Publication - Consultation paper

Gaelic Language Plan 2015-2020: draft for consultation

Published: 27 Apr 2015
Learning Directorate
Part of:
Arts, culture and sport

Draft Scottish Government plan regarding the development of Gaelic.

Gaelic Language Plan 2015-2020: draft for consultation
Chapter I: Introduction

Chapter I: Introduction

Overview of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 and the preparation of Gaelic Language Plans

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.

This is a critical time for the future of Gaelic. The position of the language is extremely fragile and the declining numbers of those speaking Gaelic fluently or as a mother tongue in the language's traditional heartlands threatens the survival of Gaelic as a living language in Scotland. It is essential that steps are taken to create a sustainable future for Gaelic in Scotland.

One of the key features of the 2005 Act is the provision enabling Bòrd na Gàidhlig (the Scottish Government's principal Gaelic development body) to require public bodies to prepare Gaelic Language Plans. This provision was designed to ensure that the public sector in Scotland plays its part in creating a sustainable future for Gaelic by raising its status and profile and creating practical opportunities for its use.

The requirement to prepare a Gaelic Language Plan

The requirement for a public body to prepare a Gaelic Language Plan is initiated by Bòrd na Gàidhlig issuing a formal notice to that effect under section 3 of the 2005 Act. Following our initial notice in 2006, the Scottish Government's first Gaelic Language Plan was granted approval by the Bòrd and came in to operation in June 2010.

The planning cycle continues to develop at the end of the life span of a Plan with organisations expected to maintain current commitments while considering how they can develop a second iteration of their Plan. This is where the Scottish Government is in this circular development.

Key considerations when preparing a Gaelic Language Plan

The 2005 Act sets out a number of specific criteria which must be taken into account by bodies preparing Gaelic Language Plans. These are designed to ensure that Gaelic Language Plans which are prepared are comprehensive, consistent and appropriate to the particular circumstances of the body preparing it.

(i) the extent to which the persons in relation to whom the authority's functions are exercisable use the Gaelic language, and the potential for developing the use of the Gaelic language in connection with the exercise of those functions

This consideration is designed to ensure that the Gaelic Language Plans prepared by public bodies take account both of the existing number of speakers within their area of operation, and their potential to develop the use of the language. Generally speaking, the expectation is that public bodies with significant numbers of Gaelic speakers within their area of operation will develop stronger Gaelic Language Plans.

(ii) statutory guidance on the preparation of Gaelic Language Plans published by Bòrd na Gàidhlig under section 8 of the 2005 Act

Bòrd na Gàidhlig has published statutory guidance under section 8 of the 2005 Act, which provides advice on how Gaelic Language Plans should be structured, and on the content which public authorities should consider including in their Plans.

(iii) the National Gaelic Language Plan 2012-17

The National Gaelic Language Plan is a statutory document produced by Bòrd na Gàidhlig under section 2 of the 2005 Act. The second iteration of the National Gaelic Language Plan was published in 2012. The National Plan offers a holistic overview of Gaelic development needs, covering language acquisition, language usage, language status and language corpus issues. It sets out priorities for Gaelic development, and identifies bodies which can contribute to achieving them.

(iv) any representations made to the public body preparing its Plan about how it uses Gaelic

This provision is designed to ensure that public bodies take into account the views of interested parties in the preparation of their Gaelic Language Plans. The principal means of obtaining these views by the Scottish Government is through public consultation on its draft Plan.

(v) the principle of equal respect

The principle of equal respect was incorporated into the 2005 Act by the Scottish Parliament as a positive statement about the value and worth of Gaelic, in recognition of the fact that users of Gaelic aspire to use Gaelic as normally as possible in their lives, that there should be a generosity of spirit towards Gaelic across Scotland, and that the language should not suffer from any lack of respect either at an individual or corporate level.

The Bòrd's guidance states that giving Gaelic equal respect does not automatically mean identical treatment for Gaelic and English, or that a particular level of Gaelic provision must be made available in all circumstances. Instead, it encourages public bodies to endeavour, whatever the particular linguistic landscape they face, to be supportive and generous to Gaelic development and to prepare their Gaelic Language Plans with a view to facilitating the use of Gaelic to the greatest extent that is appropriate to their individual circumstances.

When delivering services in Gaelic, we shall endeavour to ensure they are of a comparable standard and quality as those they provide in English.

Consultation on a draft Gaelic Language Plan

The 2005 Act requires public bodies to bring the preparation of its Gaelic Language Plan to the intention of those with an interest in it. To do so, the Scottish Government will consult on a draft of its Gaelic Language Plan during May and June 2015.

Approval of the Scottish Government Gaelic Language Plan

The Scottish Government Gaelic Language Plan will be submitted to Bòrd na Gàidhlig and will be approved by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Overview of the functions of the Scottish Government

The Scottish Government is the devolved government for Scotland. The Scottish Government was established in 1999, following the first elections to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government is led by a First Minister who is nominated by the Parliament and in turn appoints the other Scottish Ministers who make up the Cabinet.

Scottish Government civil servants are accountable to Scottish Ministers, who are themselves accountable to the Scottish Parliament. The senior board of the Scottish Government is called the Strategic Board. The Board is chaired by the Permanent Secretary and the members of the Board are the Director-Generals of the core Directorates of the Scottish Government, the Chief Scientific Advisor, the Chief Economic Advisor, the Chief Executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS), together with three Non-Executive Directors.

The Scotland Act lists, in Schedule 5, the matters that are reserved. Any matter not so reserved, or otherwise defined in the Act as being outwith the competence of the Parliament, is devolved. Currently devolved issues are listed below. However, these may change with the Smith Commission findings and discussions regarding further devolution in the period covered by this Plan.

Currently devolved issues include:
  • health
  • education and training
  • local government
  • social work
  • housing
  • planning
  • tourism, economic development and financial assistance to industry
  • some aspects of transport, including the Scottish road network, bus policy and ports and harbours
  • law and home affairs, including most aspects of criminal and civil law, the prosecution system and the courts
  • the Police and Fire services
  • the environment
  • natural and built heritage
  • agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • sport and the arts
  • statistics, public registers and records

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. Additionally, we also have area offices stretching from Kirkwall in the north to Stranraer in the south.

The work of the Scottish Government is carried out by:

  • The Scottish Government - the mainstream civil service in Scotland with the core Directorates of Learning & Justice; Finance; Enterprise, Environment & Innovation; Health & Social Care; Communities; Strategy & External Affairs; and the Office of the Permanent Secretary
  • Agencies - established by Ministers as part of Scottish Government departments, or as departments in their own right, to carry out a discrete area of work. Agencies are staffed by civil servants
  • Public bodies ( NDPBs) - national and regional public bodies, carrying out their day-to-day functions independently of Ministers, but for which Ministers are ultimately accountable
  • 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 are abolished once they have reported

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 - Gaelic Speakers

The latest 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 3 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 3 and over in Scotland who could speak, read, write or understand Gaelic was 1.7 per cent (87,056), compared with 1.9 per cent (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 per cent of the population aged 3 and over; this was the same proportion as in 2001.

While there were decreases in the proportion of people able to speak Gaelic in most age groups there was an increase in those groups aged under 20 years, as shown in the graph below. 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 by age, Scotland, 2001 and 2011

Gaelic speakers by age, Scotland, 2001 and 2011

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 per cent), Highland (5 per cent) and Argyll & Bute (4 per cent). There is also a high degree of urbanisation within the Gaelic speech community with large concentrations of Gaelic speakers living in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Greater Glasgow and Inverness.

Luchd-labhairt Gàidhlig 2011 Gaelic speakers

National demographics - Gaelic Education

There are 16 councils providing Gaelic at various education levels across Scotland. There are 4,022 primary and secondary pupils in Gaelic medium education nationally at present, with a further 1,052 anticipated in Gaelic medium nurseries. Both these groups have grown since the publication of our present Gaelic Language Plan in 2010. In addition to immersion in the language, 11 Councils provide 7,772 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 benefitted from this opportunity has grown in the past 5 years. Within English medium education 3,020 are studying Gaelic as a secondary subject.

Foghlam tron Gàidhlig 2014-15 Gaelic Medium Education


Email: Ruaraidh MacIntyre

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road