THE long-awaited 2022 Scotland census has finally been released and it’s braw news for the Scots leid, with the highest-ever number of people reporting an understanding of the language – more than 2.4 million, to be precise.

But despite the language playing a role in the lives of 46.2% of respondents, the leid remains in a precarious cultural position because of years of systematic oppression in favour of the dominant English language prompted by a combination of the Union, classism and a general lack of education.

This is reflected by a continued lack of a comprehensive Scots language education in schools, damaging stereotypes about the leid, especially when it comes to the wrongful belief that Scots speakers are somehow of a lesser class than English speakers, and the instance by some, especially online, that Scots is not a language, despite it having its own grammar, syntax and vocabulary and legal recognition.

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A Freedom of Information request from March of this year found that the Scots language budget for the year 2023 to 2024 was just £553,500, equating to less than 50p a head per respondent who admitted to having “some skills in Scots”.

If we are to change the narrative surrounding the leid, which the census proves is at the heart of Scottish culture and part of the lives of almost one in two people, this needs to change.

Any suggestions that “aye” is any less of a word than “yes” should completely be a thing of the distant past.

A language that is understood by so many people in Scotland cannot flourish with so little investment. In a Scotland more divided than ever by wealth and politics, a focus on what unites us – and that includes the many people outside Scotland with Scots skills – can only ever be a  good thing.

The problem is further highlighted by a 2022 Freedom of Information request that found just three resources were translated into the language with government funding that year – a complete disservice to the two million plus people who reported an understanding of Scots in 2022.

Never mind the reported 1,176,255 million people who reported Scots literacy.

While the language has only recently been granted legal protection for the first time in its history by the Scottish Languages Bill – which will hopefully go some way in protecting its speakers from discrimination – it may not reach its potential as the investment it is currently receiving is based on a repurposing of existing, limited resources.

A further Freedom of Information request from October 2023 showed that the present costs of the bill at the time, which also covers Gaelic, were £24,009.49 – an investment that is only marginally more than the new legal UK minimum wage for one person working a 35-hour week (£20,820). Surely Scotland’s languages deserve better?

Writing as a Scots language author, a potential cultural disaster from a sheer lack of funding is only being avoided through the typically unpaid efforts of advocates for the language, teachers and general enthusiasts. Their efforts are not in vain either and the 46.2% of people with reported Scots skills is up almost 10% from 37.7% in 2011.

With more people than ever reporting an understanding of Scots, it is my hope that the Government is forced to take note of the importance of the language and provide it with the funding it desperately needs  to thrive.

Dr Michael Dempster, the director of the Scots Language Centre, told The National: “The Scots Language Centre is delitit tae see the 2022 Scotland’s Census Scots language figures increase fae 2011.

“This reflects an increased awareness o Scots; the success o increased Scots inclusion in education fae the Curriculum for Excellence tae the SQA Scots Language Awards an in tertiary education; an an increase in  Scots as a priority fir speakers an  lairners alike.

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“The Scots Language Centre wirks close wi wir pairtners in Education Scotland, the SQA an the Open University tae rehabilitate oor language in the scuil, an wi pairtners aw throu Scotland tae promote an support oor language in aw areas o public life an the airts.

“There haes ne’er been sic a demand fir oor services, an this demand wants met wi adequate fundin, no juist fir the Scots Language Centre, but fir aw bodies pittin their shooders tae the destigmatisation o oor language an fir the fu inclusion o Scots an Scots speakers in oor society.

“There plenty wirk tae be duin yit, wi mair than the near 2.5 million self reportin Scots skills still seein their language as ‘slang’, ‘bad’, or ‘wrang’. Fundin for developing Scots should reflect the mair than 46% of Scotland thit speak an value oor language.”