Coming to Our Census
An amazing snapshot of a changing nation appeared this week as the first census results since 2007 were revealed showing a secular country with a growing ethnic mix and increasing numbers of young people learning one of our indigenous languages.
The 2011 survey was the first to include a question on national identity. 62% described themselves as “Scottish only”, 83% of the country’s population felt some Scottish identity (compared to 70% in England and 66% in Wales). Only 18% said they were “Scottish and British”.
What this tells us at a deeper level is difficult to tell. There is no direct correlation between voting intention at next years referendum and national identity, though in the longer term it is difficult to see how the fragile notion of Britishness and Britain itself can survive in the face of such widespread rejection. The trajectory for a clear national identity is on a massive upward direction and it is not difficult to imagine that figure of 18% considering themselves ‘Scottish and British’ dwindling to nothing within a generation. Try selling ‘Better Together’ with only a handful of the population considering themselves remotely British?
Alongside and interacting with this new identity clarity are two new phenomenon: signs of growing cultural and linguistic confidence alongside a growing multicultural urban Scotland.
In the week that Edinburgh opened its first dedicated Gaelic school where lessons will be taught entirely in Gaelic, there are some indications of a new growth of among the young people being given the opportunity to access their language at school. Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pairce has been developed on the site of the old Bonnington primary school in Leith. The school, which has 30 Gaelic-speaking staff, replaces the Gaelic medium education unit that had been based in the capital’s Tollcross primary since 1982. This sort of development – with similar developments in Glasgow, Caithness and across the country – are reflected in the latest results which show a 0.1% increase in Gaelic speakers aged under 20.
Alasdair Allan, minister for Scotland’s languages, said: “While the census shows a slight fall overall, we can take real encouragement from the growth in Gaelic speakers under the age of 20. “This increase in the next generation of Gaelic speakers, helped by a 12% increase in pupils entering P1 of Gaelic Medium Education clearly demonstrates that our investment in the language is paying off.” He added: “Our efforts to support Gaelic and create more learning opportunities for all ages has also significantly slowed down the decline in the overall numbers of speakers, many of whom tend to be in older age groups.”
Amazingly, wonderfully, about 1.5 million people reported that they regularly spoke Scots.
But at the same time as this emergent cultural confidence Scotland is becoming more ethnically diverse. 9% of people living in Scotland are English. Of those not born in the UK, 15% were born in Poland, 6% in India and a further 6% in the Republic of Ireland.The figures indicated that most Scots from ethnic minorities were Asian, making up 3% of the Scottish population. People from ethnic minorities made up 12% of the population in Glasgow, 8% of the population in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and 6% of the population in Dundee.
This more ethnically diverse country is a largely secular one with the number of people in Scotland with no religion outstripping those in the biggest denomination – the Church of Scotland – for the first time. At the same time, the number of people saying they had no religion rose from 1.4 million to 1.9 million.
Taken as a whole it’s a changed Scotland shifting away from the land of the 1950s, or even the 1970s where a homogenous, white nation would stand to attention at public events and sing God Save the Queen, where our culture and national identity was repressed with the Reverend I.M. Jolly.
It’s a nation in waiting.