The Scottish Gaelic language continues to survive and thrive, despite two centuries of neglect that verges on persecution. Historically suppressed through Lowland suspicion of Highland ways, Highlanders were discouraged from using their native vernacular by successive governments from the 18th century onwards, notably by the 1872 Education Act, which ignored the language altogether.
Currently, we think around 65000 Scots speak Gaelic, with a further 25000 or so who have some ability in the language. These figures represent a decline on those given by the 2001 census, as natural wastage claims older native speakers. Interestingly, however, the number of Gaelic speakers under the age of 20 is rising, with more than 3000 children currently in Gaelic medium education, compared with only 24 in 1985. This encouraging rise in the number of young people interested in learning and using Gaelic demonstrates the success of campaigns to promote the language on the part of the Royal Celtic Society, An Comunn Gaidhlig and other, like minded organisations.
The Royal Celtic Society has a programme of offering start-up grants to Gaelic playgroups and supports the Gaelic language with annual sponsorship of, for example, Parkside Gaelic Primary School and the Dumfries Gaelic Society.
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