Gaelic language plan 2021-2026 - draft: consultation

Under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, we have a statutory obligation to support Gaelic through the development of a Gaelic Language Plan. This is the third iteration of our plan and outlines its commitments towards Gaelic and the National Gaelic Language Plan.

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
  • appoints members of the government (there are currently 9 Cabinet Secretaries and 15 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 are listed.

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 (NDPBs) 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 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.

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 website.

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 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. 3,701 pupils were in Gaelic medium primary education nationally in session 2019/20, with 1,045 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, 11 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, 1,451 pupils received Gaelic medium secondary education of some form in session 2019/20. 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.

The Scottish Government's Commitment to Gaelic

The recent manifesto commitments 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.

The main commitments are:

  • We will also 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 also 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.

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.

This is a map of Scotland which provides an example of 20 placenames of Gaelic origin from across the country. The names are presented in their original Gaelic form along with the English. Beneath that is an English translation of what each placename means in Gaelic.

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

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 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.

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 the Plan and therefore we are naturally committed to the 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 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 and August 2021.

Responses received to this consultation and a report of its findings can be viewed at



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