The case against Scots

Whenever Scots dares to raise its head above the parapet, self-important critics line up to take aim. Money for old rope, eh? Here are a few articles that map out the critics’ broad anti-Scots arguments.

Allan Massie– One of the Scots language’s most vocal critics, lays out his case in five articles from 1999 to 2004.

  • Massie A (1999) Scots language is a load of Auld Lallans For the truth, sadly, is that there is no such thing as the Scots language. By that I don’t mean that people don’t speak some variety of Scots, or Scots-English but there is no standard form of Scots either spoken or written.
  • Massie A (2003) Cultural Arena The existence of “what we now call the Scots language” means we can’t be described as a Celtic nation.
  • Massie A (2003) We Scots have a sober and enlightened nationalism – let’s be thankful Bizarre article suggesting that the lack of a linguistic culture to defend has made Scottish nationalism nicer. “For once you start by insisting on linguistic purity, you are all but bound to move on to insisting on other sorts of purity too. Such a nationalist movement is likely to become exclusive and consequently intolerant.”
  • Massie A (2004) Makkin a right mess o’ the Scots language Makkin yer voice heard in the Scottish Pairlament (sic), ….is a truly wretched and dismal little document, though published, I’ve no doubt, with the very best intentions. What it shows, sadly, is the debility of the Scots language today…My own view is that the most we can hope for is that more of us will write and speak English in a Scots fashion, with a good larding of Scots vocabulary. But the phoney Scots of the “Pairlament” document has really nothing to be said for it …The original document  The text of the original document.
  • Exposed to ridicule (Feb 2004) Allan Massie is entirely right: poorly-written documents in some ill-thought-out linguistic mixter-maxter offered as “Scots”, far from doing any service to the language, merely expose it to ridicule, …Language development is not a task for amateurs; nor can it be achieved by slapdash, undirected efforts, however well intentioned. Why, then, is it being left to them? (letter responing to above article)

William McIlvanney, one of Scotland’s great writers adds his support to Alan Massie.

  • McIlvanney W (2002) Reviving the Scots language But any serious rehabilitation of the Scots language? Forget it. A language lives on the streets and, when its ability to be creatively subversive dies there, so does the language.

Other critical articles

  • K Wilson (1998) Scots: Language or dialect? Kenneth Wilson examines the question of what actually constitutes a language (and decides that frankly Scots isn’t one). Extract from a 1998 Cencrastus article.
  • A Morris (2002) Communication complexities rich in verbal whigmaleeriesThe Scots tongue was something spoken only by the ill-educated who knew not high, true English as probably spoken by God and His angels. Scots, it seemed, carried seeds of social destruction, since those speaking it were likely to become wood-hewers and water-drawers“.
  • MSPs in ‘Lunatic’ Proposal to Teach Scots Language (extract 2003) “This is an appalling waste of time and valuable resources – it’s absolute madness. Scots is not a living language, it’s an entirely artificial construct being promoted by a gang of people who are trying to tell us that what’s effectively slang ought to be taught to children”. Daily Mail (London)
  • Scots fails to cross language barrier (2010) “A key component in any definition of language is that it is held by those most associated with it to be one. But according to a new study, almost two-thirds of the Scottish public do not believe Scots is a real language.” Scotsman
  • Fury over SNP campaign to boost Scots ‘language’.(extract 2011) “Taxpayers are to fund a ‘spending spree’ on the Scots language under SNP plans to hire an army of bureaucrats and erect new street signs“.
  • Crumley A (2003) Boldly going where only Trekkies have gone before, Oregon gets to grips with Klingon The author seems to find amusing the SLRC aims “ti gie a heeze ti the implementation o… schemes for trainin teachers, actors, braidcasters or ither fowk uizin Scots in public… ti uphaud an assist ither bodies wi similar aims an ti mind whit they ar daein”.


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