THE agency responsible for protecting and promoting Gaelic is “a disaster” and failing “every Gaelic-speaking person in the country”, MSPs have said.

Auditor General Caroline Gardner revealed a catalogue of problems at Bord na Gaidhlig (BnG) in her report last year, including ineffective leadership, inadequate workforce planning, poor relationships and organisational culture and a lack of transparency in decision-making.

Yesterday assessors Deloitte told MSPs that though an improvement plan is in place, there are “serious concerns” that the Inverness-based body will not make progress without bringing in “external expertise”.

And he said he was not aware of any consultation with Gaelic speakers before that improvement plan was drawn up.

Alex Neil MSP, who helped set up the 19-strong organisation, suggested the current board has a “bunker mentality” and is “not listening” to the advice of auditors.

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On the formation of the non-departmental public body under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act in 2005, he said: “We anticipated it being run properly, efficiently, transparently, effectively, and that clearly isn’t happening.”

Questioning the BnG structure and pay packets, which run up to £90,000 per year, Neil described the leadership team of the BnG board as “not fit for purpose”.

He told the chamber: “An organisation like this, a second-tier manager could run this on their tea break and yet it seems to be a total disaster.”

The comments came at a meeting of the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee, where member Colin Beattie said he’d “never seen a more damning report”.

The National: Auditor General Caroline GardnerAuditor General Caroline Gardner

The paper called on BnG to “deliver significant improvements in the issues raised to establish the trust and confidence of staff and stakeholders, including the Parliament and the public” and, at the time, its interim chair Mairi MacInnes said its problems were “not unique”.

Committing to “review all of our work and make changes where necessary”, she said: “All those involved in Bord na Gaidhlig recognise the need for and are thoroughly committed to finding a way forward so the recommendations made in the report are implemented.”

But Beattie said it was “a worry” that senior figures are “still in place”, stating: “It seems that almost every decision the senior management take was flawed in some way and didn’t contribute to the well-running of this organisation.

“That’s to the detriment of every Gaelic-speaking person in the country.”

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Part of BnG’s role is to distribute funds for Gaelic-language activities.

Gardner told the committee it was “reasonable” to assume that the amount of time and energy that has been taken up with BnG’s internal problems “may have diverted attention from engaging with the Gaelic-speaking community” and affected work in the longer term.

Under questioning from committee convener Jenny Marra, Kenny said he could not “think of a report which raised such serious issues” during his time in his role.

Neil told Kenny: “Everything you say reduces my level of confidence in this organisation even more.

“The work they’re supposed to be doing is absolutely vital for the cultural and linguistic future of our country, so they’re badly letting down people and if they can’t get their act together then they should go – both the senior management team and the board.”