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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

1990-2020 Modern Scots 6

Timelines of the Scots Language

By Dr Dauvit Horsbroch

The following list is intended as a quick reference guide to developments in the Scots language, including reference to cultural and political developments.

1991 The Scottish Education Department announces its intent to include Scots language material within the school curriculum.

1991 Death of Peter Buchan (1917-1991) the ‘Fisherman’s poet’ of Peterhead who wrote in North East Scots. His first collection Mount Pleasant was published in 1961.

1992 The Ulster-Scots Language Society is founded in Northern Ireland.

1993 Scots Tung led by Bob Fairnie and Richard Heinsar, and the Glesca Scots Speikers’ Curn, led by L Colin Wilson, are the first campaigning Scots language groups founded to lobby the political world.

1993 The Scots Language Resource Centre (later renamed the Scots Language Centre) is founded at Perth with the support of Perth and Kinross Council. The first Director is Charles Jones (1993) followed by Stuart McHardy (1993-2002).

1993 The European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages is the first public body to recognise Scots as a minority European Language.

1993 Death of James King Annand (1908-1993) who was noted for his verse in Scots designed for children, beginning with Sing it Aince for Pleisure published in 1970. He was also an editor of Lallans journal.

1994 Alasdair Allan is first university student to sit exams in Scots (Glasgow).

1994 Douglas Kynoch publishes Teach Yourself Doric and Gordon District Council initiates the Doric Festival.

1995 Aiberdeen Univairsitie Scots Leid Quorum, founded at the end of 1994, are the first to establish Scots language content on the internet, closely followed by Clive Young’s website.

1995 The campaign for a Scots language question on the census starts to become nationwide with significant organisation and lobbying by Alasdair Allan, Bob Fairnie, Dauvit Horsbroch, John M Law, Rod Lovie, Caroline Macafee, Reid Moffat, Steve Murdoch, Liz Niven, and L Colin Wilson.

1995 Publication of The Hamely Tongue by James Fenton which is a dictionary and guide to the Scots spoken in County Antrim, Ulster. This is closely followed in 1996 by the Concise Ulster Dictionary edited by Caroline Macafee and Anne Smyth, and Ulster-Scots A Grammar of the Traditional Written and Spoken Language by Philip Robinson.

1996 The Scottish National Party becomes the first political party to adopt a policy on the Scots language.

1996 Both The Kist and Scots School Dictionary are published as part of a drive to include some Scots language content within the school curriculum.

1996 The General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) Cognitive Report estimates 1.5 million Scots speakers in Scotland or 30% of the Scottish population.

1996 Publication of The Orkney Dictionary by Margaret Flaws and Gregor Lamb who are members of the Orkney Language and Culture Group formed in 1992. The intent is to encourage the use of Orkney dialect in all walks of life, schools included.

1997 Publication of A Scots Grammar by David Purves. It is the first general grammar of Scots to be published in contemporary times.

1997 The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland is the first political party to publish a political manifesto in Scots in modern times.

1997 The referendum on Scottish devolution is held on 11 September. The vote is 1,775,045 (74.29%) in favour and 614,400 (25.71%) against. The Scottish electorate votes in favour of the re-establishment of the Scottish parliament, with power to legislate on cultural and linguistic policy in Scotland. The parliament begins its first session in May 1999 with 129 members sitting in Edinburgh. On that day Sheena Wellington sung A Man’s a Man for a’ That in Scots at the parliament.

1998 Death of Scots language scholar Adam Jack Aitken (1921-1998) who was assistant to, and successor of, Sir William Craigie at DOST. Aitken is particularly noted for his work on the evolution of the vowel system in Scots.

1998 The Royal Mile demonstration in Edinburgh is the first public demonstration held on behalf of rights for Scots speakers.

1998 The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland includes a clause to respect and tolerate all the languages spoken there including the Scots of Ulster.

1998 Publication of The Scots Language Its Place In Education, edited by poet Liz Niven and Robin Jackson with articles contributed by a variety of writers. It is intended as a guide for policy makers and educationalists and a call for Scots to be included within the curriculum.

2000 Death of Flora Garry (nee Campbell 1900-2000) at the age of 100. Garry wrote poems in North East Scots but did not begin to publish until her collection Bennygoak and other Poems in 1974. Her collected poems were published in 1995.

2000 The newly reconstituted Scottish Parliament allows speeches and oath-taking in Scots as long as they are accompanied by an English text translation.

2000 The first clear evidence that Scots is perceived along political lines is demonstrated in the Scottish Parliament when Unionist parties voted to exclude it from the census while pro-independence parties voted in favour of its inclusion.

2000 The Boord O Ulster Scotch is founded to maintain and promote the Scots language in Northern Ireland.

2000 Queen’s University, Belfast hosts the first of several conferences over the following years on the languages of Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Scotland during which academic papers are presented in Scots by several of the delegates from both Scotland and Ulster including Alasdair Allan, Dauvit Horsbroch, Caroline Macafee and Ian Parsley.

2001 Establishment of the Cross-Party Group on Scots in the Scottish Parliament.

2001 The UK Government ratifies the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in respect of Scots (under the provisions of Part II) and for the first time officially recognises the status of the Scots language.

2002 Publication of L Colin Wilson’s Luath Scots Language Learner. This is the first full language course in Scots to be published in modern times.

2002 Establishment of the imprint Itchy Coo by writers Matthew Fitt, Susan Rennie and James Robertson. Over the coming years as part of Itchy Coo, or individually, they produce Scots translations of many children’s classics including Asterix, the Gruffalo, Kidnapped, Roald Dahl, Tintin and The Little Prince.

2002 The Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and Scottish National Dictionary Association merge to form Scottish Language Dictionaries (SLD).

2002-2018 Michael Hance is Director of the Scots Language Centre. He is succeeded in 2019 by Michael Dempster.

2004 Colin Donati translates into Scots the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2004 Shetland ForWirds is founded at the end of the Shetland Dialect Convention that year. Its aim is to lobby Shetland Islands Council for a Shetland-wide dialect policy and to work with other dialects in Scotland. Among its prominent supporters is broadcaster and writer Mary Blance.

2006 Launch of the Scots Language Centre website which becomes one of the main gateways for visitors wishing to find out various aspects of the language. The Scots Language Centre is also instrumental in securing funding for research into educational provision and in support of a census question.

2008 The Scottish Government commissions the first ever government audit of provision for the Scots language which is published as the Scots Audit Report and discussed at the government conference on Scots at Stirling University in 2009.

2008 Storyteller and writer James Spence publishes the Unco Case o Dr Jekyll an Mr Hyde translated into Scots as a graphic novel.

2009 Death of Stanley Robertson (1940-2009), popular North East storyteller, singer and writer in Scots.

2009 The working group on Scots is set up with University of Aberdeen academic and Scots writer J Derrick McClure as convener, to look at the Scots Audit Report and take evidence from the Scots-speaking community.

2010 All political parties in the Scottish parliament vote unanimously for the inclusion of a question on Scots language ability in the forthcoming 2011 census.

2010 Death of Councillor John MacPhail Law (1951-2010) of Perth who was a poet in Scots, editor of Lallans, and a significant figure in campaigning for Scots language issues.

2010 Death of William Neill (1922-2010), originally from Ayrshire. Having had a career in the RAF, Neill latterly became a teacher and writer. He was unusual in being able to write in Scots, English, Scottish Gaelic and Irish. Among his memorable works in Scots is Tales frae the Odyssey o Homer Owreset Intil Scots (1992). He remarked that writing in lesser used languages was “a standing up for the small tongues against the big mouths.”

2011 The Scottish Census asks for the first time ever whether people are able to speak, read, write or understand Scots. The number of speakers returned is: 1,541,693, or 30% of the total population of Scotland. The number of Scottish-born citizens is 4,411,884 (83.32% of the population of Scotland). The corresponding census in Northern Ireland returns 16,373 (0.9%) of the NI population who can speak the Scots dialect of Ulster but with a total of 140,204 (8.1% of the total NI population) who indicate some ability to speak, read, write or understand Scots. In England and Wales a total of 1,542 people replied that Scots was their main spoken or home language.

2011 The Scottish Government announces co-ordinators for Scots in the schools as part of its proposed Scottish Studies programme.  Four national co-ordinators are later appointed for fixed periods.

2012 Death of George Philp ‘Joco Geordie’ (1931-2012) one of the founders of the Scots Language Society, and producer, with Allan Ramsay, of the Scotsoun and Scotseen series of recordings of Scots writers.

2013 Publication of Scottish Government White Paper on Scottish independence. It includes a pledge to continue to develop support for the Scots language in an independent Scotland.

2013 Death of Sheila Douglas (1932-2013) who was a prominent singer and figure in the folk music scene and also an authority on, and collector of, songs in Scots, as well as member of the Scots Language Society.

2013-2015 The TV Drama Outlander, set in 18th century Scotland, is innovative for its use of some Gaelic and Scots dialogue, particularly noteworthy in the first series.

2014 The Scottish independence referendum is held on 18 September. The vote is 2,001,926 (55.3%) against and 1,617,989 (44.7%) in favour.

2014-2017 The Electoral Commission makes available Scots versions of its guides to the European and Scottish referendums, and Scottish Parliament and local elections, each translated by Dauvit Horsbroch.

2014 The Scots Toun Award is won by the town of Keith in Moray which is noteworthy for its Mither Tongue shop producing Scots language gifts run by long-time Scots advocate Marguerite Cruickshank.

2014 The Scottish Qualification Authority announces its Scots Language Award – the first ever recognised qualification in the language – for pupils to study the spoken and written language.

2015 Death of activist, poet and writer David Purves ‘Soutar Davie’ (1924-2015) who was a significant figure in the Scots Language Society for many years and who influenced much of the debate in relation to grammar and spelling issues.

2015 The post of Scots Scrievar is established at the National Library of Scotland and is first held by Hamish MacDonald followed by Michael Dempster.

2015-2016 Poet Stuart Paterson is Virtual Writer in Residence at the Scots Language centre and publishes Aye, poems in Scots.

2016 The daily newspaper The National becomes the first in contemporary times to regularly include a full page column written in Scots and Scotticised texts, by a varied number of guest writers.

2016 Poet and writer Rab Wilson is appointed to the post of Writer in Residence at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

2016 Creative artist and performer Ishbel McFarlane tours Scotland with her one-woman show ‘O is for Hoolet’ challenging how people have been taught to think about language, and how they perceive Scots.

2016 The European Union referendum is held on 23 June. The vote in Scotland is 1,661,197 (62.0%) to remain and 1,018,322 (38.0%) to leave.

2018 The North East Scots Language Board is established to encourage the use of Scots in public spaces and elsewhere.

2018 Death of poet and playwright Janet Paisley (1948-2018).

2019 Dr Jamie Reid Baxter produces a modern stage version of The Testament of Cresseid by Robert Henryson (c.1490) which is staged in various theatres.

2019 The Scots Language Centre launches its map of Scotland in Scots produced by Dr Dauvit Horsbroch and Stewart Bremner. It forms the basis of an ongoing online project.

2019 The first ever Scots Language Awards are held in Glasgow to recognise the work and achievements of various writers in the language.