Map: How the number of Scottish Gaelic speakers has changed since 1891

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The prevalence of Scottish Gaelic speakers has waned dramatically in the last 100 years.

The language was once widely spoken across much of the Highlands and western regions of Scotland but now only around 1 in 100 Scots can speak it.

This video from UK Languages Mapping charts the decline in the language from 1891-2011 using census date.

The 1881 census - the first time Gaelic speakers were counted - reported that 6.2 per cent (231,594) of a total Scottish population of 3,735,573 declared themselves to be ‘habitual’ speakers of Gaelic. By 2011 (the time of the last census), only 1.1 per cent (57,375) of Scots were able to speak the ancient tongue.

READ MORE: The first map of Gaelic speakers in Scotland

The latest figures from National Records Scotland placed the largest number of speakers in the Highlands, Eilean Siar (Western isles) and Glasgow City, with these three council areas containing almost half (49 per cent) of those with some Gaelic language skills.

Gaelic has declined in Scotland over the centuries. Picture: Scotsman

Gaelic has declined in Scotland over the centuries. Picture: Scotsman

The fall in Gaelic speakers has been unabated for centuries.

James IV (1488-1513) is believed to have been the last King of Scots who could speak Gaelic. By 1755, 23 per cent of Scots were Gaelic speakers, in 1901 4.5 per cent, in 2001 1.2 per cent. However, the decline may have been slowed, partly as a result of authorities establishing a handful of Gaelic-medium primary schools.

Earlier this year, a campaign to boost Gaelic and its cultural heritage sought to secure the language Unesco status.

The chairwoman of the cross party group on Gaelic in the Scottish Parliament, Kate Forbes said that securing a special UNESCO status would help preserve historical traditions and ensure they are kept alive for future generations.

She said: “I think Gaelic is the key to Highland culture, heritage, tradition and society,

“Although there is no one magic answer to the preservation of Gaelic, Unesco status is certainly one step in many towards it

“UNESCO status basically means giving Gaelic ‘intangable cultural heritage’ status it would mean that all traditions and living expressions inherited from our ancestors are preserved for future generations.”

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