Document 778

Cairtes in the Scots Leid

Author(s): Billy Kay

Copyright holder(s): Billy Kay


Scotland hes aye been a multilingual kintrae, fae the foundin o the natioun whan French, Flemish, Gaelic an Scots wes spoken in the early burghs richt tae the present day wi the Celtic leid Gaelic an the Germanic leids English an Scots yet tae the for. O thir thrie leids, Scots is by faur the maist negleckit an hauden doun in offeicial terms, yet ironically is spoken in ae dialect or anither by the feck o the fowk. Wi gey pickle status, it is maistly uised in informal, familiar situations.

Whiles I compare it tae an undergrund activity preed by consentin adults in the privacy o their ain hames! Despite this restrictit uis o the leid for a lang time, it hes aye been the medium o a great literary tradeition at the makars o the praisent day is eident tae continue. Thir cairtes is pairt o a process tae normalise Scots, tak it frae the private tae the public domain an gie fowk a sense o whit it wes and whit it will be again - a leid o mense an virr that will aye express the smeddum o the Scots fowk an their ties tae the land an its culture. In daein this we ar takin pairt in a process that is dingin doun barriers an biggin brigs aw ower Europe, whaur aince suppressit leids an natiouns ar reassertin theirsels. They ar threapin for their veice tae be heard in a Europe o a Hunder Flags an a hunder tongues, a Europe whaur linguistic diversity is regairdit wi pleisure raither than wi suspeicion. For the relationship atween Scots an English hes monie parallels in a wheen European kintraes; Friesian an Dutch in the Laigh Kintras, Occitan an French in France, Catalan an Spanish, or Galician an Spanish in Spain. Aw thay leids cam frae similar ruits, but gaed their ain gait through elangin separate political entities. In maist cases it wes anely whan they got thirlit tae political union wi mair pouerfu neebours at their mither tongues stairtit tae erode in competeitioun wi the standard language o the centrist states they belangit. The naiture o fowk's identity houever is sic that aw thae leids hes tholit the straiks agin thaim an bidit on in a mair restrictit uis as the ilka-day language o the fowk. In monie cases this strang fowk-feelin wi the leids gart thaim that spoke thaim aw the mair determinit tae haud on tae whit they hed. No sae lang syne at wes restrictit tae bodies jalousin at the erosion hed tae stop there wi thaim. Nou the same fowk is gaen muckle faurer an threapin at the rebiggin o the leid maun stairt here wi thaim. They hae decidit at ye ar either pairt o the problem, or pairt o the solution, an ar determinit tae be pairt o the solution for their mither tongue.

That is whit thir cairtes is about - heizin up the vernacular o the fowk tae its richtfu place in our national life, an culturally reclaimin our land through seein our place names whaur they belang - on our national map. Tae the feck o the fowk that stey there, Jeddart hes never been Jedburgh, Glesca gey rarely Glasgow, Aiberdeen nae aften Aberdeen. Yet it wes the anglicised form that aye appearit. Nou for the first time - I am gey shuir no for the last time - it is the Scots form gien precedence ower the English. The leid, the touns an the land bund thrang thegither on the cairtes as they aye hae been on the guid Scots tongue o the fowk. Hugh MacDiarmid, the faither o the Scots literary rennaissance earlier in the century, scrievit thir words;

For we hae faith in Scotland's hidden poo'ers
The present's theirs, but a' the past an future's oors.

We ar eident tae seize the praisent for Scots an Scotland by kythin tae her fowk at her spoken language can be seen in this licht as a formal leid for a formal purpose. This cairte then is a challenge tae our praisent, a dedicatioun tae our past an a declaratioun o our faith in the future o Scots as a leivin European leid o the 21st century.

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The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.


Cite this Document

APA Style:

Cairtes in the Scots Leid. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 2 March 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Cairtes in the Scots Leid." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 2 March 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Cairtes in the Scots Leid," accessed 2 March 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 778

Cairtes in the Scots Leid


Text audience

General public
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Word count 709
General description Essay to accompany a book of maps of Scotland in Scots. An introduction to the history of Scots

Text medium

Leaflet/brochure (prospectus)
Other Booklet accompanying map

Text publication details

Publisher MMA Maps
Publication year 1993
Place of publication Glasgow
ISBN/ISSN 0952262940

Text setting


Text type



Author details

Author id 35
Forenames Billy
Surname Kay
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Writer / broadcaster
Place of birth Galston
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Newport-on-Tay
Region of residence Fife
Residence CSD dialect area Fif
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Factory charge hand
Father's place of birth Galston
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's place of birth Breich
Mother's region of birth W Lothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area wLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes Work / home
French Yes Yes Yes Yes Home
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic Yes No No No A little, rarely
German Yes Yes Yes Yes Occasional
Portuguese Yes Yes No Yes Home
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes Work / home