“A partially submerged national tongue”

How generations are joining forces to give the Scots language its proper place

THE Scots language is the source of many of the first words we hear. Bairn. Greet. Bonnie. For many of us it is the language of those we love most, those who raised us, who taught us about the world. The tongue of couthy grannies, freenly neebors, loving parents.

Alistair Heather reflects on a new documentary about Scots he wrote and presented about to go out on the BBC Scotland channel. Prior to lockdown he visited activists, speakers and writers and discovered “an increasing boldness shared across many areas, with working-class or rural folk committing themselves to real action”. But there is a problem, “What we found to be missing on our travels for the documentary was any support from officialdom. There were no programmes in government to help connect and encourage these grassroots activities. The BBC were not part of this cultural renaissance. Schools, even with the best will in the world, don’t have the ability to teach Scots at the highest level because there is no Scots Language Higher. We discovered a terrible disconnect between the people and the structures meant to empower them”. Heather draws the conclusion, “Scots is the partially submerged national tongue of a partially submerged nation. And as we continue on our journey towards being a normal country again, we need to start having a more normal attitude to one of our indigenous ways of speaking”.

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