Celebrating Burns and the Scots Language

burnsyIn 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.

Watch the Scottish Parliament Debate here.


Comments (7)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Ally says:

    Braw airticle. Gars ye hink hoo muckle thae Holyrooders could accomplish if they wernae aye tearin at the thrapple o their ‘opponents’.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    Burns wisnae hemmed in by Scots, he aften sauntered into archaic wordage or Ayrshire agricultural jargon within contemporary Scots, before culminating in standard English within the same poem (I am led to believe). In other words, I guess Burns valued communication above purity, while still expressing his love for Scots language.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    As one of hundreds of thousands who was mocked by teachers in school in Glasgow in the 1950s for speaking with a Glasgow accent I still get rankled by the supercilious superiority whenever I recall it. As you can see, I learned the King’s English as it was called then, and, there was, indeed, a king on the throne at the time.

    With the raising of the school leaving age, the introduction of comprehensive schools, university grants, and, of course, the NHS, many of us went on to achieve highly and not just academically. And, despite us having to write and make speeches in Standard English, in the main when we met each other and began chatting, we reverted to the accents, vocabulary and grammar of our earlier days. We could have insightful, nuanced discourse in this ‘dialect’.

    Sadly, some unionists of left and right, continue to try to tie together Scots with ‘separatism’. They maintain that supercilious attitude that we encountered in school that our language was a degenerate form of English. But, on the other hand, those of us who speak Scots as natives must beware the danger of using it as a mark of ‘true’ Scottishness and decry the accents of the many incomers to Scotland, who have enriched our culture and are active in developing an evolving Scotland.

    I am pleased to see that the expression of liberation of Scots is coming from across the political spectrum. Lord Braxfield, high Tory, confrere of Henry Dundas and sentencer of radicals like Thomas Muir, took a pride in speaking Scots.

    Let us celebrate all of the languages spoken in Scotland and the cultures associated with them, the intermingling of these languages and the adoption of words and phrases into each other. Languages have always been dynamic things. Some have died out, but, let us not tar some of the survivors as inferior.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Nae need tae bi sae scunnert bi yer leid, Alasdair. Ither leids hae thair plais tae, but thon disna mean Scots haes tae bi hid unner a bushel.

  4. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Sorry, there should be no ‘some of’ in my final sentence. – careless editing, when I re-read before posting.

  5. Alf Baird says:

    “tae tak the leid forrit”…thay hae need o a Scots Language Act, juist lyke Gaelic an English, tae gie Scots fowk equaliti:

    – Scots Language Board
    – Scots Language taught in schools
    – Scots Language Degree
    – Scots Language TV Channel

    Itherwyse thair aw heepocreets.

    1. Jim says:

      For tae dae aw thon ye wad need a ‘Scots language’ tae teach, sae juist tae save awbody some time feegurin oot hou tae “tae tak the leed forrit” here’s ane somebody made earlier … http://www.scots-online.org/grammar/wal.asp

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.