There is a depressing, and at one point pretty racist, comment piece from Laurence White in today's Belfast Telegraph:
"Research conducted for the SNP found that 64% of Scottish people regard Scots as merely as (sic) way of speaking (presumably the other 36% came from Glasgow, were interviewed after chucking out time at the local hostelries, and no-one could understand their response)."
In fact the study in question, Public Attitudes Towards the Scots Language, was conducted on behalf of the Scottish Government rather than for the psephological interest of the governing party. Of the "other 36%" of respondents, 30% disagreed with the statement, while 6% expressed no opinion. The more respondents used Scots, the more likely they were to view it as a language.
Nasty as the piece is, it provides further evidence, should any be necessary, that setting up an Ulster-Scots Academy must be an almost impossible ambition in the current fiscal climate.
Which brings us to an interesting thought. There seems to have been a change in tone regarding language in general on the part of the Belfast Telegraph and others in line with growing awareness of that political reality.
To put it bluntly, it is surprising nowadays how often op-ed pieces attacking Ulster Scots end by demanding reductions in the budget for Irish, which anyone versed in Northern Ireland glotto-politics will know has already been subject to substantial cuts. Perhaps the liberal wing of Unionism still has some way to go before its rhetoric lives up to its preferred designation. Until that happens, a language Act may be necessary to guarantee the citizen's right to use the language of his or her choice when dealing with officialdom.
Mr. White argues in his column that spending on Irish, which he regards as a real language, should be reduced, partly as a result of, or in tandem with, reductions in spending on Ulster Scots, which he regards as a "pretend language". In other words, despite obviously different needs, linkage should remain to preserve sectarian parity.
Of course, the problem with his view of Ulster Scots is that it is its status that is imaginary — not its existence — and the problem of how best to acknowledge and defend Scots linguistic culture in Ulster will remain regardless. It is an obvious fallacy to maintain that only languages deserve public support, albeit a fallacy that Ulster-Scots activists themselves appear to have bought into.
As for the Ulster-Scots Agency, the Blether Region believes that its budget could easily be reduced and its efficacy improved by limiting grants to a) recovery and dissemination of b) language in c) Ireland.