First of all, may we lay to rest the issue of which is the "real language" of Scotland?

Gaelic was not the first language to be spoken on what is now Scottish soil, but since the languages of the Picts, the Britons and for that matter the Beaker People are gone beyond recall (gone from Scotland at any rate), Gaelic unquestionably has chronological precedence among the three surviving indigenous languages of Scotland. Which does not, or should not, make one docken's worth of difference to the claim of Scots to the place in the community and in our educational system which other countries accord to their minority languages as a matter of course.

I have heard an awful lot of factual errors and confused arguments in my time as an academic specialist in Scots; but Mr William Scott's suggestion that the whole Scots corpus can be dismissed because a word in a fourteenth-century text has been misinterpreted really bears the gree. The notion that the language of Barbour's Brus, which is far from opaque even to an untrained modern reader, is beyond the comprehension of scholars is simply ludicrous: the grammar and vocabulary, the literary style and (what is really a different issue) the historical accuracy of that epic poem have been examined in every detail; and if there have (as of course there have) been differences of opinion on the interpretation of certain passages, that hardly is sufficient to invalidate the poem, much less the entire Scots language.

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May I point out to Mr Ewan Macintyre that over a century of scholarship has passed since the publication of the Scots Dialect Dictionary of 1911? The notion that the word Scottis was the customary name for the Gaelic language until some arrogant Lowlanders hijacked it to refer to their own tongue is a myth: "the Scottis langage", translating lingua Scotorum, is occasionally found in Scots texts of the Stewart period to refer to the language of the Scots of Dal Riada, but contemporary Gaelic was virtually never referred to as anything but Ersche or Irische: precisely as the Scots tongue itself was referred to as Inglis.

Though discouraging to see the amount of confusion that still reigns, it is most encouraging to see that the preservation and development of Scots is still a subject that arouses strong feelings. The sooner and the more energetically these are translated into action, the better.

Derrick McClure,4 Rosehill Terrace, Aberdeen