Celebrating Burns and the Scots Language
In a Pairlament whaur ye cuid be forgien fur thinkin at Scotland haes anely twa leids, it waes aye gonnae be hert-warmin tae hear Scots bein spoken an see it gien the mense it deserves in the debate haudit tae celebrate Burns an the Scots leid oan 25th Januar.
E’en mair hert-warmin forby, hooanivver, waes the strang an sattlet cross-pairty greeance oan the importance o oor leid an the need tae forder an uphaud it, in aw settins, scrievit an spoken – fae Unionist Tories tae SNP Nats.
This is muckle tae be walcomed fur thaim amang us whae want tae see the leid gang forrit, fur recent years, parteecularly aroon the constitutional stushie o 2014, haes seen Scots haudit wide o an dung doon by the Unionist pairties as a sleekit nationalist ploy. This haesnae aye been the case, an it whiles appears that the increasin threat o poleetical nationalism sin devolution haes gart thaim be gey sweirt tae forder onythin hielichtin Scottish sindriness, sic as oor Scots leid, fur fear o blawin wind intae the sails o the campaign fur a free-staunin Scotland’
We aw mind oan Robertson’s noo infamous remerk that: ‘they’ve [Flanders, Catalonia] got language, and culture, and all these sort of things. We [Scotland] don’t have any of that’. An we shuidnae forget at the response o the Scottish Tories tae the Government annoncement o a hantle o initiatives tae forder the Scots leid in September 2015 waes tae sneist it as a ‘predictable stunt from a Scottish Government more interested in pandering to patriots than improving education’.
At the ae time, though aye mair supportive nor its Unionist coonterpairts, as the SNP’s Joan McAlpine pyntit oot in her speech, there’s still muckle mair at the Nationalists cuid an shuid be daein fur Scots.
Noo whan it comes tae Burns an his wark in Scots, the story cuidnae be mair sindry, wi aw sides fawin ower ane anither tae fecht aboot whither Burns wad hae votit aye or naw. Tory MSP Finlay Carson tak tent o hoo Burns ‘cleverly spanned all shades of politics’, citin passages at cuid be yaised by socialists, nationalists, unionists an e’en UKIPers tae threip Burns as their ain.
Burns haes aye been awbody’s bairn – yet why no the leid he scrievit in tae? Scots isnae, an shuidnae be, the preserve o ane pairty or poleetical group. It is naither unionist nor nationalist. It’s faur mair muckle nor thon. Scots is oor national leid, it belangs tae aw o us, an can be yaised by mony sindry fowk an in mony sindry weys. It is oor heritage, oor present, an, gin we aw come thegither to mak siccar that the leid gangs forrit, oor future tae.
Lest week’s debate waes a guid stend forrit taewart hoo things shuid be. As expectit, Burns waes proodly recitit an ruise’t by memmers across the Chaumer, but mair importantly, an mair surpreesingly, his leid, oor leid, waes tae.
Whaur there waes wee greeance oan the budget jist meenutes afore, there waes muckle shared seempathy whan it cam tae baith Burns an Scots. As Emma Harper (SNP) descrievit hoo it gars her greet that her mither leid as a wee lassie, Scots, waes drummed oot o her at the scuil, sae Finlay Carson (Tory) spak o hoo it waes ‘such a shame that we have been conditioned out of speakin Scots’ an that ‘we have to put in an effort not to use Scots when we are in the debating chamber’. Memmers across the Chaumber agreed tae oan the importance o scrievin the leid doon fur tae mak siccar its tholin an its transmeesion tae future generation, wi the SNP’s Emma Harper, Willie Coffey, an Ruth Maguire aw takkin tent o this alang wi Labour’s Lewis Macdonald. An efter the centuries o miscawin, unkennin an dingin doun at haes been tholed by Scots, it fair brocht a tear tae the een tae listen tae the closin speech on behauf o the government in braw braid Scots fae Meenister fur International Development an Europe, Alasdair Allan – e’en the Deputy Presidin Officer, Linda Fabiani, got intae the speerit o the debate, addressin the memmers in English, Gaelic an Scots.
Braw sentiments ane an aw, but, as mony memmers seyd, Scots isnae jist, an shuidna jist be, fur Burns nicht. Sicweys aiblins maist important waes the contreebution o the SNP’s Joan McAlpine, whae yaised her speech tae mind memmers oan the Cross-Pairty Group on the Scots leid biggit by Labour’s Cathy Peattie an the SNP’s Irene McGugan in 2003, an noo disbanded. McAlpine read oot the statement o preenciples scrievit by the group ower ten year syne:
1. Scots is a language
2. Action maun be taen tae pit an end tae aw prejudice an discrimination agin the Scots language.
3. The Scots language is integral an essential tae cultural an personal identity in Scotland.
4 A knowledge o Scots is vital tae a knowledge o Scotland.
5. Action maun be taen tae gie the Scots language whitiver means is needit tae mak siccar its transmission an continuity.
6. Scots shuid be an essential pairt o the educational curriculum in Scotland at aw levels.
7. Naebody shuid be penalised or pitten doun for speakin Scots.
8. Scots proper names an place names shuid be valued an safegairdit.
Reflectin that she had her doots at thon principles hae yet aw been achievit, she concludit by speirin memmers tae come thegither tae big a new cross-pairty group fur tae tak the leid forrit.
It noo bides tae be seen whither the cross-pairty support sae veesible an sae walcome in lest week’s debate is owerset intae real an mensefu action.