Cuttie Historie o Scots

Dauvit Horsbroch, 2000

The Oreigin o Scots

Scots is descendit fae the leid o the Angles an Saxons that invadit the isle o Bretane fae the kintras roun Denamrk atween the 4t an 5t centuries AD. Thay cryed thair leid Anglisc ("Angles") that wes efterward kent as Inglis in norlan Bretane. This leid is first tae fund in Scotlan in the runes on the 8ct centurie Rivvel Corse by Dumfries. Doun the centuries the furms in the sooth an north o Bretane shed becis o social an political chynges.

Scots Kythes

Bi the 14t centurie fowk in Scotlan an Inglan kent that thay spak different furms o whit haed been the ae tung tae stairt wi. Nou twa sister leids, English an Scots, stairtit tae kythe. The leid that haed been cryed Inglis or Theutonica ("German"), wes, bi the 1490s, kend mair an mair as the Scottis leid an wes the lingua franca o awbodie in the Lawlans fae the king an his coort doun tae the lairds, merchans an peasants.

Leid o Kings

Fae the 1370s tae Scotlan an Inglan wes yokit thegither in 1707 Scots wes the leid o state. John Barbour's Brus (1375) is the first wark o leitratur; acts o the Estates stairt in 1397; the first prent wark o Scots wes the 1508 Portuus of Nobilnes. Kings o Scots sic as Jeems I (1406-37) an Jamie VI (1567-1625) wrate letters, poyems an buiks in Scots. Forby, Scots wes the langage o the scuils; in 1658, for ensample, the burgh cooncil o Embra gied license tae Maister Jeems Chaumers tae run a scuil " for teaching of scholleris to read and wrytt Scotts..." . A puckle veisitors fae Inglan fund the Scots tae be "great criticks" that regairdit thair ain leid Scots as 'purer' nor the 'corrupt' Southron ( as the langage o Inglan wes whyles kent.)

Scots is cowpit fae its saet

Near political ties wi Inglan throu the 17t centurie meant first the growth o an inglified furm o Scots an than a distinction atween an Inglis-thirlt nobilitie an a Scots-thirlt population bi the en o the 18t centurie. The Southron o the new state o Bretane (efter 1707) wes nou the de facto official leid whyle Scots wes dounhauden as a peasant speak or "Doric". This leid is weil representit in the warks o the makar Rabbie Burns (1759-96). Fae the 1840s the teachers war expeckit tae uise the leid o Inglan for teachin an Scots wes pushed oot o maist scuils as a teachin medium bi the stairt o the 1900s.

Modren Scots

Aw throu the 19t an 20t centuries Scots haes bade the leid o ordnar Scotsmen an weimen. The first dictionar o Scots wes prentit 1808, an, atween the 1850s an 1914, ilka day journalism wes affen wrutten throu the leid. Releigious warks fund a new hecht in the Lorimer New Testament o 1983. Houanaver, hostile teachers, alang wi an inglified meidia, an jeck-easy politeicians, led tae Scots dwynin in the 20t centurie. A curn groups haes been founit tae better the uiss an staunin o the leid; the Scottish National Dictionary Association (1920s), The Scots Leid Associe (1972) an the Scots Language Resource Centre (1992). Scots is nou recognised in Europe amang thon leids that haesna mair nor a curn speakers.

Nummers o Scots Speakers

The Leid Afore 1900

Afore 1900 Scots wes, athoot onie doot, the maist spoken leid in Scotlan. The first estimatit feigurs we hae for the nummers o speakers is taen fae the poll tax retours o the 1690s; at thon tyme aboot 650,000 fowk, or 70% o Scots, spak the Scots leid. In 1755 (the first census) we can reckon the feigur at aboot 900,000 speakers an bi 1801 mibbie 1.2 million. It micht be that Scots-speakin wes as heich as 3 million or mair in the late 1800s but syne the 19t centurie the ower aw pattren haes been the brekin up of tradeitional dialecks throu fowk flittin aboot an the leid dwynin unner pressure fae the Inglis o the UK state.

The Dialecks o Scots

Lyke ilka leid, Scots is made up o a puckle dialecks. The'r 5 heid dialecks o Scots; Islan (Orkney an Shetlan), Norlan (Caitnes, the North-East an Angus), Midlan (maist o the Lawlans), Soothlan (maist o the Borders), an Ulster. Ilka dialeck is, for the maist pairt, the same as the ithers, but ilka ane haes a curn different wurds; in the North-East fowk say foo, fit, far an fan, whauras in the Midlan fowk say hou, whit, whaur an whan. In the North-East, Shetlan, an ither pairts, the Scots spoken is affen regairdit as mair tradeitional nor the Scots in Glesca or Embra. The reason for this is thon pairts haed faur less Earse an Heilan fowk flittin thare an chyngin the tradeitional speak o the lan. Forby kintras awa fae the centre affen haed faur less influence fae Inglis.

Hou Monie Nou?

Throu 1995 an 1996 baith S Murdoch at the Univairsitie o Aiberdeen an the General Register Office in Embra estimatit the nummers o fowk that cuid speak Scots in Scotlan. Baith Murdoch an the GRO speirt at fowk fae aw the airts. In the simmer o 1996 staff fae the GRO traiveled aroun Scotlan an commissioned reports fae three mercat research companies that speirt at fowk fae the different cooncils an constituencies. Awthegither the GRO Report fund that aboot 1.5 million fowk wad say thay speak Scots or 30% o fowk inby Scotlan. Murdoch's wark haed a feigur o 2.1 million tho the GRO supportit his wirkin method as mair parteiclar an detailed. This means that feigurs shaw aboot a thrid or mair o the fowk as speakin Scots the day. Baith Murdoch an the GRO fund that Scots wes strang in the Norlan Isles, the North-East an Sooth-Wast. Fife stuid oot as fair Scots-speakin forby. On the ither haun, Scots wes regairdit as weaker in the touns atween Glesca an Embra that is faur mair thirlt tae Inglis-speakin an cultur chynge.

The Census

Atween 1994 an 1997 Scots groups speirt at the GRO gin it wad include a quaistion on Scots speakin in the 2001 census. As pairt o this the GRO cairried oot the 1996 speir on Scots. At the ae tyme aboot 30 oot o Scotlan's 72 MPs at Westminster supportit pittin Scots on the census. At the hinneren the Office o Scotlan intimatit it wadna pit Scots on conseiderin that this wad 'forder the leid' an that a puckle fowk in the Central Belt didna ken whither thay spak Scots or no. Houanever, the Office o Scotlan haes never gien answer tae Scots groups anent the problems wi ither leids that is includit on the census or ower fears that excludin Scots is pairt o a ploy that haes muckle tae dae wi siller an politics.

Names for the Leid

Braid Scots

First recordit as a name in the 16t centurie; the oreiginal meanin wes "plain speakin" but the day it is taen tae mean Scots speakin an wrytin that pits muckle store on featurs byordnar tae Scots.


Fae a Laitin wurd meanin "speech". The term dialeck is affen wranglie uised the day in a negative wey tae mean "no-staunart" or even "corruptit", an, for sic reasons, we hae tae caw cannie whan uisin hit. We affen hear the Scots leid cryed a dialeck. In fact, the'r 5 heid dialecks o Scots sae tae cry it a dialeck is wrang. The uiss o dialeck whan talkin aboot Scots is affen a pit doun on the pairt o fowk that's agin the leid howpin that speakin clessed as this winna get onie support fae govrenment.


The oreiginal o this term belangs tae 18t centurie Scotlan whan Clessical Greek an Roman culturs wes faurben wi the heich heid anes. The auncient Dorians o Greece spak Doric, a Greek dialeck o the lanward. The Attic speakers, on the ither haun, belanged tae the toun states. Actin it a wee, the heich heid anes stairtit cawin Inglis Attic speak whyle Scots wes clessed as Doric. Contrar the recent North-East norie Doric isna a North-East term, aither in its oreiginal or in uiss. Doric haes lang been uised in maist pairts o Scotlan as anither name for Scots, an daesna mean, as a curn fowk jalouses, anither separate leid.


Lallans, lyke Doric, is a term that affen haes fowk in a wee swither. First, Lallans is juist the Norlan Scots furm o the mair general Lawlans, an, lyke Doric, is juist anither name for Scots itsel. It daesna mean onie jaloused dialeck. Lawlan(d) is first fund in the 16t an 17t centuries an refers tae Scots-speakin pairishes. Efterward an -s wes eikit tae mak a langage name. The name is first in prent in the warks o Rabbie Burns durin the 1780s.


This is the name gien tae the furm o Scots spoken in the Shetlan Isles. The leid spoken bi the Norse wes cryed Norn bi Scots fowk but it haesna been spoken nou for 200 year. Houanever, Norn haes an influence yet on the wurds, eidioms an tuin that is kenspeckle Shetlan Scots.


The souns (tak tent- no the wurds) we mak whan speakin that shaws whit cless or pairt we belang tae. It is common tae hear fowk in Scotlan referred tae as speakin throu a Scots tuin whan, in fact, the Scots leid is whit's meant. A bodie micht be speakin throu a Scots tuin whyle speakin the Inglis leid - patentlie no the same as speakin Scots. A bodie micht speak German throu a Scots tuin but a bodie is aye speakin German, an no Scots. Monie fowk in Scotlan haes the Scots tuin yet but thay haena the Scots leid onie mair.

Scots an the European Chairter

Whit is the European Chairter?

In 1992 the Cooncil o Europe taen-on a European Chairter for Leids o the Curn (European Treaties ETS Nr.148, Straesburg, 2.X.1992) for tae recognise an mak proveision for thon leids cuivered bi its parteiclars. Efter a wee tait debate, the UK govrenment recognised Scots as ane o the wee leids o Europe an haes specifeed the leid unner Pairt II o the Chairter. In 1998 Brian Wilson intimatit that the UK govrenment wes ettlin tae sign the Chairter.

A Puckle Proveisons

In theorie Pairt II o the Chairter commits the govrenment tae " firm action tae forder" aw thae leids specifeed bi hit for tae "hain" thaim fae discrimination, negleck or dwynin awa. But, in rael lyfe, juist thon langages specifeed unner pairt III will get onie parteiclar recognition an siller. In the case o Scotlan, Scots Gaelic alane is specifeed unner Pairt III. Amang ither heids, Pairt II states that signatories is tae foun thair "policies, legislation an practice" on " fleitchin an forderin the uiss o leids o the curn, in speakin an wrytin, in public an private lyfe." (Airticle 7 1d). Forby the Chairter states " The pairties unnertak tae dae-awa wi onie unjustifeed distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference that's yet tae the fore an ettlin tae pit fowk aff speakin or supportin the uiss o a wee leid." (Airticle 7 2) At the hinneren the Chairter states " the pairties wull tak tent o the wants an wishes that is vyced bi groups uisin sic leids." (Airticle 7 4).

Action that Conters the Speirit

Throu 1998-99 it suin wes patent tae fowk in the Scots-speakin communitie that the Office o Scotlan wesna ettlin tae cairrie-throu onie o the speirit o Airticle II that Scots wes includit unner. Whan the Office o Scotlan wes speirt aboot the issue o Scots leaflets (that fowk can get in Gaelic an ither leids), Scots speakers war dumfounert tae be tellt that naebodie speax Scots as a mither leid an sae it wesna the policie o the Office o Scotlan tae mak documents lyke thon. Syne, the Office o Scotlan haes admittit that monie fowk daes, in fact, speak Scots as thair mither leid, but yet nae proveision haes been made. The Consultative Steering Group Report on the pairliament o Scotlan gied the wishes o Scots speakers a deifie forby. For aw the speirin for proveison for Scots, alang the lynes o Gaelic, the leid wes haurdlie gien a shout ava.

Whit's tae dae?

The pairliament an executive o Scotlan haes the say anent makin proveision for the Scots leid conform tae the speirit o the European Chairter. Efter aw, thay awreadie dae the lyke for Scots Gaelic. A wee tait official an public uiss o the leid - sic as signs an govrenment leaflets - wad gae pairt o the gait taewards " firm action tae forder" Scots. An aw-pairtie group cuid hae a guid leuk at the Chairter an recommen weys that the Scots-speakin communitie can be gien staunin an proveison in the public lyfe o the naition.

Scots in Eddication

Eddication Afore 1845

Maist fowk nouadays jalouse that eddication equals Inglis alane. Afore the 1840s maist bairns war learnt throu the medium o the Scots leid; monie burghs speak o teachers bein appyntit tae teach in Scots (insteid o Latin). Bi the 1720s tutorin in Inglis haed stairtit amang a curn fowk in Scotlan, as an ootcome o the Union wi Inglan, an bi 1800 Inglis (affen cryed the "New Method") wes ordnar amang the upper clesses. State inspection o the scuils stairtit in 1845 an teachers war expecktit tae uise Inglis mair an mair.

No Sae Cantie

But fowk in Scotlan affen protestit agin the uiss o Inglis at the expense o Scots. The Inspectorate in 1852 reportit that monie teachers "...derided the conversational use of English in one from among themselves, calling him Anglified and pedantic." In ane airticle fae the Shetland Times in 1880, ane bodie complained " Da sk├╝lmaisters hae nae bishness ta interfere wi wir guid midder tongue. We pay dem fur learnin bairns English, no fur unlearnin wir Shetlan speech."

Fae 1845 tae 1950

Scots was slawlie pushed oot o the scuils; the 1872 Eddication Act conformed tae the poseition taen up in 1845. Scots wesna excludit sae muckle as no mentioned at aw. Insteid, the Act insistit on the uiss o Inglis in the cless. Teachers that haed been Scots-speakin in 1845 war hostile tae the leid bi 1900. Bi the 1940s the Eddication Depairtment thocht that Scots haed nae value: ' is not the language of 'educated' people anywhere, and could not be described as a suitable medium of education or culture.' Bi this tyme teachin in Scots wes byordnar awthegither.

Daena Say Daena

Scuilbairns aw ower Scotlan war punished for speakin thair mither tung an made tae hate the cultur o Scotlan. New generations war nou reared up athoot Scots awthegither. In 1996 the GRO speirt at fowk roun Scotlan an fund that monie fowk haed thair leid dounhauden; " lose the language fae the day you went to the school, an ye start learnin the English...They wuidna let you speak Scotch at all, oh no no." Ane wumman fae The Broch haed her haun tied ahin her back ilka tyme she spak Scots. She sayed " Ma faither took wis till the doctor, but er that time the damage wes deen. They thocht we wes queer, nae richt in the heid. Fit wes vrang wi the wey A wes spokken?" Is it nae wunner that monie Scots speakers haesna muckle tyme for the scuils?

Is the Tymes Chyngin?

In the 1990s the Eddication Depairtment chynged the rules bannin the uiss o Scots in the scuils. In 1996 Scots wes acknawledged for the first tyme as haein onie place in the curriculum; but the Naitional Guidlynes for 5-14 year aulds is gey vague, an Scots is papped doun alang wi Inglis. Monie teachers is hostile tae Scots yet, whyle ithers wad lyke tae dae somethin but canna as thay haena onie resources or canna speak Scots. Maist o the univairsities teaches Scots courses but sae faur nane haes a degree in Scots; awbodie is sweirt tae mak proveision for Scots as a leid in its ain richt, an ower readie tae thole Scots as the puir kizzen o Inglis.

Scots an the Meidia

Afore 1925

Follaein on fae the Chapbuiks o the 18/19t centuries, new cheaper papers (an the graith tae mak thaim) seen the rise o jurnalism in Scots atween the 1850s an 1914. Thir airticles war meant for the ordnar folk o Scotlan an wrutten in the leid that Scots unnerstuid. For ensample, the North Briton (Embra), fae 1858, talked aboot the censorship o the Imperor Lewis Napoleon o Fraunce: " Then, what is the reesin that ye stop the leebral jurnals o this country frae enterin Paris?...What hae ye dune that ye fear the licht o truth breakin on the mind o the Frainch nashion? Are the Frainch folk tired o ye, dae ye think, that ye daurna let them see what ou think o you an your government in Breetain?" Or in the 1906 Weekly News (Dundee) on Voteless Weemem : " Hoo should weemen no hae a vote as weel as men? That is a puzzle whilk has bothered me for mony a day. What wad this boasted Empire o oors, or the wide world aither, be withoot the guidin wisdom o weemen, eh? No up tae verra muckle I'm dootin." It wesna tae intrests furth o Scotlan (for the maist pairt fae Inglan) stairtit swallaein up papers that jurnal Scots stairtit tae dwyne awa.

Deif an Dumb

It is gey ironic that the naition that gied the warld the TV haesna even programmes in the Scots leid. Afore the 1920s no monie Scots fowk haed the inlat o hearin Inglis spoken, sae Inglis affectit Scots less nor it daes the day. But Scots fowk reared up efter the 1920s haes aye heard Inglis roun aboot thaim whither fae the radio, televeison or, nouadays, video an settelite. Thegither wi the hostile scuils the meidia haes duin mair nor onie agencie in the 20t centurie tae pit Scots in a provincial neuk, tae discriminate agin its speakers, an caw doun its founs. It shuidna maiter whither the meida uises Inglis or no but it daes maiter whan braidcastin an the press is ane-sydit; gin Scots speakers seen an heard Scots uised in the meidia it wad mak a mair balanced societie, less Inglified an mair Scots in cultur. As things staun the nou Scots speakers is kept deif an dumb.

Scots an Braidcastin

As lang as radio an televeision haes existit in Scotlan thare haes aye been Scots sangs an poyems, an orra plays, as pairt o ither programmes. The BBC an ither companies thinks that tae mak a programme on Burns ance a year is eneuch: Scots speakers fin this gey patronisin. But nae bodie haes ever made a hail programme throu the meidium o the leid; a news slot, a documentarie or a drama. The govrenment max nae proveision for Scots in the Braidcastin Act. In 1997 the Aiberdeen Univairsitie Scots Leid Quorum led a wee campain cryed Whit Wey Nae Scots? that wes airtit at the BBC Promises document o 1996. This statit that "We... recognise the different cultures throughout Scotland"; whan fowk wrate tae the BBC thay didna fin muckle sympathie even efter pyntin oot that Scots speakers peys TV stents forby. Monie fowk waitit months for onie repone fae the BBC an ithers haed nane ava. Whan the BBC did wryte back it wes tae say thay'd haen a Scots Tung week on the radio! The ae cheil tae mak onie heidwey for Scots in braidcastin is Billy Kay. No lang syne he made a curn programmes wi Channel 4 for bairns cryed Haud Yer Tung. His aulder programme The Mither Tongue leuked at the historie o the leid. Houanever, sae faur, programmes for Scots haes been tokenist, an gey few. Whit is needit is govrenment backin for Scots in braidcastin wi a focus on anes for the bairns an the uiss o Scots for serious maiters sic as news an documentaries.

Whit can a CPS dae?

The Pairliament an Scots

As a Commissioner tae the pairliament o Scotlan ye hae a vyce an a say in the makin o policies an deceisions. Maiters sib tae the leid comes unner the say o the pairliament o Scotlan. The ceivil servans at the Office o Scotlan haes tellt fowk plainlie " It will be for the Scottish parliament and Scottish Executive to decide future policy on the Scots language." (Mr G Barrie, Office o Scotlan, 1998). The Consultative Steering Group to the Scottish Parliament recommendit in hits Report (December 1998) " We considered the use of Gaelic, Scots and other non-English languages in the Scottish parliament, and recognised the strong historical and cultural arguments for facilitating the use of Gaelic and Scots in the Parliament." Forby, Scots is recognised in the Cooncil o Europe Chairter for Leids o the Curn.

Hummin an Hawin

For aw that, an even wi the Scots speakin fowk aye speirin, nocht haes been duin at aw tae gie even basic richts tae the Scots leid inby the pairliament tho signs, wittins an ither proveisions is bein made for Gaelic the nou.

Sae whit can A dae?

The Scots Leid Associe is cawin on the CPSs tae forgaither wi memmers o its Naitional Comatee in a ane day collogue in Embra late in August (2000) or the stairt o September. This is tae gie CPSs the inlat o hearin the case for the Scots leid, tae speir at the Associe an gaither wittins. The Scots Leid Associe is wantin interestit MSPs tae get thegither in an aw-pairtie group that can gang tae the Pairliament o Scotlan an pit forrit weys o gien the Scots leid richt proveision an staunin. Whit gait dae we gang? Ye can lat the Naitional Secretar Mr David Brown ken whither or no ye'r comin tae the Collogue in Embra bi mailin him at , bi phone 0411 586881, or bi screivin tae him c/o The Scots Language Resource Centre, AK Bell Library, York Place, Perth PH2 8EP. Ye can hae a copie o the parteiclar case for Scots bi speirin at . Ance CPSs haes attendit a collogue in Embra the Scots Leid Associe howps thay wull stairt an aw-pairtie group in the Hairst. Tae stairt wi, the Associe wull gie sic a group up-tae-date wittins anent the leid itsel an whit its speakers is feart for. Efter sic a wab is up an gauin we howp the aw-pairtie group wull crack back an forrit wi the Scots Leid Associe an conseider the best weys o takin on meisures tae forder the Scots leid.

The Scots Leid Associe is aye in howp o yer support for the futur o oor leid.

The Politics o Scots

Speirin aboot Leids

In 1992 F Iacuaniello speirt at Scots speakers in Aiberdeen whither the leid thay spak maitered tae thair politics an fund that 62% thocht the staunin o Scots wad be impreuvit throu Scotlan becomin a free-staunin naition. Forby, 63% o Scots speakers supportit the SNP follaed bi Labour an the Liberal Democrats. In 1995 S Murdoch fae the Univairsitie o Aiberdeen speirt at 450 fowk the braid o Scotlan anent politicial support for the hame leids in Langage Politics Speir an fund that 245 fowk wad chynge the fowk thay votit for gin thon candidates war seen tae hae policies agin Scots or Gaelic.


Baith the 1992 an 1995 speirs fund that fowk thocht o the SNP as bein maist fashed aboot Scotlan's leids. Sae faur the SNP an the Green Pairtie alane haes onie policie on Scots. The SNP ane, passed in 1996, is, for the maist pairt, leukin tae a free-staunin Scotland, an sae faur, nocht haes been duin tae support the leid. The Torie pairtie wes regairdit as the maist agin Scots tho it made uiss o Scots wurds in political campains in 1996 an 1997 for tae mak the pairtie seem mair Scots in cultur. In 1994 the Leibral Democrats made statements anent the general uiss o Scots efter a Scots speaker wes gien 30 meinuts in the jyle for answerin "ay" in Stirlin Shiraff coort. Houanever, the Leibrals haes yet tae mak a policie on Scots lat alane gie the leid support. Naether daes the Labour Pairtie hae onie policie on Scots, tho Sam Galbraith, as the meinister for Airts an Cultur, haes the supposed remit for the leid. Tae date nane o the pairties haes duin muckle ava tae gie Scots a shout.

Takin a Len o the Leid

Aw throu the 1990s baith the Office o Scotlan an the ceivil service haes been sweirt tae forder the uiss o Scots in public. It cuid be fairlie claimed that thay'v gane oot thair wey tae no gie Scots onie public staunin ava. Tho Scots is specifeed in the European Chairter nane o the ceivil servans or Secretar o State is willin tae ack on its behauf; in Mairch 1999, Mr Dempsey, fae the Information Directorate, claimed that naebodie spak Scots as a first leid, an in the ae month the Secretar o State wrate the follaein curious lynes: "...I am not convinced as you are that there is a language which requires distinct and separate treatment from the speak of the ordinary people in this land." Gey queer wurds conseiderin that Scots is reognised de facto as a distinct leid bi the UK govrenment an the Pairliament o Scotlan. The Secretar's ain wurds flee stracht in the face o the European Chairter. The braidcaster an screiver Mr Billy Kay wrate the follaein in repone tae Mr Dewar: " ...the fact that Scots speakers also understand English is no reason to deny them the right of seeing their own language engaged in their own political process...Scots is at a stage in its recovery where it must be seen to appear in such official documents."

Inlats for aw?

In 1998 Mr Henry McLeish, as convener o the Consultative Steering Group, intimatit that Scotlan wad hae " ...a parliament which promotes equal opportunities for all." Sae faur as Scotlan's langages gang this juist isna true. Scots speakers wull aye be discriminatit agin as lang as the'Scots creenge' (on the pairt o politeicians) is alloued tae haud back the democratic uiss o the Scots leid.