“On TuesdayBilly Kay, the writer, broadcaster, and advocate for the Scots language gave an address to the Scottish Parliament, The Time for Reflection address is not meant to be partisan or party political and Billy’s eloquent speech most certainly was not. Instead he used his address to highlight the importance of the Scots language to Scottish culture, literature, and identity. Scots is a language which, despite decades of official neglect and at times outright hostility and oppression still has over a million and a half speakers in Scotland and many more who understand the language even if they don’t actively use it themselves.”
So, I append below the text of what Billy Kay said. I can understand most of it, but there are certain words not yet in my vocabulary which are beyond me, so I have work to do . . .
“Thank ye, Presidin Officer, fur giein me the honour o addressin oor national Pairlament.
Ah wull stert wi a kenspeckle quote fae Hugh MacDiarmid, yin o the skeeliest makars in Scots leeterature’s thoosan year history:
“To be yersel’s—and to mak’ that worth bein’.
Nae harder job to mortals has been gi’en.”
It is mibbe even haurder fur MSPs, fur ye cannae jist be yersel fur yersels
, but fur aw the sels
, aw the sowels
, aw the brither an sister Scots fae
Maidenkirk tae Johnny
Groats and ayont
, that ye represent, amang whilk there is ower
1.5 million Scots speikers.
Noo is the day and noo is the oor tae rax oot and bring their words, scrievit on the waws ootside the Pairliament, intae the hert o this chaumer. They are wirds perfit fur debate sic as “speir”—inquire; “threap”—assert; “jalouse”—suspect; and “tak tent or it’s tint”—take care or it is lost. Or, gin ye dinnae want tae be douce, ye can hae “a flytin”, fur it is a leid hoatchin wi gleg insults—“glaikit”, “gawkit”, “gowk”.
In daein sae, ye wull raise the international profile o this airt wi words fae fremmit leids that touch us at hame. Fae the French “se fâcher”, we hae “dinnae fash yersel”. Fae Dutch, “hunkers”; fae Scandinavian, “lugs”; and fae Latin, “dispone”.
Ye wull be howkin as weel fae a gowden seam in yer ain pairties’ histories. MacDiarmid wis a foondin faither o the National Pairty o Scotland. Fellae makar Cunninghame Graham and his freen Kier Hardie were foondin faithers o the Labour Pairty. The chiel wha first defined oor democratic intellect wis the Conservative Walter Elliot. The Liberal Gladstone wis originally Gled Stane—“gled” bein Scots fur the bird o prey, the kite. And the Greens are thirled tae oor ayebydand land whaur Scots wirds sic as “smirr”, “caller”, “haar” or “gloaming” seem tae arise oot the yird itsel and haud oor herts.
But, mair important than thon, ye wull gie a signal tae the weans in the schuil that the culture o their hame is valued by fowk electit by their mithers an faithers. Bairns like the quaet wee lass in primary 2 in Fawkirk wha ran an lowped intae her teacher’s airms, lauchin and greetin wi joy, whan she furst heard her mither tongue in cless, or the sweirt learners in Dundee, dour teenage boays wha gaed tae the tap o the cless fur the very furst time whan the langage they yaised ilka day cam intae the schuil in buiks that they then devoored, and they nivver luikit back. Scottish weans transformed learnin a Scottish leid.
A nation whaur naebodie is excludit and awbodie kens that they belang. Shairly, dear memmers o the Scottish Pairliament, thon is weel worth bein yersel fur.”