Scottish Ambulance Service staff will be given lessons in Gaelic as part of the government’s push to boost the language. The service has proposed to introduce measures between now and 2020 that will include “Gaelic awareness and Gaelic language skills training”.

But the idea has been attacked by critics who believe that Gaelic lessons will take staff away from helping patients.

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone blamed the Holyrood Government’s desire to promote Gaelic for the move. “This is the Scottish Government’s obsession to push Gaelic at all costs rearing its head again,” he said.

“The SNP should be supporting staff to improve response times and cut down on sickness absence, not playing political games with paramedics.

The Scottish Ambulance Service says that the proposals will initially be in areas with more than 25% Gaelic usage or “areas with Gaelic medium education”, but admit it may extend to all staff. The service also hopes to improve access to Gaelic interpreting services and bilingual SAS logos will be introduced.

However an SAS spokesman told the paper that any changes in signage “would only be undertaken when they are being replaced in a normal lifecycle, so as not to incur additional costs.”