Scots is a language, not an accent or 'bad' English – Kenny MacAskill

Some unionists in Scotland denigrate the Scots language, even though their equivalents in Northern Ireland support the Ulster tongue, writes Kenny MacAskill MSP

Mary of Guise, portrayed at Linlithgow Museum, spoke in her native French to Scots and English nobles so both could understand her as they would have struggled to communicate using Scots and English (Picture: Graham Hamilton)

I enjoyed the recent programme on the Scots language by Alistair Heather. It built on much good work especially by the erudite Billy Kay. A Scots tongue there most certainly is and it’s both contemporary and historic.

I recall reading a biography of Mary of Guise, Mary Queen of Scots’ mother, detailing how as she brokered peace between Scots and English nobles, with French the language of choice not just diplomacy.

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Without it both were virtually unintelligible to the other.

Over the years Scots has been denigrated. Received pronunciation was to the fore and a Scots tongue considered uncouth.

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Though never persecuted as much as Gaelic, it still suffered and was bred if not beat out of us.

At my school in West Lothian, an English teacher with a rather plumy accent told us all how bad our accents were.

Hardly encouraging and, for some, it must have been hugely debilitating.

Of course, with modern mass media, both languages and accents have converged in so many ways.

But Scots remains and is important. It should be cherished and supported. It’s the language of our people with all its regional dialects.

For it’s about who we are and how we view ourselves. It’s about self-confidence and it’s a language, not just an accent.

It’s ironic that unionists in Northern Ireland support the Ulster tongue, whilst many here denigrate its Scots equivalent.

Kenny MacAskill is the SNP MP for East Lothian

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