When Bishop Nicolson visited the Catholic communities around the country he saw the clergy crisis for himself. The Mission’s most urgent need was for priests. But they would need to be men who would stay, and this meant, he realised, that they must if possible be Scots, and Seculars under his direct authority and bound to the Mission by oath.
James Gordon, who was ordained his co-adjutor bishop in 1706, took the argument a stage further. There were already Scots Colleges in Paris, Rome, Madrid and Douai whose purpose was to train secular priests for the Scottish Mission. But they were not the solution, he argued: they had been singularly unfruitful, producing few priests and fewer still who had returned home to work in Scotland. Moreover, men trained abroad would always be suspect in the eyes of the authorities in Edinburgh and London, as likely to be agents of foreign Powers. What the Mission needed, therefore, was a College in Scotland itself: priests trained there would be more committed, more acceptable, and (as a further benefit) thoroughly versed in the problems confronting the local Church.