1.1 Mooth: where Scots is spoken

The Census of 2011 reported that over one and a half million people in Scotland identified themselves as Scots speakers. This first Census ever to include a question about Scots revealed a language community which represents about one third of the Scottish population. It confirmed Scots as the country's second largest language group after English.

The Census found that almost half of the people living in the council areas of Aberdeenshire, Shetland and Moray were Scots speakers. It also recorded large numbers of Scots speakers in Glasgow, Fife and Aberdeenshire.

While clearly there are a great many Scots speakers in Glasgow and Aberdeenshire, it may be tempting to conclude that Scots is spoken in some areas and not in others. But if it did nothing else, the 2011 Census demonstrated that Scots is spoken all over Scotland. There were close to 100,000 Scots speakers in the capital city Edinburgh. Even in the predominantly Gaelic-speaking Western Isles where the lowest percentage (7.4%) of Scots speakers was recorded, the figures showed almost 2,000 Scots speakers living on the Outer Hebrides.

These national statistics on Scots proved beyond doubt that the Scots language is a significant part of many people's lives in Scotland. This was the question on the Scots language included in the Census:

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The 2011 Census question about language

The question provided a comprehensive picture of the areas in Scotland where Scots is spoken as visualised in this map of Scotland. A full breakdown of the Scots language Census results can be read in 'Area Profiles' on the Scotland's Census website. [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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Figure 3 Scots and Scottish Gaelic speakers in the 2011 census

Activity 4

One initiative that actually led to the question about Scots being included in the 2011 Census was the 2010 study Public Attitudes Towards the Scots Language, as part of which Scots speakers were asked when they speak the language. The summary of the survey’s findings can be found in this Scottish Government’s report.

  • Part 1

    Now undertake your own survey of attitudes towards speaking Scots or a language other than English. You have three options:

    1. If you are a Scots speaker, complete the questions thinking about your own use of the language.
    2. If you are not a speaker of Scots, interview a person you know who does speak the language.
    3. If you do not know a Scots speaker, try to speak to someone who speaks one language in addition to English. Ask them about the additional language they speak. This can also be you, if you are bilingual.

Here are the four aspects we would like you to include in your mini-interview/survey.

Ask one Scots speaker / or someone who is bilingual…

  • a.… if he or she can:
    • understand/ speak/ write/ read in Scots/or the language they speak in addition to English.
  • b.… if they speak Scots/ or the language they speak in addition to English most:
    • at home with family/ when socialising with friends
    • when out and about, shopping, at the bank, GP, etc.
    • at work
    • or elsewhere.
  • c.… if, depending on the situation, they ever switch between English and Scots/ or the language they speak in addition to English.
  • d.… where or from whom they learned to speak Scots/ or the language they speak in addition to English.
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1. Introductory handsel

1.2 Lugs: where Scots can be heard