STRATEGIC POSITION STATEMENT OF THE DORIC BOARD IN CONNECTION WITH THE SCOTTISH LANGUAGES BILL

The Doric Board is broadly supportive of the proposed legislation and welcomes the Government’s commitment to both Gaelic and Scots.

The Doric Board believes that it is of crucial importance to recognise the distinctive regional nature of the Scots language, and that this recognition is central both to the successful implementation of the bill when passed, and in terms of the broader development of language policy for Scots.  Scots is a collection of dialects with many common threads but with rich dialectical diversity and regional distinctiveness right across Scotland; this is one of the primary strengths of the Scots language, and the recognition of this must be at the heart of developments moving forward.

The establishment of a board or similar to oversee the support for, and development of, the language must be handled with sensitivity to reflect the strong regional elements of the language.  One size does not fit all and any attempts to ‘impose’ a centrally derived view of the Scots language will not be successful. 

Any proposed organisation or board must adopt a federated structure bringing together groups and organisations which already exist to support and promote various dialects (such as the Doric Board, but also groups which support, inter alia, Shetlandic, Lallans, and the other dialect communities). 

Any organisation or board to ‘oversee’ the Scots language must be entirely independent, driven primarily from a bottom-up approach of those actively engaged in supporting Scots in the educational, cultural, media sectors, and others.  A top-down intervention will have limited success as it will not have community or sectoral buy-in.

The Doric Board strongly supports efforts to raise awareness of the Scots language and to make it more visible in all kinds of public discourse.  The Board welcomes the introduction of training for teachers in schools and similar initiatives.  The Board highlights that there is, with one or two notable exceptions, very little evidence of Scots across the media landscape, particularly in broadcasting.  This is both anomalous and unhelpful in the context of supporting, developing, and promoting the Scots language. 

The Doric Board welcomes any measures to accord the Scots language (in all its diverse forms) more visibility in the public sphere whether through placing it on a statutory footing, enabling members of the Scottish population to engage with public bodies and organisation in the language, through greater use of it by public organisations, and through its promotion in the media and elsewhere.  An outcome of the Bill should be to ensure that Scots is seen clearly as a language in its own right with a rich history and a positive future, and to remove the belief that it is somehow unworthy of use in public discourse. 

The Doric Board welcomes the introduction of this legislation but highlights that the very positive outcomes which may arise from it will be determined not by passing a Bill into law but by the way the various elements of it are implemented once it reaches the Statute Books.  In this respect, we reiterate that the most crucial aspects are the acknowledgement that the rich regional and dialectic diversity of Scots is one of its principal strengths to be celebrated, and that any structures put in place to support the language must take cognisance of this, and must represent and be inclusive of the broad confederation of groups – at grassroots, community and dialect levels – across the whole country. 

This is a synopsis of the submission made by the Doric Board in respect of the consultation on the Scottish Languages Bill, February 2024.