FOR years, I was a Scots speaker with no linguistic self-awareness.

Scots was something I suppressed to get by, giving in to social prejudice and ignoring my authentic way of expressing myself. I didn’t see my bilingualism as an asset, rather an inconvenience.

I was very much made to see oorsels as ithers see us and given a chance to reconnect with my linguistic roots when I lived abroad for a year.

During my time in Chile, I shared a flat with Galicians and Catalans. We would often get talking about the differences between their native tongues and Spanish.

It didn’t take much to make the connection that if Catalan and Galician were two real languages alongside Spanish, then Scots surely was too.

I was extremely lucky to have that experience and be given an opportunity to see my Scots in a new and positive light. The vast majority aren’t so lucky, and many continue to internalise prejudice stoked by the so-called Scottish Cringe.

So when I returned to Scotland in 2018, I was desperate to find out what the Scottish Government was doing for our second most-spoken language. The answer, it turned out, was relatively little.

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Scotland may not be completely unique in its abject failure to properly promote and protect a major indigenous language, but it’s certainly an international outlier.

In 2011, over 1.5 million people told the census that they speak Scots. That’s one hell of a statistic, confirming that almost a third of Scottish folk hae the mither tongue. But far more than even that speak Scots - they just don’t know it.

I discovered there was no national strategic vision for the language, no requirements in the curriculum and no significant media presence. Those who were promoting Scots tended to be enthusiasts doing so off their own backs.

However, the picture was far from bleak. Even back in 2018 it was clear that the leid was going through a renaissance. Social media was democratising it as a written form of communication and there was a real upsurge in Scots literature.

What was missing was a means of translating that cultural shift into political action.

It was with this aim in mind that I founded Oor Vyce in 2019. Initially just ma ain wee sel and a Twitter account, Oor Vyce has since grown arms and legs and become a campaign group of academics, singers, artists and activists – the political arm of the Scots language movement.

We’ve achieved so much since then. We ensured that the SNP adopted party policy in favour of a Scots Language Board. 28% of sitting MSPs signed our Scotspledge and we co-led a major research project on the future of Scots with the University of Glasgow and Education Scotland.

The National: There was cross party support for Oor Vyce's Scotspledge campaign in 2021There was cross party support for Oor Vyce's Scotspledge campaign in 2021 (Image: -)

All of this and more pushed SNP and Greens to commit to taking action on Scots in their 2021 manifestos.

That brings us to the present in which, for the first time in the history of the language, there will be legislation brought forward to act on it.

The Scottish Languages Bill, which is set to, in the words of the Scottish Government, “act on” Scots, is currently open to public consultation. This is our chance to end the current piecemeal approach to Scots policy that relies on individual enthusiasts to pull all the weight.

Oor Vyce is calling for the legislation to create a Scots Language Board, a body which would put Scots at the front and centre of decision-making rather than the marginal status it currently occupies in ministerial briefs.

It would also build on the work of existing Scots bodies like the wonderful Scots Language Centre, by channelling its work into national and local strategic frameworks.

It’s entirely possible to imagine a future where Scots speakers don’t have to go through my own long-winded journey to connect with their mither tongue, but simply accept and value it as an integral part of their identity.

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But that day can only come when we have a Scots Language Board to set a policy vision for the language and implement it.

So here’s my plea to all those who care about Scots: let’s recognise this consultation as the momentous opportunity it is and use it to call for a Scots Language Board. Oor Vyce even has a set of stock responses you can copy and paste from our website, to make it as simple as possible.

Linguistic rights are human rights. Let’s use this consultation to reinforce that fact, an gie Scots spikkers their vyces back.

Jack Capener, Edinburgh, is the founder and current Political Officer of Scots language campaign group, Oor Vyce. He studied Law at the University of Edinburgh with a focus on Constitutional Law.