Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Moray House School of Education

Abstract

The Gaelic language has acquired growing prominence in Scotland in recent decades, but there is very little evidence on public attitudes to the language, especially those of the anglophone majority. The research aims to fill this gap in evidence with a module of questions on attitudes to Gaelic in the annual Scottish Social Attitudes Survey of 2012, measuring views about the use of Gaelic in public areas, the place of Gaelic in education, the use of Gaelic in broadcasting, the place of Gaelic in regional, Scottish and British identities, and the future of Gaelic. Specifically, the research questions are:






  1. What is the status and significance of Gaelic according to the views of people in Scotland?


  2.  Do people in Scotland support the current and recent policy developments in relation to the language?


  3. What views do people in Scotland have about the future of Gaelic, or about language rights when applied to Gaelic?


  4. Do people in Scotland relate Gaelic to Scottish identity and political questions about the future of Scotland?



Planned Impact

The main public beneficiaries of the research that would use the data generated by the funding will be policy makers in central and local government. Three areas in particular will benefit: (1) Policy on promoting the Gaelic language itself. The research will provide evidence relating to the nature of public understanding of such policies and the extent of public support for them. (2) Policy on Gaelic education. The research will provide evidence on the understanding of what this entails, on the support for various models of Gaelic education (eg immersion, bilingualism, second-language learning) and attitudes to the place of language learning in the school curriculum.(3) Policy on Gaelic broadcasting. The research will assess awareness of Gaelic services, extent of use of them, and attitudes to their quality and importance. Note that (1) and (2) primarily relate to devolved matters, whereas (3) is mainly a reserved matter, and so the research will also contribute to one aspect of the complex relationship between Scottish and UK policy. In all three respects, the research will also contribute to comparing policy in Scotland with analogous policies in Wales and Northern Ireland. An expert advisory group will be established of both academics and also people from the Scottish Government, Bord na Gaidhlig, Highland Council, BBC Alba, and other relevant bodies. The group would be invited to comment on both the draft questionnaire and on plans for analysis and dissemination. Public dissemination will include: (a) summaries of research directed at a wide audience, on the websites of appropriate organisations and in print; (b) reports for specific public bodies (eg on attitudes to Gaelic education or to Gaelic broadcasting); (c) contribution to dissemination activities led by the Scottish Centre for Social Research; (d) contribution to dissemination activities led by Soillse (see 'academic beneficiaries'); (e) public seminars held in collaboration with Soillse and with Edinburgh University's Institute of Governance. For more details of planned public dissemination, please see the attached Pathways to Impact.
 
Description Methods

(See Output 'Extracts from documentation for UK Data Service Study Numbered 7338'.)



The project developed a bilingual module on attitudes to Gaelic in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2012, including a computer-based audio version in Gaelic that could be used by interviewers who do not speak Gaelic (a method that would be suitable for other languages in future surveys).



The project involved close collaboration between researchers and policy makers. An advisory group of 20 people represented the stakeholders in Gaelic in Scotland, and experts in research on attitudes to minority languages from Ireland and Wales. The group facilitated the development of a policy-relevant questionnaire, and the dissemination of results.



Substantive findings

(For 1-3, see, eg, Output 'Public Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland', seminar 14/04/2013.)



(1) What is the perceived status of Gaelic?



Gaelic is accepted as part of Scottish life. Only 5% of people feel uncomfortable when they hear it spoken, 70% have heard it broadcast, and 68% think Gaelic speakers have some or a lot in common with others in Scotland. A minority has limited competence in Gaelic (beyond the 1% who are fluent): 25% understand, and 15% can speak, at least an odd word.



(2) Do people in Scotland support recent policy developments concerning Gaelic?



There is support for current policy. 85% favour bilingual road signs at least in areas where Gaelic is spoken, and 61% do not think the government spends too much on encouraging Gaelic use.



There is support for measures that would go beyond current policy. For example, 49% would favour bilingual road signs throughout Scotland, and 48% say that Gaelic-medium education should be available throughout Scotland.



(3) What are the views about the future of Gaelic, and about Gaelic language rights?



42% would like there to be more Gaelic spoken in 50 years' time than now; 39% would want the same number. Gaelic-speaking parents are the group most commonly thought (by 36%) to have the main responsibility for encouraging Gaelic use, followed by local communities (19%), the government (19%) and schools (17%). But 77% thought schools to be essential for ensuring future Gaelic use. 68% thought Gaelic broadcasting is similarly essential.



About 30-40% of people believe that Gaelic speakers should have the right to use Gaelic in various social domains anywhere in Scotland - dealing with their local council, appearing as a witness in court, speaking to NHS medical staff, speaking at a public meeting, or writing to their bank. Between two thirds and three quarters favour such rights in areas where Gaelic is spoken.



(4) Do people relate Gaelic to Scottish identity and political questions about the future of Scotland?



(See Output 'Public Attitudes to Gaelic and the Debate about Scottish Autonomy'.)



76% regard Gaelic as important to Scottish heritage, and 86% see it as important to Highlands and Islands heritage, but only 24% see it as important to their own heritage, and only 3% see speaking Gaelic as very important to being Scottish.



Hopes that Gaelic will be spoken by more people than now is associated with being more likely to support Scottish independence, over and above other factors associated with support for independence.
Exploitation Route Achieved impact



Public impact that has already been achieved is described in a note included in the Research Outcomes System - for example, distributing a research briefing summarizing the results to every Member of the Scottish Parliament during Gaelic week, publishing results in the Gaelic- and English-medium broadcast and print media, and holding a one-day seminar at Edinburgh University in December 2013, attendance at which ranged from parents of pupils in Gaelic-medium education to the Consulate General for Ireland. The media and governmental contacts that were made as part of past impact activities will be used to seek to publicise the results of the new analysis that is noted under 'exploitation routes' above.



Future of UK and Scotland



The briefing noted under 'exploitation routes' [Public Item (2)] formed the basis of seminars offered to policy makers and politicians in the run up to the referendum.



Next Gaelic language plan



Advice will be offered to Bòrd na Gàidhlig (which has statutory responsibility for promoting the use of Gaelic) on how the results of this research are relevant to its next Gaelic language plan, due to commence in 2017, and thus in preparation now.



Teaching materials



We will investigate the possibility of a small grant from other sources to create resources for schools based on the research, perhaps in conjunction with Storlann (responsible for providing Gaelic educational resources) or Education Scotland (responsible for the Scottish school curriculum).
Academic



(1) The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSA)



One paper is already published. A second is in press (on the public's perception of the relative importance of two roles of Gaelic - as communication, and as cultural symbol). Two more are in preparation - one on perceptions of Gaelic as an instance of the linguistic landscape, and the second examines the public's views about Gaelic in education.



(2) International Social Survey Programme (ISSP)



Questions were included in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2012 that were designed to be comparable to questions about language in the ISSP, which collects data on social attitudes from over 40 countries. When these ISSP data become available later in 2014, an academic paper and public briefing will be written comparing attitudes to Gaelic with attitudes to languages in other countries.



(3) Teaching



The survey materials and data will be used to develop training in research methods for undergraduate students of teacher education at Edinburgh University, as part of the Edinburgh Q Step Centre.



Public



(1) Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig



A paper wasgiven at the biennial conference on research related to Gaelic, in June 2014. It concentrated on the findings in (1), (2) and (3) in 'Summary' above.



(2) Public briefing related to the referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014



Following from the findings reported in (4) in 'Summary' above, a briefing waswritten to contribute to debate in the referendum (to be funded and published by Soillse (www.soillse.ac.uk)), and a blog was written for the ESRC-funded 'What Scotland Thinks' web site.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description (1) Debate in the news media By coordinating the main release of findings (May 2013) with the Gaelic Week at the Scottish Parliament which was organised by Bòrd na Gàidhlig (the public body with lead responsibility for Gaelic), we achieved very extensive coverage in both broadcast and print media. The Bòrd circulated a briefing based on our work to every Member of the Scottish Parliament (see publication 'Public Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland'). The work was covered during that week in The Scotsman, The Times (Scottish edition), The Sunday Times Scotland, and The Scottish Sun, which have a combined print circulation of around 400k. It was covered in two leading news outlets serving the Hebrides and north-west Scotland, the print newspaper West Highlands Free Press, and the news website Hebrides News Today. The aspects of the research relating to attitudes to Gaelic education were covered by the Times Educational Supplement Scotland, the main professional newspaper for Scottish school-teachers. The work was also covered prominently on the English-language BBC Scotland (main evening news bulletin and front page of website), and in depth on BBC Alba. The most recent impact on news media was in a blog written about the implications of the research for the referendum on Scottish independence (see publication 'Attitudes to Gaelic and the debate about Scottish autonomy'), published on the What Scotland Thinks website, June 2014. There was a follow-up to this in an invited contribution to the ESRC's Society Now publication, summer 2014. One measure of WST's profile is that a Google search (13 December 2014) for 'Gaelic', 'attitudes', and 'Scotland' places the blog as the second item found (out of 388k). (2) Response from policy makers The impact of these public debates was seen in the response by policy makers. The most prominent political impact was on the Scottish Government Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages, Dr Alasdair Allan, MSP. A seminar was given by O'Hanlon and Paterson to Dr Allan and his officials (see publication 'Ministerial seminar on Public Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland'). He appeared on both the Gaelic and English media discussing the research with, amongst others, the chair of Bòrd na Gàidhlig. When he opened the new Gaelic school in Edinburgh in autumn 2013, he referred to the research as providing evidence that the majority of people in Scotland perceive Gaelic to be an important part of Scottish identity. This position was also supported by the then First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond MSP, in First Minister's Questions on 16 May 1013, in reply to a question about the supply of teachers in Gaelic-medium education. Leading local politicians also referred to the research as providing evidence that there is public support for their policies. The convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's special committee on the Council's Gaelic language plan (Cllr John A. Maciver) welcomed (May 2013) the research as confirming that the Council's policies are on the right lines. Cllr Deirdre Brock, City of Edinburgh Council, mentioned the research in her speech launching the Edinburgh Council Gaelic Language Plan in September 2013. We also supplied an invited briefing on attitudes to Gaelic broadcasting to the board of MG Alba (which provides the programming for BBC Alba): see publication 'Attitudes to Gaelic Broadcasting'. (3) Combination of public and academic All of our seminars on the research have addressed mixed audiences of policy makers and academics. The most influential were two for the project's advisory group (April and December 2013), around half of whom were national and local policy makers for Gaelic, or senior staff associated with Gaelic broadcasting (see publications 'Seminar on Public Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland' and 'Gaelic and Identity'). A more specialised example was impact on the National Gaelic Teacher Education Working Group (convened by Bòrd na Gàidhlig), which invited us to distribute to its members the Research Briefing 'Public attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland' (see publications).
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Attitudes to Gaelic Broadcasting - a briefing for MG ALBA
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Title Case study: working in a multi-lingual setting 
Description Guidance on working bilingually in the conduct of social surveys. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The capacity of the project to work bilingually. 
URL http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding/guidance-for-applicants/research-ethics/ethics-case-studies/case-study...
 
Title Extracts from documentation for UK Data Service Study Numbered 7338 
Description Relevant extracts from data documentation of UK Data Service Study Number 7338, relating to survey of public attitudes to Gaelic. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Too soon to note. 
 
Description Language, national identity and nationalism: the case of Gaelic in Scotland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Invited keynote lecture to annual conference of Wiserd (Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data & Methods).

Exchange of views between Wales and Scotland on minority languages.
Involvement by O'Hanlon and Paterson in successful bid to ESRC for renewal of Wiserd.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Ministerial seminar on attitudes to Gaelic 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Seminar provided for Minister for Gaelic in the Scottish Government, 30 May 2013

Direct influence on Scottish Government thinking.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Public Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotand 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Summary results presented to meeting of the project's advisory group, 14 April 2013

Stimulation of policy discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Summary of impact on public debate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Cumulative summary of media and other contributions This is a list of media and other references to the outputs of the research.

Summary of public impact of 'attitudes to Gaelic' research project
1. Radio nan Gaidheal, 8 May 2013: John Angus Mackay (chief executive of Bòrd na Gaidhlig) refers forward to the publication on 13 May.
2. Sunday Times Scotland, 12 May: article 'Gaelic studies enjoy support' quotes Soillse media release on the Digest (print edition and web site).
3. Deadline, 12 May, article 'Half of Scots want children to have right to Gaelic education' (front page of web site).
4. BBC Scotland, 13 May: article 'Survey suggests support for public spending on Gaelic' (front page of web site).
5. Radio nan Gaidheal, 13 May: several items on morning and evening news bulletins, involving Alasdair Allan, MSP (Scottish Government Minister for Gaelic) and Iain Caimbeul [each in Gaelic], and Lindsay Paterson [in English].
6. The Scotsman, 13 May, article 'Half of Scots back right to send child to Gaelic school' (front page of web site and in print edition).
7. Week beginning 13 May: printed copy sent by Bòrd na Gàidhlig to every MSP, as part of Gaelic parliamentary week (at invitation to us from Bòrd na Gàidhlig).
8. BBC Alba, 13 May, article 'Taic làidir dhan Ghàidhlig an Alba' ['strong support for Gaelic in Scotland'] (top news story on web site).
9. The Sun, 13 May, article 'Parents hail Gaelic school'.
10. BBC Reporting Scotland, 18.30-19.00 (main English-language evening news programme), 13 May, item summarising aspects of the research.
11. BBC Alba, 13 May, lead item on An Là (main evening news bulletin), following detailed Gaelic briefing to them by Fiona O'Hanlon: 10 minutes, covering all major aspects of the briefing, and including interviews on it with Iain Caimbeul (chair of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, emphasing the importance of the research for policy making), Norman Macdonald (convener of Western Isles Council), and Alasdair Allan, MSP (Scottish Government Minister for Gaelic) [each in Gaelic] and Lindsay Paterson [in English].
12. The Times, 13 May, article 'Parents want Gaelic-speaking school for children'.
13. Hebrides News Today, 14 May, reports that the convener (Cllr John A Maciver) of Western Isles Council's special committee on the Council's Gaelic language plan welcomed the research as confirming that the Council's policies are on the right lines: http://hebridestoday.com/2013/05/welcome-for-public-attitudes-to-gaelic-report/
14. Official Report of the Scottish Parliament, 16 May: First Minister, Alex Salmond MSP, referred to the research in First Minister's Questions, in reply to a question about the supply of teachers in Gaelic-medium education from Liz Smith MSP, Spokesperson on Education and Lifelong Learning for the Scottish Conservative Party.
15. Times Education Supplement Scotland, 17 May, news item 'Half of Scots back right to send child to Gaelic school'.
16. West Highland Free Press, 17 May, article 'Survey shows widespread public support for Gaelic'.
17. Seminar for Dr Alasdair Allan, MSP (Scottish Government Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages), and his officials, Scottish Parliament, 30 May 2013, by Lindsay Paterson and Fiona O'Hanlon.
18. Briefing requested by MG ALBA in relation to the data on Gaelic and Broadcasting. Attitudes to Gaelic Broadcasting - a briefing for MG ALBA. 16 pages. 03/06/13.
19. 'Language, national identity and nationalism: the case of Gaelic in Scotland' (joint authors Lindsay Paterson, Fiona O'Hanlon, Rachel Ormston and Susan Reid), invited keynote lecture by Lindsay Paterson to annual conference of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (Wiserd), Cardiff, 25 June 2013.
20. Research Briefing from Attitudes Project [O'Hanlon, F., Paterson, L. Ormston, R., Reid, S. (May 2013) 'Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland/ Beachdan a thaobh na Gàidhlig ann an Alba' Soillse Research Digest 3/Geàrr-iris Rannsachaidh Shoillse 3.] distributed to National Gaelic Teacher Education Working Group. 01.07.13.
21. Dr Alasdair Allan - opening of Taobh na Pàirc, 25/09/13. Mentioned the SSA survey finding that the majority of people in Scotland perceive Gaelic to be an important part of Scottish identity. http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Expansion-of-Gaelic-teaching-467.aspx
22. Councillor Deirdre Brock, City of Edinburgh Council, mentioned the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey in her speech launching the Edinburgh Council Gaelic Language Plan. (25/09/13).
23. Reseatch Briefing from Attitudes Project [Paterson, L. and O'Hanlon, F. (June 2014), Attitudes to Gaelic and to Scottish Autonomy / Beachdan mun Ghàidhlig agus mu Fhèin-riaghlaidh na h-Alba, Soillse Research Digest 4 / Geàrr-iris Rannsachaidh Shoillse 4, Inverness: Soillse.]
24. What Scotland Thinks blog, 25 June 2014
http://blog.whatscotlandthinks.org/2014/06/attitudes-to-gaelic-and-to-scottish-autonomy/
25. Talk at Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig conference, 26 June 2014
26. Ethics case study to ESRC, September 2014.



The list is cumulative, and so later items were building upon the impact of earlier ones.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014