THERE’S a fair chance that if Rabbie Burns was alive today and asking his Twitter followers if the chieftain o the puddin’-race was wordy o’ a grace as lang as his arm, some angry man with a Union flag profile would call him uneducated and tell him to speak English.

Maybe it’s the lockdown, maybe it’s because of social media, maybe it’s because of the state of the discourse around the constitutional question, but the attacks on the Scots language and the folk who speak it seem to have intensified in recent weeks.

Poet Len Pennie has spent much of the lockdown sharing a Scots word of the day with her 70,000 followers – recent examples include sitooterie, rummlegumption, and blatherskite.

And for that the Fifer has received no end of praise, and no end of snash.

One angry Twitter man even accused her of trying to “perpetuate a faux identity and culture in order to assert Scottish exceptionalism”.

Earlier this week the Huntly folk singer Iona Fyfe shared a Scots song marking Donald Trump’s last day as president of the United States. Donald, whit a loser – sung to the tune of Donald, where’s your troosers – quickly went viral.

However hundreds of people left comments criticising her voice – and her looks.

Some were sexually abusive, some hinted at menace. “She won’t be singing for very much longer,” threatened one.

And one recurring theme was that many of them hated the fact she was singing in Scots.

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The singer, who next week heads into the finals of BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician competition, told The Sunday National that she has a thick skin, but even so, the sheer volume of abuse was overwhelming.

“It was coming from the usual suspects. The usual suspects that pile on Scots language are often unionists, they’re often folk with a British flag on their logo, instead of a picture of themselves, or a Rangers’ logo,” she said.

“Many of the attacks had the same theme: ‘Oh, she can’t even sing or speak in English. She’s uneducated’,” she added.

Pavel Iosad, a senior lecturer in the department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh, said that attitudes about language were rarely ever about the language itself.

“They are attitudes to whatever the language comes to represent,” he said.

The academic said it was intriguing how there is “so much personal politics around Scots and so little serious institutional politics”.

He added: “Most pro-Scots policy is run in arts and education, where it is essentially a vehicle of personal identity and creativity.

“This means we don’t get any serious policy for language planning and no unified front: when most people publicly performing Scots are creative types, who often put a premium on how it’s something malleable that belongs to no-one and everyone, the hard work of policy is just a boring downer.

“The main body in Scotland doing anything like actual language planning for Scots is Scottish Language Dictionaries, which is just a regular charity that has to fundraise like everybody else.

“Conversely, anti-Scots sentiment, having no actual institutional target, just devolves into attacks on anything that smells of difference.”

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Fyfe is hoping to do something to get institutional politics to take Scots a little more seriously. The singer is active in Oor Vyce, the campaign for a Scots Language Act. She thinks legislation is necessary both to protect and promote Scots, and to stop people dismissing it as nothing more than a dialect.

“Once the Scottish Government finally gets its finger out and goes, right, this is a language and we’re going to treat it as such, it’ll give it the promotion and protection it deserves.”

This she hopes, could lead to more Scots speakers in the media, hosting shows on the BBC.

One of the campaign’s aims is to try and take the constitutional and party politics out of the language. “People think that if you speak Scots, you must be SNP. And that’s totally not right at all,” she said.

Fyfe points to Peter Chapman, the Tory list MSP for the North East, who in 2019, released an album entitled, Poems and Sangs in the Doric.

“We’re trying to show this idea that Scots isn’t an SNP agenda. You know, Gaelic wasn’t either. Gaelic was a Labour thing.

“But a lot of these people just think that it’s a political thing.

“And I’m like, well, the way we speak isn’t political, it’s just natural.”