This is a guest post by Jack Capener. Jack is an SNP activist and staffer, as well as founder and political officer of Scots language campaign group Oor Vyce. You can find him on Twitter as @jack_capener.
Scotland’s second-most spoken language has been neglected for too long, but the explosion of a Scots Language Renaissance in recent years has erupted into calls for the next Scottish Parliament to be an explicitly Scots-supporting one. Here’s how you can make that a reality.
Devolution was met with great excitement by many in Scotland’s community of Scots language activists and advocates. There were hopes that the birth of a new parliament might represent a new beginning for our second most-spoken language, with Scots finally brought into official spheres and given a rightful place as one of our national mother tongues.
Such hopes were dashed almost immediately. It was quickly decided that Scots would be absent from the officialdom of the new devolved institutions, whether it be in the form of signage or naming. The ‘bonnie broukit bairn’ of Scotland’s languages was to remain that way.
Yet hope persisted in the following two decades that policy decisions by devolved governments would do more to bring Scots into the heart of education, media, and public life. SNP governments have implemented some genuinely admirable policies such as the creation of a network of Scots Language Coordinators in Education Scotland, a new Scots Language Award for school pupils, funding for organisations like the Scots Language Centre, and Scots literature grants, yet the Scottish Government has left itself open to criticisms that its relatively small-scale actions on Scots have been disproportionate to the huge number of Scots speakers – 1.5 million according to the 2011 census.
A new dimension has been added to this argument in recent years, as piecemeal language policy now sits dramatically at odds with the vibrant ‘Scots Language Renaissance’ currently taking place. Many argue it’s time for a dramatic shift in language policy that reflects the dramatic cultural change surrounding Scots in recent years.
With interest in Scots exploding like never before and more Scots speakers than ever feeling confident enough to use their mither tongue with pride, the next parliament must reflect the country by standing up for Scots speakers. The 2021-26 parliament must be a Scots-supporting one, where the language’s presence is felt in parliamentary businesses, constituency offices and, most importantly, in the Government’s legislative agenda.
This vision of a Scots-supporting parliament is possible – but your help is needed to make it a reality.
The launch of the campaign group Oor Vyce last year represents an effort to harness the energy of the Scots Language Renaissance and funnel it into policy outcomes such as a Scots Language Act. Now, in the context of upcoming elections in May, Oor Vyce is calling on candidates to support the #Scotspledge – a pledge to recognise Scots as a legitimate living language, raise its profile in their work as an MSP, and support the principle of legislative action to protect and promote it.
A successful #Scotspledge campaign could deliver a parliament where many of members have explicitly signed up to calling for more action on Scots, and party activists can play a crucial role in this by getting their local candidates to sign the pledge.
Oor Vyce needs as many activists as possible to contact their candidates and ask them to post on social media that they support the #Scotspledge, or to email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Please also go to www.oorvyce.scot/pledge to contact candidates of every party, and encourage your friends and family to do so too.
For the first time in modern Scottish history, we could have a parliament that actually recognises and values Scots rather than hiding away from it. With your help, let’s turn the Scots Language Renaissance into a Scots Language Act.