AS people welcome in the New Year, the Scots language will be celebrated around the globe in the form of Auld Lang Syne. The traditional song encourages people to lay down their grievances from the past year and enter the New Year with a renewed sense of togetherness and optimism.

These values are epitomised by the leid, which has united speakers for centuries and enriched their lives in the way that multilingualism has been proven to do time and time again. But unfortunately, Hogmanay is one of just two regular occasions on the calendar when it’s universally acceptable to use the Scots language – the other being Burns Night.

This is despite the fact that the narrative around the Scots leid and its platform are growing every year.

Last year was a bumper year for the Scots language and the debate that continues to surround it, beginning with an intense argument over its validity when broadcaster and Scots linguist Billy Kay became the first person to address the Scottish Parliament in Scots since 1707. In the April 2022 address, he encouraged politicians from all parties to use the leid in Parliament, stating: “Noo’s the day an noo’s the oor tae rax oot an bring their words screivit on the waws ootside the Pairlament intae the hert o this Chaumer.”

He said his speech was “deliberately apolitical”, but the negative responses to the speech were almost entirely political.

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One critic slammed Kay’s speech as a “blood [and] soil nationalist stunt” and another went as far as to make the false claim that Kay created the language himself, despite its centuries-old history describing it as a “pretendy” language whose aim was “to try and bring reality to [Nationalist] Walter Scott fantasies”.

This is a reflection of one of the biggest misconceptions around the Scots language – that it is used as a divisive tool by Nationalists, despite the fact that one of the leid’s biggest wins, the Scots Language Centre, was founded under a Tory government.

Kay’s historic speech was followed by a more high-profile representation of Scots than anyone could have imagined when the Queen passed away in September and the BBC reported that she was known to speak the Doric dialect of the leid.

It arguably put to bed the old, false narrative that Scots is simply bad English, as few people have better English than British royalty – and the Queen was simply the latest example of the aristocracy using the language (others include the celebrated Scots poet Violet Jacob (1863-1946).

But it was not until November that Scots began the route to official legal recognition for the first time, through the Scottish Languages Bill, which will hopefully be a landmark move towards increasing the legitimacy of the language.

Singer and Scots language advocate Iona Fyfe said: “The Scots language legislation as part of the wider Scottish Languages Bill will give the language linguistic rights and protection that other minority languages benefit from having.”

The National: Emma Guinness: '2023 is only going to see leid go from strength to strength with growing momentum'Emma Guinness: '2023 is only going to see leid go from strength to strength with growing momentum'

While an exact date for an update on the bill has not been given, this could be the last Hogmanay when speakers of the leid have largely to watch it celebrated at the bells while it is debated – and in many cases, berated – for the rest of the year.

After all, echoes of the hatred levelled at Kay rose to the surface when the bill was debated in Parliament in November, with critics slamming the mere possibility of protecting one of Scotland’s three indigenous languages – the others being Gaelic and English – as a “waste of taxpayers’ money”, despite its cultural importance.

Scotland’s 1.5 million Scots speakers were encouraged to respond to the bill with their own thoughts about the language’s future. This resulted in a response from the Scots Language Centre, which recommended an official apology from lawmakers for the historic treatment of Scots speakers. It is an apology that would be all the more poignant given the seemingly out-of-control discourse around the language and the hatred often levelled at speakers of the leid online.

IN the time between Christmas and New Year alone, parody accounts of Fyfe (below) have been happily utilising the language to mock her relentlessly.

The National: Iona Fyfe. STY NAtional..Pic Gordon Terris Herald & Times..17/1/22.

Under the new legislation, comments like this could well be tantamount to racism, even when you remove from the equation the misogyny being displayed.

Scots language advocate Laura Law said: “I think there will be more positive messaging around the language off the back of the Scottish government’s consultation.”

The Scots Language Centre noted in its response to the bill that protecting the language is fundamentally a way to affirm the linguistic rights of Scots speakers.

It cited various official conventions which mention language as a fundamental human right, including Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

The Scots version, published on the United Nations website, states: “Awbody is entitelt til aw the richts and freedoms furthset in this Declaration wi nae distinction o ony kind, sic as [...] language, [...] national or social origin [.]”

As a Scots author and advocate for the leid, going into 2023, I believe that a firmer stance on the abuse of speakers needs to be taken by politicians and news organisations, particularly because of the viciousness speakers face online.

Debate is all well and good, but not when it descends into personal insults and the spread of misinformation.

While Twitter does allow parody accounts, the parody of Scots speakers, and the sexism and misogyny that often underpins them, has gone almost unchecked.

Scots, for example, has been used to mock policies such as the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. This is a reflection of the wider, typically Unionist assertion that the language is only worth using when something is joke-worthy, with one critic stating that the bill is a means for “sad folks” “who want men tae flash their p****s in wummins toilets [sic]” to get their way.

On the subject of Unionism, one of the biggest keys to protecting the leid is separating it from politics, as Kay also noted, but I’m aware that this will not happen overnight.

As I wrote in a viral tweet in 2022, Scots is as much a part of Scotland as Edinburgh Castle, and more education on the leid through the Scottish Languages Bill will help to reinforce this, especially if that education is given at an early age. But this is already happening – the bill would simply foster it further.

The SQA reported that 418 pupils were awarded the Scots Language Award (SCQF) in 2020, an increase of more than 300, with 100 pupils receiving the same qualification in 2019. Dr Michael Dempster, the director of the Scots Language Centre said that yearly numbers continue to increase.

Another key issue that needs to be addressed is the false association of the Scots language with class. In 2022, more than any other year, I’ve been accused of being “middle class” for writing Scots, and this bizarre critique that it can only be the pursuit of middle-class people who have nothing else to do seems to be growing.

The original classism around the leid has shifted – mainly as its critics have realised that many of those promoting it are educated but this should be proof of its legitimacy and nothing more.

Law was particularly surprised by the often bizarre criticisms that were levelled at the language in 2022. She said: “I think I was most surprised by assertions like ‘speaking Scots is exclusionary and racist’!”

This a point that I know all too well, after lawyer and former president of the Law Society of Scotland Ian Smart accused me of being a “white nationalist” in August for criticising his false claims that the leid itself is used as a racist tool.

He wrote in The Telegraph: “Sturgeon needs a solution that keeps [the left wing] on board while not confessing her personal politics are little different from those of Orban, Morawiecki, Meloni, Le Pen or [...] Farage.

‘AND that solution is not to say [refugees] can’t come here, just that they really, really wouldn’t want to. And her mechanism is Scots.”

His subsequent comment about my response was made all the more ridiculous by the fact I chose to stay apolitical when it comes to independence because I want to emphasise that the leid exists independently of politics.

However, while 2022 has seen its share of debate – and in some cases abuse – around the Scots leid, the language has otherwise thrived and speakers have told me they are more engaged than ever.

Len Pennie hit a milestone half-a-million followers of her Scots Word of the Day on TikTok, and musician Fyfe promoted the leid through a hugely successful American tour in summer, as well as a shorter German tour in October.

I published my second Scots novel, The Tongue She Speaks, which explored the barriers speakers face as well as the benefits of the leid and how they can play out socially, culturally and psychologically.

One Twitter user said that the continued advocacy for the Scots language has helped them to re-engage with “the language they beat out of us” and that “I further lost” as a result – touching upon the human rights violations condemned by the Scots Language Centre in its response to the Scottish Languages Bill.

Praising the publication of new texts in Scots, another social media user told me: “New quads like Deep Wheel Orcadia an Poemes Ecossais, as well as auld yins like But an Ben A-Go-Go an Lorimenr’s New Testament mak me want tae forder wi the leid.”

Some events already in the Scots language calendar for 2023 include the impending publication by Luath Press of the Scots translation of Animal Farm and Clive P Young’s Unlocking Scots – a book that examines the controversy behind the leid as well as its history.

Scots writer Martin Travers also just launched the Scots-language Braw Clan theatre company, which means we could see more exclusively Scots-language theatre in 2023.

Scots will also continue to be promoted at literary festivals including the Soutar Festival of Words in Perth and the upcoming BBC adaptation of Booker Prize Winner Shuggie Bain, which features Scots-speaking characters, and which we will hopefully receive more information about in the coming months.

Fyfe said that Scots will be promoted through music, as well as Pennie’s ongoing Scots Word of the Day, and she plans to continue her Scots Sang ae the Day.

“Hopefully, we will see more academic discussions about and in Scots [too],” Fyfe added. “The more and more it becomes normal, the more the government will see the necessity for a Scots Language Act.”

As I’ve mentioned, Scots language education is only going from strength to strength and this trend is going to continue into 2023. The Scots Language Centre, for example, alongside partners in the Scottish Government, Education Scotland, the SQA and others, will be holding an online conference on Scots in Education this year.

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The bill itself could be a game-changer. I saw this first-hand at the cross-party discussion of a Scots Language Act too, where ideas were exchanged about how to raise the profile of the leid at almost every level, such as the induction of Scots modules in higher education to help people like medical professionals communicate more effectively with speakers.

The bill will do more than just tackle linguistic discrimination, as Fyfe noted, but also normalise the use of Scots, particularly in schools, where it can continue to become “a valued part of the curriculum” like any other language.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville quoted Iain Crichton Smith at the start of her speech about the Scottish Languages Bill in November, and I’d like to echo those words once again.

With any luck, 2023 will be the year when our “three-voiced country” can finally “sing in a new world” – and not just at Hogmanay.