By Kirsten Lawson

I am Scottish, from Edinburgh, and I can speak French, Italian and German.  But I cannot speak my own language. 

My grandmother spoke Scots, and Standard Scottish English, and she would often come out with words or expressions that I wouldn’t understand.

She was the daughter of a Lanarkshire miner who, despite having spent some of her youth in the States, never lost her Scots tongue.  I remember one occasion when she was more annoyed than others by my ignorance.

As a student she would often buy me bags of groceries to take back to university with me, one time she gave me the bag accompanied by the saying “A gangin’ fit’s aye gettin’”.   I didn’t understand and told her so.  She answered me simply by telling me that I should be ashamed of myself being able to speak and understand foreign languages but not being able to understand my own language. 

I didn’t really pay much attention to those words and carried on, on my path.  I graduated, moved to Italy and settled there.  I now teach at university there and conduct independent research activities. 

I continued not to learn, nor speak Scots but do read it, so didn’t totally ignore my granny although my knowledge is passive rather than productive.  I was invited to submit an abstract for an international conference in Naples on language diversity, so when choosing a topic, for me the choice was clear. 

The abstract was accepted and I am currently carrying out survey, the findings of which will be presented at Naples in October of this year.  The main focus of the research is to examine how the people resident in Scotland regard the Scots language and what their attitudes towards the language are. 

It also seeks to understand whether, and in what way, these perceptions are linked to their sense of national identity.  It also examines how the participants’ people see the Scots’ language in a modern Scotland, and if their attitude to the language would change if Scotland were to gain independence in 2014.  

Originally, my intention was to conduct the survey locally.  However, on reflection, it made more sense to open the survey to people resident throughout Scotland as then the results can be considered as representative of the nation, rather than just the capital. 

Therefore, the easiest way to administer the survey was through its promotion on social networks.  Initially, it was intended to conduct the survey by interviewing people locally.  However, it was then considered more opportune and better representative of the nation as a whole, to conduct the survey online promoting it through various social networks. 

The only condition that must be met in order to be able to participate in the survey is that the respondent must be resident in Scotland.   The survey is brief, there are a total of 20 questions which are mainly multiple choice, and it can be completed online in around 5 minutes. 

Here is the link to the survey:

Your collaboration would be greatly appreciated.


2013-08-18 21:31

Will be looking forward to this as it is something I always want to see more opinions on.

The 2011 Census information about Language, for which I listed myself as a good reader, poor/moderate speaker and poor writer of Scots, should hopefully finally come out some time in late September if they stick to the timetable I stumbled across.

For my part I feel it is a language, it needs more support and should at least be on par with Gaelic, if not being used 50/50 with English in all Schools if the census shows considerable numbers.

I’m in my 20s and remember very little if any Scots language or literature being used in school.
Saoghal Eile
2013-08-18 21:49

Lang by sic time thit we could crack our ane leid wi nae glaikit gobs glauring back.Oor mony folk dinnae ken Lallans ony mare syne it isnae towt.
2013-08-19 00:40

Just completed, will be interesting to see the results, good luck with the research 🙂
2013-08-19 01:07

I was born and brought up in northeast Scotland and grew up speaking Scots. At age 5 that was dinned out of us at school. There, we learned to say everything in “proper” English. Fine as far as that goes, but …

That early proscription failed absolutely to prevent most of us speaking our mother tongue outside of school, in spite of being told it was “common”, etc. “Couthy” words and phrases were introduced in class as part of poetry and other literature but not permissible for us to use in an everyday context. (Why was that?) Similarly conflicting messages ensued throughout primary and secondary schooling. It sickened me then and sickens me now as I see how certain of my compatriots fall over themselves by denigrating those who actually and naturally speak their own tongue. I feel grossly embarrassed and angry at my own culture being knocked by its turncoats within. Shame on them. Grovelling unionists to a man they were and are.
2013-08-19 02:13

Ah div speak Scots, but speak it. Ah never write it doon and to tell the truth readin it disnae dae much for me. Ah cun hear the words fine, but readin is like tryin to read somebody’s writing that canny spell. Ah mean, take the word ‘writing’: ah write it way a silent w, and a g on the end because that’s how the wurd is spelt, but ah would still say ‘rightin’.
What a mean is changing the spelling o wurds tae reflect the Scots tongue disnae really translate that awfee weel. Ah jist fund stuff difficult to read, but if a was reading it oot loud it would jist sound the same whether it was written phonetically as Scots ieeways seems tae be, or in standard English.
Ah deh ken, mibay that means am no speakin auld scots attaw, its just what cums oot ma mooth whatever eed caw it. Aye, there’s a few words that urnae English thut ah ken an ither folk dinnae, but if ah was writing it doon ad write doon the English word so folk would ken.
2013-08-19 02:43

For another example, take the word ‘with’. I read ‘with’, and I would write ‘with’, but I would say ‘way’; as in “come way me”. However reading come way me would trip me up and have me trying to work out the sense of it.
Out is oot. But the correct spelling of oot is o, u, t.
Doesn’t is disnae, but write disnae and I’m wondering if you mean Disney as in cartoons.

When I’m reading something, it might go in as English, but rest assured it comes oot in Scots. But spelling stuff in Scots makes it hard work.

2013-08-19 08:21

Through use the language will become refined. The models of Scots prior to 1600 ought to be the basis for regeneration in terms of vocabulary, grammar and literary style. We ought not to be afraid to experiment with distinctive orthography and word creation. The Scots/Scottis prior to 1600 was evolving a unique character distinguishing it from Inglis. Scandinavian languages have developed distinctive lexical and orthographic signs Scots must be allowed to do likewise. Independence promises exciting times for cultural renewal. Scots must definitely be part of that. Other peoples in Europe have gone through the language revival process. The models, mechanisms and lessons are there to be studied.
2013-08-19 11:07

A cannae unnerstaun for a meenit whit wey ther a Gaelic medium schuil in Edinburgh but as faur as A ken ther no ony Scots medium schuil in the hale o Scotland. Shuirly the Scots Government shuid be treatin baith thae leids eeksie-peeksie!
2013-08-19 12:51

Quoting Rabbie:

A cannae unnerstaun for a meenit whit wey ther a Gaelic medium schuil in Edinburgh but as faur as A ken ther no ony Scots medium schuil in the hale o Scotland. Shuirly the Scots Government shuid be treatin baith thae leids eeksie-peeksie!

You will be amazed at how many Gaelic medium schools there are I wish they’d been around in my day!…/…


2013-08-19 11:57

I think Gaelic is a great language and intend to learn it in the forseeable future, it’s essential for a country to embrace the traditional and indigenous language and culture, hopefully Independence will ensure that this is the case in Scotland and not just pay lip service to it. Scuse the pun!
2013-08-19 21:17

An introduction to written non-regional Traditional Scots at…/index.asp
2013-08-20 08:20

That’s an excellent site. I look forward to going through it later when I get time. I never realised Scots was not bastardised English, or English which wasn’t spoken properly. Look forward to kicking that idea around my head for some time. Excellent stuff.
Well worth a look – everybody!

2013-08-20 07:35

I was brought up in SE Scotland in a community that was close to 100% Scots speaking in the 50s and 60s, and can speak, read and write good Scots. I’m very proud of this, and from my 20s I became very interested in the language. The deep prejudice that I found in the Edinburgh middle classes against Scots has now spread almost right through the country (not Shetland though) and causes me anguish. More upsetting still is the snobbishness of many Glaswegians towards Scots. Not so long ago I saw one on a pro-independence website remarking sarcastically that “I’ll be saying ‘bairns’ next”. Likewise, the Irish generally are hostile to Scots and see it as an artificial distraction from their endless and poisonous confrontation between Gaelic culture and English: they should not be allowed to sour our own linguistic debates here in Scotland. The Scots language can still be helped, but in my view only independence will create the right conditions.
2013-08-20 08:46

That resonates with me too, and not just language. I was born ‘coorie dookit’ or left handed, and it was felt important for my status in society that you were much better off being right handed. Through coercion as a kid, I am now right handed in using a spoon, (and firing a rifle) but all other conditioning to be right handed failed. It strikes me how important it must have been to my grandparents generation to fit in and not be different or appear in any way backward.

2013-08-20 10:53

Thank you for allowing me to participate. I speak Scots I do not write it and this is as much to do with the lack of tuition in school. This is our language, nothing wrong with teaching English, we need this to participate elsewhere but we have nearly all become bilingual in Scotland because we all speak some Scots but think in English. The time has come to reverse this trend and to recover our identity. The Welsh have.
2013-08-20 15:38

‘We all speak some Scots but think in English’. Speak for yourself! I speak excellent English but think in Scots. I have lived in the Highlands for over thirty years, so have no choice. Only one friend, originally fro Angus, speaks to me consistently in Scots here and it’s great when we go for a pint and fall back into the lingo.

It’s not helpful that some supporters of Scots like to have a go at Gaelic (see Rabbie on this string). We need to learn from the Gaels, not attack them.

We will need different conventions and standards for spoken and written Sots IMHO. This is a problem for English also, made much worse by email and Web use. Contemporary writers of Scots tend to write just the way they speak and it can look weird, particularly when they invent spellings because they are illiterate in the language. A problem for English also!

There’s no chance for Scots under the Union, especially with the BBC as a cultural Trojan Horse.

2013-09-28 22:11

setondene – I dinna think Rabbie wis haein a go at Gaelic at aw. He wis juist pyntin oot hou orra it is that naethin haes been duin tae support the Scots leid in onythin like the wey Gaelic haes. The census figures for gaelic are 58,000 a faw o 2% whilst 1,054,000 speik Scots. gaelic haes BBC Alba an schuils whaur the lessons are conductit in that leid. The schuil Rabbie mentions is actually in a pairt o Edinburgh that still haes a majority o Scots speikers. Whit dae we need tae dae tae get justice for Scots?. Polls show warkin cless folk are mair likely tae support YES in the referendum an I canna believe thir folk are bein sae disrespectit in regaird tae their culture. Alex Salmond is aye sayin “facts are chiels that winna ding” Hae a guid look at the census Alex an dinna tak the Scots speikers for grantit!
2013-09-28 23:27

Census shows 1,540,000 Scots speikers – a correction (increase) frae previous post. Check yersel at Scots language centre website.
2013-10-08 21:11

Wi the census showin 98,000 Scots speikers in Edinburgh alane, the Scots Govt. haes tae mak a statement o intent anent the Scots leid. A YES in the referendum will nae doot be decidit bi the likes o the warkin cless Scots speikers. Thair votes are there tae be won.

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