ALMOST half of Scots believe parents should have the right to send their children to a Gaelic school, research shows.
Analysis of results from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey found there was widespread support for youngsters being able to attend Gaelic-medium education, where classes are taught in Gaelic with English as a secondary language.
The survey found that 48 per cent of people thought parents should have the choice of Gaelic education across Scotland.
This rose to 91 per cent when respondents were asked if parents in Gaelic-speaking areas should have the right.
But access to Gaelic-medium education is currently low, with figures showing just 2,418 children – about 0.6 per cent of Scottish primary school pupils – are being taught in such schools.
The survey also found that more than a third (37 per cent) of people thought that all pupils aged five to 16 should have to study Gaelic for one to two hours a week regardless of what type of school they were in, while 36 per cent disagreed and 26 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed.
The analysis was carried out by Soillsei, an inter-university Gaelic language research project, based on the results of last year’s Scottish Social Attitudes Survey with a sample of 1,229 people.
Despite the millions spent on trying to save Gaelic – and various Scottish Government initiatives from bilingual signs to education – many respondents expressed doubt about the future of the language, which is spoken by fewer than 60,000 Scots.
More than half – 53 per cent – thought that in 50 years the language would be spoken by fewer people than now, with only 14 per cent believing that it would be spoken by more.
Just under a third (32 per cent) of Scots believed that the use of Gaelic should be encouraged throughout Scotland, but 87 per cent believed that it should be encouraged in Gaelic-speaking areas. Only 11 per cent did not want Gaelic to be encouraged at all.
When asked whether learning Gaelic was pointless in the 21st century, 44 per cent disagreed and only 22 per cent agreed.
Despite rows over Gaelic road signs and other public signage – which have been fiercely opposed in places like Caithness – barely half (58 per cent) of respondents had seen any such signs.
But the research found there was a positive impact of public sector interventions to support Gaelic, with 70 per cent having heard the language in their homes on television or radio.
Soillsei project director Professor Lindsay Paterson, from 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.”
John Angus MacKay, chief executive of Gaelic development agency Bòrd na Gàidhlig, added: “The results clearly indicate that a large majority of the Scottish population recognise that the Gaelic language and culture are an integral part of Scotland’s identity.”