Attitudes to Scots: A Survey


   By Kirsten Lawson

I am Scottish, from Edinburgh, and I can speak French, Italian and German.  But I cannot speak my own language. 

My grandmother spoke Scots, and Standard Scottish English, and she would often come out with words or expressions that I wouldn’t understand.

She was the daughter of a Lanarkshire miner who, despite having spent some of her youth in the States, never lost her Scots tongue.  I remember one occasion when she was more annoyed than others by my ignorance.

As a student she would often buy me bags of groceries to take back to university with me, one time she gave me the bag accompanied by the saying “A gangin’ fit’s aye gettin’”.   I didn’t understand and told her so.  She answered me simply by telling me that I should be ashamed of myself being able to speak and understand foreign languages but not being able to understand my own language. 

I didn’t really pay much attention to those words and carried on, on my path.  I graduated, moved to Italy and settled there.  I now teach at university there and conduct independent research activities. 

I continued not to learn, nor speak Scots but do read it, so didn’t totally ignore my granny although my knowledge is passive rather than productive.  I was invited to submit an abstract for an international conference in Naples on language diversity, so when choosing a topic, for me the choice was clear. 

The abstract was accepted and I am currently carrying out survey, the findings of which will be presented at Naples in October of this year.  The main focus of the research is to examine how the people resident in Scotland regard the Scots language and what their attitudes towards the language are. 

It also seeks to understand whether, and in what way, these perceptions are linked to their sense of national identity.  It also examines how the participants’ people see the Scots’ language in a modern Scotland, and if their attitude to the language would change if Scotland were to gain independence in 2014.  

Originally, my intention was to conduct the survey locally.  However, on reflection, it made more sense to open the survey to people resident throughout Scotland as then the results can be considered as representative of the nation, rather than just the capital. 

Therefore, the easiest way to administer the survey was through its promotion on social networks.  Initially, it was intended to conduct the survey by interviewing people locally.  However, it was then considered more opportune and better representative of the nation as a whole, to conduct the survey online promoting it through various social networks. 

The only condition that must be met in order to be able to participate in the survey is that the respondent must be resident in Scotland.   The survey is brief, there are a total of 20 questions which are mainly multiple choice, and it can be completed online in around 5 minutes. 

Here is the link to the survey:

Your collaboration would be greatly appreciated.