Census Landmark for Scots
29th April 2010
Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, and Convener of the Cross Party Group for Scots in the Scottish Parliament, welcomed the historic inclusion today of the Scots language in the forthcoming 2011 census. The Census Order – the legislation that sets forth and approves the questions that will be asked in the census – was passed unanimously today by MSPs, and will, for the first time, ask respondents whether or not they can understand, speak, read or write Scots. Mr Gibson commented “The work of many members of the Cross Party Group for Scots has led to the inclusion of a question on Scots in the Scottish Census, due in March 2011.” Gibson went on to say, “Between now and the census next year a profile of the local versions of Scots tongue will have to be made very public.”
The campaign for the inclusion of Scots on the census has been ongoing for many years. As early as 1993, Dr Dauvit Horsbroch, presently Language and Information Officer at the Scots Language Centre, and Liz Niven, well-known writer and poet in Scots, approached the General Register Office for Scotland on this issue and took leading roles in the census campaig druing the 1990’s. In 1996 Dr Horsbroch, together with Dr Caroline MacAfee and Dr Steve Murdoch, were invited to join the General Register Office for Scotland Cognitive Survey which published a landmark report on the language. The late Councillor John Law who died in February this year was also a prominent campaigner on the issue in his role as National President of the Scots Language Society and Convenor of the Scots Language Resource Centre board. Members of the Cross Party Group, headed first by Irene McGugan MSP and latterly by Rob Gibson MSP, also campaigned on this matter from the time the group was formed in 2001.
Concerns arose during 2009 that Scots would be excluded from the Census and as a result a number of organisations and individuals stepped up the campaign for the language’s inclusion. Leading the campaign were the Scots Language Centre, MSPs Bill Wilson and Dave Thompson and Maggie Cruickhank of Mither Tongue. In response to the campaign, the census minister, Jim Mather MSP, asked the Scots Language Centre and General Register Office for Scotland to work together on the matter. Commenting on today’s vote, SLC Director Michael Hance said “We’r richt pleased tae hae this annooncement the day. It shaws whit can be achieved for Scots whan twa public bodies wirks thegither. Noo we can get yokit tae seein that fowk gets information aboot Scots sae that they can answer the questions richt on the nicht.”