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Scottish Gaelic in the United Kingdom

Language designations:

  • In the language itself: Gàidhlig
  • ISO 639-3 standard: gla

Language vitality according to:

Linguistic aspects:


Language Area

Scottish Gaelic speakers in Scotland based on the census from 2011

Gaelic is spoken mainly in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It is a Celtic language closely related to Irish and Manx, and more distantly related to Welsh, Breton and Cornish.

Map was created by SkateTier, and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Speaker numbers

  • In 2011, about 158,000 Scots spoke Gaelic, compared to about 59,000 in 2001 1).
  • This corresponds to 1.13% of the Scottish population, compared to 1.20% in 2001.

Language and education legislation

A little history

The Gaelic language was introduced into Scotland by settlers from Ireland in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. These settlers were known to the Romans as Scotti and it is a measure of their influence on the development of the country that it came to be known as Scotland. By the end of the 10th century AD, the Gaelic language had penetrated most areas of the country and was used as the language of the Crown and Government. Anglicizing influences from the south began to erode this situation in the 12th century and there began a long period of attrition of the language and culture.

European legislation:

Scottish Gaelic is covered under Part III of the Charter.

Download the latest Council of Europe report 2014 about the United Kingdom.

Modified: 06-10-2016, 10:59

National legislation:

Gaelic Language Act 2005:

  • names Gaelic an official language of Scotland;
  • assigns to the Bòrd na Gàidhlig the responsibility to promote Gaelic, monitor its development, and to maintain a language plan.

Education in practice

According to the census from 2011, 2500 children will be learning Gaelic in 2012 and 2013, opposed to 24 children in 1985.2). In 2007 MacCaluim (2007) estimated that about 700 learners obtained fluency.

Learning resources and educational institutions

2011 census, General Register Office for Scotland
Goalabre, Fabienne, ‘Immersion Education and the Revitalisation of Breton and Gaelic as Community Languages’, in Policy and Planning for Endangered Languages
languages/gaelic_in_scotland.1487244844.txt.gz · Last modified: 2017/02/16 12:34 by johanneke

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