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The 2011 census asked about skills in English, Scots and Gaelic. It also asked people what languages they spoke at home.


98.6% of people in Scotland aged 3 and over spoke English.

5.1 million people said they could speak English well or very well.

English was by far the most widely spoken language in Scotland. 92.6% of people aged 3 and over said they spoke only English at home.

Speaking, reading and writing English

93.8% of people in Scotland aged 3 and over said they could speak, read and write English.

75.2% of people born in EU accession countries said they could speak, read and write English. 88.8% of people born in the Middle East and Asia could speak, read and write English.


More than 1.5 million people said they could speak Scots.

Another 267,000 people said they could understand Scots but not read, write or speak the language.

1.1% of adults said they spoke Scots at home. The Shetland Islands, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Orkney Islands had the highest proportions of Scots speakers at home.


Just over 57,000 people said they could speak Gaelic.

This was a fall from 59,000 in the 2001 census. 23,000 people said they could understand Gaelic, but not read, write, or speak it.

Council areas with the most Gaelic speakers were:

  • Eilean Siar (Western Isles), where 52.3% of the population could speak Gaelic
  • Highland, where 5.4% could speak Gaelic
  • Argyll and Bute, where 4.0% could speak Gaelic

These were also the areas were people most commonly spoke Gaelic at home.  Overall, 0.5% of adults in Scotland said they spoke Gaelic at home.

The number of people able to speak Gaelic decreased between 2001 and 2011 for all age groups except in people under 20, which had an increase of 0.1 of a percentage point.

British Sign Language

13,000 people used British Sign Language at home.

That's about 0.2% of the total population.

Other languages

Polish was the most commonly spoken language in Scotland after English, Scots and Gaelic.

54,000 people - about 1.1% of Scotland's population - said they spoke Polish at home.

Languages other than English, Scots and Gaelic were most common in the big cities. About 12% of people in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow said they spoke other languages around the home.

The most commonly spoken languages at home other than English and Scots were:

  1. Polish (54,186 people)
  2. Urdu (23,394 people)
  3. Punjabi languages  (23,150 people)
  4. Chinese languages (16,830 people)
  5. French (14,623 people)

Explore Scotland's Census

Scotland's population speaks many languages, not just those listed on this page. The data from Scotland's Census is easy to use and free for everyone.

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Analytical reports

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