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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 standardization:


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 shows the proportion of respondents in the 2011 census aged 3 and above who stated that they can speak Scottish Gaelic. 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

History of language education:

Gaelic-medium primary education was first introduced in the traditional heartlands of the language in the mid 1970's, and soon followed in the wake of Gaels who had migrated to urban and Lowland areas. Due to strong support from Scottish parents for Gaelic medium education, additional Gaelic-medium schools were opened, and in 1999/2000, 59 Gaelic-medium schools existed throughout Scotland. 2)

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 1985.3). In 2007 MacCaluim (2007) estimated that about 700 learners obtained fluency.

Learning resources and educational institutions

2011 census, General Register Office for Scotland
Edwards, Vic, ‘Education and the Development of Early Childhood Bilingualism’, in Voces Diversae: Lesser-Used Language Education in Europe, ed. by Dónall Ó Riagáin, Belfast Studies in Language, Culture and Politics, 15 (Belfast: Cló Ollscoil na Banríona, 2006)
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.1490278557.txt.gz · Last modified: 2017/03/23 15:15 by johanneke

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