Scots Language Working Group report: Scottish Government response

Response outlining actions the Scottish Government will be taking forward regarding the consideration of the Scots language.


The Scots language is an integral part of Scotland's distinctive culture and heritage. The language comprises a range of distinct regional and local variants which are spoken throughout the country. The Scottish Government attaches equal respect to each form which brings its own richness and diversity to the language.

The Scots Language Working Group

The Scots language has historically struggled for recognition and a number of steps have been taken to improve the status of Scots, raise its profile and increase its usage. Among these steps was the establishment of the Scots Language Working Group.

This Group was established following recommendations from the Scots Language Conference held in Stirling University on 9 February 2009. At its first meeting in November 2009, Mr Michael Russell, the then Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution set out to the Group what he felt should be the framework when considering its objectives. These were:

1. To be radical - lay out a clear vision for the development of Scots.

2. Remain realistic - always focus on how the profile could be raised.

3. Look for linkages - across Government and elsewhere.

The members of the Group should be commended for their efforts and contributions and thanks are also due to Professor J Derrick McClure for taking on the role of Chair. The Working Group produced an insightful and valuable report and a number of recommendations were made which have the potential to bring significant improvements to this area.

The Scots Language Working Group was convened with the remit of devising and presenting a vision for the development of the language, with recommendations on how this vision may be achieved. The discussions of the Group focused on the following areas of, education, broadcasting, literature, publishing, the arts, dialects and international aspects.


This paper lists the recommendations of the Group and the Scottish Government's assessment of how these could best be taken forward. There are a number of recommendations which the Scottish Government can make progress with. Where this is the case, this has been indicated in the following text. There are other recommendations that are the responsibility of other bodies and authorities and we will bring these matters to their attention. This has also been indicated in the text.

Although the discussion of the Group covered many sectors, education featured prominently. The Scots language has much to offer in relation to education. Scots and Scottish texts provide a rich and valuable resource for children and young people to learn about Scotland's culture, identity and language. This can also help children and young people build linguistic skills and has the potential to assist with social inclusion.


Shortly before the report and recommendations were published, it was announced that Learning and Teaching Scotland and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education were to form a new agency. The Working Group were mindful of this in discussion and in shaping their recommendations.

Following publication of the report, Learning and Teaching Scotland ( LTS) has been asked to provide a submission on a new vision for the Scottish elements of the curriculum - 'Studying Scotland'. This is a welcome response to the segmented approach that has often been taken to the various Scottish elements of the curriculum such as history, culture, literature, languages and more. It provides consistency with the joined-up approach that Curriculum for Excellence requires and has the potential to offer further opportunities for studying Scots along with the other Scottish elements of the curriculum.

Promotion of Scots

The Scots language is an important part of Scotland's heritage, national identity and current cultural life. The report of the Working Group complements other steps taken to promote Scots. For example, on 27 January 2009 an Audit of Current Scots Language Provision in Scotland was published. The purpose of this research was to conduct a baseline audit of current Scots language provision. Following this in February 2009, the Scottish Government organised a national conference to look at the profile and needs of the Scots language.

Later that year further research was commissioned and on 14 January 2010 the research findings into Public Attitudes Towards the Scots Language was published. This study was intended to provide a broad overview of perceptions of the Scots language and attitudes towards it, and to measure behaviours and expectations of its use in Scotland today. In addition, the Scottish Government is now responsible for the provision of grant funding to the Scottish Language Dictionaries and the Scots Language Centre.

The following pages contain the recommendations of the Scots Language Working Group and a response from the Scottish Government.


Key Recommendation 1a

  • 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.


The Scottish Government will take the opportunity of the next cycle of the Council of Europe Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, commencing in 2011 to develop a policy on Scots. This will consider all aspects necessary to strengthen the use and status of the Scots Language.

Recommendation 1b

  • 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.

Recommendation 1c

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


In order to support and strengthen existing Scots bodies, in February 2009 the Scottish Government announced that it would assume responsibility for direct funding of the Scottish Language Dictionaries and Scots Language Centre after their current allocations of funding from the Scottish Arts Council expired. In doing so, the Scottish Government put these organisations on a secure footing.

The Scottish Government has committed funding for both the Scottish Language Dictionaries and the Scots Language Centre for 2011-12 and in this we have protected the funding that is allocated to both centres. Decisions on the future funding for Scottish Language Dictionaries and the Scots Language Centre and all other funded bodies will be taken in the course of 2011-12.

We recognise that both of these bodies have an important role to play in promoting and advising on the Scots language and that there is significant value in retaining their separate services. We will ensure that the Scottish Language Dictionaries are involved in discussions with the new education agency on Studying Scotland. We will use their expertise to advise on the development of future resources.

Recommendation 1d

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


We will actively pursue the development of Scots language policies in the context of the policy development work done as part of the Council of Europe's Charter activity. We have agreed to take the opportunity to develop a policy framework for Scots and this will offer a suitable opportunity to consider a number of Scots policy questions including the issue of public authorities and media organisations developing Scots language policies.


Key Recommendation 2a

  • 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.


Both HMIE and LTS have an important role to play in the use of the Scots language in the classroom. We will seek to ensure that this continues and that the new agency builds on the work undertaken previously by HMIE and LTS.

The Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning has tasked LTS with producing a new online resource, 'Studying Scotland', which will provide practitioners with free access to high quality material for all the Scottish elements of the curriculum. The resource will seek to place Scots on an equal footing with the other Scottish elements of the curriculum.

The first phase of the work will consist of a re-branding and web-redesign exercise of the existing resources. The second phase will be part of the work plan for 2011/12 and will be taken forward by LTS and the new education agency. This will include taking into consideration expert advice on the various strands which would make up 'Studying Scotland'. They will also take into consideration the recommendations on Scots and Scottish literature in the English Excellence Group report.

The creation of the new agency is also an opportunity to refresh and broaden our vision of Scots and consider its potential to drive other agendas, for example, the role of Scots in social inclusion.

Recommendation 2b

  • 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.


We believe this would offer significant potential for progress. A Network of Scots Language Co-ordinators would be an important step forward in helping to secure the Scots language.

The Network of Scots Language Co-ordinators will be able to support the new 'Studying Scotland' resource being developed by LTS as well as supporting and promoting the language in other ways. LTS and the new agency will have a key role to play in the Network and we will be looking closely at the developing plans of the new agency to ensure that they have a significant role in contributing to the Network.

We will discuss with Local Government colleagues and Scots language interests and explore the best way to implement this important recommendation. As we take this forward we will consider the good progress made in Falkirk Council.

Recommendation 2c

  • 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.


The current functions of LTS will soon be located in the new education agency. In addition LTS has been asked recently for cross curricular advice on Scottish studies as outlined in the response above to recommendation 2a. We are aware that LTS already publish a range of high quality online resources including ' Scotland's songs and stories' which was launched on St Andrews Day 2010. The developing 'Studying Scotland' proposals will have a strong web-based element which will draw all these resources together and we are confident they will make a significant contribution to achieving this recommendation.

Recommendation 2d

  • 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.

Recommendation 2e

  • 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.


Although this is a matter for the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) and the individual institutions, I will write to the SFC making them aware that this recommendation was agreed by a Ministerial Working Group. In addition, we will ensure that a meeting is arranged to explore how to move forward with this. We will take into consideration the findings from the Donaldson Review; in particular the recommendations on increasing teachers' confidence in teaching languages and literacy in primary settings; the importance of improving standards of literacy and numeracy and doing more to overcome the effects of disadvantage and deprivation on educational outcomes.

There is evidence that Scots could be looked at as a key player in addressing the latter and in offering opportunities to raise the level of attainment in literacy in schools. This evidence could form part of future CPD resources, supported by LTS's Knowledge of Language module. Increased confidence from a teacher in teaching Scots would in turn raise confidence levels in children.

The SFC view is that that universities are autonomous bodies, making their own decisions on academic direction. If Scottish companies choose to offer endowments for this purpose, the decision to accept will rest with each institution. It is open for government bodies/agencies to help facilitate and encourage this. Furthermore the SFC has added that accreditation of university programmes of teacher education, and regulation of graduates' entry to the profession in Scotland, rests with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

There have been recent breakthrough developments for the recognition of Scots in more formal teacher training settings. Last month the General Teaching Council for Scotland held an Award Ceremony for Professional Recognition for Scots Language Teaching at the Scottish Parliament, a first for the language and a strong sign to me that the profession is changing its mixed views of Scots to a more open and modern one.

Recommendation 2f

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

Recommendation 2g

  • 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.


We are happy to say some of this is in place. The Scottish Government already provides funding for dictionaries, grammars and reading materials through the Scottish Language Dictionaries. There have been some excellent resources produced in recent years and the Scottish Language Dictionaries currently produce and distribute educational materials and resources. In addition and as mentioned above, LTS has made good progress with online resources and we are confident that this will continue after the formation of the new education agency. We are aware of the resources that are available and that they are of a high quality. We will explore with the bodies concerned how progress can be made with this recommendation and how these can assist future plans for 'Studying Scotland'.

Recommendation 2h

  • 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.


We are happy to agree to this and we will ensure that this is included in any future policy work on the Scots language. In addition, we will ask all educational interests that are involved in supporting the Scots language to respect the regional diversity that is contained within the Scots language. As part of the new 'Studying Scotland', we will ask that LTS and the new education agency take cognisance of this recommendation when considering their work plan for 2011-12. We would expect that this could be monitored by the new agency, supported by evidence on the role of Scots in social inclusion, self-confidence and pupil attainment.


Key Recommendation 3a

  • 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.

Recommendation 3b

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

Recommendation 3c

  • 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.

Recommendation 3d

  • 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.

Recommendation 3e

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

Recommendation 3f

  • 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.

Recommendation 3g

  • 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.

Recommendation 3h

  • 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.


We acknowledge the key role that broadcasting has in the use and status of the Scots language. We are keen to see the Scots language have a more prominent place in broadcasting. We will approach key broadcasting and media organisations and make them aware of these recommendations.

Both the Scottish and UK Governments are committed to the undertakings in relation to the Scots language in the Council of Europe Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. We will ensure that all media organisations are aware of this and that the Scottish Government would like to see the range and quality of Scots output extended.

All relevant media organisations will be invited to consider that a knowledge of spoken Scots should be regarded as an important qualification, within the context of wider employment requirements.

As in the response to recommendation 1d above, we will actively pursue the development of Scots language policies in the context of the policy development work done as part of the Council of Europe Charter activity and will take the opportunity to encourage relevant media organisations to develop Scots language policies.

In addition, the Scottish Broadcasting Commission in 2008 recommended the establishing of a Scottish Digital Network, to be funded by the UK Government. These proposals are at a very early stage but, as they move forward, the Scottish Government will ensure that Scotland's indigenous languages are given due consideration.


Key Recommendation 4a

  • 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.

Recommendation 4b

  • 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.

Recommendation 4c

  • 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.


Creative Scotland is already developing, and will adopt, a clear policy for support for the Scots language. Creative Scotland plays a vital role in supporting Scots in literature and the arts. In response to the report of the Literature Working Group it highlighted that there may be the potential to develop site, a portal which puts Scottish Books in the 'shop window', in conjunction with Publishing Scotland. This would be a step forward in meeting this recommendation.

Whilst Creative Scotland accepts feedback and will constantly review specific allocations and support streams, in the spirit of the arms-length principle, it is for Creative Scotland to decide on the detail of its investments.

The Scottish Government recognises the importance of writing in Scots and the need for this to be supported. In Liz Lochhead, the Scots Makar, we have an excellent ambassador for the Scots Language. We feel that establishing a position of Scots Scrievar would be helpful in promoting and supporting the Scots language. We will consult with Creative Scotland and the Scots literary community on developing a procedure for making the appointment. We would expect that this title would be for a period of 3 years. We would also expect the holder to represent Scots literature and to promote Scots language creativity in Scotland.

Recommendation 4d

  • 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.


We will bring this recommendation to the attention of the National Theatre for Scotland and discuss the possibilities with them. This is, however, a matter for NTS to consider within its own decision making processes.



Key Recommendation 5a

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

Recommendation 5b

  • 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.

Recommendation 5c

  • 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.


The Scottish Government recognises the importance of enhancing the status of Scots. The Scots language is part of Scotland's cultural heritage and will be considered and used as appropriate in the area of our Scotland Brand work.

VisitScotland will work to enhance the cultural impact of the Scots language within the areas where it is relevant to reflect a sense of place. Examples of activity may include internal signage in Visitor Information Centres, development of commonly used phrases which could be distributed to visitors, captions on images etc. VisitScotland will use the model of its Gaelic Language Plan as the basis for such activities.

We will also bring these recommendations to the attention of Event Scotland. This is largely a matter for individual event organisers to consider.


Recommendation 5d

  • 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 lay people 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.

Recommendation 5e

  • 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.


Universities are autonomous bodies, making their own decisions on academic direction. As the report recognises, the Scottish university sector has existing expertise in Scots, notably at the Department of Celtic & Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. SFC has a duty to ensure coherent provision of higher education and research in the Scottish university sector. SFC will continue to consider the maintenance of capacity in Scots in undertaking this duty. This is a matter for the Scottish Funding Council ( SFC) and the individual institutions

In the current difficult economic climate, the SG has asked the SFC to reduce funding for other Horizon Fund [for Universities] initiatives, and to repurpose these funds to create a 'spend to save' fund which will support strategic change to enable the sector as a whole to deliver more for less. It is therefore unlikely that the SFC will be able to respond positively to this recommendation at this time.


Key Recommendation 6a

  • 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.


The Scottish Government recognises the importance of Scots use in local communities and the need for this to be supported. At this stage we would like to ask the Scots Language Centre to strengthen its links with communities and to identify areas that have a particular relevance for the Scots language and potential for its development.

Recommendation 6b

  • 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.


We will look for opportunities to promote the use of Scots signage as has been demonstrated in the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and we will encourage museums and galleries to consider the use of Scots.

Recommendation 6c

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


This is a matter for VisitScotland. As outlined in the response to Recommendations 5 a, b and c above, VisitScotland will use the model of its Gaelic Language Plan as the basis for such activities.

Recommendation 6d

  • 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.


The Scottish Government recognises the importance of Scots use in local communities and the need for this to be supported. We will consider what would be the best way of making progress with this recommendation.


Key Recommendation 7a

  • 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.


The Scottish Government will ensure that all central initiatives in support of Scots are aware of this recommendation and operate with appropriate respect towards regional dialects.

Recommendation 7b

  • 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.


As mentioned above the Scottish Government will consider the development of a policy with reference to the Council of Europe's Charter on Regional and Minority Languages. We will take the opportunity of the Council of Europe Charter cycle commencing in 2011 to develop a policy on Scots and to bring this recommendation to the attention of local authorities.

Recommendation 7c

  • 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.


There is potential for festivals such as these to look to Creative Scotland for funding. We will make Creative Scotland aware of this recommendation.


Key Recommendation 8a

  • 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.

Recommendation 8b

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


The inclusion of the question in the 2011 census about language ability will provide us with a valuable insight into how the Scots language is being used today. The results of the census help inform government policy and spending, which is why it is vital that people are able to provide consistent answers.

In September 2009, the Scottish Government established a short life working group to look at how we could support the General Register Office for Scotland and the Scots Language Centre in raising awareness of the Scots language question in the 2011 Census.

As part of the activity, a communications plan has been developed by GROS to raise awareness of Scotland's Census 2011, including the question about language ability. The ( GROS) communications team will refer reporters to the Scots Language Centre ( SLC) for more details about Scots. In addition, briefing has been provided for use by Census staff; training on the Scots language has been provided to the Census Regional Managers; a micro website ( has been developed by the Scots Language Centre which provides examples of spoken Scots from across Scotland.

These measures have been taken to help people to complete the Scots language question and this, in turn, should assist with collecting quality, meaningful data. This will provide valuable information on the Scots language across Scotland and has the potential to help policy development in this area.

The Scottish Government will carefully consider the information provided by the Census and how this can assist in supporting and promoting the Scots language.


Email: – Central Enquiry Unit

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
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