Traditional Gaelic culture is booming as the Scottish diaspora embraces the use of digital technology to reconnect with its homeland.

While many predicted that the digital age would hasten the demise of the Gaelic arts, organisers of the Royal National Mòd have said interest in the cultural event is at an all-time high as the descendents of Scottish migrants adopt social media and online communications to watch, discuss and even participate in the annual festival.

Contestants in some categories were required to pass qualifying tests in Gaelic, but participants from overseas were this year allowed to audition via Skype for the first time, opening up the competition to a far wider audience.

Loading article content

John Morrison, chief executive of organising body An Comunn Gaidhealach, said: "Contrary to expectations the digital age has been entirely positive for the Mòd, enabling people of Scottish origin from around the world to connect with the event.

"The festival continues to grow year after year, and as we reach out to a new generation, technologies like Skype, Twitter and Facebook have been absolutely crucial in building support."

Gaelic culture's annual showcase of language, song and the arts opened in Inverness this weekend with the biggest programme in its 122-year history.

In addition to a packed fringe schedule of 70 events including everything from street theatre to shinty, more than 3,000 hopeful entrants will compete in 200 Highland dancing, music, song, literature and drama competitions during the festival.

This year also saw the launch of the Mòd's first smartphone app, which enables users to browse the events programme and receive live updates of competition results. Within 48 hours of its launch, it had been downloaded by more than 1000 fans from around the world.

The influx of competitors and visitors from all over Scotland and abroad is expected to generate £2.5 million for the economy, with participants this year hailing from as far away as Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

Randy Waugh, president of the Ottawa Gaelic Society, said: "Far from being on the decline, Scots culture is going from strength to strength across the diaspora. I have students signing up for Gaelic lessons by Skype from across the country, and the number of bagpipers in Canada is simply staggering."

The University of Ottawa's Scottish Gaelic Language and Culture course saw student numbers leap by more than 200% last year, and with many Canadian pipers now seeking online tuition direct from Scotland, commentators like Waugh believe that the digital revolution has effectively reconnected the emigre population with its motherland.

Waugh said: "The internet has been an incredible enabler for Scots descendants around the world. Some time in our grandparents' generation, Gaelic culture was either beaten out of kids or dropped like a hot potato and looking back now, we realise that we lost something important in the process. Now digital tools are helping us get that back.

"Events like the Mòd offer the diaspora an international cultural focus point to rally around and that's of great value. For various reasons our ancestors made the decision to leave on our behalf, so there's a drive in many people to try to gain a better understanding of why that happened and to reconnect with our roots, our history and our blood."