Gaelic and Scots

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 15 November 2022.

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Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

As the co-convener o the Scots leid cross-pairty group wi ma colleague Jackie Dunbar MSP, I am awfie chuffed tae speik and I will focus my contribution on Scots.

I want tae see legislation endorsin the Scots leid and I threap that we need an act fur the Scots leid.

The Scots leid is a michtie important pairt o Scotland’s cultural heirship, kythin in sang, poems and leeterature, and in ilkaday yaise in wir communities forby.

The 2011 census comprehendit a question anent the Scots leid fur the first time. Ane and a hauf million folk reportit that they could speik Scots and 1.9 million cumulatively reportit that they could speik, read, scrieve or unnerstaun Scots. I look forrit tae the results o the maist recent census—I jalouse that these nummers will be mair—and fur tae see aw the nummers o oor folk wha speik, read, scrieve and unnerstaun Scots.

Here is a wee quote fae Scots scriever, television presenter and broadcaister, Alistair Heather:

“The Scots have kent that they’ve had their ain leid fur the last six hunner year. It’s only in the last 40 that they’ve forgotten it.”

The activists fur Scots will mak siccar that wir wirds will be shared in aa ways—as I said, through sangs, poems and essays, on telly, radio and social media, and across the internet in monie forms.

Here in Scotland, we have soonds in place names and people’s names that dinnae match the spellings: Cullean castle is spelt Culzean; Mingies is spelt Menzies; Kirkgounyon—a village near Dalbeattie—is spelt Kirkgunzeon; and Dee-el is spelt Dalziel. Those names are all currently misspelled because they contain the letter yogh, which is the 27th letter o the Scots alphabet. It has been lost; it is tint. The yogh was replaced by Z or Y in early printers. At some point in the future, we should correct that muckle mistake and bring back the letter yogh.

As we have heard, Scots is our hame language. It is one of the three languages in use in Scotland today. Words in Scots by the likes o Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Hugh MacDiarmid are scrievit on the foonds o the walls—the foundations o this buildin. Scots words are literally haudin up oor national Parliament.

The Scots Language Centre, Hands up for Trad, the Scots language awards, Wee Windaes, Oor Vyce, Scots Hoose and ambassadors such as Lennie Pennie, Emma Grae, Billy Kay, my pal Susi Briggs fae Galloway—she is a braw storyteller—and sic a few mair help tae widen access tae Scots. Aa these folk, and mair, are daein fantastic work and they need supportit.

In session 4 o wir Parliament, Rob Gibson MSP convened the Scots leid cross-party group, which created the statement of principles tae advance Scots. As the statement of principles says, naebody should be penalised or pitten doon fur speikin Scots. There are 13 statements of principle in Rob’s wee red book. Some o them are bein addressed the noo, but some havenae been yet.

Nummer 5 in the statement of principles shows that the Scots leid must receive mair fundin and investment. Currently, the Scottish Government provides £480,000 in funding fur the Scots leid each year. That compares with £29.6 million spent on Gaelic. In nae way am I sayin that Gaelic isnae important. It absolutely is. Across Scotland, we hae monie historic ties to Gaelic, includin place names in Dumfries and Galloway, where I am fi. However, my ask of the cabinet secretary is to increase funding fur the Scots leid to secure its future. I hope that that can be addressed in the legislation.

The consultation that has been referred to by monie folk, including the cabinet secretary today—I encourage folk tae hae their say on that; ye have until midnight on 17 November—provides an exciting opportunity to create a sustainable future for Scots.

We aa need to enhance the work of the Scots organisations, we need to bolster the use of Scots in education and we need to invest in Scots to mak siccar its future. Pursuing an act o the Scots leid is key to delivering the recognition that activists have been working on fur monie a year. The Scots leid activists are daein a phenomenal job, and an act and funding support are crucial to delivering Scots education and awareness. As the old Scots sayin goes, tak tent or it’s tint—take care or it’s lost.

I ask the cabinet secretary to comment on whether a Bòrd na Gàidhlig equivalent fur the Scots leid is needed, or can existing established bodies siclike the Scots Language Centre be vehicles to continue to deliver, as they are currently doing?

Again, I welcome the debate and look forrit tae ither contributions.