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
4. Miscellaneous activities of the Working Group.

4. Miscellaneous activities of the Working Group.

Besides discussion of the set topics utilising discussion papers provided by Group members, some of the meetings also included time devoted to specific projects or pieces of information received.

Meeting 2: 12-1-10.

Presentation by the Chair of the Traditional Arts Working Group

Dave Francis kindly agreed to offer his advice to the Scots working group based on his experience as a member of the Traditional Arts Working Group. Traditional Arts in Scotland enjoy a good position culturally, which contrasts somewhat with that of the Scots Language at this present time. The main focus of the Traditional Arts Working Group is on the following themes:

  • Performance
  • Cultural memory
  • Transmission (teaching and learning)
  • Support and development

The Traditional Arts Working Group has contributions from invited guests and holds public meetings all over Scotland. The public meetings, which gathered together many groups in the arts field, have highlighted a fundamental weakness in provision for the arts in Scotland, namely that many groups were unaware of the work other groups were doing: a fact which members of the Scots group at once recognised as familiar in their own field. The place of traditional arts in the educational field was also recognised, from Mr Francis' presentation, as being similar to that of Scots: both subjects have to struggle for a recognised place in the curriculum; and the place they have is often conditioned to an excessive extent by the enthusiasms of individual teachers, making it difficult to introduce subjects like traditional arts and the Scots language and guarantee them a place.

Presentation on Research on Public Attitudes to Scots - TNS- BMRB Researchers

Catriona West gave a short presentation on the findings of recent research carried out into Public Attitudes to Scots. Copies were provided to the working group members. The presentation covered the background, objectives and methodology used in the research. In response to a question from the group as to how the researchers explained what was meant by Scots, she explained that respondents were played a tape of people speaking simple Scots phrases. She covered the key findings: Scots is widely spoken, most commonly with family and friends, though less commonly read or written; there are no strong negative feelings against Scots; there are mixed perceptions of Scots as a language though these are generally positive; there is widespread recognition of the role of Scots in history, culture and identity; many consider that the use of Scots nowadays is important, most particularly in culture; many are content with the amount of Scots used but significant minorities are in favour of more; views relating to learning Scots were generally positive but there was less of a consensus on its role in education, parents with children under 5 in particular showing significant opposition to encouraging children to speak Scots. Members were impressed with this piece of work and felt that it would be useful in promoting Scots. They were encouraged by the findings and said that it was to the credit of the Scottish Government that the research had been commissioned.

Meeting 5: 19-5-10.

Presentation on the National Trust for Scotland's new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum by Nat Edwards and Mary Hudson

NTS recognises the importance of supporting Scotland's languages as well as artefacts and built heritage. The Gaelic Language Plan which it is currently preparing is part of this, and the new Burns museum, due to open in November 2010, will likewise give a boost to the status of Scots. In most museums in Scotland, Scots is usually confined to menus or the vernacular such as children's games or agriculture. The NTS team felt that it would be an injustice to the Robert Burns legacy not to use Scots within this museum. Careful research and planning, including consultation on the use of Scots in other museums and displays in properties of SAC and Historic Scotland, and the likely public reaction to a more extensive presence for it in the Burns Birthplace Museum, have been conducted to find the best way of implementing this while ensuring that the Museum displays are accessible to all visitors.

The approach will be that there will be a combination of English and Scots with the top level message in Scots. James Robertson is working with NTS advising on Scots terminology. The guide book has been written in English but no strategy is yet in place regarding brochures and leaflets. Education packs in Scots will also be available. The NTS vision for the museum is that:

  • The museum should be a leading resource for out of school learning in Scots.
  • Every Scots speaker who visits the museum will leave with a pride in the richness of their heritage.
  • Non-Scots speakers should leave with a curiosity about Scots and a few more words to add to the richness of their own vocabulary.

The Group members were greatly impressed by this project, and the Group's good wishes for its success were offered to the presenters. This was seen as a model project the success of which should be carefully monitored, with a view to possibly applying the approach of the Burns Birthplace Museum in other comparable exhibits.

Meeting 6: 22-6-10

Presentation on the Lapraik Festival in Muirkirk by J. Derrick McClure.

Paper written for the Muirkirk Enterprise Group and circulated also to the MWG

Visit of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Scots to the Lapraik Festival, Muirkirk: 4 th June 2010.

In response to an invitation kindly extended by Mr Jim Currie on behalf of Muirkirk Enterprise Group ( MEG), three members of the Ministerial Advisory Group: J. Derrick McClure (Chairman of the Group), Michael Hance (Director of the Scots Language Centre) and Janet Paisley (novelist and poet): visited Muirkirk on June 4 th 2010. Accompanying the Group representatives were Dauvit Horsbroch and Chris Third, members of the staff of the Scots Language Centre.

The visitors were warmly welcomed at Muirkirk Primary School, and shown an exhibition of models and writings on Muirkirk and its setting made by the school pupils. One wall of the exhibition room was decorated with Scots words written by the pupils in colourful letters. Mr Currie and other members of MEG informed the visitors, in talks illustrated with PowerPoint displays, about the regeneration of Muirkirk which is being accomplished by local initiative, and in particular about the Lapraik Festival, now in its third year, which is a centrepiece of the efforts being made to restore the confidence and prosperity of the community. The visitors were also taken to see a classroom project in action: a group of children being introduced to Scots words, music and songs by two expert researchers and performers, John Morran and Fred Freeman.

At a previously-advertised public meeting attended by local people including some of the teachers at the Primary School, plans to promote Muirkirk as the first Scots Toun and the general importance of the Scots language at local and national level were discussed, and the possible part which the Ministerial Advisory Group could play was examined. It was explained that the Group itself cannot guarantee funding or any other form of governmental support for the Lapraik Festival: the function of the Group is to offer recommendations to the Government on general issues relating to its declared policy of acting in support of Scots, these recommendations will be presented in a single report to the Government in October of this year, and the Government will then plan its actions taking the Group's recommendations into account. However, the Group can, and certainly will, mention the Lapraik Festival and its success in promoting Scots in Muirkirk as a highly interesting and praiseworthy venture, and recommend it for the favourable attention of the Government.

After the meeting, the visitors were taken round part of the new Audio Trail connecting Muirkirk's many sites of historical and literary interest; and though the other representatives of the Ministerial Advisory Group and the Scots Language Centre were unable to remain beyond the afternoon, Mr McClure attended, with great enjoyment, the Crambo Jingle in the evening and the school's poetry competition the following forenoon.

Through the Lapraik Festival and other projects, MEG has clearly been exceptionally successful in restoring the confidence of the Muirkirk community; and the integral part played in this by the Scots tongue was noted with admiration. The Ministerial Advisory Group will take due note.

J. Derrick McClure,

The Group members who had taken part in this event attended felt that the visit was a very positive one and were pleased to see that the Scots tongue is being used in Muirkirk as a central element in its programme for civic regeneration. The Group was especially interested in Muirkirk's plans to promote itself as the first "Scots Toun". The possibility was discussed of the status of "Scots Toun" being awarded by the Government as an accolade to communities which have achieved distinction in efforts to promote Scots locally, and agreed that this would be put forward as a recommendation. Such an award could raise the status of Scots and create an explicit link between promotion of the language and economic regeneration, and could eventually lead to a network of "Scots Touns".

Meeting 6: 22-6-10

Discussion of paper submitted by Mr Kenneth Fraser.

Mr Fraser, a librarian at St Andrews with a long-term commitment to the cause of Scots, had on his own initiative submitted two lengthy and detailed papers for the Group's attention. Because of their wide range and because most of the material which they contained related to issues on the Group's specific remit, they provided valuable input for the Group's discussions; and the papers have been filed with those submitted by members of the Group.


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