Census reveals number of Gaelic speakers

Gaelic/English sign.
Gaelic/English sign.

Statistics have been published today from the 2011 Scottish census, giving information about the number of Gaelic speakers and how that number breaks down for analysis.

In 2011, 87,100 people aged 3 and over in Scotland (1.7 per cent of the population) had some Gaelic language skills.

Of these 87,100 people:

32,400 (37.2 per cent) had full skills in Gaelic, that is could understand, speak, read and write Gaelic;

57, 600 (66.2 per cent) could speak Gaelic;

6,100 (7.0 per cent) were able to read and write but not speak Gaelic; an

23,400 (26.8 per cent) were able to understand Gaelic but could not speak, read or write it.

Highland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Glasgow City were the council areas with the largest numbers of people with some Gaelic language ability, with these three council areas containing almost half (48.9 per cent) of those with some Gaelic language skills nationally.

The proportion of people aged 3 and over with some Gaelic language skills was highest in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (61.2 per cent), Highland (7.4 per cent) and Argyll & Bute (5.9 per cent). It was 1.7 per cent in Glasgow City, the same as the national average.

At 49.7 per cent, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had the highest proportion (of all people with some Gaelic language skills) of those that can understand, speak, read and write Gaelic.

Between 2001 and 2011 there were decreases in the proportion of people who could speak Gaelic in all age groups for people aged 18 and over. For example, for people aged 65 and over the proportion fell from 1.8 per cent in 2001 to 1.5 per cent in 2011. In contrast, the proportion of people who can speak Gaelic increased slightly in younger age groups: from 0.53 per cent to 0.70 per cent for 3-4 year olds; from 0.91 per cent to 1.13 per cent for 5-11 year olds; and from 1.04 per cent to 1.10 per cent for 12-17 year olds.

Some 41 per cent of Gaelic-speaking children aged 5 to 11 lived in households where all adults had some Gaelic language skills, 23 per cent lived in households where some (but not all) adults had some Gaelic language skills and 36 per cent lived in households where no adults had any Gaelic language skills.

Nationally, 25,000 people aged 3 and over (0.49 per cent of the population) reported using Gaelic at home.

Of people who were Gaelic speakers, 40 per cent reported using Gaelic at home. This proportion was 73.7 per cent in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, 41.5 per cent in Highland, 33.4 per cent in Argyll & Bute and 23.6 per cent in the other 29 council areas combined.

Of children aged 5 to 11 reported as using Gaelic at home, 61 per cent lived in households where all adults had some Gaelic language skills, 27 per cent lived in households where some (but not all) adults have Gaelic language skills and the remaining 12 per cent lived in households where no adults had any Gaelic language skills.