Scottish Languages Bill - Gaelic and Scots commitments: consultation analysis

External analysis of the responses submitted to the Scottish Government's consultation on Gaelic, Scots and a Scottish Languages Bill.

Executive Summary


The report encapsulates findings from the public consultation held between 24 August to 8 December 2022 through the Citizen Space platform and other engagement methods such as email, focus groups and other engagement events. The goal of this consultation is to gauge public views on the promotion of the Gaelic and Scots languages as part of the Scottish Government’s commitments.

Main Findings

Gaelic Medium Education

Some prominent themes included an increased need for funding and resources to promote Gaelic Medium Education. Some barriers that hinder the promotion of Gaelic and Gaelic Medium Education include social stigmas attached to the use of Gaelic and inaccessibility to Gaelic educational services. The analysis revealed the following action points regarding Gaelic Medium Education.

Awareness and promotion of Gaelic Medium Education

  • Parents should be provided with a legal right to Gaelic Medium Education.
  • Information and public awareness campaigns should be used to address the stigmas around the use of Gaelic.
  • Multilingualism should be promoted by demonstrating its benefits.
  • The new strategy must entail provisions for secondary and tertiary-level Gaelic education.
  • Instead of having Gaelic units within English-speaking schools, stand-alone Gaelic educational provision should be developed further to allow for greater accessibility.
  • Educational authorities should develop targeted initiatives for adults to enhance their Gaelic learning.

Gaelic Medium Education Curriculum

  • Greater involvement from education experts in the development of a national curriculum for Gaelic Medium Education must be considered to ensure that the process is neutral and apolitical.
  • The Gaelic curriculum should include all aspects of culture and history to instil a holistic awareness of the language.

Policy, legislation and partnerships

  • There should be policy and legislative provision and support for both Gaelic Medium Education and Gaelic Learner Education.
  • Statutory guidance on Gaelic education must be revised and strengthened. It should incorporate the advice on Gaelic Education from Education Scotland.
  • The Scottish Government should collaborate closely with other government departments, local authorities, local schools, community groups, parents, and other stakeholders to ensure that expectations and commitments concerning Gaelic Medium Education are aligned.
  • A strategic plan and timetable should be adopted to phase out English Medium education entirely in the Western Isles and other core Gàidhealtachd areas. All remaining English-Medium staff in these areas should be allowed to acquire Gaelic skills if they do not already possess them and contribute to the Gaelic Medium education sector.
  • Bòrd na Gàidhlig and a new post of a Language Commissioner must have powers to monitor compliance with the legal duties of local authorities to support and develop Gaelic Medium education and investigate any complaint regarding non-compliance. Local authorities need to be made accountable regarding how National Language strategy and local language plans are implemented and how funds are utilised.


For the creation of a Gàidhealtachd, respondents believed it should be defined based on Gaelic’s historical presence in a specific area. To encourage and support Gaelic speakers, public, economic, and infrastructural support should be provided to enable and normalise the use of the language. The analysis revealed the following action points regarding a Gàidhealtachd.

Defining and preserving aGàidhealtachd

  • A Gàidhealtachd should comprise areas with a high number of speakers. It should be geographically defined. However, this should not be at the expense of Gaelic speakers not receiving adequate support outside the Gàidhealtachd. The authorities should prioritise preserving and promoting Gaelic in the vernacular communities, given the current fragility of the language.
  • A combination of national and local planning must be in place to preserve a Gàidhealtachd. These should include regular reviews and clear monitoring metrics to achieve targets and drive change. Public and private organisations must work together to develop and promote a Gàidhealtachd, especially in areas without significant numbers of Gaelic speakers.

Investments for developments in a Gàidhealtachd

  • Resourcing and funding need to be well-aligned with local objectives for a Gàidhealtachd. However, funding must also be available to enable councils to support the use of Gaelic in communities without the creation of a Gàidhealtachd and ensure that local authorities not deemed to be a part of a Gàidhealtachd do not feel less supported in their mission to deliver the targets within their Gaelic Language plans. Furthermore, the revitalisation of the Gaelic language and strengthening existing Gaelic communities must be prioritised in Gàidhealtachd related policies.
  • For a Gàidhealtachd to be created and strengthened, there must be an investment in economic benefits and employment opportunities for the Gaelic-speakers to remain in these Gaelic-majority areas. Issues like lack of housing,
  • inaccessible housing prices for young people, and transport and infrastructural support must all be addressed.
  • For a community to thrive, cultural initiatives like supporting traditional/folk music, promoting local Gaelic artists, and developing cultural centres and language festivals should be promoted within a Gàidhealtachd.

Community engagement

  • Any changes to policy structures and the allocation of resources need to put Gaelic-speaking and Gaelic learning families and associated communities at the centre of the consultation and development focus. Partnership and networking within local communities would lead to shared local vision and commitment whilst strengthening and maintaining the priorities outlined in the National Gaelic Plan. For example, the local authority areas of Eileanan Siar, Highland, and Argyll and Bute could collaborate with community stakeholders in the various districts of the remaining vernacular Gaelic communities to agree on an operational mechanism to bolster language support and revitalisation within their respective regional localities.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig

There were mixed views on the duties, functions, and structure of Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Respondents suggested that Bòrd na Gàidhlig requires more funding for its duties. Some stated that the organisation needs to be restructured. A few emphasised the imperative aspect of engaging with communities more to identify the best ways to promote Gaelic. Finally, some respondents were not satisfied with the current operations of Bòrd na Gàidhlig and suggested that it should be disbanded. Keeping in view the aforementioned responses, the following action points could be considered.

Functioning and powers of Bòrd na Gàidhlig

  • Bòrd na Gàidhlig must have enhanced statutory powers for it to be able to enforce legal duties regarding Gaelic Medium Education and statutory guidance applicable to local authorities.
  • For Bòrd na Gàidhlig and its operations to be effective, it must institute a rigorous monitoring mechanism and robust reporting framework. There is a need for utmost transparency on the work of the Bòrd. The Bòrd must work on collaborative understanding amongst all partners, stakeholders, and communities working towards the strategic objectives.
  • Currently, the state of Bòrd na Gàidhlig is such that it has too many duties with too limited funds and resources. More funding and resources are required to sponsor CLD practitioners and other small community organisations to promote the Gaelic language.
  • Moreover, the effective and efficient implementation of carefully crafted local authority Gaelic Language Plans must be adequately and suitably funded. With a range of functions, it requires funds for promoting community ventures and initiatives and offering advice on Gaelic-related matters to ministers and others, among other responsibilities.

Partnerships and community engagement

  • Bòrd na Gàidhlig should work in partnership and collaboration with the Scottish Government, other private and public organisations like MG ALBA and community stakeholders. A representative system needs to be developed at national and regional levels, strengthening community participation concerning community governance, agency, and accountability.
  • Gaelic language planning framework should reflect local circumstances and priorities, which can only be achieved through context-specific, locally agreed plans. The approach should be flexible, enabling each public body/local authority to consider and identify its own goals and targets within the broad framework of priorities set for Scotland. Overall, the framework and approach should be less rigid and more pragmatic.

Scots Language

Some respondents felt strongly about establishing a Scots Language Board like Bòrd na Gàidhlig to promote the Scots Language. Respondents also stressed the need for more vital legislation and statutory provisions to promote the language. There was a relative lack of awareness about the work of Scots bodies which, according to respondents, required more visibility and influence. The analysis revealed the following action points.

Recognition of Scots as an official language

  • There is a critical need for legal and official recognition of Scots as an official minority language in Scotland through the Scottish Languages Bill. Because there has been a degree of complacency about the Scots language, initiatives to give the language greater visibility should be encouraged. The form of linguistic colonisation that has so far denigrated the language in the social and legal sphere must be addressed through a legislative framework and information campaigns. The linguistic rights of Scots speakers must also be affirmed.
  • The Scots bodies and authorities must standardise the Scots language. Any standardised spelling, grammar and dictionary should follow recognisable conventions and historic precedents whilst accommodating all dialects. A standard orthography of the Scots language is essential for raising its status and improving its practicality of communication and education. The
  • Scottish Government should establish a language planning board of experts to research, discuss and implement an agreed standardised orthography and grammar for the Scots language.
  • Scots language must be integrated into the education system of Scotland. Immediate work on the Scots language and accessibility through education would include recognising and certifying fluent Scots speakers and supporting the retention of Scots-speaking teachers at primary and secondary levels throughout Scotland, but especially in the Scots-speaking heartlands. Besides Scots being in Scotland’s mainstream education, new programmes should be developed to reach wider audiences. Scottish universities should be supported to ensure that learners can pursue the study of Scots in-depth and at a tertiary level.

Funding and investments for the promotion of Scots

  • A consistent cycle of funding is required to develop and promote any projects or policies about promoting Scots language. Any commitment towards the Scots language must be legally supported and adequately funded. The Scottish Government should provide funding for cultural aspects of Scots, including funding for films, opera, broadcasting, media, and other art forms.
  • Any promotion of Scots must ensure that it is inclusive and does not entrench negative and exclusionary stereotypes. The approach towards the Scots language must be apolitical.

Community engagement

  • There should be more opportunities for engagement within local communities to ensure stakeholder involvement. These opportunities can include introducing community-based projects.



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