A COMPANY paid hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money to help people speak Gaelic has been accused of harassing its staff.

Staff are also alleged to have had their personal emails hacked, although it is not clear who was responsible.

The company involved is Deiseal Ltd, which has received £700,000 in the last four years to deliver adult learners' courses in Gaelic. It specialises in the Ulpan method which is also used to teach Welsh and has a reputation as a quick and effective way for adults to become fluent in a language. About 2000 people are currently using it to learn Gaelic.

The firm denies the allegations and says no grievances were raised internally.

However Angus MacDonald, the SNP MSP for Falkirk East who is originally from Lewis, has written to Bòrd na Gàidhlig (BnG) – the statutory Gaelic development body which funds Deiseal – because "concerns have been brought to my attention regarding irregularities within Deiseal Ltd".

Mary Scanlon, Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has also raised general concerns about Deiseal with the Scottish Government.

Bosses at Deiseal, which employs around seven or eight members of staff doing administrative and accounting work, have been accused of setting unreasonable workloads.

It was also claimed that when extra time worked was to be taken as days off in lieu, some of the staff were not given the opportunity to do so and ended with four months due to them.

Meanwhile, staff who took bank holidays and Christmas Day as holidays alleged they had to make up the time.

Mr MacDonald said he had been told staff were harassed as they were contacted when they were either off sick or on holiday, and urged to carry out menial tasks such as posting mail. He said: "This harassment has allegedly caused the high turnover over of staff, with five people resigning in 18 months."

Mr MacDonald claimed he was also told the personal email accounts of staff had been hacked and this matter had been taken to Grampian Police who found evidence of this happening, although they did not confirm who was responsible.

In his letter, Mr MacDonald told BnG chief executive John Angus MacKay: "There are many disturbing issues here that should be looked into, especially when Deiseal Ltd is highly reliant on public money – including Bòrd na Gàidhlig, HIE and Skills Development Scotland."

A spokesman for BnG confirmed Mr MacDonald's letter had been received and said: "We have discussed these allegations with Deiseal Ltd and they have refuted them. Beyond that we cannot comment on the internal human resources issues of another organisation."

A spokesman for Deiseal said: "These allegations are completely unfounded. We would have expected such serious allegations to have been notified to the company in an appropriate manner.

"It is astonishing these unfounded claims are being made in the first instance to an MSP, when neither existing nor previous employees have ever raised a grievance in relation to such matters. Had this been done any concerns could have been thoroughly investigated."