AN organisation representing independent schools has provoked controversy after telling parents of prospective pupils their children won't get Scottish accents if they study in Scotland.

The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), which represents dozens of fee-paying institutions, has published a “myth buster” for families based outside the UK. 

As well as being told it doesn't rain all the time, parents were informed that it is unlikely their child will return home speaking with a Scottish accent.

Linguistics experts have said the comments suggest the body believes there is something wrong with having a Scottish accent. SCIS insist it was not making a negative judgement on Scottish accents or that those who have them will be less likely to succeed in life.

READ MORE: Clear reasons why parents choose private schools - and education isn't one

The private schools body, whose members include Gordonstoun, in Moray, where Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh were educated, has published a blog post saying: “We conducted some research among international parents and were surprised to discover there were a number of myths surrounding Scotland which may be deterring parents from sending their children to study here.

“Here, we look to dispel those myths and provide our international network with a better understanding of what Scotland has to offer.”

It concludes: “It doesn’t rain all the time, your child is unlikely to pick up a Scottish accent, it is incredibly accessible, it gives your child much more choice and they’ll enjoy the views from some of the best classrooms in the world.”

Dr Joanna Kopaczyk, senior lecturer in Scots and English language at the University of Glasgow, told The Times the linguistic claim was disingenuous.

“The child will most likely pick up at least some features of Scottish accent, and most certainly Scottish phrases and words,” she said.

“When a child is immersed in a linguistic environment different to that at home, they will inevitably pick up various features characteristic of that environment. For example, the children of Polish immigrants to Scotland who entered school with barely any English, now speak perfect Scottish English.”

READ MORE: Anger as all parties but SNP miss key talk on Scots despite pre-election pledges

She added: “If this promise is meant to suggest that having a Scottish accent could be some kind of hindrance in life, it is quite puzzling and unfounded.”

Dr Rhona Alcorn, chief executive of Dictionaries of the Scots Language, told the paper: “It is certainly hard to imagine an overseas student spending an extended period of time in Scotland without picking up a local accent — unless there was little or no exposure to that accent throughout their stay.

“It is, however, unfailingly disappointing to encounter pejorative judgments about local ways of speaking. Scotland is blessed with a richness of accents, dialects and languages, and we are all the better for it.”

Kenny MacAskill, the Alba MP and former justice secretary, hit out.

He said: “Private schools do themselves absolutely no favours with the wider population with these types of comments. This isn’t just elitism it is snobbery of the worst kind, displays a colonial type arrogance and a contempt for working class people and their communities. 

“Perhaps the one myth that needs to be bust is the idea that private schools are benevolent charities because clearly based on these comments they most certainly are not!”

The National:

Responding to the Times report, an SCIS spokesman said: “The comment about accents was neither seen as negative nor disadvantageous.

“It is something potential parents overseas have raised in the past, however light-heartedly, but never in a sense that such a thing might be a detraction, merely a cultural difference as exists the world over.”

The spokesman added: “No student at a Scottish independent school will be unaware of the culture they are being educated in — from language to music to history to literature."

Gordonstoun has a policy of having a school population which is a third Scottish, a third international and a third from the other parts of the UK and the school regards its distinct Scottish identity as a positive draw for all parents and pupils and something to be celebrated.

Principal of Gordonstoun, Lisa Kerr, told The National:  “As a school which is situated on the beautiful Moray coast and close to the Highlands, we find that our Scottish links are a draw for our parents.  

"We have an award-winning pipe band and one in five of our students play the pipes or drums.  We also have regular ceilidhs and all our students learn to sail on the west coast and go on regular expeditions which build their appreciation of all that Scotland has to offer. 

"Our Scottish students, who along with those from the rest of the UK make up two thirds of our pupil body, live alongside students from more than 40 nationalities, so all kinds of accents can be heard on campus and we think that’s a wonderful thing.”

Agreement on what constitutes a Scottish accent is far from universal. In 2018 the Glasgow-born actress Kelly Macdonald, now 45, caused a storm when she was asked, on a US chat show, if her fellow actress Tilda Swinton “counted as being Scottish”.

She replied: “I have a problem with people that are Scottish but don’t sound it. I get very, very confused. She’s posh Scottish. Posh Scottish people are really English.”

Swinton, who lives in the Highland town of Nairn, and supports independence, retorted: “I have lived in Scotland full-time for the last 20 years, I was brought up in Scotland through my childhood, I am from a family that has lived in Scotland for centuries.

“I have never felt English, and I’ve never felt British, politically. I am happy to describe myself as Scottish and I feel, like many people, that Scotland is a naturally independent country.”