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How many people speak Shetland dialect?

Census offers a chance to put a figure on the number of Shetland dialect speakers

The March 27 Census offers a chance to put an up to date figure on the number of Shetland dialect speakers – and the number of speakers of other dialects in Scotland: Orcadian, Doric, etc.

Question 16 will ask ‘Do you speak, understand, read or write Scots?’

 ‘Scots’, as the Census notes* explain, includes all the dialects of Scotland: Shetland too. Separate figures for the numbers in each area or island group – even for each individual place - will be available once the census results are counted.

There will also be national totals for Scots language taken as a whole. The local and national figures will show how many people in Scotland speak, understand, read and write in a tongue that is often neglected or completely ignored by the authorities. It has been estimated that 1.5 million people speak a dialect of Scots, but no accurate figures have so far been available. The 2011 Census figures will inform any future government policies or funding.

People may not feel able to tick all the boxes. Many, for example, may never choose to write in dialect. Some who understand it fine, and read it with few problems, may not feel able to speak it. Tick the boxes that apply to you.

*Census help notes are on the official census website at

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