The Scottish Government is consulting the public on its upcoming Scottish Languages Bill. This includes a commitment to ‘take action on Scots’. The responses the public gives in the online consultation form will feed into what the future of Scots language policy looks like, so it’s really important that everyone with an interest in Scots responds to the consultation.
To call for a Scots Language Board, copy and paste the text further down the page into the consultation response boxes, and edit the text as you wish.
Note: The consultation looks at both Gaelic and Scots. If you don’t wish to respond to the Gaeic questions, you can skip them.
The existing Scots bodies are well-placed to engage with individuals who are enthusiastic or curious about Scots, and are effective in empowering them to raise Scots’ profile in their own lives or work through the sharing of appropriate resources and information. However, they lack any significant visibility or impact with the vast majority of the public who do not actively engage with them, and instead generally rely on individuals actively seeking them out. The ‘passive’ rather than ‘active’ nature of these bodies is symptomatic of current policy relying on individual enthusiasts rather than developing Scots policy that can be rolled out nationally with an appropriate degree of uniformity. The existing bodies also operate narrowly within the confines of their own sectors and remits, rather than feeding into a broader vision of what the Scottish Government wants the future of Scots to look like. They therefore lack a sense of long-term strategy and have little cause to cooperate across their sectors and remits for the sake of a common vision. In order to address these issues, this Bill should establish a statutory body such as a Scots Language Board, which would be empowered to develop a long-term strategic approach or vision for Scots language policy. This would bring the existing bodies under its umbrella to work towards a common strategy, thus encouraging cross-sectoral cooperation and active outreach to the public.
The Scottish Government should use this legislation to establish a Scots Language Board, or an equivalent statutory body, with the responsibility of furthering Scots policy going forward. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages Fifth Report of the Committee of Experts (2020) reports that “no action has been taken to establish a body for the purpose of advising the authorities on all matters pertaining to Scots”. The current model has no mechanism for effecting change in Scots policy other than direct intervention at a ministerial level. While this remains the case, Scots risks being a policy-making afterthought and is susceptible to the vagaries of shifting political landscapes. A Scots Language Board would put Scots language policy into the hands of an accountable group of experts and stakeholders, bringing it from an afterthought on the fringes of broad ministerial briefs to the central issue of a dedicated body. By delegating responsibility for Scots language policy to this body, this Bill would create a means for developing a strategic, vision-based approach to Scots, enhance decision-making by positioning the Board as an expert advisory voice able to produce guidance to Ministers and public authorities, and enhance the visibility and public impact of Scots bodies and policies. Any potential Scots Language Board should build upon lessons learnt from the Bòrd na Gàidhlig and cater to Scots’ specific context, such as through requirements for regional dialect representation. Examples of the Board’s remit and responsibilities could include the creation of national and regional Scots Language Plans and producing guidance for Ministers on Scots education, broadcasting, and media. A board would be the first step towards giving Scots a visible and secure place in Scottish public life, and would introduce delivery mechanisms and accountability to Scots language policy.
Action taken in this Bill must be long-term, flexible, and appropriate for the use of legislation. It should recognise the scale of this opportunity and the unlikelihood of further legislation for some time by ensuring that the action taken will last and be able to adapt to new circumstances over many years. A Scots Language Board is well-suited to this, as it is (a) an appropriate use of legislation, being the creation of a statutory body as was done in the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, and (b) long-term and flexible, being the establishment of a body that has autonomy to change and adapt over the coming years.