Devolution is silencing Berwick's Scots voices

DEVOLUTION may be causing the natives of Berwick-upon-Tweed to lose their Scottish accents, research revealed yesterday.

Language experts believe the Scottish Parliament has alienated the people of Berwick from Scotland, forcing them to look to the region dominated by Newcastle upon Tyne for their regional identity and accent.

The townsfolk, who speak in a unique dialect, have enjoyed a close relationship with Scotland for centuries.

But Professor Dominic Watt, of the Centre for Linguistic Research at Aberdeen University, said they are finally losing their Scottish trill - 500 years after the town was captured by the English.

He added: "They feel Scotland has turned its back on them and the creation of the Scottish Parliament has entrenched that attitude.

"The significance of the Border has become magnified since devolution and it actually means something now in visible terms, and accent and dialect shows that change."

Berwick-upon-Tweed has changed hands between Scotland and England 13 times and the football team, Berwick Rangers, plays in the Scottish league.

For centuries, visitors to the Northumbrian town have noticed that the locals speak with a unique mixture of northern English and Scots.

They use the Tyneside word "diven’t" for "don’t" and the Scottish "how" instead of "why". And they use dialect words that don’t belong to either such as "joogle for "dog" and "barry" for "good".

But researchers from Aberdeen University studied the pronunciation of words by locals to assess whether their accent was more Scottish or English.

They discovered that people who felt Scottish said words such as "greed", "food" and "site" with a Scots accent. But since the introduction of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, fewer people are using the Scots pronunciation because Scotland is seen to be becoming more distant from Berwick.

Prof Watt said: "The Scottish features seem to be losing out to more mainstream features spreading up from the south."

But some Berwickers who consider themselves Scottish are fighting a rearguard battle against the spread of "Estuary English".

Prof Watt added: "There has been a dialect change with people making a labial ‘r’, with their lips rather than the tongue, to make a slight ‘w’ sound, almost like TV personality Jonathan Ross.

"But those Berwickers who associate themselves with Scotland use a rolling Scottish ‘r’ sound."

Prof Watt noticed that younger townsfolk are using more Geordie forms of speech as they want to move to Newcastle to work and study.

He said: "Older people view themselves more as Scots than the younger people in Berwick, and this can be heard in their accents."

Prof John Tomaney, of the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University, believes there has been a sharp rise in north-eastern identity.

Locals in the region will vote on having their own assembly in November.

He said: "Berwick is very much part of the north-east and Scottish devolution has heightened some of the debates around devolution and regional identity in the north-east. Its helped to reinforce some of the differences on either side of the Border."