by a Newsnet reporter
A poll conducted by TMS-BMRB on behalf of the Scottish Government has found that there is overwhelming support for the Gaelic language amongst the Scottish population.
81% of Scots believe that it is important that Scotland does not lose its Gaelic language traditions, and 78% stated that the language was an important part of Scottish culture. 70% of respondents said that there ought to be more opportunities to learn the language.
In a huge boost for the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce Scottish Studies into schools, an overwhelming majority of those polled said that they were in favour of all school pupils learning about Scottish studies, defined as Scottish history, culture, heritage, language and literature, etc. 90% of those polled agreed with the question, with a mere 4% opposed. 86% supported the idea that school pupils should be allowed to take Gaelic as a subject if they chose.
A majority also backed a greater public presence for the language throughout the whole of Scotland. 62% believe that Gaelic should be supported and encouraged throughout Scotland whilst 68% supported greater provision of Gaelic in public notices, signs and information leaflets.
Interestingly, Scots were divided on the question of whether Gaelic is important to their sense of national identity. 40% considered it “very important” or “important”, whereas 37% considered it “unimportant” or “very unimportant”. There is a clear correlation between how important Scots consider the language as a marker of Scottish identity, and their own knowledge of the language. Amongst Scots who claimed a little knowledge of the language but who do not speak it themselves, 67% considered it important or very important to their sense of Scottish identity. Amongst fluent Gaelic speakers, over 92% considered the language to be important or very important to how they see themselves as Scots.
In an encouraging sign for the future of Scotland’s Celtic language, those who were less likely to be supportive of the language were disproportionately found amongst the older population. Younger people were most likely to have a positive view of the language.
However knowledge of the language is still confined to a small minority of Scots. Only 13% claimed to have at least some knowledge of Gaelic, but for the vast majority of these this was knowledge of a few words or phrases. Only 2% claimed to be able to read, write, speak or understand the language fully. Knowledge of Gaelic is strongest in the Highlands and Islands, where over a third of the population claim some knowledge, and 21% claim fluency.
Minister for learning and skills Alasdair Allan said: “The Scottish Government has long believed in the importance of Gaelic to our heritage, culture, tourism and economy and this research shows the majority of Scots agree the language has many benefits.
“Such a strong swell of support for Gaelic from across the country, not just in the Gaelic-speaking heartlands, is very encouraging and just reward for the efforts of those who are working hard to ensure it remains a part of modern Scotland.
“The questions specific to education also have interesting results with high levels of support for teaching Gaelic as a subject, and even greater support for the introduction of Scottish studies as a subject.”
The full report “Attitudes Towards the Gaelic Language” can be downloaded here as a pdf file.