Evidencing the Gaelic Language Labour Market in Scotland

Gaelic language is an important and valuable part of Scotland’s past, present, and future. Results from the 2011 Census showed that there are 87,100 people in Scotland with some knowledge of Gaelic. Whilst Gaelic speakers continue to be concentrated in areas such as the Outer Hebrides where Gaelic has traditionally been strongest, there is a growing trend for Gaelic speakers in more urban areas. For example Glasgow City now features in the top three Local Authorities in Scotland for number of Gaelic speakers.

This reflects the widespread increase in availability and popularity of Gaelic Medium Education (GME). A new GME primary school opened in Glasgow in 2016 and there are now 3,000 primary school children being educated in Gaelic through Scotland. Importantly this has also led to an increase in the number of young people who can speak Gaelic.

The increasing Gaelic education provision is part of a broader promotion of Gaelic by the Scottish Government and other public bodies. Bòrd na Gàidhlig was established by the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 with the purpose of developing and promoting Gaelic language as well as acting as an advisory body on Gaelic matters for the Scottish Government. As part of this function Bòrd na Gàidhlig develops a National Gaelic Plan for Gaelic language development every five years. The Bòrd also asks other public bodies to produce their own Gaelic plans in order that they can review the current situation and plan for their future engagement with Gaelic.

Within this policy context, Gaelic has flourished as an important part of industries including the creative arts, media, heritage, and tourism. BBC Alba in particular has played an important role as both a Gaelic language employer and promoting Gaelic language to the wider public. Research undertaken by Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) in 2014 has emphasised that Gaelic language acts as an asset for businesses. It reported that Gaelic currently has an economic value of £5.6 million and this has the potential to grow to £82-149 million.

Skills Development Scotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig have appointed ekosgen to develop an evidence base for the Gaelic language labour market. Our research will examine the current position of the Gaelic labour market in terms of demand and supply from different industries and regions for Gaelic skills as well as considering future trends. As part of this research we will also examine current educational and training provision and how this relates to labour market demand. Overall, our research will determine areas of strength and potential challenges to the growth of the Gaelic Labour Market with a view to informing future skills investment. Our team is looking forward to carrying out this important work over the coming months.