LAST week the Scottish Government announced it was giving £2.5 million in support of an initiative to produce a new Gaelic dictionary. The news was greeted with the usual opprobrium from sections of the Scottish media, and a howling barage of derision from British nationalists on social media complaining about nationalism.

The Faclair na Gàidhlig (Dictionary of Gaelic) project aims to produce a comprehensive dictionary of Gaelic, citing the etymology and origin of words, their history and development, as well as their usage and meaning. It will be far more complete than any existing dictionary of the language, and would give Gaelic a dictionary fit for the 21st century.

It would provide a Gaelic equivalent to existing dictionaries of English such as the Oxford English Dictionary, which itself has recently been provided with some £34m in funding in order to complete its third edition. The Oxford English Dictionary is not capable of supporting itself from profits from its sales. Those who complain about the funding given to Faclair na Gàidhlig don’t complain about the much larger amount of money spent in support of an English dictionary. Gaelic for hypocrisy is fuar-chràbhadh, in case you were wondering.

Gaelic, and Scots, are every bit as much the heritage and cultural inheritance of those who mock them as nationalist hobby horses as they are of anyone else in Scotland.

Gaelic and Scots belong, insofar as languages belong to anyone, to the whole of Scotland, to everyone in the country, irrespective of their political views on the constitution or independence. It’s certainly the case that independence supporters tend to be more positive in their views about Gaelic and Scots than die-hard opponents of independence, and are definitely more positive about the languages than those who wave Union flags on social media while claiming that they hate nationalism, but the truth is that Scotland’s languages do not play a significant role in the independence debate, and that is right and proper.

Unlike Catalonia or the Basque Country, where the politics of language play a central role in arguments about nationhood and independence, Scots and Gaelic are marginal in the debate about Scottish self-determination.

Partly that’s to do with the multilingual history of Scotland, with the fact that we have no fewer than three languages, Gaelic, Scots, and Scottish Standard English, all of which have equal claim to the status of national languages.

Partly it’s to do with the historical fact that Scotland had a centuries-long existence as an independent state. Scottish identity is not closely associated with a single language in the way that, say, Catalan identity is.

When displaying support for Scotland’s ancient languages, independence supporters are often accused by British nationalists of “politicising” Gaelic and Scots. However what is really politicising the languages is to deny them the resources and funding that they require to survive in the modern world because of a fear of stoking up pro-independence sentiment.

If your terror of Scottish independence leads you to deny Gaelic the same resources that English gets then it’s you who is politicising Gaelic.

British nationalists politicise Scottish languages in other ways. This newspaper is unique in Scotland in offering space in its columns to the Scots language as well as to Gaelic. Articles in Scots frequently come in for abuse on social media for the supposed crime of using words which are not “proper Scots”. Ironically people who don’t themselves use Scots seem to regard themselves as the best judges of what is or is not Scots. These offending terms are older words or spellings which the writer has resuscitated, or are Scots neologisms. When Scots writers use such terms they are accused of creating a plastic or synthetic Scots.

Yet these processes of reviving words from older stages of the language, or using existing words in novel ways, are precisely how any language extends its vocabulary and range of expression. That’s how modern standard literary languages come into being. Back in the 19th century, Catalan was in a similar situation to the one Scots is now.

It lacked an agreed spelling, and people who spoke it freely mixed Catalan and Spanish. Catalan authors devised a spelling based on the language of the Golden Age of Catalan literature in the Middle Ages, they revived obsolete words, and they began to use existing words in new and novel ways. In doing so they created the modern literary Catalan language.

The modern Finnish, Faroese, and Frisian literary languages came into being in exactly the same way. The Estonian literary language contains words which were originally complete inventions. All literary languages are by definition artificial in the sense that they are the deliberate creations of writers.

However when Scots writers adopt the same tactics to produce a literary variety of Scots, they’re accused of creating an artificial plastic Scots that isn’t real. They’re accused of politicising Scots. Yet what is really politicising Scots is to deny it the same means of enriching and developing itself which have been used by every other literary language. By denying Scots these avenues of enrichment, opponents of the language are seeking to diminish its use and confine it to a dialectal ghetto. Scots, they say, isn’t a proper language, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to ensure that it can’t act or be used as a proper language.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about language. Perhaps the most common is that we should concentrate our efforts on “useful” languages like Spanish or French. It’s arguable just how much more useful it is to learn a language that you’re only going to use a couple of weeks a year on holiday.

But this is an argument made from the perspective of an adult English monoglot. The entire point of bilingual education for children, which is generally agreed to be the best way to ensure the continuing survival of Gaelic and Scots, is that it means that Gaelic or Scots can then be used as the medium of instruction for other subjects.

There is no logical reason why a child can’t learn Spanish through the medium of Gaelic, and it’s certainly the case that the more languages you learn, the easier they become to acquire. Learning Gaelic or Scots makes it easier to acquire French, or German, or Swedish. It doesn’t make it more difficult.

It’s wrong to politicise Scotland’s languages. Opponents of Scottish independence need to stop using them as footballs, and need to recognise that Scotland’s languages have the same right to enrich themselves as any other language, and the same right to support that other languages receive. Gaelic and Scots belong to everyone in Scotland, not just independence supporters.