Why Scots is worth saving

25th February 2011 at 00:00

Whether readers consider their nation to be Scotland or the UK, there can be few countries where the government does not seek, by identification with a language, to instil a sense of nationhood in the next generation.

As outlined by your student correspondent (11 February), the defence of "cultural heritage" makes the UK no different from other states, whether it promotes that defence through standard English or other languages native to these islands. As a signatory to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, it is clear that the UK does not feel threatened through promoting Scots.

First, awareness of Scots writing will introduce pupils to a wealth of literature rooted in their own culture, ranging from Barbour in the 14th century to Janet Paisley nowadays. Ignorance of their nation's literature is unlikely to promote high self-esteem among pupils.

Second, knowledge of the Scots language and its words taken from Latin, Norse, Gaelic, French, Dutch and other languages informs pupils of the place of their people and their diverse roots in the family of nations.

Third, Scots has developed and flourished only in Scotland, where it is still a living language. It does not have a second chance like Gaelic in Nova Scotia or Welsh in Patagonia. If Scots dies in Scotland, it will be lost to humanity. It seems unlikely that the great potential for social union within these islands can ever be achieved without mutual respect for each other's cultures.

James Forbes, student, St Andrews University.

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