Its origins can be traced back as far as the 10th Century and it is believed to have been brought to Scotland by way of Ireland.

From these beginnings, Gaelic spread throughout the country, becoming the main language of the medieval kingdom of Alba and remained that way right through to the 18th century.

However, with dwindling numbers of Gaelic speakers there have been initatives in recent years to revitalise the Gaelic language in Scotland.

The 2011 census indicated that 57,375 people spoke Gaelic and 87,100 said they had some Gaelic skills and over 1.5 million people identified themselves as Scots speakers.

It's not just in Scotland there are attempts to save the language.

Now there is work to ensure a future for the language transcends our borders with a team from Shetland leading the charge. 

As part of their Gaelic month a team from Scotland travelled more than 2,700 miles to inspire the next generation of Gaelic speakers in Canada as part of their annual short film competition FilmG. 

In its 15 year history, the competition has never had an entry from Canada, failing to tap into the global market. To rectify this, the film company spent a week fostering connections in Nova Scotia schools,  in a community with deep-rooted Scottish connections.

With a Latin translation to New Scotland, Nova Scotia has a strong history of a Scottish diaspora, however, there are concerns about the decline of the Gaelic-speaking community. The 2016 census revealed that 240 residents noted Scottish Gaelic as their “mother tongue”. With the majority of the community being learners, around a third of residents have Scottish heritage.

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Scotland’s history with Nova Scotia is entrenched and complex, beginning in 1623 with the failed attempt at a Scottish colony. Mass migration dates back to the 1770’s, in response to the Highland Clearances. It is estimated that 25,000 settlers moved over from the Highlands during this period. But after a regime that sought assimilation with strict language laws in the 1930’s the use of Gaelic in the community began to die out before the recent revival. 

The Herald: Engaging with Gaelic diaspora’s, the team behind Film GEngaging with Gaelic diaspora’s, the team behind Film G (Image: Film G)

The  FilmG initiative which is part of this revival, was run in conjunction with Astar, a Gaelic media agency dedicated to effectively delivering projects and making a positive change in the Gaelic sector. The agency was recognised at an awards ceremony earlier this year, winning “Gaelic as an Economic Asset”.

Murdo McSween, Managing Director of Astar, explained how it all came about: “Nova Scotia has a big Scottish Gaelic diaspora, we saw it as an opportunity.”

“Our Interest peaked in January when we saw there was a Gaelic film-makers society in its infancy, what better place to get our claws in? We will definitely be back. It was really successful.”

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Mr McSween added: “There is not enough collaboration between Scotland and Nova Scotia.

“Canada is significantly ahead with their diaspora. Every school we went to was doing Gaelic, not just the language, but the culture in the way we learn French."

A development that Nova Scotia has seen after adding Gaelic to the core curriculum in 1995.


The Herald:


The project was one of the first grassroots engagement projects in Nova Scotia.

Mr McSween added: “We were treated like royalty, they held every door open for us, as they aren’t treated to grassroots Gaelic”. 

He has committed to going back as he says the “co working opportunities are huge as they have the infrastructure to develop the project” but insists that this is “a two-way street not just taking from them but buying and learning.”

He says there are further opportunities for collaboration as it is a viable market.

Iain MacLeod, a filmmaker and part of the Gaelic Filmmakers Society of Nova Scotia who helped deliver the project, told The Herald that they are ”excited and open to future collaboration in a partnership that will hopefully continue for a long time." 

He added: "There is a revitalisation underway and we value our links with Scotland. The biggest message is we are still here we are still Gaelic and you don't lose that because you leave the country. The cultural and linguistic legacy is really precious to us".

Whilst “Canada [remains] the main focus” assures Mr McSween. While tapping into the wider Gaelic communities in Toronto and Vancouver, Astar is also exploring the possibility of engaging with other Scottish diasporas across the world, with sights set on Australia.