A few weeks back, Today presenter Amol Rajan sprung a surprise last question in an interview with Pat McFadden. He asked why McFadden was put up to speak so often for Labour. “I’m genuinely interested," said Rajan, sounding genuinely interested. “Is that based on research that suggests voters find your Glaswegian burr reassuring?”

No, no, replied a startled, bashful McFadden, it’s just because my job is national campaign coordinator, and it’s in the terms and conditions.

Ach away, Pat, we all know the truth. Folk love a Scottish accent. There have been all those surveys showing it. Most attractive and trusted. Most appealing in the UK. There was one back in 2008 that found Scottish was indeed the most reassuring accent.

Visitors do seem to love it, when they’re not complaining about how incomprehensible Glasgow taxi drivers are.

Labour's Pat McFaddenLabour's Pat McFadden (Image: free)

It has global reach. It’s part of Scotland’s soft power. It has been remarkably resilient in the face of homogenising influences like Netflix. It’s also a rare example of something that many people in Scotland share in spite of numerous other things dividing them and is precious for that reason alone.

But its main impact is how it is perceived outside of Scotland. To visitors, Scotland’s wealth of varied languages, accents and dialects are less apparent and the focus is on the features they tend to share, like the rolling “r” and the so-called lilting intonation. A Scottish accent turns actors, singers and sportspeople into national ambassadors, and that helps showcase to the wider world who Scots actually are in 2024.

Ncuti Gatwa is the latest to swell the heart with pride. Born in Rwanda, from where he and his family fled the genocide, and raised in Oxgangs and Dunfermline, he has become a superstar in short order thanks to Sex Education on Netflix and Doctor Who. Gatwa’s accent is a blend of Scottish, English and Rwandan. His charismatic, mischievous Doctor – one of the greats – has subtle but unmistakeable Scottish vowels.

What makes Gatwa’s accent all the more powerful is that it challenges assumptions about Scotland. He told The Independent: “There’ve been times I’ve been on a night out and people ask me where I’m from… The amount of times I’ve almost been beaten up for saying I’m Scottish. It’s given me an identity crisis.

“People really cannot understand the concept of a black boy in a tracksuit in London being from Scotland. People think I’m taking the p***.

“I’m like, ‘Stop taking my Scottishness away. You don’t define me.’”

There’s a perception by some that Scottish accents don’t denote social class in the way English accents do. Here’s Miriam Margoyles on The Graham Norton Show, bemoaning her own “posh” accent and how she borrows Scottish sometimes: “If I need something in the street, I always become Scottish. You know, the time or a road or a garage, something like that.

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“Scottish is a classless sound and it’s friendly.” Cue flawless impression of Scottish wifey looking for the nearest garage.

Is it classless, though? Not if you live here. There’s a certain group of Scots who are boarding school educated and have to tell people they are Scottish, or wear tartan trews to make the point, as no one would have a clue otherwise.

Part of their class identity means not having a Scottish accent or having a sort of mash-up of Morningside and queenly received pronunciation (RP). Corin Redgrave’s character Hamish in Four Weddings and a Funeral: case in point.

Then there’s the so-called Glasgow Uni accent, a sort of educated Scottish delivery attributed to the West End of Glasgow. Kevin Bridges does a sketch on this, featuring a cast of characters called Fraser, Calum, Gavin and, ahem, Rebecca, who have a hint of posh in their Scottish.

Lorraine Kelly, who has maintained her accent unchanged in spite of 30 years in London, said recently that the boss of BBC Scotland told her when she was starting out that she would never make it in TV because of her working-class Glasgow accent.

That turned out to be spectacularly wrong, but even so, working class Scots still worry about accent snobbery. Students sometimes feel they have to tone down their accent when they reach university. Young people talk about their perception that they won’t be taken seriously among privately educated peers if they don’t. Trouble is, they get ripped into back home for doing it.

The Sutton Trust social mobility think tank conducted a large-scale survey on this a couple of years ago. Their report found – depressingly – that accent is still arguably the primary sign of socio-economic status in Britain and that a “hierarchy of accent prestige” has been entrenched for centuries, with RP still the dominant accent in positions of authority in the media, politics, the law, civil service and in corporate settings.

It found public attitudes towards accents had remained largely unchanged over the last 50 years, with RP and “national standard varieties” like Scottish and southern Irish ranked highly. It also found, unhappily, that accents associated with England’s big industrial cities like Manchester and Liverpool, along with ethnic minority accents, ranked lowly.

Kevin Bridges jokes about the Frasers of this worldKevin Bridges jokes about the Frasers of this world (Image: free)

It’s interesting that only 15 per cent of early career employees from Scotland felt their accent could impede their success in future, the lowest score in any area, compared to 34 per cent from the north of England. Scots were also less likely to have had their accent mocked in a social setting.

So it’s not classless, the Scottish accent, but this suggests it’s perhaps less readily linked to class than some accents in England and therefore a bit less subject to class-based discrimination.

In many cases, someone’s Scottish accent tells you nothing about their socio-economic status. It crosses divides – the Holyrood parliament may be split in many ways, but there is a remarkable degree of accent parity across the benches. It’s a small thing, perhaps, but a good thing. A reassuring thing, even.

Which brings us back to Pat McFadden. He has a great voice, to be fair, and we may not have heard the last of it.