2007 - 2021

The Right to Exist

Identity Language and Power is a new series where we are exploring the use and assertion of language in Scotland and how it’s been politicised, attacked, undermined, devalued and promoted.

I can’t remember who I’ve heard tell this – probably Billy Kay – but I’ve often heard the story that in schools in Ayrshire you’d get the belt for talking in Scots 364 days of the year, then on Burns Day you’d get a prize for it.

Language, closely tied to individual personal identity as well as national identity, has been historically the source of shame in Scotland. People forget how recent this phenomenon has been. Remember The Proclaimers actually singing in their own accents and that being remarkable even shocking? Remember Runrig actually singing in gaelic and that being remarkable?

When Jim Kelman won the Booker Prize for How Late it was How Late in 1994 he wrote the following as part of his acceptance speech after being viciously attacked:

“A couple of weeks ago a feature writer for a Quality Newspaper suggested that the term “culture” was inappropriate to my work, that the characters peopling my pages were “pre-culture” — or was it “primeval”? I can’t quite recall. This was explicit, generally it isn’t. But — as Tom Leonard pointed out more than 20 years ago — the gist of the argument amounts to the following, that vernaculars, patois, slangs, dialects, gutter-languages etc. etc. might well have a place in the realms of comedy (and the frequent references to Billy Connolly or Rab C. Nesbitt substantiate this) but they are inferior linguistic forms and have no place in literature. And a priori any writer who engages in the use of such so-called language is not really engaged in literature at all. It’s common to find well-meaning critics suffering from the same burden, while they strive to be kind they still cannot bring themselves to operate within a literary perspective; not only do they approach the work as though it were an oral text, they somehow assume it to be a literal transcription of recorded speech.

This sort of prejudice, in one guise or another, has been around for a very long time and for the sake of clarity we are better employing the contemporary label, which is racism. A fine line can exist between elitism and racism and on matters concerning language the distinction can sometimes cease to exist altogether.

… There is a literary tradition to which I hope my own work belongs, I see it as part of a much wider process — or movement — toward decolonization and self-determination: it is a tradition that assumes two things: 1) The validity of indigenous culture; and 2) The right to defend in the face of attack. It is a tradition premised on a rejection of the cultural values of imperial or colonial authority, offering a defence against cultural assimilation, in particular imposed assimilation.

Unfortunately, when people assert their right to cultural or linguistic freedom they are accused of being ungracious, parochial, insular, xenophobic, racist etc.

As I see it, it’s an argument based solely on behalf of validity, that my culture and my language have the right to exist, and no one has the authority to dismiss that right, they may have power to dismiss that right, but the authority lies in the power and I demand the right to resist it.”

This is a struggle that still goes on, and it’s a struggle that can be reduced to, in simple terms “my culture and my language have the right to exist”.

But that shaming hasn’t gone away. It hasn’t been magicked away by devolution or the Proclaimers or by Itchy Coo or A Room on a Broom in Scots.

As Scott Hames wrote on this site back in 2016: “The history of that shame – and of resistance to it – has more to do with class than nationality. But it’s true that ‘improvers’ and standardisers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many of them Scots, associated the spread of ‘correct’ English with achieving full acceptance as North Britons. In A Treatise on the Provincial Dialect of Scotland (1779), Sylvester Douglas (Lord Glenbervie) treats ‘the idiom particular to Scotland’ as ‘a provincial and vicious dialect of English’, and hence, as Lynda Mugglestone observes, ‘particularly open … to the hegemonies of England in linguistic as well as political ways’. The legacy of these ideas persisted much later than we might expect. John E. Joseph cites a schoolroom primer on standard English published in Glasgow in 1960. Under the heading ‘Barbarism’ is listed ‘The use of Scotticisms : – as gigot, sort (repair), the cold, canny’. As Joseph remarks, this ‘amounts to the authors of the book telling its readers that, insofar as the language reflects who they are, insofar as it belongs to them, it is barbaric, and that if they do not want to be perceived as barbarians, they must do away with these features’.

In fact some of that shame persists. Almost every single time we publish in Scots it is inevitable that a response will include tired and tiresome questions and comments (“Is it a real language?” …) and the predictable attacks and boring expressions of either cultural self-hatred or almost complete cultural ignorance.

The relentless attacks on ‘Miss Punny Pennie’ @Lenniesaurus is dire, and introduces a misogynist element to anti-Scots trolling.

But it’s not all bad. Scots publishing is thriving. In a very large sense the cultural cringe is a generational relic and now resides in small pockets of Scottish society. In some sense both Gaelic and Scots have a higher profile than ever before, even if that is because gaelic language is in peril and both have been (differently) politicised. Support for gaelic language and culture is deep and widespread and measurable despite the shrill noise about ‘road signs’ etc. But institutionally Scotland is still littered with cultural bodies that are not fit for purpose and are not up to the task, and living in an anglo-normative culture is bewildering and disorientating when the ‘north’ means Bradford and when the man on the news invites you to watch the ‘news where you are’ (which never is where he is).

Although there are those that condemn ‘language essentialism’, the reality is that the politicisation comes from both languages being perceived as an existential threat by the unionist community. The fact is that language and identity are political. Their repression and denial, as Kelman articulates are about power. This is a process of toward decolonization and self-determination.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring Identity Language and Power and we are inviting pitches on these issues.

How does class intersect with language and identity? What next for gaelic? How does the crisis in rural housing impact language? What role does education and broadcasting play in language protection and development?

The first articles have been commissioned and will be published in the next few days. What we’ll be looking for is a critical but supportive conversation and to avoid playing one language off another but instead enhancing cultural confidence; creating a forum for critical conversations; supporting practitioners and publishers; interrogating failure and cringe; examining radical plans for renewal.

Comments (75)

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  1. Squigglypen says:

    When folk attack your culture …attack them right back…no justification required.
    My father said..’if anybody tries tae kill ye..kill them right back.’ I find it works.

  2. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

    Gaelic was the language of Galloway until a few hundred years ago. But you’d never know that if you went to school in the area. It is airbrushed from history. I think we need to realise and accept that this is not accidental and is part of continuing policy. Consequently extra measures are justified to make amends (were that possible) by the authorities. However if you look at what the local authority have achieved under its last 5 year Gaelic plan it can be seen that there has been no effort put into fulfilling its statutory obligations.
    The big picture is that of continuing attempts on the part of the authorities to the create a homogeneous British (read English) culture and identity – a policy and effort that has been going on for centuries (Statutes of Iona anyone?). That the SNP government presides over this is, shall we say, interesting.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      I think the clue is in the phrase ‘until a few hundred years ago’. We need precedents, not traditions; a future Scotland, not a Scotland past.

      1. Colin Robinson says:

        There’s no attempt to create a homogeneous British culture. British culture has never been more disparate than it is nowadays.

        1. David Martin says:

          “There’s no attempt to create a homogenous British culture ”
          Is the ‘ Union ‘ not trying to enforce the display of the Union Flag ?
          Anyone think of any other examples ?
          Answers on a 10ft scroll .

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            British culture has never been less homogeneous or more disparate in the archipelago’s history. You disagree?

        2. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

          There are none so blind as those who cannot see:

          Britons have blasted an ‘insane’ and ‘bloody awful’ One Britain song after it went viral online ahead of so-called One Britain, One Nation day.

          The song, which appears to have Government backing, provoked ridicule after it went viral online, with critics calling it ‘ridiculous’ and ‘an embarrassment’.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            Yes, it’s a bloody awful song. And…?

          2. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

            Och I don’t know, I can just see you gie-in it laldy in the ad breaks on Border TV

          3. Colin Robinson says:

            I stopped giein it laldie around the time Borders TV stopped making the White Heather Club.

          4. Niemand says:

            Yeah but the fact even The Daily Express is sceptical about this song suggest it is a widespread failure (though reading the background to the song shows it isn’t quite what it seems – written by an immigrant, sung by Bradford school children, not that that does not make it still pretty grim).

            But the question is does promoting Britain, one-nation style, mean an imposition of ‘British’ culture (whatever that is – I mean what is it exactly?)? Heterogeny within that framework is surely possible and pretty much what we have; as Colin says Britain is more culturally diverse, more plural than it has even been. Of course no longer being part of Britain would avoid the whole issue (perhaps) but the two things are not the same. Scottish culture is also very diverse, and arguably more so than English if you are talking about indigenous populations, but would it be a problem calling it all Scottish culture or would that be an imposition also? If not then this looks more like a point about political autonomy, not one about cultural diversity and plurality.

            The Bella project looks really interesting though and I look forward to reading the articles.

          5. cobb says:

            It was written by schoolchildren

          6. Who cares? They have been manipulated.

        3. Iain MacLean says:

          “There’s no attempt to create a homogeneous british culture”?


          Is it accident that the word or term “british” prefixes every cooking programme, gardening programme, make up programme, variety programme, sewing programme, even drag programmes, etc…..?

          In the supermarket, union jacks appearing on foods and products to that never used to have them!

          We are bombarded with stories of the royals, no alternative views can be aired and oh how lucky we are to have them, they are just like we are, the world envy britain!

          It’s long been an observable phenomena that unionist politicians from Scotland on the greasy pole up in westminster make a concerted attempt to rid themselves of their Scottish accent? Students graduating from the public school system in Scotland, you’d never know they were from Scotland! Both these examples seek acceptance and change accordingly, i.e. they become british and defenders of britain!

          The tories are currently embarking on a culture war intended to rub out culture that does not chime with their view of uk, Scotland is in their line of fire with a plague of union jacks about to foisted on to us.

          The tories view any divergence between Holyrood and Westminster as bad, even if the difference benefits Scotland, it’s bad! Labour are following suit as they vie with the tories to be defenders of the union!

          You wait, the moment England exit the Euros, there will be calls for a british football team!

          Post brexit the intention is clear, it’s a one size fits all, undermining of the Scottish Parliament will increase and blanketing Scotland with all things british will be relentless!

          1. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

            On the glorious ‘One Britain Day’ poor old Colin will be muttering to himself

            ‘There’s no attempt to create a homogeneous British culture’, ‘There’s no attempt to create a homogeneous British culture’…… ad infinitum

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Yes, really. British culture has never been less homogeneous or more disparate in the archipelago’s history. You disagree?

          3. Niemand says:

            Regarding the TV stuff, supermarkets, even the royals, you are talking more about a political brand, a framework, than any homogeneity though. Would a TV cooking show called the Great Scottish Bake-Off be that much different ? All Scots people making specifically Scottish cakes, for example, would actually be less diverse (not that such a show wouldn’t be potentially good). Or a supermarket with a Saltaire hanging outside instead of a Union Jack? Or ultra-privileged Scots in powerful unassailable positions (already there methinks).

            It’s what happens within that matters surely?

          4. Colin Robinson says:

            Precisely, Niemand. My Galloway Cheddar has a saltire on the label; likewise, my mince and tatties are both labelled ‘Scottish’. It’s a marketing device, not a sign of some attempt to homogenise Scottish culture.

        4. “There’s no attempt to create a homogenous British culture.”

          Did you mean to say something else or is this a sort of joke?

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            Nope. Like I say, British culture has never been less homogeneous or more disparate or heterogeneous than it’s ever been in the archipelago’s history.

          2. Well that’s highly debatable but even were it to be true it’s not the same as arguing that there’s “no attempt to create a homogenous British culture.”

          3. Colin Robinson says:

            What? Are you denying our multiculturalism, Mike? Are you seriously suggesting that British culture is more homogeneous/less heterogeneous now than it was pre-1979 (say)?

            And, yes (well-spotted!), if there is some attempt, it’s not working. Which amounts to the same thing: a manufactured grievance. (I can’t believe that an early 17th-century grudge is still being trotted out in 21st-century Scotland. The Statutes of Iona… FFS!)

        5. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

          Colin, I suppose this is not another attempt at BritHomogenisation in your view?

          A Conservative MP has launched a campaign to put a portrait of the Queen in every home in Britain. Joyce Morrissey, MP for Beaconsfield, took to Twitter to announce the initiative with the British Monarchists Society, of which she is the patron. An image posted on the social media site shows the MP holding a picture of The Queen, and a poster that reads: “I am proud to be launching a national campaign with the British Monarchists Society to put a picture of Her Majesty in every home

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            She should campaign for a law to put it on toilet paper.

  3. Finlay Macleod says:

    What is so clear to anyone that has been involved in developing the Gaelic language over the past 30 years is that Language plans simply don’t work as they are set out in Scotland you would need to be both blind and deaf to think they did

    For the Moray Language Centre it is important to develop a Glasgow Gaelic Networked Community as soon as possible so that their can be a growing Gaelic community in the area.
    We intend to hold an information session on the 21st and another on the 28th of August as it will give us an opportunity to explain and provide information on how Networked Gaelic Communities work and grow be they in a large or small area.
    At these sessions we will be discussing how adults can learn Gaelic Superfast (within 1 year) be they in Glasgow or elsewhere and the importance of Gaelic Lifestyle Centres
    If you would like to attend please get email finlaymlc@btinternet.com and tell us which area you are from.

  4. Finlay Macleod says:

    Who wrote the above article?

    1. I did. Is my name not on it?

  5. SleepingDog says:

    If an independent Scotland takes over some of the video-on-demand chunk in EU markets lost by the UK, what impact will making programmes in Scots have? Possibly little for markets where dubbing and subtitling are more common, although not so good where viewers are hoping to learn international English as a byproduct. Maybe an incentive for UK production companies to relocate to Scotland.
    Is Scots pleasing on the international ear compared with other English? Aside from that, if a writer fluent in Scots chooses to write more in standard international English for an international market, that puts them in same category as many other feted writers from around the globe who would not have reached audiences otherwise. It’s not always about cringing.

  6. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

    Colin Robinson23rd June 2021 at 4:00 pm
    Yes, really. British culture has never been less homogeneous or more disparate in the archipelago’s history. You disagree?

    Colin the policy of the Scottish and British governments since the Statutes of Iona has been to carry forward the eradication of the Gaelic language and culture in Scotland and (in the case of the English and British governments) particularly viciously in Ireland. This has carried through to the modern era by means of homogenising TV channels we have discussed before, school curriculum and the lip service approach of the Gaelic language plans etc etc. As such the British Isles is much more ‘English’ than previously, including the Republic of Ireland, such has been the success of these policies. Their success can be judged as well by virtue of the fact that you, an ostensibly intelligent Borders TV watching person, can’t see the situation as it is.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Yes, I know Gaelic culture has been persecuted. But this isn’t necessarily evidence of an attempt to create a homogeneous British culture. The fact that British culture is now less homogeneous and more heterogeneous or disparate than it has ever been hardly bespeaks an attempt to homogenise it.

      1. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

        Colin, switch of Border for a minute and think about what you are writing here. The Penrith sheep sales news can wait a wee bit surely? You’ve been given examples as to how the state has borne down on ‘minority’ cultures, through the apparatus of the state like education policy (amongst many others). Yet you simply keep asserting there is no attempted homogenisation ongoing. You must realise how unfounded this is so I have to assume you’re just trying to wind up the good readers here.

        1. Presumably Colin you wont be celebrating One Britain One Nation Day on Friday with the rest of us and our children as recommended by the Department of Education?

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            No, you’re on your own there, Mike.

        2. Colin Robinson says:

          Aye, the decline of Gaelic in Galloway, the Statutes of Iona, the ubiquity of Union Jacks, the word ‘British’, and the soap opera that is the Royal Family, the alleged bias of the BBC, and some silly song have all been cited, none of which constitutes evidence of an attempt to create a homogeneous British culture.

          The fact remains that British culture has never been less homogeneous or more disparate/heterogeneous than it is now, a fact that hardly bespeaks some attempt to homogenise it.

          Care to account for that fact?

          1. Time, the Deer says:

            What exactly is your chronic fucking problem with Gaelic, Andrew? If you’re so sure it doesn’t matter why don’t you just butt out and let the adults have a mature conversation for once, instead of making yourself look like an ignorant, prejudiced old prick with an axe to grind, as usual?

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            Yes, there’s no denying that the assertion of which you speak is part of the panoply of contemporary British culture, which consists of many dueling assertions. That’s a healthy state for a culture to be in. It renders any attempt to homogenise that culture inconsequential and, therefore, non-existent.

          3. Colin Robinson says:

            (That last comment was addressed to Mike, whose last post seems to have disappeared.)

          4. Iain MacLean says:

            “Aye, the decline of Gaelic in Galloway, the Statutes of Iona, the ubiquity of Union Jacks, the word ‘British’, and the soap opera that is the Royal Family, the alleged bias of the BBC, and some silly song have all been cited, none of which constitutes evidence of an attempt to create a homogeneous British culture.”

            It means there is no space for diversity, including Scottish culture! The air time on bbc and itv is crowded with british first, british this and british that, there’s no room at the inn for anything else!

            When you speak about diversity, by enlarge you are seeing or talking about the increase in people’s arriving in the uk from the former colonies, predominantly English cities and equating this to cultural diversity! It’s not, it’s demographic diversity!

            When immigrants or their uk born children celebrate their own culture, first thing “the right” comes up with is why can’t they integrate with us? I wonder how much integration the Indians saw during 200 years of the Raj?

            I listened to Nicky Campbell today, an English listener was complaining about The Flower of Scotland and sending Edward home to think again, he advocated god save the queen should be sung in Scotland as it would unite. No mention of Verse six of god save the queen, “ Lord grant that Marshal Wade May by thy mighty aid Victory bring. May he sedition hush and like a torrent rush Rebellious Scots to crush. God save the Queen!”

            What we are seeing in Scotland is colonialism in the twenty first century, there is no room for diversity!

          5. Colin Robinson says:

            But I repeat, Iain, there’s more cultural diversity in Scotland now than there has ever been. The evidence is all around us. Are you denying the multicultural nature of our society?

  7. Richard Gunn says:

    What is a ‘right to exist’? Did I have this right before I existed? When I came into existence, did my ‘right’ come in as well? How? When? It sounds to me as though someone is picturing a passport office in the sky…

    1. I think what Jim Kelman was saying was “my culture has a right to exist.”

    2. Colin Robinson says:

      It is an odd application of an ethical term (its usually Kelmans rather than cultures that are attributed rights), but to have a right to something is to be entitled to something in virtue of something else – e.g. in virtue of the nature of one’s being, as in the case of natural rights, or in virtue of the social contract to which one is party, as in the case of civil rights. I’m not sure what in virtue of what Kelman could have had in mind when he attributed rights to cultures. Maybe he was just valorising cultures rather than asserting any statement of fact.

      One thing is certain: in virtue of both his autonomy and the principle of liberty, Kelman has both a natural right and a civil right to express himself however he chooses in his writing.

      1. Mouse says:

        That guy Gandhi said that people don’t have rights: We have duties. Entitlement vs. decency doesn’t usually end well.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Yep, rights and duties are the correlative terms of the social contract. The idea is that, if I have a right to something, I have a corresponding duty to respect it in others. It’s an application of the so-called ‘Golden Rule’.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            Sorry, that should read: ‘The idea is that, if I claim a right to something, I have a corresponding duty to respect it in others.’

  8. David B says:

    Brilliant Mike, cheers for putting this together. I remember quite clearly being told as a bairn “you can’t say ‘ken’ or ‘cannae’, you won’t get a job when you grow up.” That would have been early 90s. Looking forward to reading the full series.

  9. Chris Ballance says:

    Left to itself language always follows the money and dominant culture. Hence Walter Scott organised classes to teach “proper” English, so that Scots could fit in better with the mercantile classes of London. Hence so many indigenous languages dying out each decade. Hence American English becoming the dominant version of English across the world, thanks also to Hollywood.

    The problem is that language shapes how we think. Orwell describes this process vibrantly with Newspeak in 1984 and in his brilliant essay: Politics and the English language.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Language does indeed shape the cognitive universes we inhabit, and it evolves all the time, with particular languages coming and going and mutating perpetually in between, like life itself.

      But I don’t see this as a problem; it’s a necessary element of our human condition.

      1. Time, the Deer says:

        And it couldn’t be more obvious that your cognitive universe is shaped by the language of the fucking colonist. Away and boil your one-dimensional monoglot heid.

      2. David says:

        But is there not a problem when a language is used as a political weapon?

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Yes, the struggle for survival among forms of life or ‘identities’ like Gaelic etc. is a political struggle. But that’s not a problem; it’s life, part of the red-in-tooth-and-claw process by which life perpetuates itself through the evolution of its forms.

        2. Ann Rayner says:

          The Declaration in the 1870s that ‘all Education in Scotland shall be in English’ was certainly a political act.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            It certainly was, and it did undoubtedly contribute to the hostile environment in which Gaelic struggled to survive at that time and from which, arguably, it’s failed to recover viability.

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            It certainly was, and it did undoubtedly contribute to the hostile environment in which Gaelic struggled to survive at the time and from which, arguably, it’s failed to recover viability.

  10. Catriona NicIlleathainn says:

    Gaelic and Scots have a higher profile than ever. LOL. Woke jokes. Please. 20 years ago these people were wearing Pringle jumpers and now they have stolen the Gaelic language to progress themselves. It’s embarrassing. I hate what has been done to the Gaelic by ‘new speakers.’ All thieves of our culture now representing themselves as experts. They are NOT Highland
    Epilepsy who grew up with people telling them they were worthless teuchtars. But now they are all experts. Please make it stop.

    1. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

      I remember studying Gaelic in Glasgow maybe 20 years ago and we were in a bar practising (honest) when an old bodach came staggering over (having heard the stilted conversation) and roundly chastised us for wasting time on that useless language. Between folk with attitudes like that and Catriona who seems to want to exclude new acquirers of ‘her’ language it’s not surprising perhaps that so few succeed. By the way Catriona, Gaelic is not unique to the Highlands, the language was spoken in Galloway probably longer than it has been in the Outer Hebrides. Even more so in the Isle of Man where the Gaelic was largely the Scottish variety. Catriona, by cleaving to this simplistic Highlands=Gaelic and Lowlands = Scots you have swallowed all too readily the divide and rule tactic employed against the people.

  11. Mouse says:

    There is certainly a concerted attempt by the central-belt authorities to create a false ‘Scots language’, singular. Central belt colonisation of a nation. I’m from the NE. I’ve got my own language, so fuck off. The north of Scotland may as well not exist except as a playground for central-belters, and it’s getting a lot worse.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Yep, Scots remains an uncodified language, which keeps it limber and open to local adaptations Long may it remain such ‘a Dostoevskian debris of ideas – an inexhaustible quarry of subtle and significant sound’.

      1. Mouse says:

        When people make the basic mistake of thinking Scots is a language (singular) instead of languages (plural), they have swallowed the government bullshit, and they want to kill it. I think the government have even tried to codify ‘a Scots language’ as some kind of legal bullshit. Fuck off.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Yes, there have been various attempts to ‘nationalise’ Scots.

    2. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

      Mouse, I beg to differ. In fact I’m dumfoonert. I studied at Aberdeen University and worked for a Buchan farmer in return for accommodation, I found his Scots essentially the same as that of Ayrshire and Galloway. The difference was that the Buchan Scots had retained a stronger vocabulary than the Scots I was used to and it took some effort to keep up at the meal after the sheep shearing (for example).

      However if Mouse had met John Dobson of Dobson’s Dairy, Newmilns, Ayrshire I think he would have had a perfectly convivial Scots conversation with him. John had the purest Scots I think I have heard, certainly outwith Buchan. Ayrshire remains a Scots stronghold of sorts to this day. I think Billy Kay hails from around there?

      I’d tone down this Doric exceptionalism, Mouse.

  12. Mouse says:

    Probably just as many people speak Doric as speak Gaelic. Gaelic has it’s own TV channel. Vague Doric gets about an hour a week of polkas on BBC Radio Glesgay Fitba. If spoken broadly no-one in Dundee would understand much said by someone from Buckie. It doesn’t have anything to do with people from London. It’s central-belt cultural colonisation from Byres Road cafe cliques (they might even think they are multi-cultural).

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      But that’s a good thing. Some native Gaelic speakers feel the same about their language. Catriona, for example.

  13. Clive P L Young says:

    Perhaps wasn’t the best choice to illustrate a worthy initiative with a 19th century map that labels all non-Gaelic Scottish speech as ‘English’.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Well, Scots used to be Inglis until the Makars dubbed it ‘Scottis’. And didn’t the Gaels make no distinction in their language between Scots and English?

      1. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

        That’s right Colin and at the same time Gaelic was re-named by the authorities as ‘Erse’ as part of an ‘othering’ effort and the terms Scots or the Scottish language (which was hitherto used to refer to Gaelic) was reserved for the Teutonic language thereafter.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Yes, I’ve always found it bizarre that the name the Teutons gave to the tribe that settled northwest Britain came to denote the Teutonic language in relation to which, from the 15th century onwards, Gaelic was increasingly disadvantaged in the struggle for survival.

          Culture wars, eh?

  14. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

    That’s right. The first written (in Scots) ‘Gaelic Nationalist’ sentiments I am aware of are put forward by the 16th C Walter Kennedy of Glen Tig in Carrick. He defends the Gaelic speech of the SW Gàidhealtachd against Dunbar’s disparaging attack. I’m referring to The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy. Kennedy refers to ‘our Highland Town of Ayr’ – Catriona take note- as being (if I remember right) a suitable place to string up the treacherous Dunbar.

  15. Derek says:

    I’m glad that you included Tintin; Scots translations of him and Asterix coincided with the release of “Asterix and the Picts”, which was the first book to have no input from the original creators. Interesting that two European publishers see it as a worthwhile language in which to publish, and also that the first Tintin to receive a translation was the one that’s set in Scotland.

  16. Niall Campbell Morrison says:

    OBON: ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer comes to mind….

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Indeed! But, hey… it’s a part of the rich polyphony of voices that is contemporary British culture.

    2. Derek says:


      What does that mean?


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