Three Government consultations on language in Northern Ireland are currently seeking submissions: the Ulster-Scots Language and Culture Strategy (deadline 27 November); the Irish Language Strategy (also 27 November); and the proposed development and research strategy of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Ulster Scots (7 December).
With the Ulster-Scots Strategies, the important points to make are that:
- DCAL's own statistics show that Ulster Scots is a genuine cross-community phenomenon, so it should not be sold as part of a cultural package aimed squarely at members of a single tradition;
- the membership of the boards of MAGUS and the Ulster-Scots Agency has never reflected the bi-ethnic make-up of the speech community in Northern Ireland;
- the difference in the roles of the two bodies mentioned above is not at all clear;
- there is absolute academic consensus that Ulster Scots is a variety of Scots, clearly implying common development and a common written standard; and
- nearly all Scots-language academics and nearly all contemporary writers of traditional Scots are in Scotland, and it will be impossible to make progress on language development without accessing that resource.
- as Irish and Ulster Scots are very different tongues, at different stages of development, and with a different relationship to English, it is to be welcomed that plans for their development are no longer linked;
- bilingualism is always about safeguarding the rights of the minority, and it is precisely the absence of consensus on the issue that makes an Irish Language Act necessary;
- by not passing legislation to protect the language, Northern Ireland risks distancing itself not only from the Irish Republic but from Scotland and Wales; and
- it is both in the interests of Irish and morally right that efforts be made to interest Unionists in the language.