CAMPAIGNERS have called for more Scots language coordinators for schools to boost efforts to promote the language.

Four such roles were created in the wake of recommendations from a working group in 2010 – but now, just one coordinator remains in post for the whole of Scotland.

Last week, the Scottish Government launched a new consultation on ensuring the long-term growth of both Scots and Gaelic.

Poet Rab Wilson, who sat on the Ministerial Working Group on the Scots Language, welcomed the move, but he cautioned against a constant “reinvention of the wheel”.

He said: “One of the strong recommendations in 2010 was to have Scots language coordinators in the schools – the idea was to perhaps have one in each region.

“Initially there were four posts, but yet, within two or three years, the posts were done away with instead of increasing them.

“We would have liked to have seen one per region in Scotland, have at least a dozen or fourteen of these posts – but they were reduced down to one, which was a real tragedy.

“I think this is one of the main things that needs to be resurrected, and we should have a Scots language coordinator in every region for education in Scotland.”

Wilson (below) pointed to other examples of positive steps taken over the past decade, such as the creation of the Scots Language Award.

Michael Dempster says Scots is in an 'enviable position' of having more than 1.5 million speakers

He also suggested there should be more of a focus on Scots in drama, saying a “packed-out theatre” when he went to see a performance of Alan Cummings’ Burn – inspired by the works of Robert Burns – showed there was appetite for it.

“A few decades ago, there was a really active scene, with the likes of Bill Bryden and John Byrne writing important stuff, and it was getting a huge profile on TV and media – you think of Tutti Frutti,” he said. “We have not really had anything like that in the past decade. We need to resurrect that.”

Writer and broadcaster Billy Kay said one key element of the Scottish Government consultation was a pledge to bring forward a new Scottish Languages bill.

“It is important for recognition and for formalisation of the attitude towards it,” he said.

“Too many times with Scots, it has been a voluntary thing – people say ‘yes, it is an important part of the culture, and we would like to support it’, but then nothing happens. So I think it is only with a bill or an act that things would happen, that people would need to actively recognise it.”

Kay said this would mean broadcasters would have to up their provision in Scots, while it would formalise educational initiatives instead of “leaving it to enthusiastic people.”

He also raised the issue of the Scots language coordinators, saying most of the four posts had been secondments which had ended, despite doing a “great job”.

“That is an example of good work that was done, but because it wasn’t formalised in a language act or bill, as soon as the money ran out, they all went back to their jobs,” he added.

The consultation is seeking views on the most effective ways to raise the profile of the Scots language, as well as a new strategic approach to Gaelic medium education. One of the areas it will look at is the creation of a designated Gaelic speaking area, known as a Gaidhealtachd.

Launching the consultation Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Scots is spoken throughout Scotland, but has never benefited from formal support through legislation, and it may be time to consider this to help promote, strengthen and raise the profile of the language.”

Dr Michael Dempster, director of the Scots Language Centre, said “significant” progress made since 2010 included questions on Scots being asked in the census, the publication of a Scots Language policy and Scottish Government funding for his own centre as well as for other initiatives such as dictionaries, writing and publication grants and a radio and film festival.

He said Scots was in the “enviable position” of having more than 1.5 million speakers.

“A major barrier, however, to the intergenerational transmission we sorely need for our language to thrive is the harmful and outdated stigma that Scots is prohibited in public and in places of work,” he said. “Scots is alooed. It is appropriate in all forms of communication amongst speakers and comprehenders.”

On the issue of Scots language coordinators, an Education Scotland spokesperson said: “There are a number of reasons why roles may change, including refocus of organisational priorities, changes to funding or recruitment challenges.

“Gaelic and Scots remain an important part of Education Scotland’s work, and for that reason we welcome the Scottish Government’s consultation on Gaelic and Scots, and look forward to the findings being published in due course.”

This article first appeared on our sister site, The National in Scotland