Publication - Independent report

Scots language: Ministerial Working Group report

Published: 30 Nov 2010
Learning Directorate
Part of:
Arts, culture and sport, Education

Report considering the Scots language's place in modern Scotland, with recommendations regarding its promotion.

Scots language: Ministerial Working Group report
2. Executive Recommendations

2. Executive Recommendations

This section contains what the Group has selected as the most important general recommendations, omitting some more specific and detailed suggestions that emerged during the Group's discussions. Some of those will be included in Section 3 of the report. In each section, the first one or two of the recommendations will be offered as "key" recommendations. These will be printed in bold type

1. General

The following are seen by the Group as foundation moves, which will confirm the Scottish Government's goodwill towards Scots and commitment to furthering its development. They will require to be backed up by specific actions focused on individual areas, for which suggestions are offered in subsequent sections.

a. The Scottish Government should develop a national Scots Language policy with reference to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages; and this should be enshrined in an Act of Parliament.

b. The Scottish Government should consolidate and strengthen the existing Scots bodies to create a source of expert advice on all aspects of the Scots language to the government, the media and other public organisations. The Scots Language Centre, by virtue of its existing network of contacts and web presence is ideally placed to be the key agency in managing incoming requests and redirecting them, as necessary, to the appropriate organisation or individual. Scottish Language Dictionaries also has a network of specialist advisors built up over many years and can provide scholarly support.

c. Sources should be determined to secure long term funding for the organisations noted above which provide support and encouragement for Scots.

d. All media organisations, and all agencies in the cultural sector which receive Government funding, should be actively encouraged to develop specific Scots language policies

2. Education

This is one of the areas in which action is most urgently required, at all levels: pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary (the latter including teacher training). The situation is particularly critical in that the current lack of resources and priority for Scots in education endangers all the ground-breaking progress made in recent years. The growth of expertise in Scots teaching is an asset to Scotland's education system; but it will be lost if not sustained by government action."

The Curriculum for Excellence provides a highly promising environment for the development of educational policies and practices to benefit Scots and its introduction is an opportunity which must be exploited; but as the restoration of Scots to full health requires a radical improvement in popular understanding of wider language issues, the Government's task here goes beyond the specific provision for Scots in schools, colleges and universities. The Group's recommendations should be seen in this wider context.

Key Recommendation

a. In light of the announcement that Learning and Teaching Scotland ( LTS) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education ( HMIe) are to re-organise as Scottish Education Quality and Improvement Agency ( SEQIA), there is now an historic opportunity for the Scottish Government to create a dedicated permanent Scots Language/ Scottish Literature Bureau within the new organisation to meet the growing demand from Scotland's teachers for high-quality training, information and resources.

b. A nationwide Network of Coordinators able to deliver Scots language training and advice on resources should be formed. Ideally, relevant local authorities should have at least one primary and one secondary Scots language Coordinator on the model which has been so successful in Falkirk. In the short term, funding could be made available to train Scots language Coordinators in a small number of target local authorities. SEQIA could play a key role in training and administering such a network. The resulting benefits for educational priorities such as Literacy, Social Inclusion, Creativity, Learning Across the Curriculum and Scottish Identity would give a significant return on any government investment.

c. To support delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence, a dedicated national Scots language educational website should be commissioned to provide free high-quality teaching resources. Any new website could be modelled on the current on-line LTS Gaelic Resource Bank and the LTS Scotland's History website; and the online information point on Scots published in 2010 by LTS Literacy, which has proved extremely popular with teachers but offers only limited teaching resources, could be expanded.

d. Chairs in Scottish Literature and Language should be established in all Scottish Universities. To facilitate this the Scottish Government should encourage patronage from Scottish companies.

e. Teacher training in Scotland urgently needs to recognise the importance of Scots and provide more instruction in the language for students. To facilitate the teaching of literacy in Scots, the language should form part of all Initial Teacher Education courses; a Scots Continuous Professional Development programme should be designed and introduced to all primary and secondary school at the earliest opportunity; educational publishers should be advised of this, and of the need for usable Scots text books.

f. Funding should be directed to producing and distributing educational resources such as dictionaries, grammars and reading materials

g. The importance of online material should be recognised, and existing educational resources such as the excellent websites of the Scots Language Centre and Scottish Language Dictionaries should be actively publicised and developed.

h. Recognition of dialect diversity in Scotland, and active interest in all regional and social dialects, should be an integral part of the Government's educational policy for both primary and secondary schools.

3. Broadcasting

Here as elsewhere, the Group's desideratum is that the place of Scots in broadcasting and the media should be greatly increased, but not only by augmenting the number of programmes which are specifically in or about Scots: rather, that this should happen concurrently with an increase in the use of Scots in contexts where it is not being "flagged up". Scots will eventually, it is hoped, be heard in programmes of all kinds, native speakers using the language in any and all contexts. The recommendations given here should be seen not only as providing for an immediate improvement in the amount of Scots broadcast, but as setting the ground for this further development.

Key Recommendation

a. Broadcasting organisations have to be made aware that given all the developments in lesser-used languages throughout Europe, negative attitudes towards Scots are no longer tenable, and that they must be seen to be active in promoting the mother tongue of a large proportion of the Scottish population. Scots is recognised as a language by the Scottish, European and UK governments and is seen by the Scottish people themselves as a major badge of their identity: it should therefore have a regular, prominent and permanent place in both local and national broadcasting schedules..

b. The Scottish Government should advise all media organisations that both the Scottish and the U.K. Governments are committed, through the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, to the support and development of Scots.

c. In furtherance of this, the Government should encourage such organisations to recognise Scots as a language widely used throughout Scotland, and work with them, especially those delivering radio and television programmes, to extend the range and quality of their Scots output, and to celebrate the diversity of spoken Scots and its rich literary history.

d. To facilitate this and to begin to redress the balance in favour of Scots, media organisations should establish forthwith a policy of clear and active encouragement in favour of Scots. Interviewers talking to Scots speakers should use Scots themselves, to encourage the interviewees to respond in the mither tongue.

e. To enable this, knowledge of spoken Scots should be regarded as an important qualification when producers and presenters are chosen..

f. To raise awareness and encourage understanding of Scots, broadcasters should prioritise programmes exploring the history of the language and its literature as part of the regular output.

g. BBC Scotland should appoint an adviser on Scots in order to raise the profile and status of Scots within the BBC. Other media organisations should have access to a similar level of Scots expertise and consultancy through existing agencies.

h. Local radio and community radio should be encouraged and supported in the very important role they play in raising the profile and status of dialect speech.

4. Literature and the Arts

The centuries-old and still growing body of literature in Scots is an invaluable part of our national heritage, and one of the strongest reasons for ensuring that the language remains healthy. As the body established by Parliament to foster and support Scotland's culture, Creative Scotland has a specific responsibility towards the care and custody of the Scots language; and its duty to give it practical support and encouragement must be emphasised.

Key Recommendation

a. Creative Scotland should be charged with an explicit responsibility to ensure that Scots is fairly, consistently and positively supported in all areas of its funding of the arts, in particular in its funding of literature, writers and publishing. In order to achieve this, Creative Scotland should work towards adopting a comprehensive and consistent Scots language policy as it has done for Gaelic.

b. Creative Scotland should create a specific, ring-fenced fund to support the publication of books, magazines, popular and academic publications and other resources in Scots suitable for all ages. This fund would be administered by a body similar to, and possibly modelled on, Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (the Gaelic Books Council) and have a similar remit and degree of independent decision-making power, while remaining financially and operationally accountable to the Scottish Government.

c. The Scottish Government should consider hosting, and funding, a national Scots Screivar, who should be a senior poet, author or playwright with a critically-acclaimed body of work.

d. The National Theatre of Scotland should commission contemporary work by living Scottish playwrights in all three indigenous languages of Scotland. There should also be a strong classic revivalist strand in its programmes.

5. International Contacts

The Scottish Government's efforts to raise Scotland's profile on the international scene have been widely recognised and applauded; and the raising of international awareness and understanding of Scotland's distinctive linguistic situation should be seen as an integral part of this. In the academic field, efforts are already being made to develop a network of international contacts among scholars with interest in Scottish literature and language: the Government should support these efforts and ensure that they are complemented with the development of international links in other fields.


Key Recommendation

a. Scotland should be presented internationally as a trilingual country, with Scots and Gaelic listed as official languages alongside English.

b. VisitScotland should actively promote the Scots language, not only by advertising cultural events with a Scots dimension but by making Scots visible on its website. The promotion of Scots in Washington DC at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Library of Congress Burns Symposium are a perfect example of what can be achieved.

c. Scots should be represented at home and abroad at international events: not only those specifically focusing on literature or the arts but sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games, business and commercial ventures, etc.


d. The Scottish Funding Council and Scottish Universities have a clear responsibility to ensure that sufficient funding is directed to the various academic and other bodies concerned to ensure that overseas scholars and laypeople with an interest in Scots can continue to find, not only information and resources, but active assistance by experienced and enthusiastic Scottish scholars and language activists.

e. The Scottish Funding Council should contribute to the place of Scots as an international field of study by establishing academic exchange programmes between overseas Universities and their Scottish counterparts: this initiative could be taken in partnership with Creative Scotland and with established international scholarly organisations such as the Fulbright Commission.

6. Public Awareness

As already noted, a serious handicap to the development of Scots is the widespread uncertainty, even among fluent speakers, of the actual nature and status of the language; and a key factor in the task of promoting the language is that of eradicating the deep-rooted effects of the old educational tradition of denigrating it as "slang", "bad English" or the like. The following recommendations are aimed at achieving this.

Key Recommendation

a. The possibility of establishing 'Scots touns', 'dialect conservation areas' or 'sites of special linguistic interest' in areas with high concentrations of speakers should be investigated. A possible approach would be the awarding by a national body of the designation 'Scots toun' as an accolade for local work done to promote the Scots language.

b. The Scottish Government and other national bodies should draw lessons from the use of Scots at the National Trust for Scotland's new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum with a view to promoting the use of Scots for signage, labelling and publicity in museums, libraries, historic and all other public buildings.

c. Local and national agencies should be encouraged to develop language tourism strategies.

d. Every opportunity should be taken to encourage the audible and visible presence of Scots in public spaces, for example in recorded or live public announcements, and signs displaying the names of towns, villages and streets .

7. Dialects

Scots as a spoken language exists in a number of distinct forms, each of which is strongly identified with a particular area and several of which have been developed for flourishing traditions of local literature. The need to preserve the individual dialects and respect their distinctive identities, while at the same time developing the language as a whole, will require careful planning: in particular, the necessity of developing a standard form of Scots for official purposes must be presented so as to avoid any appearance of a threat to the dialects.

Key Recommendation

a. All regional and social dialects of Scots should be recognised as worthy of respect. Central initiatives in support of Scots must therefore be designed to take account of how they will operate in strong dialect areas.

b. Local authorities should have not only a clear policy on Scots but a clear awareness of the dialects in their particular areas, and should tailor the application of the national policy to their own particular context.

c. Successful local initiatives such as Shetland ForWirds, the Doric Festival in the North-East and the Lapraik Festival in Muirkirk should be actively encouraged and supported by the Government, and monitored for ideas on how similar projects could be initiated in other areas.

8. The Census

The present General Register of Scotland decision, approved by the Scottish Parliament, to include a question on Scots in the forthcoming Census is a major step forward.

Key Recommendation

a. Efforts must be made to ensure that in preparation for the census the public is made aware of the meaning and implications of the questions. The Scottish Government should support the efforts of GROS and the Scots Language Centre to raise awareness of the Scots language question in the 2011 census.

b. Once the results have been examined, a clear strategy of how to use the information should be put in place.


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