A COUNCIL is to press ahead with a controversial plan which will see Gaelic-only signs appearing in some parts of the Highlands.

The scheme was put forward by the Highland Council's director of transport services, Mr Philip Shimmin, who is English. He seemed surprised by the media interest in his plan. He said: ``It seems that an Englishman should not dare to bring up the subject of Gaelic place names.''

Members of the transport services committee unanimously agreed to back the plan although there were reservations about any additional cost to the council.

Easter Ross councillor James Paterson said: ``I have to question whether this item should be on the agenda at all, given the serious financial problems that this council has. I know my constituents just want good roads and signs are not very high on their list of priorities.''

Concerns have been raised by motoring organisations and the Scottish Tourist Board that changing some signs to Gaelic would confuse tourists.

But Mr Shimmin, 58, said bilingual signs already in existence in Gaelic-speaking areas were ``too cluttered'' and in some cases were not needed because the place names were so similar in both languages.

He added: ``We would be able to cut the size of some of these signs in half by using only the Gaelic name which will save us money. I am not trying to confuse anyone and it will be up to the local communities if they want such signs.''

The committee agreed to ask the full council to set up ``appropriate consultation procedures'' on the use of Gaelic-only signs.

Councillor Francis Keith, of north-west Sutherland, said: ``Many of the existing English language signs on our roads have so many letters missing that they might as well be in Gaelic.''

All non-standard road signs in Scotland, including ones using Gaelic, require specific consent from the Scottish Office. Only the West Highland areas of Skye, Ardnamurchan, and Morvern have this consent.