THE Scots language has existed since before Middle Ages when it developed into its ain tongue, but Unionists are claiming that it was made up by the SNP

The politicisation of the language has once again come to the fore in the response to Billy Kay’s speech in the Scottish Parliament this week. The author and broadcaster spoke of a Scotland where people kin be themselves without fear and part of that means speaking in their ain tongue on Scotland’s highest political stage.

In doing so, MSPs from every political party can raise the profile of what is one of Scotland three indigenous languages and let bairns know that it is okay to speak in Scots – something which has traditionally been drummed out of people including myself.

However, Kay’s Scots speech has been subject to a barrage of Unionist hate, with many claiming that he spoke a language that doesn’t exist or simply one that was made up by the SNP as tool to promote Scottish independence.

As a Scots author, this struck a nerve. I live and work in England as a journalist, but I write fiction almost entirely in Scots. For me, the Scots language has got nothing to do with politics and everything to do with identity, especially since I’ve lived away from home in both the Republic of Ireland and England.

The fact that Kay addressed multiple political parties in his speech is proof that it is no political tool.

Scots has been a way to connect me to Scotland, and I’ve discovered through writing in the language that its appreciated all over the world.

So, I decided to tweet that hating Scots is, at its heart, about hating Scottish culture. To me, Scots is as inherent to Scotland as Edinburgh Castle – which is actually newer than much of the Scots language, as it was built in the 11th century.

I subsequently subject to similar criticism as Kay, with one person going as far as to call me a xenophobe and another proudly proclaiming that they wouldn’t hire anyone who speaks in Scots, only English, in response to my tweet.

The irony of this, of course, is that Scots existed long before the 1707 Act of Union, when the language was used to write legal documents including the statues of the Scottish Parliament.

However, because it has been systematically drummed out of speakers over the years, speaking, let alone writing in Scots, is seen as bad thing. While the attitude towards Scots language in schools has improved with the Scottish Government adopting a Scots Language Policy in 2011, the hatred and classism around the language, which is most often spoken by working class people in the lowlands, persists.

The hatred directed at authors like Kay and myself, as well as the highly publicised almost daily criticism that Len Pennie receives for her Scots word of the day, only serves to emphasise why Kay’s speech was so important.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's support for Scots language teaching welcomed

Until the relatively recent renaissance in Scots literature, helped in part by Shuggie Bain’s success in the Man Booker Prize, a lot of people didn’t even realise that Scots was a language and not simply a dialect.

Now, this is an easy mistake to make. As Scots is a predominantly oral language, it is not something that people see written down on an everyday basis in the same way that English and Scottish Gaelic are, but this is changing.

However, until people like Kay and myself can speak in the language and promote a greater awareness of its existence without finding ourselves subject to wrongful politicisation, Scots will struggle to thrive.

In the current climate, speaking Scots – and defending it – is an act of rebellion, and it’s clear that we have a long way to go to change the narrative around what is, for 1.5 million people, their the mither tongue.