Val McDermid stands up for the Scots language

Novelist Val McDermid reflects on her relationship to Scots. “The single thing that always tells me I am home is when I hear Scots around me — in the street, on the bus, in the shops, in the pubs. But for most of my life, I’ve been conditioned to believe the way I spoke was not proper English. There was a good reason for that — my birth tongue is Scots, one of the three native languages of Scotland alongside English and Gaelic”.

She adds, “My heart rejoiced recently at the news that Scots singer and poet Iona Fyfe persuaded Spotify to recognise Scots as a language. And then I was cast down almost immediately when she revealed that though her singing in Scots provoked no noticeable hostility, when she posted on social media in her natural speech, she was the victim of a troll pile-on. She was called ignorant, a whore and a bitch for using the language that almost a third of Scots reported in the 2011 census that they could speak”.

She described her own travails as a Scots speaker at Oxford, but; “Thankfully, writers are beginning to reclaim their tongue. We drop native words into our English text. We even win the Booker Prize . . . But still, many Scots struggle with the vernacular on the page…We all became simultaneous translators of the voices in our heads. Maybe not for much longer . . . ”

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