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Two cultural projects thrown a funding lifeline by sacked minister

The SNP Government has given a financial lifeline worth at least Pounds 200,000 to the Scots Language Dictionaries and the Scots Language Centre, which effectively saves the two cultural projects by moving them away from flexible Scottish Arts Council funding to direct government support, writes Elizabeth Buie.

In one of her last acts as culture minister before being removed from the post, Linda Fabiani said she would also consider a proposal to establish a central body to promote the widespread use of Scots in education and business - one of the main recommendations of a conference this week to consider the findings of the first-ever Government-commissioned audit of current provision for the Scots language. "We are prepared to do what we can to support the language," she told delegates.

It seemed odd, she added, that the Scots Language Dictionaries and Scots Language Centre never had funding certainty. The future of the projects was placed in doubt last year after the SAC announced it was ending its funding contribution in September this year. Now, however, the Government has pledged to match the bodies' current funding levels - Pounds 156,000 for Scots Language Dictionaries and Pounds 42,844 for the Perth-based Scots Language Centre.

The writer and broadcaster Billy Kay (pictured above, far right), who chaired the conference at Stirling University, described the funding announcement as "an historic day for the language that is close to so many Scottish hearts at home and abroad".

While the audit contained omissions, he nonetheless welcomed what he hoped would be the first of many such contributions towards the national culture.

Rhys Evans, of Integrate Consulting in Edinburgh, who won the Government contract to carry out the research project, explained that he had modelled the audit on the seven categories used in the Council of Europe Charter for regional or minority languages.

In the education category, he found provision to be inconsistent - much stronger in the primary and higher education sectors, but weaker in secondary and further education colleges.

While there were hundreds of people delivering Scots language work in primary schools, a lot depended on individual teachers' and headteachers' commitment, he said.

In a question and answer session, Ms Fabiani was challenged over the funding disparity between Gaelic and Scots. "My starting point is that we are not going to be able to do one thing by comparing what has been done for another. Scotland has diverse languages and they all have to be supported," she said.

Matthew Fitt, the national schools and communities Scots language development officer for Itchy Coo, the specialist Scots language book producers, held up the example of Friesland, a province in the north of the Netherlands, where local and national government supported a period a week for all pupils to learn and work in Frysian. "Provision in Scotland is still too patchy," he said.

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