At the People’s Gathering, in passing, someone said that all official documents in Scotland should be in “all three languages” – English, Scots, and Gaelic.
A sprakh is a dialekt mit en army un flot. – Max Weinreich
These days, it might be said that a language is a dialect with TV programmes and schools. I don’t know how you’d say that in Yiddish. Back when Scotland had an army and a navy, the language spoken through most of Scotland was referred to by its speakers as Inglis – it acquired the name of Scots only when Scotland had ceased to have either. (R.L.G. discusses the Scandinavian languages, which are similiar-but-politically-distinct.)
Lallans exists as a written language: spoken Scots has four main geographic “families”: Insular Scots of Orkney and Shetland; Northern Scots of Caithness, Easter Ross, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus; Central Scots of Central Lowlands and South west Scotland; and Southern Scots of the Scottish Borders and Dumfriesshire. (Plus, Scots-Yiddish and Scottish BSL.)
As for what are Scottish languages:
Scotland has a population of 5.22 million people of which 92,000, or just under 2%, have some knowledge of Gaelic. Scotland has been attracting inward migration since 2002: the 2001 Census showed a 2% non-white ethnic minority with the majority being of Pakistani origin, but by 2009 a national pupil survey showed 4.3% of school children mainly used a language other than English at home. 138 languages were recorded as having been spoken altogether, with Polish at the head of the list with 0.8% of the school population, followed by Panjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Cantonese, French and Gaelic respectively. Six hundred and twenty six pupils were registered as speaking mainly Gaelic at home, slightly less than one in 1,000. However, many more are receiving Gaelic medium education or are being taught Gaelic through the medium of Gaelic – 4,064 in 2011, equivalent to one in every 180 pupils.
The point of having official documents in multiple languages is not – should not be – as a nationalist flourish, but to ensure that everyone who needs to can read them.
I support having a Scottish education system that supports Gaelic for native speakers – however small that number is – but let’s recognise that having official documents in Lallans is a nationalist flourish, compared to the number of people who need to have official documents and verbal translations in Polish, Panjabi, Urdu, Arabic, and Chinese.
A lot of what the BNP fearmongerers talk up as the “threat” of immigration isn’t about immigration – it’s about unscrupulous employers making use of immigrants – legal and illegal – as cheap labour.
The handful of things the BNP protesters said at Meadowbank that were grounded in reality were about unemployment – which they blamed on immigrants – and low wages – which they blamed on immigrants. It was a very current illustration of how much easier it is to exploit people when they’re conned into thinking that the real problem is bloody foreigners.
But aside from where they cast blame, we do have high unemployment and we do have a culture of low wages (and employers blaming workers for not being “willing” to work for little or nothing).
That’s the problem. Not what language anyone speaks.
We know the British people want sensible, fair and balanced migration. But we know also they’re not into their country being turned into a fortress. Or seeing their fellow citizens, whatever their country of origin, being stigmatised. And they’re certainly not going to be told what to think by a travelling circus of second-rate Enoch Powell mini-mes.
Deep down I suspect the opponents of immigration know this. That’s why they’re the one’s who are now scared of having a serious and sensible discussion. Why they constantly feel the need to hide behind hyperbole and hysteria.
You want a debate about immigration? Me too. Bring it on.