NHS Western Isles’ new Speech Therapy and Gaelic online resource, STaG.got a major boost yesterday (Thursday February 14th) from Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Mr John Swinney.

During a series of visits – which included meetings at Lews Castle College, at the threatened TalkTalk call centre, and with CnES education staff – Mr Swinney officially launched STaG.

It has been developed by NHSWI Speech & Language Therapy Department to assist children with speech therapy needs in the Gaelic language and for use within Gaelic Medium education throughout Scotland.

Launched at the start of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, STaG has raised national clinical interest and garnering great support from the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists.

STaG consists of an interactive website with printable/reproducible therapy materials, and a digital app for use on Android and Apple mobile devices.

NHSWI staff were supported and guided by Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig in the creation of STaG, with funding provided by Bòrd na Gàidhlig and software from Lumberjack Digital.

Mr Ian Burgess, recently appointed to chair NHSWI, said: “The Board are delighted to spotlight the immense work of Speech and Language Therapy Department.”

He spoke of the importance of STaG not just to the Gaelic-speaking communities of the Western Isles but also to Gaelic speakers in the rest of Scotland.

The local team recognised the gap in resources and provision for Gaelic-speakers and then worked tirelessly to fill this gap to create a resource “designed specifically to meet the needs of its target audience and it’s available to all across the nation.”

“I think this is a really good example of providing person-centric care,” Mr Burgess said.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney made some short introductory remarks in Gaelic and then went on to say they wanted to ensure that those who wish to use the Gaelic language are given every opportunity to do so.

“It is important that children with Gaelic have the opportunity to access support in their own language.  The Scottish Government strongly supports and encourages the use of our indigenous languages and the importance of supporting, encouraging and nurturing participation in and use of the Gaelic language is fundamental to the strength and vitality of the Gaelic language.  We recognise the cultural, social and economic value of distinctive language for the future of Scotland.”

He pointed out that it was vital that support existed for children needing help for developing their linguistic skills.  He acknowledged the way that Stòrlann and Bòrd na Gàidhlig has worked with the health service team and said the collaboration “should be celebrated.”

Mr Swinney added that 2019 had been designated as the International Year of Indigenous Languages by UNESCO so this STaG resource was very appropriate.

On behalf of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Domhnall Macsween from Ness said he welcomed the new resource.  He said BnaG had put nearly £20,000 into the scheme which brought together existing skills and knowledge from different groups.  He spoke of his personal understanding of the challenge for Gaelic-speaking families of having to deal with language resources which were entirely in English.  The service “is great for the individuals who will receive and it’s really important for the wider family and the wider community as well.”

Donald Morrison, also from Ness, who is chief executive of Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig, said: “Stòrlann is extremely pleased to have played a key role in the development of STaG, the new and unique resource for use in the field of speech and language therapy.”

He also praised the benefits of collaboration between NHS Eilean Siar, Lumberjack Digital and Stòrlann with many others “pitching in.”  He spoke of how growing up bilingually had given him “two vistas on the planet and beyond.”  But Gaelic was, and continues to be, his preferred language.

 “I love the idea that STaG will help enhance the prospects of increased communication and social interaction amongst some speakers of Gaelic.”

He said that “coming as it does, at the start of the International Year of Indigenous Languages” he congratulated all those involved and praised the Scottish Government for its support.

Christine Lapsley, NHSWI Speech & Language Therapy Manager thanked all those involved in the event – and praised the staff involved for their work on STaG.  She extended her “heartfelt thanks” to them all for thei