A NEW push is to begin to strengthen the status of Scots as two language bodies form a new advocacy partnership.

The Scots Leid Board and the North-East Scots Language Board (NESLB) will launch their initiative at Aberdeen University on March 28, promising to be an “apolitical” voice for the promotion and protection of the medium.

It also aims to encourage its use in broadcasting and increase the provision of Scots-language education to the same level as Gaelic for youngsters aged three to 18.

Both organisations in the partnership are newly formed and based in the north-east, described as the “heartland” for Scots and compared to the importance of the Hebrides for Gaelic.

Around 1.6 million people speak Scots, according to the 2011 census, with the greatest concentration found living north of the Tay and south of the Moray Firth.

However, the Scots Leid Board says prejudice about the tongue remains.

It said: “The Scots Leid Board will confront and challenge the historic prejudice that Scotland’s Scots spikkers aye hae tae thole, an warkin wi oor pairtners at the North-East Scots Language Board we will mak great progress improvin the status o Scots aa owre the country.”

Dr Tom McKean, NESLB member and director of Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute, said: “Through wirk wi scuils we’ll mak the tongue mair accessible tae bairns, an through media, tourism an signage we’ll mak Scots mair visible tae aabdy that bides here.

“We are launchin a new Scots Leid course at Aiberdeen. Soon, students fae aa owre the warld that attend varsity here will be able tae study an learn the Scots leid.”

The Scots Leid Board went on: “Oor Scots leid is central tae oor culture, key tae unnerstaanin oor past, makkin sense o oor present, an is fit tae tak us intae oor future.

“The Scots Leid Board wants tae ensure the leid is respectit baith in Scotland an internationally.

“Scots maun be pairt o oor braid an open society staanin shouder tae shouder wi English an Gaelic.”

Commenting, Michael Hance, director of the Scots Language Centre in Perth, welcomed the development, saying: “Scots is maistly understood by fowk in the form o dialects an if we’re tae mak progress wi winning respect an support for the language it has tae be daen at a local level.”