ANDREW Neil has caused a storm online after he boldly claimed that he has “never heard” the Scots language in response to Emma Harper MSP’s use of the leid in parliament.

Hilariously, Neil did so while using a profile picture that displays the Scots leid of all things - ‘nae numpties allowed’ it reads - which is an interesting choice for a man who claims to have never heard the language.

The journalist wrote: “Never heard anybody in Scotland or from Scotland speak like this. Even Oor Wullie! It’s pure performative nonsense. From the land of Adam Smith and David Hume. What a falling off there has been…”

While Neil’s post was undoubtedly designed to appeal to those with a political, classist or generational bias against the language, to my surprise, it also proved that steps have been made in the right direction when it comes to legitimising Scots.

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After Neil described the language as “performative nonsense”, referring to the Oor Wullie comics - which have actually gone some way to promoting the leid in and of themselves because of their longevity - people were quick to point out its legitimacy by referring to the fact that it was spoken by 1.5 million people at the last official census.

In fact, some of the most liked responses to Neil’s statement point out everything that is wrong with weaponising a minority language to seemingly make a political point. It is linguicism and any implication that the language shouldn’t be spoken in parliament is ignorant classism, as Scots has been used at all levels of society - even by the king. Others noted how vastly different the dialects of the Scots Language can sound, with one person citing the Doric and Shetland dialects as examples.

One critic slammed Neil for perpetuating historic biases against the Scots Language, which are all too familiar to many who have gone through the Scottish education system.

They wrote: “You are a Paisley boy who went to a grammar school where they knocked your own [Scots] language out of you. I went to [the] same school and am ashamed now how they made Scots out to be third rate.”

The National: Andrew Neil

Even critics of Harper’s speech did acknowledge the existence of Scots while admitting that they found her use of the language performative, and to me, this is still a win.

The Scots language has had a brilliant 2024 so far, with over 120 teachers signing up for a new Open University course that will embed the leid into Scottish classrooms, and that’s not to mention the release of Len Pennie’s debut poetry collection Poyums just this week, which has been selling thousands of copies and features a tour that will showcase the language around the UK.

These major wins come hot on the heels of the introduction of the Scottish Languages Bill at the end of 2023, which in an ideal world will lead to the eradication of views like Neil’s. It offers legal protection to what is an UNESCO recognised vulnerable language that has for too long been used as a political and classist tool.

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Unfortunately, while the response to Neil’s critique of the Scots language shows that attitudes are changing, unless we have Scots Language education from the get-go - where weans are taught that ‘yes’ isn’t inherently better than ‘aye’ - and more investment into the leid at every level of society, historic biases like his could continue to be passed down to future generations.

But, for now at least, Neil should probably change his profile picture - he said it himself, nae numpties allowed.

Or, he could take the advice of the director of the Scots Language Centre, Dr Michael Dempster, who tweeted: “Any aspirin Scots speikin journalist or orator wid best serve theirsels bi becomin bilingually expert in baith Scots an English.

“The auld assimilationist monolingualism’s deid. Dinnae staun on naeb’dy fir tae luik bigger!”