SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has acknowledged that the 2022 census is a “mixed picture” for the Gaelic language.

The number of people in Scotland able to speak Gaelic increased over 12,000 to 69,701 since the previous census in 2011.

While warmly welcoming the overall increase in Gaelic ability in Scotland, Dr Allan has pointed to the continued erosion of the language within traditional communities such as Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

The number within Na h-Eileanan an Iar declined by 2,600 to 11,426, or 45% of the population, meaning that, for the first time, Gaelic is no longer a majority language in any local authority area in Scotland. The Western Isles’ figure reflected demographic decline in the region, with the islands’ population contracting by 1,300.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“Nationally, the 2022 census data gives a positive picture for Gaelic, with 2.5% of the Scottish population now possessing some skills in Gaelic.

“There is cause for concern for the vernacular language in our rural and island communities, however. The percentages within the strongest Gaelic communities, such as Barvas and South Uist, have fallen from 64% to 55%. 

“This is not solely a language issue, and clearly reflects the islands’ challenging demographic situation, along with housing, transport, and the economy. The overall situation is a mixed picture.

“Today’s census release will focus the ongoing discussions surrounding the Scottish Languages Bill, introduced by the Scottish Government, to ensure that it supports the maintenance of the languages in communities like Na h-Eileanan an Iar.”

Twitter latest


Subscribe to Alasdair's mailing list

By ticking this box you confirm you would like to receive updates from Alasdair Allan MSP by

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our website. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

We use MailChimp as our marketing automation platform. By clicking below to submit this form, you acknowledge that the information you provide will be transferred to MailChimp for processing in accordance with their Privacy Policy and Terms.