THE writer and broadcaster Billy Kay has spoken out about the abuse he endured for using the Scots language as the medium for his recent Time For Reflection address to the Scottish Parliament.

For having the temerity to use Scots in a formal setting, Billy was subject to personal insults, name-calling, and the sheer ignorance of people who possess the square root of hee-haw's worth of linguistic expertise, but who have the arrogance to imagine that they can lecture a man who literally wrote the book on the Scots language and insist that Scots is not a language at all.

The sorry episode informed us of a number of unpalatable realities of modern Scotland. Firstly that despite a Scottish cultural renaissance which began in the 1970s and is still ongoing, the dreaded "Cringe" is still very much with us, casting its baleful ignorance masquerading as "common sense" over Scottish public life.

READ MORE: The cringe is real, and it's keeping us from seizing our independence

Those who voiced their objections to the use of Scots in the Scottish Parliament would not have been upset if the language was being used to deliver a comic oration on stage or as part of the dialogue in a sitcom. It is noticeable that those who take issue with the use of Scots in the way that Billy Kay used it so elegantly and eloquently are quite happy for it to be used in informal, and especially comedic settings.

In other words, it's fine to use Scots as long as it is a figure of fun and a speech variety to be ridiculed. To such individuals, Scots is acceptable when it is portrayed as something fundamentally non-serious.

This is revealing of a dominant attitude in traditional Scottish Unionism that the Scots language and Scottish culture should only be manifested in a narrow and carefully circumscribed set of circumstances, ways which do not challenge the dominance of the English language and in which Scottishness is to be seen as safely parochial and inferior.

The National: The Scottish Government are concerned we are losing oor gid Scots tongue and therefore our heritage and identity..

But when Scots is being used in a formal way in a dignified setting it represents the Scots language, and by extension Scottish culture and identities in general, escaping the box into which they have been placed by the Union. It is intruding into domains that the culture of Scottish Unionism demands must be the sole preserve of the English language.

When Scots challenges this linguistic dominance, it implies a challenge to the cultural values of Scottish Unionism, and therefore to the Union itself. This is why, when confronted with an instance of a literary and erudite variety of Scots being used in a formal setting, it was overwhelmingly opponents of Scottish independence who reacted with such fury despite the fact that the Scots language is part of the cultural inheritance of everyone in Scotland.

READ MORE: Outrage as Labour peer George Foulkes claims Scots 'not a language'

One of their most vociferous objections was that the language of Billy's speech was "artificial" and that "no one speaks like that". But all that Billy had done was to make use of the normal linguistic tools of language development and enrichment which have been used in the creation of all other literary languages. His critics just don't want Scots to be developed and enriched in the same way, and they object to it for political reasons, in so doing they are the ones who are politicising the Scots language.

Although this episode was uncomfortable, upsetting, and painful for Billy Kay and his family, in an important sense he provided us all with a valuable lesson. Not only did he demonstrate that the Scots language is perfectly suitable and appropriate for use in formal and dignified settings, but the resultant backlash from Unionists showed very clearly how the Scottish Cringe is a weapon used by British nationalism to diminish and reduce Scottish culture. It aims to minimise any political threat to the dominance of Unionism.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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