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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

MI5 slow on the uptake

13th October 2009

This week it was revealed in the press that British secret service spies in MI5 found their investigations and phone-tapping had been hampered because they were unable to understand the Scots language. In a book by Christopher Andrew, entitled ‘The Defence of the Realm’, it was revealed that MI5 monitored the phone calls of miners’ leader Mick McGahey for many years. McGahey, who spoke the Lanarkshire form of the Scots language, or as one reporter in the Daily Record has termed it “his thick Scots accent”, caused English spies great difficulty. This inability to understand Scots was, it was said, made far worse after Mr McGahey had taken a drink or two.