Scottish Government Commitments to Gaelic and Scots and a Scottish Languages Bill: consultation

A consultation on our commitments to Gaelic, Scots and a Scottish Languages Bill.

Scots Language

We will bring forward a new Scottish Languages Bill which takes further steps to support Gaelic, acts on the Scots language and recognises that Scotland is a multilingual society.

Scots Language Policy Context

The Scottish Government has a Scots language policy which was officially launched in 2015. The Scottish Government is also committed to build on this and take further steps to support Scots. There are a number of other statements and commitments which demonstrate the policy context that Scots is set in and the level of priority being accorded by the Scottish Government to the Scots.

Scots is spoken throughout Scotland and the 2011 Census indicated that over 1.5 million people identified themselves as Scots speakers. The Council of Europe’s Charter on Regional or Minority Languages recognises Scots. The Scots provisions include the undertakings that policies should be based on recognition of regional or minority languages as an expression of cultural wealth. The undertakings include the need for resolute action to promote regional and minority languages such as Scots. The undertakings also include the facilitation and encouragement of the use of Scots in speech and writing, in public and private life, the provision of appropriate forms and means for the teaching and study of Scots and more.

Scots has also received recognition in Scottish education. The Curriculum for Excellence makes clear that ‘the languages, dialects and literature of Scotland provide a rich resource for children and young people to learn about Scotland’s culture, identity and language. Through engaging with a wide range of texts they will develop an appreciation of Scotland’s literary and linguistic heritage and its indigenous languages and dialects. This principle permeates the experiences and outcomes and it is expected that practitioners will build upon the diversity of language represented within the communities of Scotland, valuing the languages which children and young people bring to school.’

Following on from this, the Scottish Government in 2011 agreed to develop the concept of Scottish Studies in our schools. The Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) developed the Scottish Studies award and the Scots Language award aimed at creating a distinct strand of learning focused on Scotland incorporating Scottish history, Scottish literature, the Scots and Gaelic languages, wider culture and Scottish current affairs. All pupils have access to this strand at Primary and Secondary levels.

Research has been encouraged into attainment levels amongst students who are taking these awards. Creative writing in Scots is also encouraged and supported within Scottish Qualification Authority’s (SQA) National Qualifications for English. There was a significant increase between 2018-2019 in the number of learners sitting and attaining these awards, in all levels from SCQF level 2-6.

The Scots Language Awards is an annual event and different from the Scottish Qualification Authority awards. These awards were first established in 2019 to celebrate the work that has been going on in Scots community for many years now. The main aims of the event is to raise the profile of the language and promote the work being done and to support it in the media. The awards also gives a platform to the many writers, organisations and performers to help promote themselves in their careers.

Education Scotland has provided good support for the place of Scots within education and has promoted and developed an online professional development course for teachers.

In 2022, the Scottish Government is providing funding to the following organisations and other Scots projects:

  • Scots Language Centre
  • Dictionaries of the Scots Language
  • Association for Scottish Literature
  • Scots Hoose
  • Scots Radio/Doric Film Festival
  • Doric Board
  • Scottish Book Trust (Scots Publishing Grant & Scots Bookbug app)
  • YoungScot (Scottish Languages Panel)

Informal Discussions

There have been informal discussions with Scots stakeholders and those with interest in the language. In these discussions a range of measures were suggested to strengthen Scots and raise the profile of the language. The focus was largely on education, arts, broadcasting and publishing. In addition, there was also discussion of what new structures may be needed to support the Scots language.

In these discussions, there was broad enthusiasm for Scots to be given increased recognition and for Scots to have a higher profile in education. Scots representatives also highlighted the potential for the use of Scots to increase in arts, broadcasting and publishing. A number of bodies could make a significant contribution in this area.

There were also suggestions received that the best way forward for the Scots language would be to build on the work and expertise of bodies that are already in place and receiving support. In order to assist with this discussion, a number of Scots bodies have been listed below with a brief description of their activity.

Key Scots Bodies

The Scots Language Centre

The Scots Language Centre (SLC) receives funding from the Scottish Government to provide information and advice on Scots, raise awareness of and promote the use of the Scots language, culture and education. It is one of the main online sources for educational resources for early years to secondary along with Scots Hoose. The Scots Language Centre also employ a General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) registered teacher as their educational specialist who maintains partnership working with Education Scotland, the SQA, and other educational organisations, developing professional learning and resources both collaboratively and in-house.

The Scots Language Centre routinely supports and expertly advises, on request, individuals, groups, organisations, and public bodies on issues across the whole range of language usage. The Scots Language Centre also lead on the “Aye Can” campaign aimed at creating awareness around the Scots language in relation to the Scots question in the 2022 Census. The Scots Language Centre has produced a new range of Scots online, interactive learning materials for use by learners 3-18, teachers and parents. In September 2021, the Scots Language Centre launched the “Scots Warks” guidance and resources aimed to help people gain confidence in their literacy skills, writing in Scots. This guidance was created in consultation with Scots speakers and developed through an expert working group, made up of several prominent Scots authors.

Dictionaries of the Scots Language

The Scottish Government funds the Dictionaries of the Scots Language which is responsible for the major dictionaries of the Scots Language and undertakes a wide range of educational outreach work with people of all ages and abilities. The Dictionaries of the Scots Language has published articles about Scots words in the Herald newspaper to raise awareness and encourage discussion with the public. As part of Book Week Scotland in November 2019, the Dictionaries of the Scots Language launched the publication “100 Favourite Scots Words”. In early 2021, the Dictionaries of the Scots Language launched the free “Scots Dictionary for Schools app” available to all school pupils and learners alike. The new app features thousands of audio files to help learners with pronunciation. It was downloaded over 1000 times in its first week of launch and continues to be a valuable learning tool for schools and learners.

Association of Scottish Literature

The Association of Scottish Literature (ASL) also receives funding from the Scottish Government. The Association of Scottish Literature provides professional development and support materials on Scottish literature and languages for teachers and pupils, publishes Scottish literature which has been neglected or warrants fresh presentation to a modern audience and also produces a series of school-college level study guides and resources. The Association of Scottish Literature also holds a Schools Conference providing Continued Professional Learning Development (CPLD) for teachers in secondary for English and Scots.

Scots Hoose

Scots Hoose is the leading provider of free online Scots language education resources for schools. In 2022/23, the Scottish Government will provide funding to Scots Hoose; it produces much-needed films, animations, graphic novels, original poems, stories, songs and learning resources in Scots for early years, primary and secondary teachers and pupils. Its mission is to raise attainment by improving Scots provision for all of Scotland’s young Scots speakers, with particular focus on young Scots speakers living in areas of deprivation. Scots Hoose has worked with a range of professional artists from different backgrounds and have involved schools in contributing to resources and even making their own short films.

Scots Radio/Doric Film Festival

The Scottish Government provides funding to Scots Radio, who successfully established Aberdeenshire’s first ever Doric Film Festival in 2018-2019. The festival, provides a high-profile platform for showcasing short films made by individuals, community groups and schools in the North East of Scotland.

At the recent 2021 Celtic Media awards, Scots Radio won the Radio magazine show award. The Doric board was created with a strong focus to supporting local groups and projects by providing small grants to support Doric development and initiatives.

Scottish Book Trust

In 2018, the Scots publication grant was launched, funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Scottish Book Trust. It was created to support Scots publishers and encourage Scots writers. The grant has proved a great success, producing a mix of several publications featuring poetry, fiction, children’s and historical works. It shows the wealth of talent and interest in the language, and strengthens the case for the Scottish Government’s support of Scots and those who wish to use it.

The Commitment to Scots

The commitment to a Scottish Languages Bill will be the key legislative vehicle for delivery of any changes to primary legislation which may be needed to deliver the commitments on the Scots language and multilingual recognition. As noted earlier, there is broad enthusiasm for Scots to be given increased recognition and status and the discussion above has noted the possibility of an expanded role for current Scots bodies.

There is also a wish for Scots to have increased promotion and support in education. Similarly, a duty on bodies to promote and support Scots or to consider how they can take account of Scots in their work could be delivered through a bill.

Consultation Questions

Consultation responses are invited on the question of support for the Scots language.

Thinking of the work of the key Scots bodies as referred to in the paper – What are your views on the work of the Scots bodies? How would you strengthen and add to the work of these bodies?

What are your views on the next steps that should be taken to support the Scots language?

Are there any further points you would like to make about the commitment to support the Scots language?



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