in their seventh year and attended by over 200 guests including finalists, event sponsors and members of the Gaelic community. The event itself Celebrates and embraces traditional and modern entertainment. Hosted by Scottish Broadcaster and Producer, Cathy MacDonald the evening which Bòrd na Gàidhlig started supporting in 2013 was held in Glasgow at the Marriot Hotel.

The piper who campaigned against men-only competitions and inspired generations of children was honoured for her life’s work at this year’s Gaelic Awards.

Rona Lightfoot, described as a one-woman ceilidh, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daily Record and Bòrd na Gàidhlig Gaelic Awards, which pay tribute to all aspects of Gaelic culture, education and language.

Rona, 83, who was born on South Uist, started playing the pipes when she was nine.

After moving to Glasgow to train as a nurse, she married a sailor and would often go to sea with him, taking her pipes so she could teach herself pibroch.

She was the first woman to take part in the Bratach Gorm, the Scottish Piping Society of London’s premier pibroch competition, and her contribution to Gaelic culture as a singer, storyteller and teacher was recognised at the awards.

Other winners included Lucy Hannah, named Young Gaelic Ambassador of the Year for managing a Gaelic- medium childcare facility on Skye, and Alison Richardson and Claire MacDonald, who picked up the Learner Award for producing two online Gaelic resource banks.

Shona MacLennan, CEO, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said:

All the winners and nominees are to be congratulated on their work to ensure that Gaelic is used more often, in more situations, by more people.

“It’s truly inspiring to see such passion for our language and culture.”


LEARNER AWARD: Alison Richardson and Claire MacDonald

ARTS & CULTURE AWARD: Whyte (Alasdair Whyte and Ross Whyte)

EVENT AWARD: Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn

COMMUNITY, HERITAGE & TOURISM AWARD: Marisa Macdonald & Sgoil an Rubha


INTERNATIONAL AWARD: Alba Choir at Eurovision

SPORT AWARD: Calum Maclean






For more information go to

Latest Gaelic Language Plan launched

VisitScotland has published its latest Gaelic Language Plan as part of its commitment to ensuring Gaelic has a strong and sustainable future in Scotland.

It comes as a ‘Scottish Gaelic Explained’ video created by the national tourism organisation in the summer reached over 95,000 views, showing an increasing interest in the language.


The revised plan highlights actions to be undertaken by the national tourism organisation to contribute to the growth of Gaelic over the next three years. These include encouraging and supporting more tourism businesses to engage with Gaelic and recording those that do, while raising Gaelic awareness within VisitScotland.


The plan which was first created in 2012, was drawn up by representatives from across the organisation and was circulated for public consultation before it was finalised.


An immediate focus for the 2019-2022 plan is to conduct an audit of Gaelic-speaking VisitScotland staff, which will take place before the end of the year.

The plan follows the launch of the first Gaelic Tourism Strategy in 2018 which aims to increase promotion and access to Gaelic as part of the Scottish visitor experience. VisitScotland lead on the implementation of the strategy and is co-ordinating progress across all actions and partners involved.


Gaelic is part of daily life in Scotland and has been for generations. As a unique aspect of Scottish culture and heritage, Gaelic can provide an extra layer to the authentic Scottish experience and to Scotland’s many visitors. The VisitScotland Visitor Survey in 2016 found that, with no prior promotion, 34% of respondents felt that Gaelic, as a national language of Scotland, enhanced their visit and they would like to find out more about it.


Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “This latest VisitScotland Gaelic Language Plan reinforces our commitments to promote the language’s use throughout the organisation, focusing on key areas of our operation such as supporting the tourism industry to embrace Gaelic, our identity, signage, communication with the public and the use of Gaelic on our websites.


“The language has the potential to be a key ingredient in the Scottish tourism offer, providing visitors with a memorable and unique experience. VisitScotland plays a significant role in seeing that those travelling to our shores have their visits enriched even further by Gaelic.

“With over 600 staff, offices and information centres across the country, and all our visitor communications, our role in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Gaelic language is a significant one.”


Welcoming the plan, Bòrd na Gàidhlig Ceannard (CEO) Shona NicIllinnein said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig welcomes the third iteration of VisitScotland’s Gaelic Plan and we recognise and value the significant work that VisitScotland undertakes to promote Gaelic in Scotland and internationally.


“Tourism is very important to the Scottish economy and we recognise the huge potential which exists to grow the use of Gaelic across the industry, for the benefit of communities and visitors alike.”


You can access VisitScotland’s Gaelic Language Plan at:

Scotland’s first Gaelic graduate apprentice

In a groundbreaking move, Bòrd na Gàidhlig is employing student Orla in a full-time salaried position. This new role will see her spend the next four years mixing work-based learning in a fully Gaelic environment with her studies towards a BA (Hons) in Business Management.


Role of Bòrd na Gàidhlig apprentice


This is part of a new link-up between Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Aberdeen Business School at Robert Gordon University, where Orla has begun a new ‘blended learning’ course.


It means over the course of her four-year degree, Orla will become fully immersed in the business environment of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, and familiarise herself with the workings of the organisation through a series of projects each semester.


Despite being a student at RGU, Orla has moved to Inverness and will keep tutors at Aberdeen Business School up to date with her progress through distance learning. She will follow a learning plan – which consists of four modules a year – and which will be matched to learning outcomes.


Orla MacDonald


Before joining Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Orla graduated in July from the University of Edinburgh, where she achieved an MA (Hons) in Celtic.


She said: “I’ve really enjoyed the start of my new working life at Bòrd na Gàidhlig. I am currently familiarising myself with the business environment, how the organisation operates, such as its purposes, structures, functions and core values.


“As the course continues so my work will become even more in-depth and specialist. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn just how much work Bòrd na Gàidhlig does with the Gaelic and the wider Scottish communities.”


Bòrd na Gàidhlig mentorship support


Orla is receiving mentorship support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s senior team, including office manager Carol Johnson, who says through the four years of her study, Orla’s projects will become increasingly in-depth and useful to the organisation as her skills and knowledge increase.


Shona MacLennan, Bòrd na Gàidhlig chief executive officer, said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig is so excited to have Orla here with us, we already enjoy her being part of our team. Through her four years of study Orla will each semester follow a learning plan which will match up with the different parts of the course which she will follow to achieve her degree.


“It means Orla will quickly integrate and familiarise herself with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, as well as engage with and provide support to key stakeholders. We ultimately hope that she will stay with us and progress even further within the organisation.”