A significant new initiative is launched this week to support and develop the Scots language.

On the 28th of March a new body will be launched to improve the attitude to, visibility and promotion of the Scots leid. The North-East Scots Language Board will have its official launch at the University of Aberdeen, the spiritual and administrative heart of the body. It will be based out of the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen, but its executive board includes representatives of Robert Gordon University, Aberdeenshire council and a member of the media.

According to the 2011 census, 1.6 million people in Scotland speak Scots, but the figure is likely higher than that. The greatest concentration of Scots speakers are found between the waters of the River Tay and Moray Firth. In this area 50% of the population use Scots.

It is to represent this region that the North-East Scots Language Board has been founded.

The North-East is very much the heartland for Scots, as the Hebrides are for Gaelic. For this reason the NESLB will focus resources on improving the status and use of Scots in the area.

Bella’s Scots editor, Alistair Heather said:

“It has similarities to the Gaeltacht in the west. However, the Gaeltacht was unaware of itself until quite recently. Folk in Harris thought that people in Oban and Ullapool spoke totally different, incomprehensible Gaelic to them, and were just through-and-through different. Then Radio nan Gael came along, and let all the folk of the west hear each other’s’ Gaelic, and listen to their thoughts and realised how similar they were. Through this, the Gaelic revival was born.”

The intention is not for the focus on the North-East to be to the exclusion of other areas (yes Ayrshire I’m looking at you), but to offer a foothold / stronghold that could be replicated elsewhere.

This isn’t a Scots ghetto but a Northern Powerhouse, to coin a phrase.

Dr Tom McKean, Director of the Elphinstone Institute and member of the NESLB, outlined his aims:

“The Board, wi representatives fae the Varsity o Aiberdeen, Robert Gordon University, Angus, Moray, Aiberdeen City and Shire, alang wi fowk fa either public bodies an the media, will heeze up aa the dialects o North-East Scots, fae Doric tae Mearns, fae Aiberdeen tae Angus. Through wirk wi scuils we’ll mak the tongue mair accessible tae bairns, an through media, tourism an signage we’ll mak Scots mair visible tae aabdy that bides here. We are launchin a new Scots Leid course at Aiberdeen. Soon, students fae aa owre the warld that attend varsity here will be able tae study an learn the Scots leid.”

The NESLB will also be working with partners to foster the development of a national board.

Michael Hance, Director of the Scots Language Centre welcomed the launch of the new organisation. “As an Aiberdeen loon masel I’m affa pleased tae hear aboot this initiative in the North East. There’s nae quaistion that locally based language projects maks sense. Scots is maistly understood by fowk in the form o dialects an if we’re tae mak progress wi winning respect an support for the language it has tae be daen at a local level,”

Hance went on to praise efforts to establish a national language board. “I’m extremely enthusiastic tae hear aboot it. Gettin fowk thigether fae roon the country tae discuss weys tae encourage an support the language canna be onythin but a guid thing.”

The North-East Scots Language Board will launch on the 28th of March, at Kings College Conference Centre, Old Aberdeen, at 1pm. It will include guest speakers such as Billy Kay. The event is open to the public. Speakers and supporters of Scots, and those with a keen interest in the celebration of Scotland’s unique culture are particularly welcomed.

More details here.