MINISTERS have backed a bid by a Gaelic teacher from Canada to take up her dream job on a Scottish island.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary, has written to the Home Office calling on them to review urgently the decision not to grant the teacher a visa.

As The Herald revealed yesterday, parents from Bunessan Primary School, on the Isle of Mull, have been trying to find a Gaelic teacher since June and finally secured the perfect candidate.

Sìne Halfpenny, from Antigonish, in Nova Scotia, Canada, is a Gaelic speaker and has also studied in Scotland and is qualified to teach here.

However, when Argyll and Bute Council applied for a visa for her to teach on the island, off the west coast, the Home Office refused.

Now Mr Swinney has written to Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, urging a review.

Mr Swinney said: “The Scottish Government is a strong supporter of our indigenous languages and is committed to providing those wishing to learn the language the opportunity to do so.

“This week the council were informed by the Home Office that the application would not progress any further as it was felt it had not accrued enough points.

“This is understandably disappointing given the position of the Scottish Government and the local authority to support the teacher and the educational benefits this would have brought to the area.”

Jennifer Johnston, who has four children at the school, said: “We can’t see any logical reason why Sìne should not be given a visa - she is keen to fill a position that no-one in the country has applied to do.

“Indeed, if she isn’t allowed to come and work here the very existence of the Gaelic medium unit will be called into question.”

Mrs Johnston said Home Office systems were getting in the way of common sense.

She added: “The rules are being adhered to, but whoever it is that sets the rules has lost sight of what their objective should be.

“Meanwhile, primary pupils are stuck in limbo waiting for their Gaelic teacher to arrive.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said the correct rules had been followed.

She added: “All visa applications are considered in line with immigration rules and on the evidence provided.

“Ms Halfpenny’s visa was refused as she did not submit a certificate of sponsorship.

“Her sponsor’s application, for a restricted certificate of sponsorship, was rejected as it failed to meet the required points.”

Ms Halfpenny studied Gaelic at the prestigious St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia has told parents she is desperate to start her new job.

Under the 2016 Education (Scotland) Act an obligation has been placed on councils to investigate the case for a Gaelic school or unit whenever parents ask for one, as long as there is sufficient support. All public bodies also have to produce a Gaelic language plan.

In recent years there has been a significant increase in interest in the Gaelic language particularly in urban areas.

However, there was a nine per cent fall in entries for all Gaelic exams in 2017.

There are also chronic shortages of Gaelic medium teachers making the spread of the language much more difficult.