A NEW online course on Scots language and culture will show the leid’s “crucial” role in our identity, it is promised.

Award-winning author James Robertson says the free course – the only one of its kind – will give learners a stronger sense of Scotland.

Robertson, who co-founded children’s Scots language publisher Itchy Coo, has contributed to the venture by The Open University (OU) and Education Scotland.

Two years in the making, it teaches Scots “in the context in which it’s spoken”, highlighting the role of the language in the culture and society of the past and present.

The first of its two parts is now available free on the OU’s OpenLearn Create platform, with the second set to go live by the end of the year.

Robertson, whose works include The Testament of Gideon Mack, said the result “underlines the range, vitality and national significance of Scots” and shows what a “crucial and integral part of Scottish culture and identity Scots has been and continues to be”.

He went on: “Anybody who dips into this course, let alone completes it, will emerge with a greater understanding not only of the language but of Scotland itself.”

Sylvia Warnecke, senior lecturer in languages at the OU, said the development is a response to the growing popularity of Scots, stating: “It feels right to show how as a language it has developed over time as a vital aspect of Scottish culture and history and how it links to other European languages. The course is written to appeal both to existing Scots speakers and those new to the  language.

“It will give learners a chance to practice using the language themselves and develop their understanding of written and spoken Scots in different dialects. There’s something here for everyone.”

The launch comes in the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages and it is hoped that it will be used in the classroom by teachers.

Dr Michael Dempster, Scots Scriever at the National Library of Scotland, called the course “a significant step forward in the continued recognition and understanding of our language”.

Pauline Turner, who took part in the testing of the course, commented that it “blends Scots language and culture to give a fusion of Scotland’s historical past with the contemporary present”.

And, she said, it had some unexpected benefits.

Turner explained: “Not only did I learn more about the Scots language, I re-discovered parts of my childhood and heritage which I had long since forgotten.”