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Monday
Jan212008

A National Audit of the Scots Language

languages.jpegScottish Culture minister Linda Fabiani revealed on the BBC yesterday that the Scottish Government (as which we all now should refer to the old Scottish Executive, after Alex Salmond correctly concluded that the old impenetrable name meant nothing to the public, having presumably been chosen by the London government with exactly that intent) intends to conduct an official audit of the Scots Language. Now, my first thought is to ask which Scots language?

It seems to me that one encounters a different Scots when travelling from Leith to Morningside (hell, Leith to Portobello!) let alone between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Lerwick, and any point between. And that’s without considering Gaelic (a largely separate language) Aberdeenshire’s Doric (often called a dialect, but in my view likewise a different language), Shetlandic (ditto), the Lallans of Burns, and so on. So it’s a bit troubling that the SNP seem to be classing these together as “Scots”.

And of course, anyone who believes there is any such definitive thing as the Scots language is failing to recognise that it’s a living thing, and always has been, that can never be set in stone. There’s just no ‘real’ unsullied version, arbitrarily pinned to one social group in one place at one moment in time.

But these by-no-means-pedantic quibbles don’t mean the audit is not worth doing. A similar-sounding Audit and Needs Analysis was recently carried out for Irish and Ulster Scots. The intention appears to be good, and the initial approach sensible. An SNP Press Release announces, ostensibly through the voice of Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands, that “the public, private and voluntary sectors will be audited with regards to their views on the uses of Scots. Since it is the daily speech of around one and half million Scots this is long overdue”. Fair enough.

Anything that brings greater recognition to the richness and distinctiveness of our native tongueS, and takes us further from the bad old days when anyone failing to speak in an imitation of BBC/Windsor English (i.e. using ‘slang’) would also fail to get any job above the poverty line has to be a good thing by me.

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Reader Comments (2)

Away an bile yer heid - the mither tongue is alive an weel oot in the country. It's only ye toon-dwellers that wid prefer us tae speak like the BBC !
January 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStewart
"And that’s without considering Gaelic..."

That's right. Gaelic won't be considered in this audit, and is already administered for separately.

"It seems to me that one encounters a different Scots when travelling from Leith to Morningside (hell, Leith to Portobello!) let alone between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Lerwick, and any point between... And of course, anyone who believes there is any such definitive thing as the Scots language is failing to recognise that it’s a living thing, and always has been, that can never be set in stone. "

You hear different varieties of English as you travel from place to place. The English language shifts and changes from day to day. Yet no-one puts any of this forward as a basis for denying there's an English language. Why do people invent these artificial problems when dealing with Scots?
January 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterColin Wilson

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