THERE a wheeshit renaissance in literacy gaun on in Scotland the noo. Whither hit’s the floorishin o online sel-publishin thro social media, or fae the wullfu push tae fling aff the dreid “Scottish cultural cringe” oor Scots langage is getting taen fae ben the hoose an pit oot in public ance mair. Ae hing aboot wir Scots langage is oor unique vocabulary o wirds, an fir Book Week Scotland (November 18-24) Scottish Book Trust’ll annoonce the result o their iconic Scots wird vote on Thursday 21 November, via their social media channels.

Scots is the langage maist relatit tae the English langage. Hit’s near eneuch tae English, as a maitter o fack, thit fae the echteent century there a strang unitit effort fir tae hae fowk “spikk proper”.

O coorse we ken this as spikkin English wi a Scots accent, but fir us Scots spikkers this means us giein up thoosans o oor Scots wirds, chyngin thoosans mair fir tae g’alang wi their English equivalents, an swappin Scots gremmar wi English gremmar. Gien aw thon dreich narra-nebbit effort oor Scots bides on stull in wir hames, wir communities an wrote aw throu wir literature.

Gledly attitudes is chyngin tae dae wi Scots. Scots is breengin tae the fore an we’r stertin fir tae be mair comfy haudin thit whilst we spik, write an fully contribute tae the English langage we hiv this ither wey o communicatin an aw. Bit bi totie bit we’re knawin thit this ither langage is valuable an hit is wirthwhile. Hit is alive athin us.

O tapmaist import tae wir stertin tae value oor ain langage is writin projecks sich as thaim rin bi the Scottish Book Trust ower Book Week Scotland. Ilka year short storie an poetry submissions are wantit on a gien topic. Fae that a buke is compilt, prentit an haundit oot fir free aw ower Scotland. Wark in the Scots an the Gaelic is aye walcome, last year there wis even a bit in Norn, the Nordic langage o the Norn Isles. 2019’s topic is the Scots wird “blether”, fir tae spikk casual, fir the crack, or e’en fir tae haver total mince.

This year alane there wis ower a hunner bits pitten in in the Scots. Noo, fir the first tim tae, ilkane o the entries wis pitten oot electronically in a digital magazine format, them aw, no juist thaim thit went intae the prentit anthology.

Acause Scots haes bade on as a spoke langage we’re aften taen aback seein hit wrote doon. As Scots spikkers we fin oot aw a sudden, e’ev tho we’re fully literate in the English, we cannae read the wrote form o wir ain spoke langage. On tap o this, we fin wee wirds an dialect variations a sair issue an we dinnae juist lairn them or luik them up in a dictionary the wey we wid wi a new English wird.

Ma sel, whan A first raelized aw this ma heid wis birlin. A’d got telt thit ma langage wis “bad” or “slang”. A’d seen hit wrote doon in comics an athin quote mairks in bukes thit haed Scots chairecters, but A’d nae name fir it. Ma ain langage. Efter, as a adult, A lairnt this wey thit A spoke wis kent as “Scots”. A fun there wis a warl-cless wrote literature gangin awey back echt-hunner year an mair. A juist jamp in.

Fir some o us this raelisation o oor illiteracy in the Scots kin gie ye a wee fleg, fowk get feart, but the best hing is no tae dingie it, drap yer shooders, tak a haunfae o deep breiths an tak yer tim. Hit’s wirth hit, literacy aye is. A braw bit tae stert at is mindin o unique Scots wirds. Ower twa hunner wis gien tae the Scottish Book Trust wi therty getting pickt fir the leet o the final vote.

Wance ye get stertit on tryin fir tae mind on unique Scots wirds ye’r mibbie wantin fir tae get yersel a pincil an tak a shot at writin them doon. Dinnae fankle yersel the noo wi spellin, that’s whit the Scots Language Dictionaries is there fir. Efter ye’v wrote some unique Scots wirds ye’r wantin fir tae tak a swatch at some wirds lik “heid”, “airm”, an “fit”, thit are relatit tae, bit different fae, English wirds. Finally there thae wirds thit’s maistly the same as English wirds spoke in wi a Scots accent lik “leg” an “helicopter”. Mind, hit’s affae normal

fir wirds tae exist ower mair’n wan langage.

Wance ye’ve strertit fir tae explore the langage at the level o single wirds there braw resoorces oot there fir full lenth Scots literature in aw dialects, or byleids, fir aw ages, in particular fae the Scottish Book Trust, the National Liberarie o Scotland, an the Scots Language Centre.

There a weal o bairn’s bukes oot noo tae, baith new stories in Scots an translations, or owersettins, o warks available in monie ither warld langages. Thir bukes is getting uised mair an mair in Scottish Book Trust Bookbug sessions aroon the kintrae. Weans’ bukes kin be smashin warks fir tae read wi wee yins an fir tae pass on yer ain knawledge o oor Scots langage tae the new generation. Howpfully giein them a confidence in their langage an pittin doon a foond fir the skills wi whilk they kin come tae lairnin onie ither langage in the future.


There is a quiet renaissance in literacy occurring in Scotland just now. Be it the birth of online self-publishing through social media or a result of the concerted effort to cast off the dreaded “Scottish cultural cringe” our Scots language is being brought out of our houses and being shown off in public once again. One aspect of our Scots language is our unique lexicon of words, and for Book Week Scotland (18-24 November 2019) Scottish Book Trust will announce the result of their iconic Scots word vote on Thursday 21 November, via their social media channels.

Scots is the language most similar to the English language. It's sufficiently similar, in fact, that since the 18th century there's been a concerted effort to have people “speak properly”.

Of course we understand this as speaking English with a Scots accent, but for a Scots speaker this entails abandoning thousands of Scots words, modifying thousands more to align with their related English words, and replacing Scots grammar with English grammar. In spite of this effort Scots lives on spoken in our homes and our communities, and written all through our literature.

Thankfully attitudes towards Scots are changing. As it is coming more to the fore we are becoming far more comfortable acknowledging that whilst we speak, write and contribute to the English language we also have this other unique way of communicating. Gradually we're recognising that this other language is valuable and worthwhile, and that it is vital.

Of paramount importance to our acceptance of our language are writing projects such as those run by The Scottish Book Trust over Book Week Scotland. Each year short story and poetry submissions are invited on a given theme from which a free book is compiled, printed and freely distributed. Works in Scots and Gaelic are always welcome, last year there was even a piece in Norn, the Nordic language of the Northern Isles. 2019's theme is the Scots word 'blether', to speak informally, for the sake of entertainment, or to babble incoherently.

This year alone attracted over one hundred submissions in Scots. Now, for the first time, all entries have been published electronically through a digital magazine format in addition to the print anthology.

Because Scots has persisted as a spoken language we are often surprised when we first encounter it written down. As Scots speakers we suddenly discover that although we are fully literate in English we cannot read the written form of this language that we speak.

Personally, when I first realised this it was quite a shock. I had grown up being told my language was “bad” or “slang”. I had seen it written in comics and within quotation marks in literature with Scottish characters, but I never had a name for it. My own language. Once, as an adult, I learned this way I spoke was known as “Scots” I discovered there was a world class written literature dating back eight hundred years. I had to dive in.

For some of us this realisation of our illiteracy in Scots can give us a wee fright but the best thing for that is to drop your shoulders, take a couple of deep breaths and just take your time. It's worth your time, literacy always is. An excellent place to begin is with uniquely Scots words. Over two hundred were submitted to the Scottish Book Trust with thirty being selected for the final vote.

Once you get started trying to recall unique Scots words you'll find you might like to attempt to write them down. For now, don't get too worried about spelling, that's what the Scots Language Dictionaries are there for. Further to these unique words you might want to explore words like 'heid', 'airm' and 'fit' which are related to English words. Finally there those which are pretty much the same as English words as spoken with a Scots accent like 'leg' and 'helicopter'. Remember, it's perfectly ok for words to exist across multiple languages.

Once you've explored the language at the word level there are excellent resources available for full length Scots literature in all dialects aimed at all ages particularly from the Scottish Book Trust, The National Library of Scotland and The Scots Language Centre.

There are a wealth of children's books available, both original works in Scots and translations of works available in many other world languages. These books are increasingly being used in Scottish Book Trust Bookbug sessions around the country. Children's books can be excellent works to read with wee ones to help pass on your knowledge of our Scots language to the next generation, giving them a confidence in their language and lay a foundation for the skills with which they can approach learning any language in the future.