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What percentage of Scots speak Gaelic?

Gaelic language plan 2022 to 2027

Third iteration of our Gaelic language plan — produced under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. It outlines the steps we are taking to support Gaelic and Gaelic speakers within our internal operations.

Chapter I Introduction

Description of the Scottish Government

The Scottish Government is the devolved government for Scotland. The Scottish Government (formerly known as the Scottish Executive) was established in 1999, following the first elections to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government is led by a First Minister nominated by the Parliament who in turn appoints the other Scottish Ministers.

The First Minister is the principal Scottish Government figure in the Scottish Parliament. Her responsibilities include:

  • overseeing the operation of the government and its agencies
  • appointing members of the government (at the time of writing in 2021 there are 10 Cabinet Secretaries and 17 other Ministers)

Scottish Government civil servants are accountable to Scottish Ministers, who are themselves accountable to the Scottish Parliament. The senior board of the Scottish Government, the Executive Team, is chaired by the Permanent Secretary and is made up of the Directors-General of the core Directorates of the Scottish Government and other Directors and senior officials attend as required.

The seven Directors-General and the directorates they govern are responsible for progressing the Scottish Government’s five strategic objectives: making Scotland wealthier and fairer; healthier; safer and stronger; smarter and greener.

The Scotland Acts (1998, 2012 and 2016) define the matters that are reserved to the UK Parliament. Any matter not so reserved, or otherwise defined in the Act as being outwith the competence of the Scottish Parliament, is devolved. Currently devolved matters include: the economy, education, health, justice, rural affairs, housing, environment, equal opportunities, consumer advocacy and advice, transport and taxation. The power to set a Scottish rate of income tax is a new addition to our devolved responsibilities.

The Scottish Government’s main offices are located in Edinburgh, at Victoria Quay, St Andrew’s House and Saughton House; and in Glasgow, at Atlantic Quay and the Europa Building. In addition, we have several area offices stretching from Kirkwall in the north to Stranraer in the south.

The work of the Scottish Government is carried out by:

The Core Scottish Government – the mainstream civil service in Scotland with the core Directorates of Communities, Constitution and External Affairs, Corporate, Economy, Learning and Justice; Health and Social Care; Scottish Exchequer and the Office of the Permanent Secretary.

Public Bodies – executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies ( NDPB s) and other organisations which carry out a variety of statutory, regulatory and advisory functions on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Task Forces – advisory bodies established by Ministers to investigate and report on particular issues. Task Forces have a short lifespan, normally around a year or so, and stand down once they have reported.

Gaelic Within The Scottish Government’s Area Of Operation

The Scottish Government’s area of operation is all of Scotland. It therefore follows that all of Scotland’s Gaelic speakers and Gaelic communities are within the area in which the Scottish Government operates, including districts in which persons able to understand, speak, read or write Gaelic form a majority of the population, as well as areas where Gaelic is experiencing growth.

National Demographics – Number of Gaelic Speakers

Results from the 2011 Census have shown that the decline in the number of Gaelic speakers has slowed since 2001. The total number of people recorded as being able to speak and/or read and/or understand Gaelic was 87,056. Of these, 58,000 people (1.1% of the population) aged three and over in Scotland were able to speak Gaelic. This is a slight fall from 59,000 (1.2% of the population) in the 2001 Census, which compares favourably to the previous Census results which recorded an 11% drop in speakers.

In 2011, the proportion of the population aged three and over in Scotland who could speak, read, write or understand Gaelic was 1.7% (87,056), compared with 1.9% (92,000) in 2001. Within this group, the number of people who could speak, read, understand and write Gaelic in 2011 was 32,000, 0.6% of the population aged three and over; this was the same proportion as in 2001.

While there was a decrease in the proportion of people able to speak Gaelic in most age groups, there was an increase in those groups aged under 20 years. In total, there was a 0.1 percentage point increase in Gaelic speakers between 2001 and 2011 for the 3-19 age range.

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Gaelic speakers are spread throughout Scotland. Of those who identified themselves as Gaelic speakers in the 2011 Census the council areas with the highest proportions able to speak Gaelic were found to be in Na h-Eileanan Siar (52%), Highland (5%) and Argyll & Bute (4%). There is also a high degree of urbanisation within the Gaelic-speaking community with large numbers of Gaelic speakers living in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Greater Glasgow and Inverness.

Further information is available from National Records of Scotland.

Gaelic Education In Scotland

The Scottish Government has made Gaelic education, at all levels, a priority since 2007. We recognise that Gaelic Education is key to the future of the language.

In recognition of this priority, the Scottish Government has maintained budgets. The Scheme of Gaelic Specific Grants and the Gaelic capital fund are available to all local authorities across Scotland to support and grow Gaelic education. This support has seen the number of schools and units grow across Scotland.

In addition, the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 contains provisions which enable parents the right to ask their Local Authority to provide Gaelic Medium Education for their child. The Act placed additional duties on Local Authorities to support and promote Gaelic education, as well as placing a duty on Bòrd na Gàidhlig to produce Guidance on Gaelic education.

There are 24 Councils that provide Gaelic education provision at one level or another. 3,801 pupils were in Gaelic-medium primary education nationally in session 2020/21, with 866 attending Gaelic-medium nurseries. Both these groups have grown since the publication of our first Gaelic Language Plan in 2010.

In addition to Gaelic-medium education, seven Councils provide pupils in English-medium primary schools the opportunity to learn Gaelic through Gaelic Learners in the Primary School ( GLPS ). Again, the number of children who have benefited from this opportunity has grown in the past five years.

At secondary level, 1,476 pupils received Gaelic-medium secondary education of some form in session 2020/21. This number is expected to rise over the course of this plan with more subjects being offered to more areas through e-learning via e-Sgoil.

More detail on these statistics is available from Bòrd na Gàidhlig at Education Data – Bòrd na Gàidhlig (

The Scottish Government’s Commitment to Gaelic

The recent manifesto commitments and Programme for Government 2021/22 have further demonstrated the Scottish Government’s support for Gaelic. These demonstrate our strong commitment to the language and those who wish to use it. Gaelic is annually considered for inclusion in the Programme for Government.

The main SNP commitments are:

  • We will bring forward a new Scottish Languages Bill which takes further steps to support Gaelic, acts on the Scots language and recognises that Scotland is a multilingual society.
  • We will explore the creation of a recognised Gàidhealtachd to raise levels of language competence and the provision of more services through the medium of Gaelic and extend opportunities to use Gaelic in everyday situations and formal settings.
  • Edinburgh City Council has taken forward important engagement on GME provision, but we will ensure that this is now incorporated within a new national strategic approach. This is essential if we are to see the faster rates of progress we seek for Gaelic.
  • We will review the functions and structures of Bòrd na Gàidhlig to ensure Scotland has an effective leadership body and network of organisations for the promotion of Gaelic.

The Green Party Manifesto commitments are:

  • Support cultural ventures in all the languages of Scotland.
  • Encourage the use of Gaelic, Scots and Doric as well as the languages of those from minority ethnic backgrounds.
  • Improve the provision of Gaelic language at home and in secondary, higher and further education.

These will help steer, but not limit, our consideration of actions in support of the framework that exists for the Gaelic language.

Gaelic in Scotland

The Scottish Government recognises that Gaelic is an integral part of Scotland’s heritage, national identity and current cultural life, and has great potential as an asset for adding economic and social value. It is clear from the map that follows, that Gaelic is reflected in the names of our environment across Scotland.

described in body of report

The Scottish Government has taken action and has put in place the necessary structures and initiatives to ensure that Gaelic has a sustainable future in a modern and progressive Scotland.

However, the position of Gaelic remains fragile. If Gaelic is to have a sustainable future, there needs to be a concerted effort on the part of Government, the public sector, the private sector, community bodies and individual speakers to:

  • promote the acquisition of speaking, reading and writing skills in Gaelic
  • use and enable the use of Gaelic in a range of social, formal and work settings
  • expand the respect for, and visibility, audibility and recognition of Gaelic
  • develop the quality, consistency and richness of Gaelic.
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The development of Gaelic Language Plans by public authorities is a key component of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. Gaelic Language Plans help to formalise and communicate to an organisation’s staff what its policy is in relation to Gaelic matters, and makes clear to users and learners of Gaelic what services they can expect to access through the Gaelic language.

This document is the Scottish Government’s third iteration of its Gaelic Language Plan, prepared within the framework of the 2005 Act. It continues on the journey that was started in 2010 and aims to deliver an incremental increase in how we will use, develop and support the Gaelic language in carrying out our business.

The Scottish Government recognises that it has a key role in supporting the Gaelic language, and in supporting Bòrd na Gàidhlig and other organisations in achieving the aims of the National Gaelic Language Plan. No one organisation can deliver on these aims and we wish to encourage all organisations to do what they can in this area. We have seen how collaboration though such initiatives as Faster Rate of Progress can make a difference as we work towards more substantive goals. The Faster Rate of Progress initiative pulls together around 25 Public Bodies who are contributing to the sustained growth and support of the Gaelic language.

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 was passed by the Scottish Parliament with a view to securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language.

One of the key features of the 2005 Act is the provision enabling Bòrd na Gàidhlig to require a public authority to prepare a Gaelic Language Plan. This provision was designed to ensure that the public sector in Scotland plays its part in creating a sustainable future for Gaelic by raising the status and profile of the language and creating practical opportunities for its use.

This document is The Scottish Government’s Gaelic Language Plan prepared within the framework of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. It sets out how we will use Gaelic in the operation of our functions, how we will enable the use of Gaelic when communicating with the public and key partners, and how we will promote and develop Gaelic.

The Scottish Government’s Gaelic Language Plan has been prepared in accordance with statutory criteria set out in the 2005 Act and having regard to the National Gaelic Language Plan and the Guidance on the Development of Gaelic Language Plans.

The National Gaelic Language Plan

The Scottish Government supports the aim of the National Gaelic Language Plan 2018-23 that «Gaelic is used more often, by more people and in a wider range of situations.»

Scottish Ministers approve this edition of the Plan and therefore we are naturally committed to achieving this aim by focusing our work on these three headings:

  • Increasing the use of Gaelic within our organisation and encouraging more people to use Gaelic more often when they interact with us.
  • Increasing the opportunity for people to learn Gaelic as part of our day-to-day operations.
  • Promoting a positive image of Gaelic whenever we can as part of our day-to-day operations as an organisation.

We will highlight the National Gaelic Language Plan and its aims to the bodies that we work with.

Internal Gaelic Capacity Audit

The Scottish Government intend on carrying out a staff skills audit and we will use this information to help grow our Gaelic language base.

Consultation on the Draft Gaelic Language Plan

The 2005 Act requires that public authorities consult on their draft Gaelic Language Plan before submitting it to Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

To do so, the Scottish Government consulted on a draft of its Gaelic Language Plan during July to September 2021.

A report of its findings can be viewed at the end of this document.

What language do Scottish people speak?

What language do Scottish people speak?

If you’re planning a visit to Scotland, you might be wondering what the languages of Scotland are. More than 150 different languages are spoken in homes across Scotland, but a few languages are more widely spoken than others. You’re most likely to hear English being spoken in Scotland, closely followed by Scots. You might also be lucky enough to hear Scottish Gaelic if you’re up in the Highlands. Let’s look at the languages of Scotland in more detail.

What necrosis looks like?

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1. Scots

Scots is the second most spoken language in Scotland. Out of a population of around 5.4 million, 1.5 million people said they could speak Scots, and 1.1% of the population said that they spoke it at home. The language is close to English, so much so that it is often considered a dialect rather than its own language. However, Scots is recognized as a regional language by the UK government. Scots was historically concentrated in the Lowlands of Scotland, though it is now most widely spoken in The Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, Moray and Aberdeenshire.

Here are some useful words in Scots to learn:

2. Scottish Gaelic

In contrast to Scots, Scottish Gaelic is historically associated with the Highlands, and speakers of the language are still concentrated in the north and west of Scotland. According to the 2011 census, just over 57,000 people said they could speak Scottish Gaelic. People in Scotland even have the option to receive their education in Scottish Gaelic or English.

Let’s take a look at some words and phrases in Scottish Gaelic, alongside their pronunciations.

Scottish GaelicPronunciationEnglish
madainn mhathmatin vaGood morning
feasgar mathfesker maGood afternoon
mar sin leibhmar shun leevBye

3. English

English is by far the most widely spoken language in Scotland; 98.6% of the population aged three and over speak English, and over 92% of people speak it at home. There are many different dialects and accents in Scotland, and together they are called Scottish English.

Curious to learn some Scottish slang? Here are a few words to get you started:

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4. British Sign Language

The final official language of Scotland is British Sign Language (BSL). This visual way of communicating is used across the UK and is very closely related to the sign language used in Australia and New Zealand. However, American Sign Language is a completely different language. Watch this video to learn how to sign “Scotland” in BSL.

5. Other languages

It’s not just Anglo languages that are spoken in Scotland. Scotland is a multicultural country and many people who live there have their roots across the globe. Polish is the most widely spoken foreign language in Scotland, with just under 55,000 speakers. This number grew rapidly after Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004. Urdu and the Punjabi languages are the next-most spoken foreign languages in Scotland, with just over 23,000 speakers each.

What language does Scotland speak?

There are four official languages of Scotland: Scots, Scottish Gaelic, English and British Sign Language. If you are planning a trip to the UK’s northernmost country, you’ll definitely want to learn some English, with a healthy sprinkling of Scottish slang. But you will be warmly welcomed if you also pick up some Scots, Scottish Gaelic or British Sign Language, and use these languages to communicate with the friendly locals.

Learn languages at your pace

Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

Celtic Language Statistics 2022

Celtic languages are an integral part of British and world history.

Celtic languages are an integral part of British and world history. They were once widely spoken across the UK and other parts of the world. However, in recent times, they’re not too popular at all. Here, we take a look at some of the reasons this may be, revealing all of the most up-to-date facts and figures on the topic of Celtic Languages in 2022.

Celtic Languages: In A Nutshell

Here are just a few key findings from our research:

  • Almost half of people living in Wales can’t say ‘Hello’ in Welsh.
  • The Manx language is slowly making a comeback after it was declared extinct in the
  • Welsh is the most popular out of all 6 insular Celtic languages.
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Celtic Language Statistics – Basic Greetings

Here are a few key findings from our survey conducted in April 2021:

  • 47% of people living in Wales cannot say ‘Hello’ in Welsh.
  • 1 in 50 UK adults can say hello in ‘Manx’.
  • Almost 5% of USA adults can say ‘Hello’ in Scottish Gaelic.
  • More people in Northern Ireland can say ‘Hello’ in Welsh than in Irish Gaelic.

How Many People in the UK and USA Can Say ‘Hello’ in These 6 Celtic Languages?

In our survey of 1,000 people in both the UK and the USA, we asked people if they can say ‘Hello’ in any of the 6 insular Celtic languages in the table below. Here are the percentages of how many people can say ‘hello’ in each language from each country:

Celtic LanguagePercentage Of People Who Can Say ‘Hello’ From The UKPercentage Of People Who Can Say ‘Hello’ From The USA
Scottish Gaelic4.8%1.4%
Irish Gaelic4.3%2.5%

Celtic Languages in America

Across America, there are an average of 5,900 monthly searches for the term ‘celtic language’. The table below shows which US states search for ‘Celtic language’ the most on average each month per million people.

StateAverage Monthly Searches in 2022Average Monthly Searches for ‘celtic language’ Per Million People
New York37019.1
Rhode Island2018.9

To find these figures, we used the Keyword Finder tool to find out the average monthly searches per state. We then divided this number by the population of each state to find out how many searches are made per person per month. We then multiplied this number by 1 million.

From this table, we can see a couple of notable things:

  • The average monthly searches per million people for the term ‘Celtic language’ in Utah is 1.5 times the average for the USA.
  • This is followed closely by Washington, Oregon and Massachusetts who also search for this term a high amount of times.

Welsh Language Statistics

Here’s a summary of what we found about the Welsh language from our survey:

  • Nearly half of those living in Wales can’t say ‘hello’ in Welsh.
  • Just over 12% of UK adults can say ‘hello’ in Welsh.
  • Only 2.4% of Americans can say ‘hello’ in Welsh.

Interestingly, our survey also found that more people in Northern Ireland can say ‘Hello’ in Welsh than in Irish Gaelic. It’s important to bear in mind, though, that only 25 out of the 2,000 responses were from those in Northern Ireland so the sample size is fairly small.

Welsh is by far the most popular of the minority languages in the UK. In 2020, the Annual Population Survey showed that 29.1% of people aged 3 or over were able to speak Welsh. This is roughly 880,000 people. The number of Welsh speakers in Wales has increased significantly since the 2011 Census which found that there were only around 560,000 people who could speak Welsh.

This is great news because it means that the number of Welsh speaking people is increasing over the years, even continuing to increase by 0.7% since the 2019 survey.

Scottish Gaelic Language Statistics

Here’s a summary of what we found about the Scottish Gaelic language from our survey:

  • Around 1 in 20 UK adults can say ‘hello’ in Scottish Gaelic.
  • 13.6% of adults can say ‘hello’ in Scottish Gaelic who are living in Scotland.
  • Only 1.4% of USA adults can say ‘hello’ in Scottish Gaelic.
  • Just over 1% (58,000 people) of the population aged 3 and over in Scotland were able to speak Scottish Gaelic.
  • However, just like Irish, this is a slight fall from 59,000 people in 2001
  • Although there were decreases in general, those aged under 20 actually showed a 0.1% increase.

This could show that the younger age groups are going to try to bring this beautiful language back from being near endangerment.

Another positive is that the term ‘Scottish language’ is searched around 5,300 times every month in the UK and 8,000 times in the USA. Worldwide, ‘Scottish language’ is searched 20,200 times a month. This alone shows that the Scottish Gaelic language is still a talking point for many people which could push it back into the public eye.

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Irish Gaelic Language Statistics

Here’s a summary of what we found about the Irish Gaelic language from our survey:

  • 4.3% of UK adults can say ‘hello’ in Irish Gaelic.
  • 1 in 40 of adults in the US can say ‘Hello’ in this language.
  • Almost 1 in 19 UK adults living in Wales can say ‘Hello’ in Irish Gaelic.

After looking at the 2016 Irish Census, we found the following:

  • Just under 40% of the population of Ireland (1,761,420 people) could speak Irish.
  • However, only 1.7% (73,308 people) actually claimed they spoke Irish daily, down 3,382 people from 2011.

This could unfortunately suggest that there is a steady decline in the language potentially casting doubts about the future of this endangered mother tongue.

On a positive note, though, the term ‘English to Irish’ has around 19,000 monthly searches on Google. This suggests that a large amount of English speakers are using the Irish language, so perhaps we’ll someday be able to bring it back to the popularity it once had.

Cornish Language Statistics

Here’s a summary of what we found about the Cornish language from our survey:

  • Almost 1 in 23 UK adults over the age of 55 can say ‘Hello’ in Cornish.
  • Only 1.3% of US adults can say ‘Hello’ in Cornish.

As with other minority languages, Cornish isn’t as popular as it was in the past. There are a lot of positives with this language, though. In 2002, Cornish was actually recognised by the UK government under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The council then started to fund bilingual signage.

In 2010, it was taken off Unesco’s ‘extinct’ languages list. This was a great achievement for the people of Cornwall and others who speak the language. There are also some nurseries and schools that have started to teach Cornish.

The term ‘Cornish language’ has around 3,800 monthly searches in the UK which is significantly higher than other Celtic languages such as Manx and Breton.

Breton Language Statistics

Here’s a summary of what we found about the Breton language in our survey:

  • 1.2% of US adults can say ‘Hello’ in Breton.
  • Whereas in the UK, 2.2% of adults can say ‘Hello’ in the language.

It was estimated that approximately 500,000 people could speak and understand Breton at the turn of the 21st Century. This is clearly bigger than other minority languages and gave a huge boost for the public opinion in the region of Brittany. This may be due to the large language-recovery movement which appeared in the area in the late 20th Century and helped Breton culturally and socially.

Surprisingly, search terms related to Breton and learning it are actually higher in the USA than in the UK. The term ‘Breton’ has an average monthly search volume of 140,000 around the globe. This is great for the language as it could be argued that it’s more well-known around the world than many of the other insular Celtic languages.

Manx Language Statistics

Here’s a summary of what we found about the Manx language from our survey:

  • 2% of UK adults can say ‘Hello’ in Manx.
  • In America, around 1.8% of adults say they can also say ‘Hello’ in Manx.

The Manx language is the official language of the Isle of Man. However, in recent times, the language was declared extinct. Speakers of the language argued back against this and it was later listed as endangered.

Around 20 years ago in St Johns in the centre of the island, Bunscoill Ghaelgagh was established. Approximately 70 pupils attend this school and apart from a weekly English class, every lesson is taught in Manx. This just goes to show that many of the locals on the Isle of Man don’t want to let go of the language that forms a significant part of their identity.

All in all, some of the minority languages are unfortunately decreasing, but it does seem like there are many efforts to try and keep these languages afloat in order to create a more diverse and cultural world for future generations. We hope this roundup of all of the latest Celtic Language Statistics for 2022 has been useful and provided you with some valuable information about these powerful languages.

Get in touch

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  • Intl: +44 28 7173 0331
  • USA: 1 (917) 765-2339
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