Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Skye's National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, has long been at the forefront of promoting and nurturing the language and culture of Scotland. With that remit, it makes sense that the college would grow and expand according to the needs of its students, staff and wider community.
Part of that expansion involves the creation of a new village in Sleat called Baile na Cille Bige or Kilbeg Village, for which the latest outline plan is shown above. The aim is to provide up to 75 new housing units for the local community including the college's own staff and students; new college teaching, administrative and research facilities; as well as sports and recreation facilities for college users and the local community.
Dòmhnall Angaidh MacLennan, Head of Estates and Services, says that this expansion will help the college to grow and prosper. "This is a long-term plan," he stated. "This is going to be happening over a 25-year-long time frame. We formally opened Phase One in October 2015 in the presence of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP."
Phase One, seen above, consisted of site servicing and infrastructure, as well as the development of a new Administration, Research and Knowledge Exchange building, which has been named Ionad Iain Nobail in honour of the college’s late founder Sir Iain Noble. Dòmhnall Angaidh stated: "It was Sir Iain's vision and energy that first got the college going. His legacy very much lives on with how the college has grown since its inception and naming the first building at Kilbeg in Sir Iain’s honour made perfect sense."
Costing over £6m, this significant capital expenditure project has been enthusiastically supported by the Scottish Government. Funding assistance 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. Dòmhnall Angaidh said: "The college now has almost 43 years of growth behind us since being founded in 1973 and we offer upwards of 100 jobs here, on a year-round basis, in addition to offering courses in Gaelic language and related subjects to up to 1,000 students annually across our entire range of courses. The college, as a whole, generates a turnover of £5m per annum. Each of our funding partners to Phase One at Kilbeg have been crucial to the college’s success to date. They have wanted to work with us again and help the college continue to prosper."
Phase Two will see the redevelopment of the existing Àrainn Ostaig steading and adjoining buildings to provide upgraded facilities for conference and training activities together with associated delegates’ accommodation and catering provision. Phase Three will involve the development of college and community indoor and outdoor sports and recreational facilities as the heart of the new village being planned for Kilbeg.
The new building, Ionad Iain Nobail, was officially opened on 21 October 2015 by Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland. The First Minister, also in the same visit, delivered the annual Sabhal Mòr Ostaig lecture, during which she emphasised the importance of the Gaelic language and culture. She is quoted as saying: "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."
The recent and emerging developments at Kilbeg will help ensure that Sabhal Mòr Ostaig remains at the forefront of promoting and teaching the Gaelic language together with its rich research, media and artistic traditions, while also providing for the practical needs of the growing numbers of college students, staff and and its wider community of users.
(Article written by Roz Skinner)