SHERIFF James Nolan, dispenser of justice to the guid folk of

Stirling, is nothing if not a ''yes'' man. And yesterday he left the

champions of the Scottish language speechless by proving it.

M'lud threatened Kevin Mathieson, 18, with contempt of court and

dispatched him to the cells below for 90 minutes. The teenager's only

crime was to reply ''aye'' to the court's questions instead of ''yes''.

Mathieson, of Leny Road, Deanston, was summoned to appear at a means

court in Stirling where the small matter of an unpaid fine was to be


Asked by the sheriff clerk depute if he was indeed Kevin Mathieson, he

replied: ''Aye.'' From the bench above, the learned Sheriff Nolan

instructed the accused to answer ''yes'' or ''no''. To which Mathieson

replied: ''Aye.''

Informed that he would be held in contempt of court if he did not

answer yes or no, the accused was asked if he understood that. ''Aye,''

he replied. It was at this point that he was taken to the cells.

An hour and a half later Mathieson was brought back to the courtroom

and ordered to clear the remainder of his fine under social work

supervision. And, yes, he apologised to the court. Sheriff Nolan

released him and said that he would not be held formally in contempt.

A good Scots ''aye'' may not be plain English but, with the greatest

of respect to His Honour Nolan, it remains a perfectly acceptable word

of affirmation. In addition, ''aye-aye'' is also a recognised nautical

term, and the ayes often have it when it comes to voting time in the

Houses of Parliament.

The Sheriff's apparent aversion to the term fair scunnered Billy Kay,

the Ayrshire-born journalist and renowned proponent of the mither


''Speechless. That's my first reaction. It is quite incredible in the

1990s that Scots are still being treated like foreigners in their own

country by other Scots,'' said Mr Kay.

''Here was someone who understood what the man meant but chose to

humiliate him in front of a court. It is not the accused who should be

ashamed of himself; it's the sheriff,'' he added.

Mr David Murison, former editor of the Scottish National Dictionary

and a retired Reader in Scots and English at Glasgow University,

described the sheriff's action as quite proposterous. The word ''aye''

was standard Scots, he said.

''It's ridiculous to condemn a man for saying 'aye' instead of 'yes'.

It is good Scots and his natural idiom,'' he added.

At home later, Mathieson, an apprentice bricklayer, described Sheriff

Nolan, a Kirkintilloch solicitor who sits as a temporary sheriff, as

being totally out of touch.

''I didn't really know what was going on,'' he said. ''The Sheriff

kept asking me to say 'yes' or 'no', and I thought I was answering him.

The next I kenned I was put in the cells.''