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Meanwhile, some sketch of the present geographical and demographic dimensions of Scotland's Gaelic population may be useful. To illustrate this, the distributions of Gaelic speakers in and these years for comparability of question are shown both by proportions of local populations speaking Gaelic, and by location of actual numbers of Gaelic speakers. As between Highland and Lowland Scotland, these impressions mirror one another.

Although the higher proportions of Gaelic speakers are found in the northwestern peripheries, the greater numbers of Gaelic speakers live elsewhere. Geographical Distribution of Gaelic Speakers.


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The Scottish Gaelic speech-community today numbers about 80, The remainder lives within the rest of Scotland mainly in the Lowlands, 15, of them in the Central Clydeside Conurbation centred upon Glasgow. Of these, 82, were able to read, write or speak Gaelic, amongst whom were 79, speakers of the language, comprising 1. Almost all these areas were in Skye and the Western Isles, but also included the Isle of Canna, western and northwestern enumeration districts in Tiree, the Kilninian enumeration district in Mull, and the Tormisdale enumeration district in Islay.

Thus only These areas were chiefly in remaining areas of Skye and the Western Isles, but also included the rest of Tiree, four enumeration districts in Islay and one in Mull. So in total there were only 27, Gaelic speakers normally resident in predominantly Gaelic-speaking neighbourhoods. This represented In there were thus 32, Gaelic speakers, or It cannot really therefore: be said, as it sometimes is, that Scotland's Gaelic speakers are to be found mainly in the Hebrides and northwest coastal fringes. Today, the majority are in fact to be found elsewhere in Scotland. Their numbers are sufficient to liken them to a Gaelic Archipelago more populous than the Hebrides - but set in a Lowland "sea".

Problems of Communication and Administration The problems which result from this distribution pattern of Scotland's Gaelic speakers make contacts within the Gaelic speech-community particularly difficult.. The Highland mainland is mountainous and deeply indented by the sea. Thus the small Gaelic populations of the western glens and peninsulas are very much isolated from one another. The islands are today typically connected by modern lines of communication, not so much with one another as through ferry ports on the west coast via road and rail links to the Lowland cities.

In the past prior to the reforms Highland local government administrative areas had typically encompassed both, thoroughly Gaelic island and west-coast areas with the more populous and anglicised east-coast areas - as in the former Highland county education authority areas.

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In these and other ways, the Gaelic areas have in the past been divided from one another, and mutual contacts between them have been reduced. Both transport and local administration patterns give evidence of the satellitisation of these areas and their internal colonialisation. In total, these stations broadcast about 25 hours in Gaelic per week, inclusive of schools' broadcasting. In addition to the bilingual educational and administrative policies of Comhairle nan Eilean in the Western Isles, four other local authorities have formulated bilingual policies and have constituted Gaelic committees.

Although Strathclyde Regional Council has not constituted a Gaelic committee as such, it has designated a councillor with responsibility for Gaelic. The effects of recent war in the national population resulted in a reduced birth rate, and the reductions of numbers amongst young adult males. Within the Gaelic population these effects were very much more pronounced.

The greatly reduced numbers of young adults, especially males, indicates that the Gaelic population bore a disproportionate share of war casualties and dislocation. This was exacerbated by lower birth rates and a shift from Gaelic to English as the language of child socialisation.

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This process continued throughout the middle part of the century, but in some slight increase in Gaelic speakers occurred amongst children as shown in Figure 2. By this had become more pronounced amongst 14 year-olds. This effect can be shown to relate specifically to those areas with primary Gaelic teaching schemes. Comparison of areas with bilingual and second-language primary schemes in with the corresponding areas ten years earlier in before the inception of these schemes in their present form suggests that education has had an enhancing effect of Gaelic-speaking ability amongst young people.

MacKinnon The Gaelic population is on the whole an ageing sector of the population - but there were proportionate increases of Gaelic speaker's amongst older children and young adults in their early thirties in - 81 as shown in Figure 3. The demographic "bulge" also occurred amongst teenaged groups in other areas with second-language primary Gaelic teaching schemes, which comprise mainland Highland areas whose local native Gaelic speakers are middle-aged to elderly.

This situation illustrates the position of the Gaelic population in areas where Gaelic was being taught as a second language in primary schools in , but where Gaelic had ceased to be the predominant community language. The population profile of Gaelic speakers in the essentially Lowland area is greatly attenuated in the age-ranges of childhood and youth.


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Since , a further second-language scheme has been introduced in northeast Perthshire, the Wester Ross scheme lapsed in through staffing difficulties, but by Gaelic-medium primary units had been established in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, South Uist, Skye and Lewis. These areas may be said to demonstrate some viability in their maintenance of the language. At the Census, these areas comprised some 30 of the enumeration districts of the Western Isles, chiefly in western Lewis, southern Harris, the Uists and Barra, and some 9 of the 50 enumeration districts in Skye, chiefly in its northern and southern extremities.

It is interesting that there were examples of such potentially viable Gaelic communities in close proximity to such anglicising centres as Stornoway and the military base on Benbecula. In some other areas Gaelic maintenance in the age-range was within percentage points of the older generations, as in the Western Isles communities of Barra and Vatersay, or within 3. See MacKinnon a. In the Isle of Ornsay postcode sector of Skye, the incidence of Gaelic was stronger in the age-range than amongst the older population - the likely result of the estate policies of Fearann Eilean Iarmain,.

MacKinnon b. In these strongly Gaelic communities, supportive attitudes and usage of the language seem less well represented amongst younger women, compared with other age and sex groups. There is a definite differential migration of younger women, as compared with younger men, from the most strongly Gaelic areas. MacKinnon , b, Other research suggests that within the occupational continuum of Gaelic communities, Gaelic is best conserved within the semi-skilled agricultural group, which comprises the crofting "core" of these communities.

Supportive attitudes and Gaelic-speaking abilities weaken away from this core in both directions - towards the skilled technical and commercial occupational groups on the one hand, and towards the unskilled and non-crofting manual occupational groups on the other. MacKinnon , , a, b. As has been noted Figure 1 the decade marked an upturn for Gaelic in numbers of speakers. The numbers of Gaelic speakers in the Highlands and Hebrides actually continued to decline. However, in , although some small overall contraction on the figure occurred: back to 79, or 82, depending on definition , there were for the first time ever actual increases, both numerical and proportional in Gaeldom's core heartlands: the Western Isles and parts of Skye.

MacKinnon a. Some of this variation might be explained by changes in census question, and change in definitions of population. But there have clearly been actual changes in the numbers of children and young adults being returned as Gaelic speakers in these areas. Such changes, as have been seen, also occurred in other Highland areas with supportive Gaelic educational practice.

In any process of language-shift, there are of course factors which are promoting the abandonment of one language for another, stabilisation of the status quo , and actual reversion to an anterior state. The situation at any given time represents the resultant of these factors. Thus for Gaelic in the later 20th century, there have been very clearly a number of stabilising and regenerating factors sufficiently effective to overcome the processes of attrition which have operated during the modern period.

The Gaelic communities have over long periods been subjected to high rates of migration - chiefly of younger people, and more especially women. MacKinnon, a, b Lack of employment facilities at home has been the spur, opportunities for further education and employment in the services and industrial centres have been the magnet. Gaelic communities have probably been adequately reproducing themselves biologically, but the haemorrhage of population has continued to reduce the size of the speech community. Within the speech community changing patterns of societal diglossia have reduced the domains within which Gaelic has predominated.

The supersession of the Gaelic Society schools in the 19th century by Board Schools after in which English held sway typified the process. In the 20th century, commerce, public administration, and broadcasting represent other, adventitious, processes. More recently the slippage of the church as a predominantly Gaelic domain represents a potentially powerful anglicising factor operating from within the community.

MacKinnon, , pp. Amongst the stabilising factors for Gaelic has undoubtedly been crofting. The survival of Gaelic as community speech can be readily correlated with the incidence of crofting within the local community as further discussed in MacKinnon, b, p. Without the passing of crofting legislation in , there would probably be no surviving crofting community anywhere today - and no survival of Gaelic as community speech either.

Arran, for example, was as Gaelic an island as any in the Hebrides a century ago. Landowner interests ensured it was not included in crofting legislation. The last club farm in run-rig survived into the s - and today few regard Arran as part of Gaeldom. There is hardly a single native Gaelic speaker left. John Burrel's promise on taking over as factor to the Duke of Hamilton's estates in has eventually been fulfilled, that there would be "not one single inch of community in the whole island.

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Crofting, as at present constituted, can only secure for Gaeldom some measure of staying the attrition, and slowing its eventual demise. Whether the recent improvements in Gaelic broadcasting, and the introduction of the bilingual administrative policy in the Western Isles might also have some stabilising effect is even more debatable.

The limitation of the licence fee has meant that BBC Scotland's total Gaelic output is only around 25 hours a week. The inception of an all-Gaelic radio channel would not be too much to expect in terms of public service provision for the language and its speech-community.

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Television airtime goes nowhere towards providing an all-round variety of programming sufficient to sustain a media domain for Gaelic, as does Sianel Pedwar Cymru S4C for Welsh. As a significant language-stabiliser, the place of Gaelic in the broadcasting media would need to be greatly expanded. And as justification, it can still be argued that the portion of Gaelic speakers in the population still fails to secure its proportionate share of airtime.

Since , there have been notable advances in the place of Gaelic in local administration. The Western Isles - one of only three 'most-purpose' single-tier authorities in the new system - took a Gaelic title Comhairle nan Eilean, and two of its first new policies were to institute bilingual policies in primary education and local administration. The bilingual administrative policy was liberal and permissive, enabling individuals who wished to use Gaelic in transactions with the local authority to do so, and councillors who wished to speak in Gaelic at meetings to do so with simultaneous translation for members unable to follow Gaelic.