Linda Fabiani has commissioned an audit into the Scots language, with the intention of securing its survival and promoting its use. The Scottish Government has stated that the audit ensures that it is in compliance with Part II of the European Charter for Minority or Regional Languages, which it is a signatory of.
The charter was drafted in 1992 to protect and promote minority languages that were native to, but not the official state language of, the member states of the EU. The most notable omission from the signatories is Ireland. Despite the fact that Irish Gaelic is spoken by a minority of the population it is the first official language of the republic and therefore is not covered by the charter.
It is estimated that 1.5 million of Scotland’s population speak the language, despite being actively discouraged in the education system for many years. Fabiani stated that her motivation for commissioning the audit was down to the fact that “our national languages have been suppressed and oppressed over the centuries but they should be as valued as any other language spoken in the world."
News of the audit has been warmly welcomed by the cross-party Scots Language Group in Holyrood. Rob Gibson, the chair of the group, stated that he “fully supports the announcement by Culture minister Linda Fabiani who told BBC Scotland Sunday Live that the responses of the public, private and voluntary sectors will be audited with regards to their views on the uses of Scots. Since it is the daily speech of around one and half million Scots this is long overdue."
There are also plans to include a question on the Scots language in the next census in 2011, to try and accurately gauge the number that can speak it. A question on Scots language was included in the 2006 test census and may be included in the next full census once the results of the test have been fully analysed.
Use of Scots language in public life has been in decline since the Union of the Crowns (1603) and the Union of Parliaments (1707), and has been gradually replaced by English in tandem with the loss of political power. However, it is still widely used in everyday speech as well as by authors and poets and is generally the language of choice in Scottish folk music. Some effort has been made in recent years by public bodies to promote its use, most notably the Scottish Parliament, which offers some content in the language. The government have also signalled their intention to include Scots in the teaching curriculum; however there are no concrete timeframe as to when this will be achieved.
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