Primacy of English must be preserved

11th February 2011 at 00:00

I noted with sadness the inches dedicated to the revival of the Scots language in your 28 January issue. As a student of the exceptionally international University of St Andrews, I am glad to have been fortunate enough to move throughout Scotland while growing up, flattening any regional accent. Promoting Scottish regional dialects as equivalent to standard English is a biased position.

The promotion of Scots on an equal footing with English seems to rely on three assumptions. First, there is the relativist view that "cultural heritage" is enough to lend something sufficient legitimacy for it to be supported by government. The promotion of Scots reinforces and creates further division within the United Kingdom, while the promotion of standard English would be a symbol of our harmony.

The second assumption is that it is the role of government actively to defend, and in some cases contrive, "cultural heritage". This is a political philosophy issue that many would contest on ideological grounds and, in the interests of neutrality, I would advise publications to avoid the assumption that this lies within the mandate of governments.

Third, there is the assumption that the imposition or promotion of standard English is a relic of colonialism that oppresses the people of Scotland. I would say that, even if it were the case that Scots had been forcibly and systematically suppressed, one has to assess pragmatically the balance of harms when considering policy options.

Schools have a responsibility to prepare young people for the future, a future which is likely to feature ever-increasing globalisation and interconnectivity. The truth is that English is the world's de facto language, and communicating in that medium requires a degree of regional neutrality that the pro-Scots lobby fundamentally opposes.

It might sit uncomfortably with some, if not many, but the right thing to do is to preserve the primacy of standard English in Scottish education, promoting orthodox spelling and grammar and clear, universally-accessible speech.

Some might consider it sad that we must work within the parameters of the world as it exists, but I consider it necessary.

Alasdair Clarkson, student, St Andrews University.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today