THERE is no doubting the power of dialect. Nothing gives a more vivid and moving representation of the character of individuals or of communities.

It should be used unsparingly still in drama, in verse and in song. And it ought to be captured with the greatest possible accuracy in a phonetic system of orthography; because it is always most appropriately employed in forms of literature which are not simply to be scanned by the eye, but heard, even by the silent reader in the mind’s ear.

But dialect has its limitations. Simply because it is so adept a medium for the conjuring into life of personality, individual or collective, it is of less use as a medium for more general, objective,supra-personal observation and expression.

I certainly feel little need to hear philosophy or theology or science or history delivered in a perhaps unfamiliar dialect. Besides which, the effort of translating unfamiliar groups of symbols into meaningful sounds diverts the attention and slows down, if not impedes, the ability to cope with unfamiliar matter and intricate argument. It certainly will render impossible any attempt at “rapid reading”.

For objective expression and its effortless absorption we need a lingua franca and its accepted common spelling. Especially since the centuries-long erosion and social demotion of Scots, our lingua franca for such purposes has been English. Its advantages have always been great. Not only has it disclosed to us a literature second only to that of Ancient Greece; it has opened our way to converse with an ever-increasing populace, at first throughout Europe and now far beyond. It is already the most used language in almost every form of worldwide discourse and the bedrock of mass-media communication. In common with billions, we cannot afford to be without it

So much for English in relation to the world at large. However, as a linguistic medium in relation to the island of its origin it has been of more doubtful benefit. Here it is in fact no more than a regional dialect which, through one mischance and another, has been permitted to lord it over all the rest. This has been notably unfortunate in the case of the Scottish dialects. They had, by the year 1500, become the medium of serious debate, objective discourse and highly crafted literary expression, with a vocabulary all their own, formed in part by direct derivation from Latin rather than – as was Chaucerian English – from Norman French.

Yet even 16th-century Scots threatened to lord it over its sibling dialects, including my own, that very distinctive dialect of the insulated north-east. Now we who, a semi-millennium forward of those days, contemplate a resurrected Scots, must answer the question: “Shall we simply witness yet another such conquest and dialecticide?” There is one way and one only by which this can be thwarted. It is by the invention of an orthography which allows readers to enjoy a First Pentecost all over again, to hear the symbols on the page speak to them, “in their own tongue in which they were born”. While largely preserving the English spelling of words which are the same in both languages, it will be hopefully a far more consistent orthography, with one sound and one only corresponding to one symbol or group of symbols, but with just a symbol or two in addition – and all readily found on the keyboard. What will be truly new will be the existence of certain “acceptable procedures” by the application of which the readers will hear the text enunciate in the mind’s ear the peculiarities of their own dialect. I have gone some way towards this. One day I hope to have the chance to show how it might work. After which, if any should think it a worthwhile venture, I would gladly accept the offer of assistance.
William I Brown

Not all indy supporters are in favour of a socialist utopia

CAN we please dismiss all these myths that all indy supporters are left wing and want to tax the rich to the hilt. The Scandinavian model won’t work on these islands. Simply because of geography.

IScotland would have an open border with the rest of the UK (just like the one that has existed between Northern and southern Ireland) and that means there would be free flow of goods and services between the two countries. If Scotland’s tax system becomes misaligned with other the other countries that make up these isles then you will see that Scottish business will die, being priced out of the competitive market to cover the high taxation that businesses and people would have to pay. Throw your hands up in horror, but how many people buy via the internet for the cheapest price? I’d pretty much guarantee that everyone has done it. Everybody likes to pay the lowest price! So just think about it, and not from your ideological tower, from the real world.

I desperately want an independent Scotland, but one where those who do take the risks to start a business are rewarded and not under threat of having most of the wealth they create taken away. There is a solution to this problem. An iScotland that controls all the economic levers to grow the economy in Scotland. A stronger economy results in more workers paying more taxes and on the flip side, less people drawing on the system. The SNP is right to hold the centre ground. If it is pulled too far left, many of the people who can invest and boost the economy of iScotland are going to back off and really weaken the cause of indy dramatically.

The indy cause has to be not left or right, it has to be solely about setting Scotland free. Then we can have balanced debates where both the right and the left are arguing for what is best for iScotland’s economy. Right now centre-right policies are only vocalised by Unionists and it is automatically assumed that any indy person is a left-wing socialist who thinks that anyone earning more than £40K is a rich thieving banker! There could be a much larger Yes vote if people did not feel that their businesses and wages would be harvested for a socialist utopia. Do you want an iScotland, or do you just want to punish those who are better off than you? Scotland could be fair and socially just but for that we need to control our own economic growth and decide where we spend our money.
Mark Breingan

IN response to Evan Lloyd’s letter (The National, March 30), denial, despair, anger and sometimes action are elements of the human condition. During the Second World War, the Ford Motor Company moved from manufacturing cars to making aeroplanes in three months. There was no "Art of the Possible", so beloved of our political classes – the threat was identified and decisions made. Similarly, post-war, Beveridge established the welfare state. Action is possible.

The massive increase in membership of the SNP and Scottish Greens and the formation of Rise reflect the political awakening and engagement of the Scottish people during and following the referendum and indicate a thirst for change. This political maturity suggests that people can face up to the challenges of decarbonising our way of life and will expect ambitious policies from our politicians that will translate into practical action to combat global heating.

Perhaps, Evan, we can imagine a better future for our grandchildren.
George Pattison

I ENJOYED Hamish MacPherson’s article about Andrew Fletcher (The National, March 29). Many of us have huge blank spots in our knowledge of Scottish history. So much of what has happened since 1707 remains a closed a book, so I’m hoping your history features will continue.

I would like to hear more about the likes of Daniel Defoe and his efforts as a spy and propagandist on behalf of the crown. He produced a great number of pro-Union pamphlets, I’m led to believe.

It would also be interesting to have a timeline and coverage of the various popular uprisings against the Union. Listening to Billy Kay, I found out there had been a lot more than just 1745, both before and after. The clearances and Highland famine are also essential history.

I listen to various history podcasts and the otherwise excellent BBC one (History Extra) is sadly lacking in Scottish history. A quick scan of the previous episodes reveals almost nothing. British history for the BBC appears to be synonymous with English history. Another suggestion for yourself (or The National) might be to publish the history articles on iTunes as a podcast, where the article is narrated.

It might actually be an idea for The National to consider a weekly podcast with a summary/review of the main news. Useful for busy folk and those who cannot read the newspaper for whatever reason.
Peter Young
Editor and publisher,
The School Times, Denmark