LABOUR peer George Foulkes has been taken to task after he claimed that Scots is not a language – despite his party’s own government having officially declared it to be.

The Scottish politician reacted to a Sunday National interview with Billy Kay, with the writer saying Scots as a language won’t be accepted until after independence.

Sharing the article on Twitter, Foulkes said: “There is no ‘Scots language’. Having been brought up in Keith speaking English in the Doric dialect & then Edinburgh & Ayrshire with two different dialects of English I can confirm they have similarities but also major differences but all with the same English grammar.”

The post prompted outrage from Scots writers and some academics who said Foulkes’s claims were false.

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Kay himself responded, saying it was while Foulkes was part of the Tony Blair administration that the UK Government officially recognised Scots as a language.

He said: “George, comment on stuff you know something about. The UK Government signed up for the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages giving official recognition for Scots back in 2000. It was ratified by the Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2001.”

The National: Author Billy Kay hit back at George Foulkes's Scots language claimAuthor Billy Kay hit back at George Foulkes's Scots language claim

The author and broadcaster recently gave a historic speech in Scots in Holyrood last week, enduring criticism from some trolls in the process, with some also claiming what Kay was speaking was not a language.

The 2011 Census found that some 1.5 million people in Scotland spoke Scots.

Experts also responded to Foulkes' assertion on the Scots language, taking issue with the life peer’s claims around grammar and pointing out that Scots had been designated a language by multiple international bodies, including Unesco.

Director of the Scots Language Centre Dr Michael Dempster told The National: “George Foulkes recent unqualified and entirely incorrect assertion 'There is no Scots language is an alarming statement for Scots speakers and activists to read.

"Scots has national and international recognition, a continuous 700-year literature to attest to its existence, along with the lived experience of speaking Scots of millions of people alive today.

“Language denialism, sadly, is an obstacle faced both by private speakers of minoritized languages and those of us active in language revitalisation the world over. Denying the existence of a language is denying the legal status and internationally recognised linguistic rights of its speakers.

"Forced cultural assimilation and stigmatization has been part of the day to day lived experience of Scots speakers for centuries, and as such we often become unaware of its insidious presence. It is indeed a wee mairvil we're still speaking Scots today.

“In lieu of a retraction of the statement by George Foulkes, the Scots Language Centre commends the many people the world over offering factual correction and support for the Scots language and its speakers.”

Professor in Scottish literature Murray Pittock said: “This is very good - the Minister of State in Scotland Office at the time when Scots was recognized as a minority lang in EU- & from the govt that also recognized it via the GF Agreement-now claims it doesn’t exist. UNESCO designates Scots as a vulnerable language- we can see why.”

Another user replied: “I’m afraid this is incorrect. Scots is a recognised language. The Labour Govt under Tony Blair ratified the Council of Europe’s ‘Charter of Regional & Minority Languages’ incl. Scots, when you were Secretary of State for Scotland. I accept of course that you may not remember it.”

The National: George Foulkes's received a lot of criticism for his comments on the Scots languageGeorge Foulkes's received a lot of criticism for his comments on the Scots language

They added: “There is a Scots language. Doric is one of the dialects of Scots. There are also different dialects in Edinburgh & in Ayrshire. We do speak English as well, but Scots is a recognised language. And no, their grammatical structure is not the exact same.”

Poet David Bleiman said he used to think Scots was a dialect, until he studied it.

"It has its own grammar, eg correct use of the double negative," he tweeted. "Conjugation of verbs quite distinctive. Lots of shared vocab with English. Look into this more deeply @GeorgeFoulkes.”

While journalist David Leask said: “I will never understand why some people - even, in this case, a member of the UK legislature - insist on publishing strong and stupid views on technical subjects with which they are entirely unfamiliar.”

He added: “Scots is a dialect. So is English. Scots is a language. So is standard English. They are two varieties on the same dialect continuum. But “Scots is a dialect of English” is as stupid as 'English is a dialect of Scots'.

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Foulkes then asked Leask: “What about American English?” to which Leask replied: “This is the kind of *basic* question you should have been asking before you decided to mouth off about linguistics, not after.”

National columnist Gerry Hassan also took issue with the claim: “This is not really a healthy position for anyone in public life. Denying & trying to silence a rich part of one's own culture. Scotland was famously never colonised; but there is still a kind of internal psychological colonialism of which this is an example.”

And the SNP's policy development convener Toni Giugliano said: “A sad day when you can’t bring yourself to celebrate your own country’s heritage. Scots is a language that should be cherished and protected.”