A survey of public attitudes to Gaelic suggests that there is public support for the Scottish government’s decision to spend £24m a year on the language. Some 45% thought the sum was about right; 16% said it was too little; but 33% thought it too much. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey also show support for the use of Gaelic on road signs in areas in which Gaelic is spoken. Indeed, around half of the people surveyed thought the signs should be available throughout Scotland.
Other findings include many Scots believing that parents should have the right to send their children to a Gaelic school. There was widespread support for the idea of young people being taught in Gaelic, with English as a secondary language. Some 91 per cent agreed when asked if parents in Gaelic-speaking areas should have that right. It fell to 48 per cent in other parts of the country, but still a significant minority. However, that would take considerable investment since under 2,500 children are currently taught in Gaelic schools.
Despite this apparent support for the language and indeed the millions spent on trying to save it, more than half of those surveyed thought the future for Gaelic in Scotland was bleak. At present, it’s spoken by fewer than 60,000 Scots and less than half of those surveyed thought that things would get better over the coming 50 years. However, when asked if learning Gaelic was pointless for people of today, 44 per cent disagreed and only 22 per cent agreed.
The project director, Professor Lindsay Paterson of Edinburgh University, said: “These results from the highly-respected Scottish Social Attitudes Survey show widespread support for Gaelic – probably much more extensively than is often supposed.”
And a Scottish government spokesman described Gaelic language and culture as “an integral part of Scotland’s identity. This research shows the very positive attitudes to Gaelic from across Scotland. The continued increase in demand for Gaelic Medium Education clearly demonstrates that parents are not only recognising the impressive learning benefits that come with a bilingual education, but that we are securing a sustainable and vibrant future for the language in future generations.”