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News Release

Scotland's Census 2001 - Gaelic Report

10 October 2005
 

Figures published today in Scotland's Census 2001 - Gaelic Report show that, in 2001, over 92,000 people in Scotland (just under 2 per cent of the population) had some Gaelic language ability and that almost half of these people lived in Eilean Siar, Highland or Argyll & Bute.

The figures were in a report published today by the Registrar General for Scotland about the use of Gaelic in Scotland drawn from the 2001 and 1991 Censuses.

Duncan MacNiven, Registrar General for Scotland said:

“This report, based on detailed analysis of the 2001 Census, shows that Gaelic is thriving as well as declining. The number of Gaelic speakers fell by 7,300 during the 1990’s. However, the number of Gaelic readers increased by 3,200 and the number of people able to write in Gaelic rose by 3,100.

“The Census suggests that Gaelic is declining in its traditional heartlands, particularly in the Western Isles, but growing in many other parts of Scotland – and among young people. Around 430 more young people, aged five to nine, could speak Gaelic in 2001 than in 1991. It is moving from being an oral language to being a language spoken, read and written.”

The main findings are:

  • 92,400 people aged three and over (1.9 per cent of the population) had some Gaelic language ability in 2001.
  • More people with Gaelic language ability lived in Eilean Siar (18,420), Highland (18,360) and Argyll & Bute (6,520) than in any other council areas.
  • The number of people aged three and over able to speak Gaelic declined by 11 per cent between 1991 and 2001. The number who could read Gaelic increased by seven and a half per cent and the number able to write Gaelic increased by 10 per cent over the same period.
  • People who could speak, read or write Gaelic fell by 3,800 (six per cent) between 1991 and 2001, while the number with more extensive Gaelic ability, who could speak, read and write the language, rose by 1,800 (six per cent) over the same period.
  • 63 per cent of people aged three & over with some Gaelic language ability were Gaelic speakers in 2001, while 29 per cent could understand Gaelic but could not speak, read or write it.
  • Levels of Gaelic speaking increased between 1991 and 2001 for those aged between five and nine, despite falls for these ages in the chief Gaelic heartlands of Eilean Siar and Skye & Lochalsh.
  • In 2001, Gaelic speakers aged three & over were approximately five years and eight months older than an average member of the population.
  • 72 per cent of people living in Eilean Siar had Gaelic language ability in 2001, the highest of any local authority area in Scotland.
  • Outwith the main Gaelic areas, only around one per cent of the population had any Gaelic language ability in 2001.
  • The number and percentage of people speaking Gaelic in Eilean Siar fell between 1991 and 2001 for all age groups.
  • The Barvas parish, in the north-west of Eilean Siar, had the highest proportion of Gaelic speakers in all of Scotland (75 per cent in 2001 and 87 per cent in 1991).

The report contains the following sections:-

Speaking, reading, writing and understanding Gaelic

Examples of the results at Scotland level: 1.9 per cent of population aged 3+ had some Gaelic language ability in 2001; 1.2 per cent spoke Gaelic; 0.9 per cent could read Gaelic; 0.7 per cent were able to write Gaelic; 1.6 per cent could understand spoken Gaelic; number of speakers fell by 11 per cent since 1991, while readers and writers increased by 7½ and 10 per cent, respectively, over the same period; numbers able to speak, read or write Gaelic fell by 6 per cent since 1991; numbers able to speak, read and write Gaelic increased by 6 per cent; almost a third of those with some Gaelic language ability could understand spoken Gaelic but could not speak, read or write it.

Examples of the results at sub-Scotland level:  22 council areas showed an increase in the number of people able to speak, read or write Gaelic since 1991; almost three-quarters of people in Eilean Siar had some Gaelic language ability in 2001; only 1 in 95 people outwith the main Gaelic areas had Gaelic knowledge in 2001; Eilean Siar showed the greatest decline in those able to speak, read or write Gaelic since 1991; almost half of those with some knowledge of Gaelic in Eilean Siar and Skye & Lochalsh could speak, read and write it in 2001; Barvas had the highest proportion of Gaelic speakers of any Scottish parish.

Demography

Examples of the results: those with Gaelic ability more likely than the population as a whole to be aged 25 and over; proportion of people aged 5-9 speaking Gaelic increased between 1991 and 2001, but proportion aged 3-4 and 25 & over fell; number and proportion of people speaking Gaelic in Eilean Siar fell for all age groups; in 2001, a Gaelic speaker aged 3 & over was approximately 5 years and 8 months older than the general population;

Cultural attributes

Examples of the results: Gaelic speakers more likely to be born in Scotland than the population as a whole; proportion of those with Gaelic language who were non-white more than doubled between 1991 and 2001; people with some Gaelic language ability much less likely to have no religion.

Gaelic in families

Examples of the results: where both parents in married couple families were Gaelic speakers, 70 per cent of the children also spoke Gaelic; where only one parent spoke Gaelic, just 23 per cent of the children spoke the language.

Illness, health and caring

Examples of the results: for people aged under 55, those with limiting long-term illness more likely to have Gaelic language ability; for those aged 55 and over, people outwith the main Gaelic areas with limiting long-term illness neither more nor less likely to have Gaelic ability; for almost all age groups, carers more likely to have knowledge of Gaelic.

General

Examples of the results: fewer people with Gaelic language ability working full-time while more people self-employed; in the main Gaelic areas, people with Gaelic knowledge more likely to work in education; in both the main Gaelic areas and the rest of Scotland, less people with Gaelic ability in administrative occupations; more people with knowledge of Gaelic qualified to degree level, though fewer in some Gaelic heartlands; Gaelic speaking children more likely to be aged 12-15 but less likely to be aged 3-4.

Comparison of different age groups between 1991 and 2001

Examples of the results: the number of 30-39 year olds in 2001 was 2 per cent higher than the number of 20-29 year olds in 1991 but, for Gaelic speakers, numbers fell by 6 per cent.

Migration

Examples of the results: migrants slightly more likely to have Gaelic language ability than non-migrants; Eilean Siar lost around 1 per cent of its Gaelic speaking population through migration to other parts of Scotland in the year before the Census; migrants who lived in the main Gaelic heartlands were least likely to have been resident in a different local authority area one year earlier.


Notes to News Editors

1.  The Scotland's Census 2001 - Gaelic Report is available (in both Gaelic and English) from GROS Statistics Customer Services using our Contact Form and is also available for viewing or downloading on this website.

2.  The published report on Gaelic from the previous (1991) Census was entitled ‘1991 Census, Gaelic Language, Scotland’ (ISBN 0-11-495255-8).

3.   In the 2001 Census, people were asked four questions about the Gaelic language - whether they could:

  • Understand spoken Gaelic,
  • Speak Gaelic,
  • Read Gaelic,
  • Write Gaelic.

2001 was the first Census to include a question about a person’s ability to understand spoken Gaelic. As this question was not asked in 1991, the main effect of the change to the 2001 Census form was that many more people reported some Gaelic language ability in 2001 compared with 1991.

4.  Many of the tables in the report contain breakdowns of Scotland level data by six “Gaelic areas”. These areas are defined as follows:

a.

Eilean Siar - exactly equivalent to the local authority area of the same name.

b.

Skye & Lochalsh - replicates, as closely as possible, the local authority district of the same name which existed prior to April 1996.

c.

Rest of Highland (excluding Skye & Lochalsh) - remainder of the Highland local authority area.

d.

Argyll & Bute - exactly equivalent to the current local authority area of the same name.

e.

Other Main Gaelic Areas - the islands of North Ayrshire, the north of Perth & Kinross and the north of Stirling council areas.

f.

Rest of Scotland.

5. All 2001 Census results have been adjusted to take account of estimated undercoverage in the Census based on the One Number Census methodology, which used the results of the Census Coverage Survey (more information on the One Number Census is available on the GROS website).  Several tables in the report contain figures from the 1991 Census which, unlike those for 2001, were not adjusted for underenumeration.  Figures from 1991 are therefore not precisely comparable with those from 2001.

6.  For further information on the availability of further tables, please contact our Statistics Customer Services team using our Contact Form.

Gàidhlig


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