Mind your language: Scottish Government to step up promotion of Scots

National Scots language policy deploys a range of measures to improve teaching of Scots at school level

THE SCOTTISH Government is to introduce new measures to increase familiarity with the Scots language.

A new national Scots language policy will include plans to have teachers work more closely with institutions such as the National Library of Scotland, Glasgow University and Historic Environment Scotland and a new scheme to have creatives and celebrities work as Scots language ambassadors.

The new policy was announced by Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages Dr Alasdair Allan at Education Scotland's Scots in schools conference in Stirling.

Education Scotland will also use trilingual communication [English, Gaelic, Scots] in emails and other correspondences.

The Scottish Government currently spends a total of PS270,000 on Scots language dictionaries and on a Scots language centre. The Scottish Government has said the new plans will not require extra funding.

Quoted in the Scotsman, Tory MSP Alex Johnstone criticised the move: "This a predictable stunt from a Scottish Government more interested in pandering to patriots than improving education," he said.

"It's been well proven that our school children would benefit far more from learning international languages which could open all kinds of doors for them. That should be the focus of Scottish Government resources, not this," he added.

Asked to respond to Johnstone's remarks a government spokesperson told CommonSpace: "The Scottish Government takes the preservation and promotion of all three of Scotland's historical indigenous languages seriously and this new policy underpins the Scottish Government's commitment to Scots."

Picture courtesy of Andrew Morris


Alan Edgey (not verified)

Sat, 09/12/2015 - 00:03

Mr Johnstone won't be impressed by the even bigger stunt from a UK Government:

"The United Kingdom declares, in accordance with Article 2, paragraph 1 of the [European] Charter [for Regional and Minority Languages] that it recognises that Scots and Ulster Scots meet the Charter's definition of a regional or minority language for the purposes of Part II of the Charter."

Among other things that international agreement obliges Scottish Governments to ensure "the provision of appropriate forms and means for the teaching and study of regional or minority languages at all appropriate stages".

Rafiq al Shami (not verified)

Sat, 09/12/2015 - 18:20

This needs linguists, and language planners; not a field for amateurs, enthusiasts and the unwary. Scots needs a distinct orthographic conventions as well as a vocabulary that marks its 'separateness' from English. Historical as well as contemporary usage is important here. Boldness and flair are also pertinent. The promotion and fostering of 'minority' languages elsewhere in the world offers examples.

Tumshie Heid's picture

Tumshie Heid

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 12:56

Scots does indeed already have distinct orthographic conventions which mark its separateness, there are grammatical constructions often closer to older common root forms it shares with English before English departed into the conscious stylisations of the 'diphthong shift', which rendered common words, still used in Scots, Scandinavian and Germanic languages, used in Old English, where a monophthong was more commonly used. You can see this in words like 'hoose', or 'hus', which has the vowels extended to two sounds in 'house'. This was a cultural affectation associated with the entrenchment of the class system during the feudal era. There are also simple grammatical constructions which mark out the natural Scots speaker, which they find hard to filter out even as they 'style drift' between what are perceived as socially and culturally accepted versions of their speech in any given situation. A simple example would be the denominative 'the'; a Scots speaker is often going to 'the school' or 'the hospital', where an English speaker would simply go 'to school' or 'to hospital'.

These differences, and indeed the history of Scots as a distinct spoken and literary form can be studied at university level(I have taken some honours courses as part of a Scottish Ethnology degree)and there are Scots linguists working in the field, certainly from The University of Edinburgh, who will be advising the process; I don't think for a minute this will be a gung-ho process where we all have at it with our own version of what we think Scots is, though there is still the case for an ethnographic approach both tot surveying current usage and in promulgating new and continued use, since the discontinuation of use has and always has been a cultural and social weapon.

CommonSpace journalism is completely free from the influence of advertisers and is only possible with your continued support. Please contribute a monthly amount towards our costs. Build the Scotland you want to live in - support our new media.