Support Scots language in our schools, ministers told

SCOTS language teaching should be boosted in primary and secondary schools, a government-commissioned study says.

The SNP pledged further support for the language after the audit of more than 150 organisations was published yesterday.

Linda Fabiani, the culture minister, said it showed Scots was "diverse and distinctive".

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She said: "As we celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2009 and the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, who of course wrote in Scots, the Scottish Government intends to capitalise on the Scots language as a cultural and economic asset and will consider how it can be further developed and promoted at home and abroad for social and economic gain."

The study set out to discover how the language is supported, what gaps there are and how support could be expanded. Its findings are to be discussed at a conference in Stirling next month.

The director of the Scottish Language Dictionaries, Chris Robinson, said: "It (the study] has allowed Scots to make its own case and highlighted the extent to which it reaches into all corners of everyday life."

The authors cited recent progress by some local authorities in developing and increasing provision for Scots in primary and secondary schools, and said the government should look at expanding this.

Ministers could also "explore the potential for providing continuous professional development for teachers in the area of the Scots language" and examine "attitudes of parents to the Scots language and its status".

The government could also consider raising awareness within the judicial system of opportunities for Scots language translation and other services such as providing definitions of Scots words "to assist in determining laws and cases".

It is claimed about a third of Scotland's population, up to two million people, know and use some of the language.

Scholars say Scots has never been a totally separate language from English, nor does it have fixed spellings.

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"There's a real question as to how many people speak full Scots," said Murray Pittock, of the University of Glasgow.

Scots broadly includes the north-east dialect Doric, dialects from the Borders to Fife, and Glasgow and other urban dialects, as well as those in Orkney and Shetland.

A Scottish Government spokesman said yesterday the report was not suggesting the teaching of Scots in schools in the same way as English but as an "appreciation of heritage".

Eleanor Coner, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "We should embrace native languages, if you like, but the most important thing in primary is to learn to read and write and I don't think we can force much more into the curriculum."

The audit, compiled by Dr Rhys Evans of Integrate Consulting, also said a proposed public Scottish digital television channel should prominently feature Scots programming.

A Tale of Two Cities, in Scots

IT WIS the best o times, it wis the waurst o times, it wis the age o mense, it wis the age o gypitness, it wis the epoch o belief, it wis the epoch o incredulity, it wis the saison o Licht, it wis the saison o Mirk, it wis the Spring o howp, it wis the winter o wanhope, we haed awthin afore wis, we haed naethin afore wis, we wis aw gaen straucht tae Heivin, we wis aw gaen straucht the ither wey – shortlies, the period wis sae muckle like the noo that some o its maist rummlesome lang-heidit fowk threaped its bein taen, for guid or ill, in the superlative degree o comparison anely."

… in English

IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.