UP and down the country, Scots speakers are ­preparing for one of the few nights of the year – and perhaps the only night – where the leid is celebrated the world over: Hogmanay.

As people sing Auld Lang Syne, which is perhaps the most famous ­example of Scots being very much a different language from English, and enjoy a richt gude willie-waught – that’s a hearty swig – there will ­almost certainly be no sign of the ­aggressiveness and mockery that’s ­directed at the leid throughout the rest of the year.

With this in mind, I can’t help but think of a gentleman who challenged me earlier this year when I spoke in favour of Scottish independence at the Cambridge Union. He had a thick, Glaswegian accent and was outraged after I asserted that Scots is one of the many reasons why Scotland should be an independent country.

It was clear from the way he spoke that he was almost certainly a ­native Scots speaker, and like me, he’d had the so-called “cringe” and false ­assertion that Scots is nothing more than bad English – or worse, “ned speak” – drummed into him.

While I was lucky enough to have my attitude towards the leid turned around, this man’s anger reflects the opinion of many Scottish ­people who are oblivious to the cultural benefits of our indigenous languages – such as improved cognitive ­ability – and I’d say he almost certainly benefited from them as a likely Scots ­speaker, having made his way to a university at the heart of the English ­establishment.

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That’s why I’m of the opinion that while the recent passing of the ­Scottish Languages Bill in ­November is a step forward for Scotland’s ­indigenous languages, because it ­offers nothing more than the ­repurposing of ­existing resources, it will likely do little to solve the ­problem.

Scots and Gaelic need significant funding if they are to thrive, and in a union and under a Conservative government which has seen inflation rise to its highest level in 41 years in October 2022, leaving many working people in Scotland reliant on benefits and food banks, there are understandably more pressing concerns in Holyrood than culture.

This is why the case for independence is stronger than ever – our ­culture is dying and so are people.

To put the dire state of Scotland’s indigenous languages into further context, Aberdeen University very nearly scrapped its languages degrees in 2023, and it was only following widespread outrage and campaigns that the institution compromised by offering joint honours degrees in ­subjects including Gaelic, which could previously be studied as ­degrees in their own right, because of an ­alleged lack of uptake.

Putting improved cognitive ­ability to one side, language ­learning, ­especially indigenous language ­learning, is ­crucial culturally – ­creating a strong sense of national identity, and ­perhaps most ­importantly amid a cost of living crisis, a sense of community which could be vital for those ­struggling to get by.

The National: We have to take more pride in Scotland's languagesWe have to take more pride in Scotland's languages

But often in 2023, and before, the Scots leid has been wrongly conflated with the independence movement, and the attempted sabotage of folk singer Iona Fyfe in the 2023 Scots Singer of the Year competition is a prime example.

As an outspoken nationalist, trade unionist, and SNP member, she was targeted by Unionists who ­encouraged people to vote for literally anyone else in the competition with less public ­political views.

This almost certainly wouldn’t have happened in a Scotland where ­indigenous languages are taught from the get-go and celebrated independent of politics, as much as the ­nationalist movement has provided people like Fyfe and myself an opportunity to promote the Scots leid on a wider stage.

Fyfe, who emerged victorious ­regardless, said: “It’s a shame that people feel so threatened by singers who sing in minority languages. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

“People who chose to try and ­sabotage someone’s chances of ­winning something are really sad and shameful. Putting women nominees against each other isn’t a kind or ­useful thing to attempt to do. We’re all just singers trying to create art ­using a minority language. Why is that so threatening to some people?”

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The problem with Scots in the ­Union is that it is yet another ­reminder that culturally Scotland is a very different place from England.

Take the blocking of the ­Gender ­Recognition Reform Bill by ­Westminster, which was deemed legal this month. Despite the ­widespread will in Scotland to give trans and ­gender variant people the ability to self-ID, it was once again ­oppressed by the union in the way that ­Scotland’s indigenous languages have been systematically drummed out of people for hundreds of years.

While the Scottish Languages Bill offered, in theory, an opportunity to give Scotland’s indigenous ­languages much-needed legal protection, ­recognition and support, the reality is more than a little lacklustre.

To quote the bill’s financial ­statement: “The main impact of the Bill provisions is a shift in activity, a repurposing of resources in terms of effort and attention.

“The Scottish Government considers that provisions do not create wholly new costs or a requirement for wholly new spend.”

For the reasons outlined above, it would be almost impossible to give the leids the funding they need in a ­union that protects the rich, ­scapegoats ­minority groups, and ­asserts a ­colonialist mindset that should have died a long time ago.

To create a Scotland where ­culture is protected and not at risk of a ­premature death, we need independence to ­support the training of indigenous language teachers, the introduction of a Scots higher, as well as resources outwith charities like the Scottish Book Trust to get more Scots and Gaelic Books into schools – and that would be just for starters.

Otherwise, we risk the likes of even Auld Lang Syne being lost to history.

Emma Grae’s first children’s book The Hoolet Thit Couldnae Fly, with illustrations by Bob Dewar, is published by Luath Press and is available now for £6.99