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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Question 13

Is there ocht mair thit ye wad like for tae pit forret anent the commitment for tae support Scots?

Scots is a language that developed in Scotland and has been spoken in Scotland for the past thousand years. It is the first language of all who are born into Scots speaking communities and it is acquired by those who come to live in Scots speaking communities, who often significantly contribute to the language.

Scots is a central and vital part of the cultural wealth of all of Scotland, and it is our responsibility alone to ensure that it thrives.  

UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger (2011) listed Scots with an estimated 1.5million speakers (a number confirmed in Scotland's Census 2011, published 2013) as "Vulnerable - most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home)"

UNESCO provide a classification system to show just how 'in trouble' the language is:

Vulnerable - most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home)

Definitely endangered - children no longer learn the language as a 'mother tongue' in the home

Severely endangered - language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves

Critically endangered - the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently

Extinct - there are no speakers left

In order to counteract Scots' 'Vulnerable' status we must rehabilitate our language into all domains within Scotland, and supportive legislation and policy must work to achieve this. Scots speakers and learners must be supported in achieving full literacy in the workings of our language.

The Scots Language Centre is prepared,  with appropriate governmental support, to extend our central role in facilitating meetings and conferences, collating reports, and advising on best practice in the interpretation and implementation of future legislation and policy.

The policies and support of the Scottish Government over the past 20 years has seen a significant positive effect on the confidence of Scots speakers, and the Scots Language Centre very much welcomes this. However there is still much to be done in encouraging Scots speakers to come to voice in Scots and our exploring the benefits of the full inclusion of Scots into public and professional life. Not least Scots role in adult literacy, the achievement gap, and in social care.

People who are objectively Scots speakers may be affected by the conceptualisation of "ideal Scots", in that whilst they fully acknowledge and value Scots they may believe that Scots is something that exists elsewhere and is not their own language. Scots speakers may also refuse to speak Scots, or deny that they are a speaker at all, due to a lingering sense of social stigma. These attitudes must and can be overcome, with the full support of the Scottish Government.

In a recent BBC documentary a sociolinguistic hierarchy ideology was presented as an immutable fact, attitudes towards languages and their speakers can and do change. Legislation and government policy have a significant role in effecting such change.

"As an RP standard English speaker I'm lucky because, literally, studies have shown that if I was to say something in my accent people will believe it.  Whereas if you were to say exactly the same thing in your accent they wouldn't believe it, and it's scary but it's been demonstrated again and again.  Part of being middle class and being educated is the way you talk. You have to speak properly and if you don't, that's a problem. So if you move socially you've got to do something to your language, and if you're stuck socially, it's like it's almost like it's a kind of prison."

Professor Jane Stuart-Smith to Darren McGarvey, BBC Scotland (2022)

To conclude – the Scottish Government, in partnership with the Scots Language Centre and the key organisations listed in this document, must not perpetuate a Scotland in which speakers of Scots and those with Scots accents are "stuck" in "a kind of prison."