A HOLYROOD cross-party group (CPG) to “protect and promote” the Scots language has been approved by MSPs.

SNP MSPs Emma Harper and Jackie Dunbar, who are both Scots speakers, addressed the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee on Thursday morning.

Although Tory MSP Edward Mountain voiced his concerns that there are too many CPGs in operation, he eventually agreed to vote to confirm it could be re-started.

Former SNP politician Rob Gibson, who served as an MSP from 2003 until 2016, previously convened a Scots language CPG during his tenure and now Harper and Dunbar are set to take charge of its latest iteration.

Scottish Greens MSP Ariane Burgess and Scottish Labour MSP Sarah Boyack will serve as the group’s deputy conveners, and SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick has signed up to be a member.

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Addressing the parliamentary committee, South Scotland MSP Harper said: “The reason we want tae re-stert this CPG is cos Scots is an important pairt o Scotland’s culture and heritage, appearing in sangs, poyums, and litrature, as weel as modern daily use fae Shetland tae Stranraer.

“Quite simply, The Scots language is of wheen importance tae Scottish identity. Scots was the state language here afore 1603. So its importance – and the need tae continue tae protect an promote Scots – is clear an cannae be denied.”

Harper added that in the 2011 census, 1.5 million people reported they could speak Scots. I’m looking forward to the census results next year to see if the nummers are mair,” she added.

MSPs were also told that the Scots language needs more attention, focus and political support.

She added: “This cross-pairty group will, therefore, bring the gither folk fae the Scots community to focus national attention – here an across the country – on the Scots language – to advance and promote spierein and scrievin Scots, to raise questions of, and provide clarity and guidance to, the Scottish Government as they takfurrit the promised Scots languagelegislation in this session. But, mair important, this CPG will work tae ensure that Scots is here fur generations aheid.”

Dunbar, the MSP for Aberdeen Donside and a Doric speaker, told the committee that she’s very careful about the CPGs she picks, adding: “It’s important that we use the language and promote it as much as we can.”

Speaking after the session, Harper told The National that there are more than just cultural implications from promoting the use of the Scots language. She said: “We want to raise awareness of the work that’s been done and take it forrit, make sure that nobody is penalised or pittin doon for speakin’ Scots.

"One of the big things that strikes me is that the attainment of weans improves if you teach them in their first language, which their native language might be Scots.

“It’s not just about indigenous speakers, it’s about folk that come here as well. Where I used to work there’s Ugandan nurses that are coming to work in Dumfries and Galloway and they put on an additional course for them which was Scots.

‘So if a Ugandan nurse is hearing somebody saying ‘I’ve got a fair sare heed’ then they can understand what that means and not just assume it’s not a language.

“There’s all these aspects of it that we’re now seeing the evidence for supporting attainment, even looking at improving health literacy, so there’s lot of really cool working being done that we basically need to get out there.”

The group, which would meet around four times a year, has already met a couple of time so far informally. Dunbar told The National that her personal experiences pushed her to re-start the group. She said: “I went to school at five and suddenly that day I thought I sound different and I was being telt fit I was sayin’ was wrong, and at five you’re a wee bit nervous to rock up anyway and suddenly you’re treated differently, you’re no speakin’ right.

“Then you go home and say to your mam and dad they speak different fit what I did which makes them feel rubbish as if they’ve not done right by you. Not only do you have to learn a new language, you’re trying to catch up with everything else as well. It should be acceptable to walk into a class and speak your own language and not have a teacher tell you that’s not right.”

On social media, the debate around Scots language can be vicious, which both Dunbar and Harper alluded to, and is one area they hope to make a difference through the group.

Harper added: “What we need to do is dispel the myth that Scots was made up by the SNP because it wisnae. We need to report the fact that there are some amazing pieces of wonderful literature out there.

“We just keep challenging that fight and keep moving forward.”

Dunbar added: “This is our parliament and we should be using it to get the message out there that it’s alright to speak the way you want to, as long as you’re respectful.”