Document 768

Interview 05: John Law on the Scots language

Author(s): N/A

Copyright holder(s): Claire Girvan, SCOTS Project

Audio transcription

M055 Well it was founded as the journal of the Scots Language Society in eh I think it was nineteen seeventie-twa. And eh the group o fowk that that brocht the society thegither, ye know, includit Hugh MacDiarmid, eh, Robert Garioch, but also [inaudible] George Philp and and David Purves that have kept wi the society ower the years.
F785 And was there any significance in the date - nineteen seventy-two? Was anything to do with devolution at the time, or?
M055 Well, devolution was er faur on the horizon then, eh, [inaudible] by the time o Winnie Ewing's success at Hamilton, and o coorse the er Scots National Party wis wis beginning a [inaudible] of rapid growth at that time, that er come through in success in the nineteen seeventie-fower elections.
F785 So who publishes Lallans and what else do they publish?
M055 [Tut], it's still published by the Scots Language Society, eh, which appints an editor eh who is a [inaudible] [?]editorial[/?] comatee, to feed in ideas and eh eh the editor and the editorial [?]comatee[/?] are left a fairly free haund to get on wi it but the magazine belangs the the Scots Language Society.
F785 Okay. Ehm there's a general growing interest in Scottish culture at the moment, ehm there's been best-selling history books which nobody would have guessed ten years ago, ehm the Writing Scotland series recently, there was the massive success of the Edinburgh Book Festival, the recent City of Literature tag, does this help to strengthen your argument about the Scots language do you think?
M055 I've eh been intensely involved since aboot the late echties and eh thinkin through the fifteen year or so since that time, I would say there's been a an explosion of publishin generally but publishin in Scots tae, and eh that's pairtly been eh the product of an enlichtened policy eh at the Scottish Arts Council, er little thanks tae onie of our political maisters.
F785 Okay. Ehm, what about teachin Scots in schools? We've had ehm the Kist and Itchy Coo books. Are these the kind of initiatives that you would like to see or would you just like to see Scots become a compulsory part of teaching?
M055 Tut, well I I think the the Kist and the Itchy Coo books have been excellent, eh, initiatives baith, but eh we've been ower dependent I think on a a a gey sma number o charismatic teachers, eh, like, fowk like Matthew Fitt,
F785 Mmhm
M055 and Sheena Blackhall, eh Kathleen Frew, you know and and folk that have gone in, Liz Niven, eh these folk have been few and far between though and there's nae explicit provision eh in the curriculum, eh, fur Scots - it's it's taken in as a kinna, it's an oothoose eh of English teachin.
F785 Mmhm
M055 And eh you know you you would hope that eh teachin through the medium o Scots would have some pairt to play and indeed that's pairt o the Scottish National Party's policy, that particularly in the in the early years o scuil there should be some greater attempt tae mak yiss o eh Scots as a medium o teachin. Now at at the minute there nae provision for that whatsoever and there there nae concentration on expertise in the teachin profession to bring that aboot. Eh, whaur teachers can speak Scots eh quite aften they they canna speak the Scots o the airt they happen to be teachin in.
F785 Mmhm.
M055 And eh they're they're no confident wi speakin it in public oniewey and eh, ye know, eh the language is likely to be gey roostie wi them. There's exceptions o coorse but eh wi'oot some political provision bein made for the the bringin through o teachers wi the skills necessar, eh, ye know, Scots is likely to bide a- as a wee oothoose; a wee occasional gemm for the weans, you know?
F785 Mmhm
M055 An it's it's no likely to tak a central place the wey it shid.
F785 Mmhm, yeah certainly from my school days the only thing we did was the Burns' //poem//
M055 //Aye.//
F785 once a year.
M055 That's right, the token, //the token//
F785 //Aye.// //Yeah.//
M055 //Burns' thing,// you know? An in fact I I sometimes hiv a concern even aboot the likes o the competitions we rin ourselves at Lallans where we invite scuils tae pit in work eh and you wonder if you're just kinna providin the occasion for a single exercise or
F785 Mmhm
M055 ye know, a lesson that that results in a piece o work tae be entered till a competition.
F785 Mmhm Ehm how would you like Scots to be taught then, would it be like a second language like French or German, or would it be instead of English? Would it start from primary up to university? I mean,
M055 [Tut], I think I think the key thing is to hae teachers, I mean even if it is to be taught eh in alang wi Inglis and you would hate to think it would be taught in alang wi Inglis because if you're //tryin tae//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 teach twa divergent spellin systems and sets o representation for twa leids that are are gey sib, ane till ither, then ye hae tae think well, [cough] ye know, perhaps in in in that case, unlike the case wi Gaelic it would be sensible that the twa things was aye in in tandem in some sense. But the teachers has tae ken whit they're talkin aboot.
F785 Yeah.
M055 [Sniff]. Excuse me, I've got to cough. [cough] I'll poor this tea and we'll just cairrie on //talkin.//
F785 //Yeah.// Ehm your website mentions only the SNP and the Green parties have clear policies on Scots. Ehm, could you tell me what they are and do they fulfil the needs or the wants of Scots enthusiasts?
M055 No, the Liberal Party eh earlier this year took a fairly clear position on Scots an aw. Eh. The Scottish National Party's policy, which A had a hand in pittin through national conference masel, is based on eh the European Chairter for Regional and Minority Languages an an basically says as far as A can mind, A'll f- A'll find ye the ful text o that resolution, eh, but basically says that the, ye know, the richts eh set oot in the European Chairter should be the basis of of policy in Scotland and no just in Pairt Twa the wey eh the Government presently accepts but in in relation to Pairt Three o the Chairter, in other words in in ful detail through cultural life in the country. Eh, the other the other rider to that was eh support fur fur Scots medium education in the early scuil in particular.
F785 Mmhm
M055 Ye know, so that areas whaur the the Scots dialect is is still eh to the fore, the the initial teachin should have a heavy bias towards the retention of that dialect and the the passin it on till the new generations o o bairns.
F785 So I take it if you're talkin about making teachers more aware of Scots that would mean retraining them so //would that be quite costly and would therefore put a lot of people off.//
M055 //It would mean it would mean teacher trainin, aye, it would mean, it would greatly increase// teacher training. Eh, I mean it would be regarded as an extraordinary proposition in onie other country, in onie other situation, that fowk should be settin oot tae teach a language that they cudnae even speak theirsel.
F785 Mmhm Well, that's not the problem though. Ehm defining what Scots is and who speaks it it's quite kind of slippery and difficult to explain I think. Some people speak Scots without realising it, or. So do you think, is that a problem or is the diversity one of the Scots' advantages over other languages?
M055 I dinna think that's a problem, I think that's an excuse pitten aboot be folk that eh, ye know, maybe dinna ken [laugh] a lot aboot //Scots an//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 cannae speak it theirsels. I dinnae think there's a lot o difficulty for fowk that does speak it. //Kennin//
F785 //Yeah.//
M055 what it is they're speakin or when they're speakin it.
F785 Okay, so that's not a problem for you, it's just
M055 I think it's an excuse brocht up eh by an education system that disna want to be challenged.
F785 Okay.
M055 Eh, I've I've seen, ye know, reaction fae teachers, eh quite adverse to the idea that there's something new that they should learn theirsels.
F785 Mmhm
M055 But other others that are mair honest ken fine that they cannae cannae teach whit they cannae speak.
F785 Okay. Ehm authors such as Irvine Welsh, ehm Kelman, Leonards, Matthew Fitt, Anne Donovan, they've all employed Scots in their work quite differently eh with different intents of course, how successful do you think they've been?
M055 [Tut], weel, different writers, different cases. Ehm, [tut] I think Irv- Irvine Welsh's Scots is is particularly authentic as a representation of eh street Scots and the- there's there's many a thing in Irvine Welsh that I've read that I recognise eh, ye know, fae streets that I've walked doon tae. Ehm, [tut], ither writers I I I dinna think, er I dinna think Kelman employs a great deal o Scots. He's he's writin out of a a Glesga that's that's the workin cless eh culture in in Glesga's lost a lot o its Scots be noo. Ehm, Anne Donovan I hivnae read. Eh, Matthew Fitt is a very literary writer, eh very interesting experimental eh science fiction in a sort of, eh ye know, yaisin a lot o neologisms and so on //very//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 interestin work. Ehm wha else did ye //mention?//
F785 //Erm, Tom// Leonard?
M055 Tom Leonard, eh I I I dinnae hae a lot of eh, maybe, knowledge o Tom Leonard's work. What I've seen eh seems to me a very vestigial spare eh yiss o Scots where the Scots is yaised fur anither artistic purpose. I mean it's it's no ilka writer eh that yaises Scots that has a particular attachment tae the Scots Language Movement as such, and there's nae reason why that should be so.
F785 Mmhm
M055 Eh, ye know, guid literature's guid literature regardless of the the writer's view or interest. I mean Welsh, for example, disnae yaise eh, disnae yaise any spellins that are onie wey sib to whit the Scots Language Movement wid ha recommendit till him.
F785 Mmhm
M055 But that disnae seem to get in the road of his work bein very widely acceptit, ye know, in the context o world literature, so I think, I think possibly spellin and representation maitters a lot less eh than what sometimes we would mak it, ye know, in the, in the Scots movement.
F785 Mmhm. Ehm, I heard Anne Donovan talk and she said that one review had said she was a political writer. I'm assuming it's because she uses Scots and she said she didn't use it because of that she just heard, she hears a voice in her head, //and she writes//
M055 //Mmhm//
F785 what she hears [inaudible] //[inaudible] but that's, she just, yeah.//
M055 //Aye well she she's writin aboot the culture she kens, that's fine, aye.//
F785 So do you think use of Scots is necessarily political and could it explain the reluctance to use it by government and also by writers?
M055 Weel we get into the the the orra territory o the the Scots cringe or the Scots crulge as David Purves cries it, eh, whaur fowk have had it kinna, no beaten oot of them but eh they've they've kinna been intimidatit fae using it because they they maybe be seen to be eh uneducatit, ill-educatit, eh, or even perhaps tae be seen to be pittin it on, which some fowk worry aboot. Ye know, ye're pittin it on. They yaised tae say that aboot eh Billy Kay, whereas I think Billy Kay's Scots is some of the maist natural Scots ye can hear, ye know?
F785 Mmhm, yeah, there was a boy in one o my classes was like that and it did sound put on cause he was just so resolutely speaking Scots all the time and it
M055 Aye.
F785 I hadn't met anybody that spoke like that in a //long time.//
M055 //Aye.// Weel, ye see, ye get thrawn as ye get aulder.
F785 Yeah, I think, I used to speak quite broad and then I moved to Dundee, //an//
M055 //uh-huh//
F785 everybody kinna laughed at my accent cause it was really broadly Glas- //Glaswegian,//
M055 //Aye.//
F785 an that I just //lost it in a couple o years.//
M055 //Aye, well, this is it, if ye have a, if ye have a// pronounced local accent and ye ye chynge the bit ye stey
F785 Mm
M055 eh then it disnae necessarily go doon sae weel. //But//
F785 //Yeah.//
M055 it depends hoo much Scots ye lift. Eh, I mean, I dinna find speakin to Sheena Blackhall, for example, that I hae to drap my Lanarkshire Scots in order to speak to her North East Doric. //Ye know?//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 Eh they're perfectly mutually intelligible and yaise a lot o the same words an some o the things that are are thocht to be North East things I mean I I ken are Lanarkshire things tae, so ye know.
F785 Mmhm. Ehm would you also support the teaching of Gaelic in schools? Would that come under the same
M055 Weel G- Gaelic's a a different eh, a different thing, I mean I think it's necessary for Gaelic to have Gaelic medium education, eh although, ye know, an there's a resources problem there, just gettin haud o enough eh Gaelic teachers to provide adequate eh additional provision for Gaelic in our scuils. Ye know because the Gaelic teachers that there's available in Scotland as far as I unnerstaun it anyway eh are needed fur the Gaelic scuils. So it makes it d- eh hard to say that ye, ye know, you've to have a Gaelic specialist in ilka, ivver primary scuil or ivver secondary scuil. But it's a peety mind you that there's nae provision I I I also eh have a wee bit o Gaelic masel and eh, ye know, rather regret that I didnae get it earlier at scuil but had to pick it up in nichtclesses efter.
F785 Mmhm. This is quite a big question. Ehm, who or what's to blame for the demise and oppression of the Scots language?
M055 [Tut] Sorry, I didnae quite catch //the question.//
F785 //Who,// who or what is to blame for the demise and the oppression of the Scots language?
M055 Demise and oppression? Weel, I dinnae ken aboot demise. //It's no deid.//
F785 //Mmhm// No.
M055 Ehm, and to whit extent it's dwinin, weel we've nae we've nae particular evidence to whit extent it's dwinin. Ye would think it wis. Eh, common sense wid seem to tell you that it wis. On the other han, eh, is there a chynge wi fowk the noo? Eh certainly there're mair Scots voices heard on on the wireless than there wi- there wis when I wis a bairn. Eh, I I think, ye know, folk haudin on till their ve- vernacular is possibly an emergent feature, an and something that may have been in in a lang dwine has aiblins been comin back, but in the absence o census information it's gey hard to tell whether that's the case or no. But ye can jalouse a wee bit fae readin eh, I mean I wis I wis readin a a biography o Charles Murray the ither day. And Charles Murray when he came back to Scotland eh, ye know, was gied some award and he was talkin at the awards ceremony as though Scots was mair or less shuckt in a'ready and deid, ye know? Which it's clearly it's no. Eh, the same kind of worry was evident in Burns's day, that the thing was being killed oot, an if ye read the likes of eh John Sinclair's eh book aboot Scotticisms and aw the things we we shouldna dae, //ye know,//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 eh it can be seen that we're daein the feck o them yet, ye know, in speech. //So//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 to what extent Scots is is facin demise, it's equally possible that that Scots is, ye know, just yin o the teuchest languages to kill oot because it can re-predate grund that's been predated on be English.
F785 Mmhm
M055 So I dinnae ken that. Ither evidence, I mean pintin the other wey, is anecdotal that, ye know, areas whaur eh freens o mind in the Vale o Leven tell me that, that's whaur I did my teachin stent back in the seeventies, Eh, and the bairns there at that time were quite Scots spoken. Now freens that still teach in there tell me that's no the case noo. So there's certainly grunds for worry that, ye know, the dialect's fa'in back certain areas. //And there's//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 there's similar research till that effect eh frae the the North East eh land as weel. Sheena Blackhall's done some research that shows that the playgrund language in Ballater for example eh has turned English athegither. Even though there's a lot o Scots but just the proportion of English weans in the area has cowped the playgrund language the other way
F785 Mmhm
M055 than whit it yaised to be. So these these pressures eh go on wi population movement and ye ye just cannae tell whit's happenin in in in [?]they are aw[/?] ye know?
F785 Mmhm
M055 [sniff]
F785 Ehm, durin the Scottish renaissance of the twenties and thirties, many writers including McDiarmid struggled to find a publisher in Scotland. Ehm, why do you think this was and ehm, how important was the contribution of McDiarmid and writers like him?
M055 [Tut] I I think the contribution of McDiarmid and and writers like him eh was absolutely seminal, in that eh suddenly here was, here was a, ye know, a language being taken seriously intellectually, and very quickly eh not just in Scotland but by, ye know, fellow writers across the world who recognised particularly in McDiarmid's voice eh, ye know, that that tough intellectualism and and s- and substance that that made the work be taken seriously. Indeed I think at different times depending what writers have appeared, lookin through the history o Scots, [inaudible] figures like Burns, Scott, eh Stevenson even, eh McDiarmid. Ye know, when there have been very good writers, they've they've had no difficulty, Welsh is an example in the present day, they've had no difficulty selling big time, ye know, in in the world English market, because the languages are are aye mutually comprehensible.
F785 Mm. Ehm, McDiarmid and other writers used literary journals to get published. Would you describe your magazine as a literary journal?
M055 Yes, it's a literary journal, aye. //[?]Sure.[/?]//
F785 //I mean you publish [inaudible]// [inaudible] I mean you pub- publish poems and stories. //and.//
M055 //Yes.//
F785 Yeah. So would you still see literary journals as being as important now, especially for the Scots language?
M055 [Cough]. I think they they are still important [cough] it's eh, ye know, d- despite media like the World Wide Web or, ye know, ony writer at aw can have a website an an //and many//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 dae, ye know, many folk self-publish eh, I dae, ye know, I stick odd things on the web eh just as it comes up my back, but eh it it's important for work eh to go through an editorial process,
F785 [sniff]
M055 ye know and to to to be in competition with the work of peers and, ye know, to to win acceptance or or not in that field so a thriving range o literary journals is, ye know, of the first importance really to to bring, to bring on new writers. And even, ye know, to to continue to publish aulder writers whose whose output will aye be thin, but may have a a high quality which which means it demands attention.
F785 Mmhm. Ehm, do you think McDiarmid and the modern writers that I mentioned earlier have been important in showing that there's an interest to reading Scots?
M055 [Tut], eh, [click], I think th- there is an interest in reading Scots eh when folk happen ower it or when it gets read oot to them. It's very successful wi audiences, //if you//
F785 //Mm//
M055 if you can get an audience, ye know! [laugh]
F785 Yeah. //[laugh]//
M055 //But eh// naebody's naebody's goin to get rich oot o wee books o poems eh or anything like that so, eh ye know, ye need a thriving poetry-reading scene and probably a a better thriving drama scene than than what we have yet in Scotland, that's yin of the great causes unwon. Okay we've got the National Theatre noo but it's no had time to dae anything yet, eh and the the theatre culture in Scotland is in is in financial difficulty, ye know, it requires massive subsidy and withoot political faith in the arts to really, ye know, get behind institutions and finance them properly it's hard for drama to to mak progress.
F785 Mmhm, ehm, what place do you think the S- the Scottish Arts Council has in promoting Scots and are they fulfilling this role?
M055 [Tut]. It has a, it has a, at present a central place in promotin Scots eh I mean if it wisnae for what the Arts Cooncil's daein it's difficult to see what would have been done. When you look at the developments of the last fifteen year in particular, things like the emergence of the Scots Language Resource Centre, eh, the completion of the two big Scottish dictionaries, eh, and then the the putting of these dictionaries onto the web, in the the DSL project, if you think of the Itchy Coo books for education, eh if if these, the activities undertaken by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, all these things are Arts Council fundit. The the the huge gap has been that there's no education system fundin for Scots. So it's a wee bit like bein telt, ye know, "Aye, awa you an write a poem and play yersels", [laugh]. And eh, ye know, that's the [?]sillier[/?] you're getting. And, I mean, after all the Arts Cooncil is there to support the arts so Scots has had arts funding and what it hasnae had is education funding. And that's that's the big political gap in the system if you like.
F785 Mmhm, would you like to see a separate literature body just to fund language and literature?
M055 [Tut], [cough], I dinnae think that's necessar.
F785 No? Okay. Ehm, so do you feel, do you actually feel that you've seen a a strengthened Scots in the last few years? Has, have you noticed any sort of change, or, especially since devolution has anything
M055 [inhale] //No, maist//
F785 //changed?//
M055 maist o the, maist o the developments eh that I've I've just talked aboot in eh answer til yer yer last question eh was aw weel in hand afore devolution.
F785 Mm
M055 And eh the the adoption even o the European Chairter for Regional Minority Languages was done be eh Brian Wilson eh as an act of the the UK government. Eh, as to what the Scots Executive, eh, has done, an that after all has been the responsible body, no the parliament, the the Scots Executive has done hee-haw, they've had nothing but a series of reviews eh fae the day an hoor that they got in, and the the net result has been that, that, ye know, there are no new, eh, executive initiatives whatsoever of ony benefit to the Scots language or indeed to the arts generally.
F785 Ehm, on the Scottish Parliament website, ehm, they make Scots translations of certain pages available. Do you think it's a step in the right direction or is it just tokenism, or?
M055 It's a step in the richt direction but it's tokenism. //Eh, I mean w-//
F785 //[laugh] Okay.//
M055 w- Gaelic eh has, ye know, complete web coverage, but, eh, there's there's nae appintment, eh, been made to get officers that that can speak and write Scots weel into the the Scots civil service. So, ye know, whereas Gaelic is properly resourced and there are, there are a set of Gaelic pages, eh, ye know, and and a continuing production of Gaelic documents, eh, the Scots documents that have been produced number as far as I ken aboot twa, maybe three by noo? Eh, and the, ye know, I think there's maybe yae web page?
F785 I think so, yeah.
M055 Aye. //So it's//
F785 //It's not much.//
M055 it's there as a a bit o decoration. //Ye know?//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 Eh.
F785 So you think Scots will only be taken seriously when it's used in official documents then?
M055 [drink] I think, I think Scots will be taken seriously when it it captures back its place in the cultural life o the country in a mair vigorous wey as a result of mair fowk speakin, writin, performin, eh, ye know, and bein heard on on the media. I'm I'm I'm I'm sorry I've kind of forgotten the the central thrust o the last question.
F785 Ehm, will Scots only be taken seriously when it's used in official //documents?//
M055 //[sniff] Official// documents. Aye weel, a-, [tut] the t- the tran- the owersetting of official documents, I mean I wouldnae like to think that that the hale energies of the Scots Language movement were pittin in till, ye know, makin official versions o every bit of [?]faustian[/?] nonsense that the Executive ivver pits oot. I mean where would ye get the fowk tae dae all that?
F785 Mm
M055 Eh, English in in official documents is is yaised for obfuscation, ye know, for describing the boring, the mundane, ah, ye know, purely to service requirements, some o these documents have shelf lives of, ye know, five meenits, eh, ye know, tae think that we're a going to pit oor energies intae that would be a sad waste. Noo if there was hunders o folk that could write Scots competently, eh, and get ordinary jobs in the civil service to dae that then fine, but where are ye gonna get the fowk? The fowk, eh, wi the capability at present would be better employed, eh, puttin their energies into arts and education raither than, ye know, bureaucracy.
F785 Mmhm. Ehm, do you happen to know if any of the political parties do provide Scots translations of some of their speeches or
M055 [tut]
F785 any of //the documents?//
M055 //The eh// ehm, the SNP used to aye, eh, produce, or [?]Standing Still[/?] does produce the Convenor's address to National Conference in in //Scots.//
F785 //Yeah.// [sniff]
M055 [sniff] [sniff]
F785 [Tut], ehm, I think you've already answered this one but do you think devolution has had any effect, positive or negative, on Scottish culture?
M055 Well, I-I- I think eh, ye know, i-i- it's almost beginning to be detrimental. Eh, the less they dae, ye know, the mair it seems that we've nae ideas. Ye know, when the, they can't see the the massive, I mean, fortunately there's a degree of autonomy through, ye know, organisations, eh, like the Scots Arts Cooncil, like the the local authorities. Ye know, I mean Edinburgh Cooncil is a far mair significant cultural player and seems to have far mair [laugh] interesting cultural ideas when ye think aboot it and aw the activities that goes on in in in Edinburgh
F785 Mmhm
M055 eh, than the Scottish Executive from whom we hear absolutely hee-haw.
F785 Mmhm. Yeah, Gavin McDougall yesterday was telling a, you were talking about the importance of performing Scots poetry and apparently Edinburgh's got a vibrant scene. I mean there's so many things //going on, I haven't heard of it//
M055 //Mmhm, mmhm.//
F785 anywhere else. He mentioned 'The Big Word' which happens all over Scotland but apart from that there's not an awful lot goin on.
M055 Yeah, yeah, I mean, well I don't, I dinnae ken aboot that, I mean, there's [sigh] ye know, there's there's progress. I mean, take the A K Bell Library in Perth, I mean, it has a hundred-seater lecture theatre and there's there's events aw the time in that theatre, aw kinds of different groups, many of them cultural
F785 Mmhm.
M055 eh, goin on, and and similar things goes on through the North East and the Doric Festival and what have ye, ye know, there's a there's a huge scene in Argyll of, eh, community drama and //whatnot, ye know there's//
F785 //Mmhm.//
M055 there's a lot oot there, eh, things that folk dae. I mean I was even masel away talkin tae a rotary group the other [?]night[/?]. They were fascinated about Scots.
F785 Mmhm.
M055 Ye know, I couldnae get away fae the place afterwards for folk comin up tae me, //ye know?//
F785 //Yep.//
M055 Eh, hadnae hadnae heard, ye know, a long talk aboot the subject and hadnae thought aboot it //fur//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 long enough but a lot o them were Scots speakers that were there and they were they were interested to hear aboot it so there's a tremendous fair amount out there it's a tremendous it's a tremendous national resource, the Scots language and its its cultural product and power and, ye know, to have, I I think there's, I think there's something about the Labour mind in particular, just to be anti-Labour,
F785 [laugh]
M055 that they have a thing that the working class had to get away fae aw this vernacular speakin to get on in life, //and they think that//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 that's the be aw and end aw of, ye know, this is what ye have tae dae to get on, ye've got tae speak proper an aw this, and it's just it's just nonsense actually in the in the day's world. Eh, in fact Scots voices are, appreciate the [inaudible] we we seem to be quite successful at runnin call centres and all kinds of things. //So,//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 eh, I dinnae ken whit ails them aboot it, ye know, but they've just got a, they're they're no comfortable with it, they've got this kinna cringe reaction and they dinnae ken whit tae dae wi it. And they also suspect that it's the [tut] i-i- it's it's some agenda of the Scottish National Party's to dae this, ye know? I may say, on the National Comatee of the eh Scots Language Society, eh, ye know, we have a Liberal activist, we have SNP activists or or two eh, ye know, we've a life-long Labour man that's the the preses of of the Society at the present time. And, eh, ye know, another of our notable members is no on the Comatee at the minute is is a Conservative activist. So, ye know, there's there's support there in all the parties potentially, but, ye know, spending onie siller on it, that seems to be a problem.
F785 Okay. Do you think the fact the SNP is so connected with independence could be detrimental? I mean, there could be a lot o Scots people who want to speak Scots but wouldn't necessarily associate themselves with //that sort of movement.//
M055 //But the Scot- the Scots language// disnae belang the SNP.
F785 But it does have quite strong associations with it.
M055 [cough]
F785 I mean, if they're the o- if they're the only party, well one of the very few parties with a clear policy on it then maybe people are gonna associate it too much with ideas of independence.
M055 We'll get indepence then we'll aw speak Scots ye mean?
F785 I don't know, I mean, it's, the idea of speakin Scots is tied up very strongly with Scottish identity an
M055 Aye, aye //I suppose it is but then//
F785 //I think some people think it's too insular// maybe to just
M055 the celebration o Scottish identity aifter devolution is shuirlie something that should be a common a common theme for aw //political pairties//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 active in Scotland. Eh, I mean, I d-, I d-, ye know, how long can we go on explainin, eh, the absence of any action politically by, ye know, the fear of of some kind of promotion of of a separatist cause? I think I think I think that exists, but I think it's time it's time Labour got over that an, //ye know,//
F785 //Mm//
M055 if if if Conservatives have a problem with it they get ower it an aw. It's no just Scots, I mean, it's it's it's a certain failure to celebrate the national history too. //Ye know,//
F785 //Mm//
M055 even to deal with the national history. Just hard by here, ye know, ye'll, ye've the site of the Sheriffmuir battle. Ye go up there, there's very very little to mark it other than a a monument that that was put up be the Clan McRae Society. Yet, ye know, it was a a major battle of a major episode, seventeen //fifteen//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 rebellion there that could have changed British political history let alone Scots political history, hardly celebrated at aw.
F785 Can't say I've heard of it, I'm ashamed about that really.
M055 Well, ye know //[inaudible] it's a major//
F785 //Just wasn't taught it.//
M055 engagement //and eh//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 it's the sort of thing that that could could, ye know, potentially have aboot as much resonance as as Culloden, ye know?
F785 Mmhm.
M055 But no, it's no dealt wi and, ye know, it's it's it's no just post-seventeen oh seven ev- events that are no celebrated, ye know, the there's a very gappy kind of approach, eh and eh, ye know, ye feel if some o these sites were in Ireland, eh, there'd be somebody there takin siller at the end of the road, [laugh] ye know,
F785 Yeah. [laugh]
M055 for the tourist attraction [laugh].
F785 Ehm, [tut] how do you feel about Scottish authors not being published by Scottish publishers? [sniff] Cause so many of our big names, you know, are not published up here.
M055 Well I suppose if ye've a big name, eh, ye want to be with a big publisher, eh, just fae a purely financial pint o view.
F785 Mmhm
M055 Eh, ye want somebody who's efficiently gonna get your book oot there in as big quantities, ye know //eh//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 as can be done and, eh, the big prizes like f- film richts and aw these things will come the easier to you I //suppose.//
F785 //Mmhm.// Do you think it's disappointing though that we we do have
M055 Well, //ye know, ye ye would//
F785 //[inaudible]?//
M055 ye would hope for success for the Scottish publishin industry. Ehm it has in the past been a huge world player as a publishin industry. //It fell//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 back, eh, there's a few firms that that have done well, ye know, Canongate with "The Life of Pi" has shown that ye can ye can still lead a a bestseller tae //market,//
F785 //Mmhm//
M055 so wi a few more o them an, ye know, if if we get political support for guid initiatives like the, Edinburgh's the, what is it, the City of Books or whatever they're goin to cry it,
F785 Mmhm
M055 ehm, then perhaps, ye know, the publishin industry can growe again.
F785 Okay. Okay, last question. Ehm, what's your general opinion of the Scottish Executive's arts policy, ehm, especially regarding literature and language?
M055 Oh weel, they hivnae got yin.
F785 Okay.
M055 They hivnae got yin so I cannae hae an opinion aboot it. //[laugh]//
F785 //Okay [laugh].// I mean, do you just feel that you're like you just try to ignore it as much as possible?
M055 I [sigh] I cannae see into their heids, eh, but I dinnae ken if I could I I doot if there would be an awfu lot tae see //that's aw ye//
F785 //[laugh]//
M055 can conclude fae the complete absence o action.
F785 Mmhm. What about the lack of writers at the parliament opening and Edwin Morgan being used as a photo opportunity? Mm
M055 Weel, I cudnae quantify eh, ye know, how many writers they they did or or didnae use but eh ach it's it's been a token thing, eh, wi them, ye know, and nae doot they've many departments of eh, ye know, Scottish civil society tae satisfy and gie their wee minute in the the limelicht but eh, och they they'll no keep us oot the Parliament in the in the end, ye know. Gavin McDougall had a S- had a guid eh Scots poetry readin session in there and, eh, I suspect that, eh, the folk'll batter their wey intae the Parliament soon enough.
F785 Okay. Thank you very much. //Thanks.//
M055 //Thank you, thank you.//

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Information about Document 768

Interview 05: John Law on the Scots language


Audio audience

For gender Mixed
Audience size 2

Audio awareness & spontaneity

Speaker awareness Aware
Degree of spontaneity Spontaneous

Audio footage information

Year of recording 2004
Recording person id 785
Size (min) 38
Size (mb) 182

Audio setting

Recording venue Private house
Geographic location of speech Perthshire

Audio relationship between recorder/interviewer and speakers

Professional relationship
Speakers knew each other No

Audio transcription information

Transcriber id 631
Year of transcription 2005
Year material recorded 2004
Word count 6222

Audio type



Participant details

Participant id 55
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Atheist
Occupation Computer Engineer
Place of birth Dunfermline
Region of birth Fife
Birthplace CSD dialect area Fif
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Blackford
Region of residence E & SE Perthshire
Residence CSD dialect area Per
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Writer
Father's place of birth Newarthill
Father's region of birth Lanark
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Lnk
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Housewife
Mother's place of birth Pretoria
Mother's country of birth South Africa


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic Yes Yes Yes Yes
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes


Participant details

Participant id 785