EVERYONE has something that they’re really, really into. Some people like cars, or football, or yoga. I love the Scots language.

For the past 785 days, rain, hail or shine, I have made a Scots word of the day video online, where I explain the meaning and usage of one Scots word. I credit the Scots language with my career, my passion for language education and the protection of minority languages, and about 90% of my self-confidence.

You’re probably expecting me to launch into an impassioned plea for the Scots language: a list of justifications as to why it’s not just a dialect and why it should be taken seriously, perhaps with a political agenda and an appeal to Burns thrown in for good measure.

In all seriousness, as a Scots speaker, I’m sick of reading opinion piece after opinion piece written from the perspectives of both the people who want to platform this minoritised language, and the people who want to further minoritise it.

As someone who works in and with the Scots language every day, I am more than happy to acknowledge my bias towards Scots, not from a political perspective, but a linguistic one. I have seen children's faces light up when I tell a class of Scots speakers that they’re bilingual, and I’ve seen people from the older generation express a sense of relief and vindication upon hearing that the words they got physically hurt for using in school were part of a valid method of communication, and they were right to be using them.

I have experienced the prejudice Scots speakers face first-hand, and I have made it my life’s mission to bring as much joy into the language as possible in order to counteract the wealth of disinformation and ignorance which so often leads to bigotry.

Instead of partaking in the culture wars over our minority language, Lennie Pennie looks at its sad history and attempts to overcome it

Read more by Lennie Pennie: I didn't understand the power of these survivors until I met them


So, instead of debating the status of Scots as a language – something which has long been confirmed by UNESCO, the UK Government, and the Council of Europe – you’re going to get a very brief overview of the sad history of the Scots language, and the incredible work done within the Scots community to overcome it. Scots is a language with an extremely dark past, but with the help of a diverse, enthusiastic community, it is undoubtedly a language with a beautifully bright future.

The most common complaints I encounter when I use the Scots language are that it's both a pretentious and uneducated way of speaking, both a relic of the past and a purely modern affectation.

It is, at the same time an insignificant dialect, and a grave threat to children’s ability to use and understand English; something completely understandable to speakers of English, while also requiring word for word translation. Indeed, while these paradoxes do sometimes make for a humorous online experience, they divert attention away from creating real and meaningful change within the community.

In 1946, the Scottish education authority wrote that Scots ‘is not the language of “educated” people, and could not be described as a suitable medium of education or culture’. This guidance resulted in the exclusion of Scots speakers, and the attempted eradication of the language itself.

For years, a combination of prejudice and unregulated corporal punishment resulted in the Scots language literally being beaten out of children. This kind of language eradication is not unique to Scots; minority language communities speaking Welsh, Gaelic, Irish, Cornish and Manx report similar treatment. It is a well-documented phenomenon, and invariably leads to a decline in infrastructure and respect for the affected languages. It isn’t just a shared history of bad treatment that unites minoritised languages, but an observable renaissance in the present day.

Just as Scots is seeing a renewed sense of interest in and enjoyment of the language, so too are other minoritised language communities reporting a similar boost.

It has long been assumed that we must choose either Scots or Gaelic to be the focus of funding, infrastructural development and enthusiasm. I was recently part of a Scots and Gaelic panel for young people, which included speakers of both languages aged 11-26, and not only was the passion for both Gaelic and Scots equally present, there was also a sense of solidarity between the young people.

We examined the legislation and proposals from the Scottish Government relating to Scots and Gaelic, and agreed that while we have certainly come a long way from the active discouragement and attempted eradication of languages other than English at a governmental level, it is clear that there must be more effort made by the Scottish Government to ensure they follow through upon their promises about Scots and Gaelic, and that they must take more accountability when this effort is not forthcoming.

We have new tools at our disposal: things like the internet and self-publishing that sadly our grandparents’ generation couldn’t use to offset the linguistic prejudice they received. There are new resources for learning, a new and ever increasing body of exciting modern Scots literature, and even an awards ceremony held every year to celebrate the unsung heroes of the Scots community.

Instead of partaking in the culture wars over our minority language, Lennie Pennie looks at its sad history and attempts to overcome itRobert Burns is no longer the pinnacle of Scots language writing; we have a whole host of exciting, contemporary writers

We no longer have to hold Burns up as the pinnacle of Scots language writing; we have wonderful contemporary writers, translators, singers, speakers and activists: a thriving community who defend Scots, working every day to preserve and protect the language they love. Don’t even get me started on the teachers: classrooms that once were places of shame and derision for Scots speakers are slowly but surely becoming shining beacons of education and enlightenment about Scots.

Whether it’s Doric, Glaswegian, Dundonian, Ulster Scots, or any other dialect of the language, there will be passionate and enthusiastic teachers standing by to ensure their classes get good quality education in and about the Scots language. It’s often said that as Scots, we live in a country that experiences a ‘cringe’ when it comes to our history, languages and culture. I truly believe that with this renewed sense of respect for Scots, Gaelic, and for Scottish culture, we are raising a post-cringe generation.

This is only the beginning; it’s not just me who’s really, really into Scots.


For more info, see scotslanguage.com