Quine taks Doric fecht to Holyrood

THE first MSP to be sworn in using the North-east dialect of Doric yesterday pledged to liven up the Scottish Parliament with more expressions like "ferfochan" and "fit like".

Maureen Watt, of the Scottish National Party, is the first MSP to swear allegiance to "Queen Elizabeth, her airs an ony fa come aifter her" in her own tongue.

She replaces Richard Loch-head, who resigned the North-east seat in order to fight the Moray by-election for the SNP following the death of Margaret Ewing.

David Petrie, who replaces Mary Scanlon, who resigned to become the Conservative candidate for the Moray by-election, was also sworn in as an MSP yesterday for the Highlands and Islands - although the Tory chose to take his oath in English.

Mrs Watt, 54, was first asked to take the oath in English, but, after a short pause, she launched into her own version, drawn up with the help of Doric scholars.

She said: "I, Maureen Watt, depone aat I wull be leal and bear ae full alleadgance tae Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her airs an ony fa come aifter her, anent the law. Sae help me God."

The event prompted confusion in the public gallery but loud applause from fellow MSPs and a pat on the back from her party leader, Nicola Sturgeon.

Mrs Watt also broke with convention by bringing along her husband and two children to the ceremony.

Brought up on an Aberdeenshire farm, Mrs Watt said she looked forward to bandying around more Doric in the chamber, such as "quines" for women and "loons" for men. Other well-known expressions include "fit like", uttered in approval, and "ferfochan", meaning tired.

The ex-teacher was also inspired by the use of Scots on television by her friend Joyce Falkner, who plays Roisin in River City.

"This is another way of giving confidence to the people of the North-east to keep their own dialogue alive," she said.

Mrs Watt comes from a political family. Her father Hamish Watt was the MP for Banff. Since joining the SNP in 1974, she has stood for two Westminster seats and two Scottish Parliament seats. But it was not until this year, as sixth on the SNP list, that she finally found herself in Holyrood. "It was a shock when it actually happened," she admitted.

Mr Petrie, 59, a former water board manager who took up a new career as a maths teacher, took the oath in English, pledging to "be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law, so help me God".

Sandy Stronach, the director of the Doric Festival, has recalled being beaten for speaking his own local dialect.

Now, however the poems and literature are celebrated at "a twa-wikk lang splore o the tung" every year in Aberdeenshire, known as the Doric Festival.

Mr Stronach welcomed the speaking of Doric in the Scottish Parliament and hoped for a time when there will be full debates in the dialect.

"People are not exposed enough to Doric nowadays," he said. "It must only help to have more exposure. I wouldn't say we have turned the corner yet, but it is better."

And Mr Stronach congratulated a "bonnie fechter" for taking a step in the right direction.

"Wull deen quine," he said. "Ye gaen a recht way."

Old and new

I, Maureen Elizabeth Watt, depone aat I wull be leal and bear ae full alleadgance tae Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her airs an ony fa come aifter her, anent the law. Sae help me God.

I, Maureen Elizabeth Watt, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law, so help me God.