A LOT of Scots speakers hate their own language.

I explore the answer to the big question of why in my second Scots novel, The Tongue She Speaks.

Addressing important issues for teenagers, including mental health awareness and online safety, The Tongue She Speaks is told through a much-needed young, female Scots voice in the form of my main character, Cathy O’Kelly – who dreams of writing in Scots.

While a large part of the current hatred of Scots stems from the wrongful Unionist politicisation of the language, its roots go much deeper than that, a fact Cathy faces while growing up in the nineties and early noughties – long before we were asked to vote Yes or No in 2014.

As Cathy says: “Ma heart’s tellin me that there’s sommat in writin in the tongue ah speak, and jist aboot everywan else is tellin me no tae bother.”

The Tongue She Speaks began as a shorter work when I was tasked to create a piece of writing that would encourage Scots literacy by the Scots Language Centre.

READ MORE: Alan Riach: Larochs and the lasting legacy of the Clearances

I wanted to shed light on the beauty of the language while acknowledging the barriers that are a common experience for just about every speaker. That meant reflecting on my school days, which could have very well had me hating Scots like so many others do.

Whether it is because of classism, an education system that remains biased in favour of English, or even just tales that have been passed down the generations from people who got the belt for daring to say “aye” instead of “yes”, these barriers have existed for many years.

While researching for the novel, I asked Twitter users to share their experiences of the Scots language and corporal punishment, and the answers I got were shocking. Entire generations were assaulted for speaking a legitimate language.

One user told me that in 1960s Glasgow, they not only got the belt for speaking Scots but they were even told to wash their mouth out with soap. At the age of eight.

This, unfortunately, resulted in a very real internalised bias for many. The logic was that if they had the Scots language drummed out of them, surely it’s only right for future generations to suffer a similar fate.

The Tongue She Speaks aims to put a stop to this, even if the violence, to an extent, persists – whether it’s through people proudly declaring that they wouldn’t employ Scots speakers (which is discrimination, plain and simple) or online bullying.

While writing the novel, I thought a lot about my early experiences of the Scots language and the fact that I saw almost no representation of it outside of Burns, The Jeely Piece Song and the odd TV show like Still Game.

Scots was either something serious that was celebrated just once a year or a way to be funny – and nothing more. I didn’t even know that Scots was a language until I seriously began writing in it, and this was after I studied literature at a Scottish university.

WHILE my protagonist Cathy recognises that Scots is a language sooner than I ever did, she comes to a common conclusion: Scots is occasionally well and good when it’s written down (if you’re Rabbie Burns) but it’s a bad thing when it’s spoken (unless you’re trying to be funny like Jack and Victor).

But she has another realisation too. She finds it easier to interpret the world in Scots than in English – an experience that readers have told me draws them to Scots language books like mine, despite the internalised bias that speakers face in one form or another.

Cathy notes: “Giein it laldy doesnae quite huv the same po’er when ye jist say ‘do it with a lot of energy’. It’s just no the same.”

The Tongue She Speaks is about more than just teen life and encouraging people to embrace the Scots language, however. It asks serious questions about the education system, which, while it has improved in recent years, there’s still no such thing as a Higher in Scots.

With the 2011 census putting the number of Scots speakers at 1.5 million, I’d argue that’s putting a lot of young people at a disadvantage, especially as the Scots language often encourages speakers to engage with literacy in a way that English doesn’t.

Scots singer and activist Iona Fyfe said that young people could perhaps benefit more generally from a Scots media studies qualification that would see them learn not only about the language, but its rich culture and history too. I think this would almost certainly help to remove some of the bias that still plagues speakers from the get-go.

READ MORE: Rare medieval golden sword pommel given to Scotland's national museums

She admitted: “It’s highly unlikely that this will happen any time soon.”

With more and more young people taking an interest in Scots, it’s my hope that The Tongue She Speaks will encourage them to embrace their language – although it is definitely a book for adults too – filled with Y2K nostalgia and throwbacks to a simpler time when our lives weren’t ruled by technology.

The novel’s importance when it comes to Scots in the 21st century can’t be overstated, as technology has unfortunately made the internalised bias worsen online. Scots writers like me are told that we are breeding division and hatred by Unionists simply by promoting a language that’s been around for hundreds of years.

This history is a part of the book, too, as it contains Scot poems written by my great-grandfather. His words about there being “aye a sunlit spot” with his “bonnie lass” in Glasgow instil in Cathy a pride in her language that the education system of the late nineties and noughties failed to do.

It’s this pride that inspires Cathy to write in her own tongue, and The Tongue She Speaks sees her chase her dream of “properly” writing in Scots while navigating school life at a time when most speakers are being told to “speak properly” or else they’ll never get a good job.

But as she realises: “If it’s so bad, why dae we aw speak it?”