EXPOSING pupils to Gaelic education in Scottish schools is seen as essential to the preservation of the language.

According to the 2011 census, the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland fell by 1.2 per cent over the past decade from 59,000 to 58,000.

However, the results show the sharp decline in Gaelic speakers highlighted in the 2001 census - which recorded an 11 per cent drop - has been halted.

And there was also a 0.1 per cent increase in Gaelic speakers aged under 20, which has been welcomed by Scottish ministers.

Iain Campbell, chairman of Gaelic language organisation Bord na Gaidhlig, said at the time that the "marked decrease" in Gaelic speakers recorded in 2001 was now being addressed.

"Given the growth in the numbers in Gaelic medium education over the last two decades, we expected that the rate of decline would be further reduced as a result of further growth of the numbers of children and young people now speaking Gaelic," he said. "This is clear evidence that the policy aims of the National Gaelic Language Plan are taking effect."