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It’s no you, it’s me: or, sorry Gaelic, but Scots still haes issues tae wirk throu

Syne we’r aw on the subject nou o whit mis-uisses o the leid a Scots spikker is or isnae alloued tae feel affrontit bi — whither it’s sneistie Disney-Pixar memes or the Diet Scots on American telly programmes — can ah lat ye in on wan o ma ain wee wirry-carles? Ye’ll hiv heard it yersel, nae dout; yon thocht-terminatin cliché that sígnifíes maximum woke wi minimum ettlin, thirls sympathy for the cause wi sweirtness tae hear anither wird about it, an it gangs like this:

“Oh, one of my friends is a Gaelic speaker, and he…”

Weel… ay. Yin o the tapmaist kenmerks o our mansplainy times is that there’s naither need nor prerogative tae haud tae the maiter at haund, especially gin ye ken naething about it an hiv nae interest in learnin. We mebbes dinnae aw ken awfu muckle about the Scots leid1, but we’v aw got a fríend or twa that spiks Gaelic, or is ettlin tae — an sae maist o us hiv got a hale wheen o richt-on opínions on the subject. Hou important the leid is, hou necessar that we aw fecht tae preserve it an pass it ontae our bairnfowk. Mun, juist staundin here sayin aw this maks ye feel like Martin Luther King out on the steps o the Capitol…

We bide in an era o uneasy alliances; solidarities which, houiver hertenin, shield us fae the fact that, even whan we’r in the same boat as ithers, some o us ar huddled doun in steerage. The human spark micht be sib in ilka kist, but the strauchles we aw face ar dífferent. The places we’r stairtin fae, the airtins we’r heidit — it’s fause equivalences in these that aft haud us aw back. An the parallels we insist on drawin atween our twa leids ar as unhelpfu tae Gaelic as they ar outricht dangerous tae Scots.

Mony Scots spikkers ar gey keen on mairyin thegither the Scots cause wi the Gaelic. There’s a sense there that the haird-focht forders o the Gaels can somehou be cairit ower tae oursels, that we can jouk the hale queue bi jynin them at the front. Or mebbes, at the verra least, that thirlin the twa leids thegither legitimises our ain strauchle, anoints us wi a wee skoosh o second-haund coolness — opens up doors tae us that we cannae manage for oursels. It’s a bonnie wee narrative; but like mony sic stories, it’s leadin us places we shouldnae want tae gang.

Nou, mebbes ye think ah’m juist jealous o Gaelic. Weel, duh. Course ah’m jealous o Gaelic. Ah’m jealous o the genuine guid-will the language is able tae generate; jealous o the organisations that uphaud it; jealous o the road-signs an the wabsteids an the TV programmes that cement its place in our cultur. It’s no a feelin ah’m proud o, an ah dinnae propone tae dae onything about it. It isnae, as fowk ar ayeweys ettlin tae mak it, a maiter o settin yin leid agin the ither. BUT. Whit ah’m sayin is — tae compare whaur we ar wi Scots tae whaur we ar wi Gaelic is no a proposítion tae mak onybody’s hert sing out.

Here’s the thing. Onybody readin this kens awready the muckle disparity atween government fundin o Gaelic an government fundin o Scots, niver mind the respective polítical wechts the twa leids bring tae beir at Holyrood2. Sae it’s plain as parritch that Scots spikkers simply cannae ettle at or howp tae emulate the structurs Gaelic haes biggit up… No on the siller we’v got. Tae even tak a shottie at it can anely mean failure an self-reproach. Ony ither wey o leukin at it is juist magical thinkin o the sort that susteens hale industries o the evangelical variety — if ye’r no daein sae weel, no able tae staund on yer ain twa feet, it cannae be for want o this thing or that; it maun juist be acause ye dinnae BELIEVE. Scots spikkers o the warld! Keek throu the cracks o yer dusty Venetians at the perjink hous across the wey, an ask yersel — hou can our faimily no juist be NORMAL like awbody else’s?!

Acause juist about the anely thing awbody laubourin doun the Scots leid mines haes in common is our shared unnerstaundin that this is no a happy coalition. The in-fechts, the back-gates, an the general huggery-muggery ar aw pairt o an ongaun storyline that wad dae credit tae naebody, ’cept mebbe Vince McMahon… But the hale thing is no acause Scots spikkers ar in ony wey waur (or in ony wey better) than awbody else; it’s maistly juist acause o the age-auld problem that haes aye pit the puir at each ither’s thrapples. The knives ar that shairp, as Henry Kissinger wance said, acause the pie is that tottie. An yet, if the Gordian fankle that presents itsel in tryin tae line up the interests o scrievers, spikkers, linguists an academics is ayont unpickin bi ony normal means, a wee bit siller wad cut the hale writhin mess free o itsel in wan clean chap…

Ay, ah ken, ah ken. Gaelic got its hous in order — sae hou’s about Scots daes the same? Whit maks us ony dífferent? Weel, that’s a haird contraption tae fígur a wey out o… An ah jalouse ah can see their pynt. Unless an until Scots gets our deuks in a line, mebbe we shouldnae get wan mair penny than it taks tae keep body an saul thegither… Hell! Mebbes we shouldnae even get that

Weel, mebbes ay… But mebbes naw. Nae dout there ar polítical realities tae be negotiatit here, an tae insist on immediate parity atween fundin for Scots an fundin for Gaelic shaws an airy disregaird for common sense that’s normally reserved for fowk wha run their ain airt gaileries… An yet tae learn a man tae fish for himsel, ye at least hiv tae gie him the catter for a net. The current level o fundin for Scots — £270k per year — isnae sae muckle a bequest as a puinishment, an as per maist sic Biblical notions, puinishment is a thing that’s as like tae faw on bairns o the guilty as on the guilty theirsels… The upshot o which is that the stairvation rations Scots is dwynin awa on dinnae juist mean that me an you get our comeuppance for no bein able tae share a room wi’out argyin hou tae spell ‘room’; they mean that our bairns dae an aw. A bairn fae Govanhill micht, eventually, growe intae their brither’s auld blazer. A wean fae Easterhous can howp, wan day, tae find room at a student union table. But nae maiter whit happens, they’ll niver find a leid that fits them the wey their forgotten Scots wance did.

This isnae a rallyin cry for Scots spikkers tae come thegither. If sic a thing is necessar at aw — an mebbes it is — it’s needin tae come fae better fowk than ah’v makkit o masel. But whitiver the meetin grund that we micht yet win tae, we’ll get there aw the suiner gin we tak tent o whaur we’r stairtin fae. Ay, ah’v a Gaelic pal an aw — a gey braw chiel, onybody wad want tae be his pal. But if the leids me an him baith spik ar fellae traivelers, it’s no on roads that ar onything much alike. No juist yet. But wan day, mebbes, wan day.


airtins directions; back-gates mischievous behaviour; catter money, cash; ettlin effort (n), trying (v); fankle tangle; forders progress; huggery-muggery clandestine conduct; jalouse suppose; jouk avoid; kenmerks distinguishing characteristics; kist chest; perjink trim, neat, well-turned-out; sib closely akin, the same; sneistie supercilious; strauchles struggles; sweirtness reluctance; thirls joins, links; uphaud support; wirry-carle bugbear

  1. Guilty.
  2. Course, it’s dífficult tae pynt out this kind o thing wi’out soundin like ye’r chappin doors for the Robin Hood Foundation for Wealth Redistribution… But hear me out, eh.