EMMA Grae is entirely right in calling attention to the excellent work which is being done in support of Scots and Gaelic (her “has been done” suggests that the work is complete, which it assuredly is not); but I do not see her arguments as countering the case for a Minister for Scotland’s Languages (Why we shouldn’t have a Scots leids minister, Apr 13).

The appointment of a minister with this specific remit would give the ongoing work something which it has conspicuously lacked, and which is vital for its lasting success, namely status as officially recognised and actively pursued government policy.

Particularly in the case of Scots, the work conducted by (literally) generations of scholars, writers and educationists received no recognition whatever for decades: as one who has been active in the Scots field for over half a century, I well remember conference after conference in which eloquent and impassioned arguments were put forward for making the language a substantial and integral part of the school curriculum, only to be faced with the bland official answer “You can use it if you like”.

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In recent years the situation has improved dramatically; but even now the place of Scots in education is still too dependent on the inclinations and the abilities of individual teachers, and the uncertain policies of local councils. The government needs to ensure that our languages have an unchallengeable place in the curriculum: the fact that this, a mere matter of course in most countries, even needs to be argued in Scotland shows how far Scots and Gaelic still are from a secure position in the national life.

It is debatable whether one minister with responsibility for both Scots and Gaelic is the right solution, given the vastly different nature of the status of the two languages and the challenges they face; but there is no argument against the government, in the person of one or two ministers, taking active responsibility for the welfare of our indigenous languages.

Derrick McClure

I FOUND Emma Grae’s opposition to the creation of a Scottish Government minister in charge of promoting Scots and Gaelic very curious and negative. The whole point of such an innovative move would give that person a high profile and basic “clout”, for instance when visiting schools. People would sit up and listen and with regard to Scots in particular, it could affect what would be in the curriculum in the English department. Perhaps it might help too if the minister were accompanied by a lecturer or even professor in Scots Language and Literature if they could spare an hour.

Years ago, when I was an English teacher in Ayrshire, our department under Jim Graham had an enlightened policy of having a fine Scots Reader Book, with prose and poems. I myself tracked down and photocopied among other things Hugh MacDiarmid’s excellent short story in Scots, Maria. Today, to my knowledge, Maria among other Scots items does not receive a mention anywhere on the internet. I believe it has perhaps sunk without trace. My wonderful colleague William MacIlvanney in the next classroom did wonders for the teaching of Scots. Unfortunately he left teaching upon the publication of Docherty.

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But I remember at another secondary school Scots did not have the same profile. The kids, along with their mums and dads I’m sure, had this inferiority complex about it.

Two wee stories. I remember one child putting her hand up when I was teaching The Twa’ Dugs, by Robert Burns. “Please sir – it’s not ‘lugs’. It’s ears.” I had my rhyming reply for that one! I remember a well-brought-up boy in the first year whispering to me for some reason that he had a stone in his trousers. It then dawned on me that what he had was a stain in his trousers. However, he had no doubt been brought up to regard “stane” as a course, slang word for “stone”. I remember lots of things – the day a young executive from the BBC turned up in our classrooms to give a talk on literature. But talking to him afterwards, he had obviously never heard of one of our best poets in Scots who was alive then.

A minister for the promotion of Scots and Gaelic could do nothing but good and would do a lot to counteract philistinism latent or otherwise, and ignorance, prejudice and a lacklustre approach to this area. A really dedicated and wise minister could do much to coordinate all matters relating to Scots and Gaelic and to bring about more love for our rich and endangered heritage. We deserve better than the present piecemeal approach and the Scottish government is to be commended in its new thinking.

David Rodger
via thenational.scot

MY main reason for even considering quitting the SNP was Kate Forbes’s behaviour on televised debates. She called the SNP mediocre. She attacked Humza Yousaf’s record in government in a very personal manner. Having been offered the post in Rural Affairs, she decides she needs time to reflect on her future. It’s a great pity she didn’t reflect before she put herself forward.

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With friends like this, who needs enemies? She has done more harm to the party than anyone else in recent months.

Catriona Grigg