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Billy Kay enquires: how healthy is Scots?

29th November 2010

As part of The Culture Café St Andrew’s Day Special, on BBC Radio Scotland, broadcaster and writer Billy Kay investigates the current health of the Scots language. Called ‘The Bonnie Broukit Bairn’, Billy speaks to a variety of Scots language authorities, activists, academics and writers to gauge their sense of the language’s identity and status today. Billy argues that the intellectual and political communities in Scotland like to portray themselves as modern Europeans who advocate multi-culturalism and diversity – advocates that is, of every community except Scotland’s native Scots language. He cites ongoing institutional neglect of the community despite recent recognition in the Council of Europe’s European Charter, and he and his contributors draw attention to the massive discrepancies in official support and funding between Gaelic and Scots. He cites language specialist Joe LoBianco who said that when any government pays lip service to a language, but actually does nothing active to help it, then the language strategy of that government is to kill the language off. There is also, Kay says, a strong anti-Scots lobby that attempts to block any moves to normalize the Scots language in public life. Billy also describes small, recent gains for the Scots community in the shape of the first government Audit of the language (2008), the setting up of a Ministerial Working Group (2009) and the inclusion of a question on Scots language ability in the forthcoming 2011 census. Also taking part in the programme with Billy Kay are MSP Alasdair Allan, children’s writer Matthew Fitt, Kenneth Fraser (St Andrews), Michael Hance and Dr Dauvit Horsbroch from the Scots Language Centre, Laureen Johnson of Shetland ForWirds, Professor Steve Murdoch of the University of St Andrews, Sandy Stronach of the Doric Festival, and Ayrshire poet Rab Wilson. He will be joined at Nethermains Primary School in Denny by teachers Mary Connolly and Caroline Stein along with pupils Charlie, Sophie, Cameron and Kieran who speak about their own feelings for the Scots language. The programme will be broadcast at 1.15pm on BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday 30 November.

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