Tom Peterkin: Scots, Doric and Gaelic spoken as MSPs sworn in

Help ma boab. Whit was gaun oan at Holyrood yesterday? Whit could have been a braw day was ruint by twa MSPs who didnae ken hou tae spik Scots proper.Tradition dictates that the swearing in of MSPs at the beginning of a parliamentary session is marked by much back-slapping, tartan finery and bletherings in several languages.

Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale during yesterday's swearing in ceremony. Picture: Getty
Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale during yesterday's swearing in ceremony. Picture: Getty

Some MSPs relished the chance to show off their linguistic abilities. The SNP veteran Michael Russell, for example, used English, Gaelic and Scots to swear himself in. A handful of SNP loons and quines from the North East showed off their mastery of the Doric.

For others, however, the subtleties of the Scots language proved elusive. New SNP MSP Emma Harper had applied to make her affirmation in Scots as well as English. Having “solemnly, sincerely” (and successfully) done so in English, Harper was prompted to repeat it in Scots. To her horror, she realised that the parliament had failed to provide Scots language crib sheets amongst the printed cards from which MSPs were reading. Politicians who professed to be Scots speakers were expected to be able to come up with their own translation.

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“I need my Scots,” was her panicked whisper to the parliamentary official. “We don’t have the Scots,” was the reply. “OK, that’s fine,” said Harper as she returned to her seat, not trusting her fluency in her Mither Tongue to attempt an instantaneous translation.

A similar fate befell Gillian Martin, the new SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East who had ambitions to make her affirmation in Doric and English. The English version presented no problem to Martin. The same could not be said for the Doric. She frantically searched through the cards. “It’s not there,” she whispered when she realised there was no Doric version.

But as Martin returned to her seat, it was worth reflecting that linguistic shortcomings had been more than made up for by the yellow tartan outfit sported by Angela Constance and the kilt and plaid ensemble worn by newbie Fulton MacGregor.

Had they been auditioning for parts in much-mocked musical Brigadoon, they would have got them.