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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 14:38 GMT
Call to protect native tongue
School pupils
School pupils are learning Scots
MSPs are calling for the Scots language to be given equal status with Gaelic and treated as one of Scotland's official minority languages.

In two reports published on Thursday, they said more support should be given to teaching and preserving the Scots tongue.

The culture committee said Scotland, like other European countries, should be developing a proper language policy to protect its heritage.

It said Gaelic and Scots languages are in danger of dying out by the end of the century - along with 90% of the world's languages.

A cross party group of MSPs is also calling for special status for Scots, which it says is a proper language and not just a dialect.

Minority languages

MSPs want more funding for Scots, more material in schools, more radio and television programmes and the use of Scots more widely in everyday life, including road signs.

In Edinburgh, first year pupils at Portobello High School are learning to read in Scots.

Their teacher Alan Keay said it broadens the mind and teaches pupils about their country.

He said: "Even though they've done a bit in primary school, it goes against fairly well established taboos coming from mainly parents rather than teachers."

One pupil at the school said it was difficult to grasp the language at first but she was getting the hang of it.

'Something distinctive'

Professor Charles Jones, of Edinburgh University, argued it should not be preserved in the classroom.

He said: "The child speaks the language. He might speak a south side of Glasgow version of it or a Morningside or Kirkwall version.

"But we all speak it and there's no need to preserve it in that sense."

Scottish National MSP Irene McGugan said Scots should be encouraged wherever possible.

She said: "When people come to Scotland they should expect to hear the Scots language and see it all around them as something distinctive."

Gaelic book
Gaelic and Scots are in the political limelight
The committee's report on minority languages has been translated - at a cost of 8,000 - into seven languages, including Gaelic, Urdu, Punjabi, Chinese and Scots.

The number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland has reached an all-time low.

According to statistics from the 2001 census, the number people who use the language fell by 11% over 10 years to a figure of 58,650.

This is the first time that the number has fallen below 60,000, bringing Gaelic close to the figure at which it is thought a language can no longer survive.

However, ministers believe recent schemes to teach Gaelic in primary schools could help to arrest the decline.



LINKS TO MORE SCOTLAND STORIES


 

WATCH AND LISTEN
John Knox reports
"The commitees believe Scots should be treated as a language"



SEE ALSO:
The mother tongue lives on
13 Feb 03 |  Scotland
Gael warning over language
04 Sep 02 |  Scotland
Gaelic targets a new generation
16 Mar 02 |  Scotland


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