Talk funny, teach well

30th March 2001 at 01:00
"It was a bit of a scunner," I said at the dinner table. Understandably, the remark drew a look of bafflement from my expat uncle's Australian wife. I can't claim to be an expert in the Scots language, though I am developing a fledgling interest in it, and, as in the dinner table case, use it more often than I sometimes realise.

Actually, I once won an "invent a new Scots word" competition and ended up with my picture in the Sunday Post looking as if I was trying to crush Oor Wullie's nuts, but that's another story.

Current bedtime reading is Robert McLellan's Linmill Stories, written in Scots and set just down the valley from Carluke. Try it. Most readers will quickly tune into the language. Next stop is Matthew Fitt's But 'n' Ben A-go-go.

But I digress. At the same family dinner I became involved in a debate with my uncle about the worth of a Scottish Parliament. He saw it as an extra layer of bureaucracy and thus a waste of time and money. My counter-argument was that we not only spoke differently compared to standard English, we thought differently too, with education a prime example. (OK, so I wasn't clever enough to make the language thought connection then, I admit.) I opined that the Scots did not see a state comprehensive school education as inferior to aprivate one (I didn't mention Edinburgh) and cited examples of the last Government's attempts to Anglicise Scottish schooling. A Scottish Parliament, I felt, would ensure that this would never happen again.

At the time of my spouting forth, Tony Blair's spokesman had yet to make his offensive "bog standard comprehensive" gibe. Such pandering to Middle England only reinforced my belief that we need some way of protecting that which we hold dear. Middle England is, of course, entitled to its opinions, too, even if they are wrong.

I'm not sure that I convinced my uncle but nothing has happened to change my own view. Not even overturned fish policy, though that was a disappointment.

Catch too small a vote? Throw it back and try again! A real test will be the implementation of the post-McCrone agreement. Can the Executive play their part in making the word "partnership" a reality rather than a cliche?

Anyway, it's now time to change the signs at the border. They should read: "Welcome to Scotland. We do some things differently here. We're not claiming we always get it right and whiles we talk funny too."

Gregor Steele recalls a record by the Proclaimers facing a ban in America. The authorities in certain states were suspicious of the word "havering".

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