HAUDIN ma hauns up here, fowks. Aw this business aboot the Growth Commission? Wey abuin ma pey grade. Ah’m leukin at it an ah’m feelin like a dug that’s jist woke up at the controls tae the Millennium Falcon. Noo, dinnae get me wrang; the economic argiment for an independent Scotland is vital, an ah’m gled some bodies are haein it. But like a stooshie on the ither side o the train, ah dinnae ken whit it’s aw aboot, an ah’m gled ah’m no involved.

It’s no that ah need awthin spelt oot for me, like. Ah’m no Murdo Fraser. Ah kind o get the gist. Faur as ah can see, it’s aw tae dae wi ither kintraes we should be comparin oorsels tae – Denmark, Sweden, Finland an that. Weel, ah’m as desperate as onybody tae get this thing up an rinnin, sae ah thocht ah’d gie the economists a wee leg up bi daein a few comparisons o ma ain. Catalonia, likesay. We aw kind o wish we were Catalonia. An we’ve plenty in common wi the chiels, really. Apairt fae the weather, the fitba players, the open víolence an the state oppression, we’re as sib tae Catalonia as yin haun is tae the ither. We’re like twa peas in a separatist pod.

Likesay; did ye ken that – like oorsels! – Catalonia’s got three languages? They’ve the language o their neeburs (Spanish); they’ve their ain language, sib eneuch tae the neebur leid tae be shoutit doon as a variant o it (Catalan); an they’ve an endangered language (Occitan), uised maistly in the kintrae’s north. Weel, ye’d no need tae be a warld champion o Connect-The-Dots tae see the linguistic similarities. This is coincidence on a truelins cosmic scale, like when Rab C Nesbitt clocks his Spanish twin in the Costa del Sol. Hands across the sea, brother, hands across the sea!

Weel – aye. Fate’s a wunnerfu thing, until ye’ve clocked up ten years an twa bairns wi a chiel ye’ve naethin in common wi, cept that ye baith like Billy Joel. Sae let’s get the honeymuin period oot the wey straicht aff. For aw their muckle talk aboot nationalism an identity, the Catalan Government’s annual budget for the Catalan language amoonts tae a dwaumie £13.50 per speaker. This is a peerie fraction o whit the Welsh Assembly spends on Welsh, the Oireachtas spends on Irish, or oor ain pairliament spends on Gaelic. It’s a week or twa o unlímited data, a hurl in yer caur tae the saunds an back. Ye cannae keep a dug on £13.50 a year; sae the notion that ye can keep a hale language, wi TV channels an radio an education an líteratur, is a fause economy on a scale that wad mak a Barras butcher tak a reidie.

Noo compare that tae oorsels. While the Catalans are uphaudin yin o the central tenets o their national identity on a dowie stipend o £13.50 a year, in this kintrae oor annual spend on the upkeep o the Scots language is … 17p. Aye, ye read that richt. Ilka year, the Scottish Pairliament gangs roond every Scots speaker in Scotland an doles thaim oot a wan-aff peyment o hauf a Freddo bar. Talk aboot perpetual austerity! Chairlie Bucket had better birthdays than we dae. In 2018-19, the total budget for the Scots leid will be £270k – aboot 1% o whit we’re spendin on Gaelic, 2% o whit we’re coughin up for the Royal Botanic Gairdens, an skimmins fae oor ootlay on netbaw, curlin, or snawsports. Ither kintraes dinnae jist spend mair siller on their ain leids than we dae – they spend mair siller on OOR leids than we dae. Northern Ireland, year on year, spends mair money on Scots than Scotland daes. Project it forrit intae the next century, an the last native speaker o the Scots leid is as likely tae be fae Enniskillen as East Kilbride.

Which is aw ower depressin tae think aboot … But then, if Scots cannae earn its ain keep, mebbes the kindest thing tae dae is jist tae let it oot o the caur bi the side o the M8 an drive awa while it’s still sniffin roond the bushes. The Growth Commission has it aw set oot – there’ll be nae room unner this flag for winnae-wirks an charity cases. If we’re leukin tae get this shaw back on the road, awbody will need tae pull their wecht.

Funny thing is, but … On yin haun, the Growth Commission maks no awfy much o the importance o ile tae an independent Scotland … An then, on the ither haun, we’ve this Glesga University study comin up aboot the value o Robert Burns tae oor tourist industry … Which ah suppose must mean that oor ile is mair likely tae rin oot than oor Scots, an that the millions o pounds Burns still kicks in wi will somehou keep gushin, even efter the last person tae scrieve in his leid has laid doon her pen, an the final reader shot the craw, an the last speaker spoken her last. When it cams tae energy, we weel unnerstaun the need tae invest oor current, finite resoorces in futur, renewable yins. But when it cams tae that ither precious asset – the leid we speak in – we’re frackin awa like naethin at aw, plunderin the sile in a wey that leas it infertile forever, whilst skailin a haunfu o bawbees at the fowk whase sílence we’re ensurin. Languages are renewable, but anely throu cultivation. Scots is no a magic money tree. Wance it’s spent, we’ll no can get it back.

YIN o the reasons we cherish Gaelic like we dae is that, for maist o us, it’s aw tae easy tae imaigine a life wioot it. The portals throu which we glimpse the Gàidhealtachd are sae fleetin an ephemeral, sae basically magic in nature, that it’s no haird tae envisage thaim shuttin forever, an the puirer kintrae we’d be left tae líve wi. But in the Borders, the North-East, the Central Belt, we’re up tae oor oxters in Scots – we cannae jalouse a warld wioot it. A warld in which Renton talks like an Oxford don, an Jack an Victor’s local is in Morningside, an Paw Broon’s exclamation o choice is “Good grief!” A warld in which ye could step aff a train an no ken whether ye were at Waverley or Welwyn Garden City… Like Trump, like Brexit, it’s impossible tae get yer heid roond – but that’s whit yer 17p a year buys ye. No a fresh lease o life, no even a dígnified deith … Jist an end, messy an brutal, an a clean stairt as whit even the maist fervent Unionist wad never dream o cryin us – a region o England.

The cult o Scottish exceptionalism has been gettin the cauld shooder lately, an weel it micht … The notion that some races are better than ithers belangs properly tae fascism, but the idea that some choices are better than ithers is shuirly yin o the cornerstanes o liberal democracy. The richt an fecht tae mak meaninfu choices is whit it’s aw aboot – an whiles we’re playin fair bi Gaelic, for Scots we’re choosin (an continuin tae choose) disaster on a Dr Strangelove scale. Call it; at the current rate o decay, Scots in this kintrae will be deid ‘ithin a hunner years. By then, nae dout, we’ll hae oor independent Scotland, wi its constitution in English an its English laws, its debates an its fitba memes an its bus-stop crack, aw in guid auld Queen’s Ain … Which is an epilogue that’s mair Twilight Zone than Homeward Bound tae me, a moral fable on bein carefu whit ye wish for, wi a gruesome twist an ironic denouement. For yer consíderation; Rod Serling, leanin on a drystone dyke sometime in the 22nd century, smilin wryly as he speirs tae the camera – “An whit shall it profit a man gin he should gain the hale warld an loss his soul?”