Friday, 27 September 2013

Scots and Scotsness

Those with long memories will have noted that the Scottish Census figure for Scots-speakers published the other day (1.54 million) was remarkably similar to what Ian Máté came up with for GRO Scotland back in 1996. As such, it may suggest sociolectal stability rather than arrested language shift. What is needed now is a follow-up study to determine what self-designation (and, indeed, non-designation) as a Scots-speaker actually means to different age groups in different areas.

The Blether Region was also struck by the relative absence of reporting on the BBC website about Scots. Gaelic merited its own article in both English and Gaelic, while our Lowland tongue, well, didn't. The reason for this is obvious and goes to the heart of the supposed "independence" of the BBC. If Scots is a language, and a widely spoken one at that, the BBC should be providing at least one radio station and one television station exclusively in Scots. There will be very little appetite for that at Pacific Quay. Far better, from a BBC perspective, to farm out pan-UK (or "English", as one might also say) productions to Scotland and Wales, with a wee logo at the end to tell folk that the money (or more likely a proportion of it) went to the Celtic fringe.

A further issue is national identity. Over 62% of those living in Scotland feel that they are "Scottish only", and 18% "Scottish and British". The combined figure is similar to but higher than those produced for England and Wales, and much higher than that in Northern Ireland, where national identity can often be seen as a binary choice and which in many ways remains "a place apart". If the Yes campaign can mobilise as little as four-fifths of those "Scottish only" voters to draw the obvious conclusion about how they should vote next year, independence could be just around the corner.

As an aguisín, the Blether Region could not possibly pass up the opportunity to mention the Scotsman, which took perverse pleasure in pointing out that twice as many people in Scotland speak Polish as Gaelic, as if these things were in any way equivalent from a public-policy perspective. Thank you, Scotsman, for furnishing the Blether Region with a further reason, as if any were necessary, not to read your newspaper.

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