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Attitudes Towards the Gaelic Language


1 Background and Objectives


1.1 The National Plan for Gaelic was drawn up as a result of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. As this plan was established to outline the strategic approach to the development of Gaelic in Scotland for 2007 - 2012 the Scottish Government is now in a position where it needs to reconsider and review its approach.

1.2 Research on the Gaelic language has not been carried out for several years. A national sample survey in 1981 of 1,117 was conducted for An Comunn Gàidhealach, with Scottish Office assistance, by Hatfield Polytechnic. In 2003 a similar survey of 1,020 was conducted by MRUK for the BBC and Bòrd na Gàidhlig (Alba), though with some differences in questions and methodology. In 2010 an application to the Economic and Social Research Council by the University of Edinburgh for research on attitudes to Gaelic in conjunction with the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey was rejected, despite the recommendation of the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig. This present research, funded jointly by the Government and the Bòrd, is designed to partially fill the gap left by this decision, and follows a similar survey by the Government in 2010 in respect of public attitudes to the Scots language.

1.3 In order to take forward research and policy development in this area, particularly in education, the Scottish Government's Culture, External Affairs and Tourism Analytical Unit was tasked with commissioning research that will provide current information on awareness of, and attitudes towards, the Gaelic language amongst the adult population in Scotland.

Research Objectives

1.4 The overarching aim of this research was therefore to obtain views of adults in Scotland towards Gaelic, including awareness of its use and its value as a language in Scotland today.

1.5 The specific research objectives, as defined in the brief, were to:

  • Explore public awareness of the Gaelic language at a national level;
  • Establish how such awareness came about ( i.e. by which routes are people made aware of the language);
  • Establish the public's awareness of Gaelic provision, and how that awareness was realised ( e.g. awareness of Gaelic provision in education, public services, media and culture);
  • Explore how the general public value the Gaelic language and its role in Scotland's identity, both at home and abroad;
  • Determine use of the Gaelic language, generally and in terms of different settings, and investigate ways in which increased usage could be encouraged.