The future of Scotland’s most famous cartoon character is under threat following a dramatic EU court judgement.
‘Oor Wullie’, the loveable character from The Sunday Post, looks set to have his name changed to ‘Our William’ after EU judges ruled that national newspaper content has to be written in the official language of the member state.
The ruling follows a challenge by the Spanish government to the EU’s interpretation of existing laws that allowed some national newspapers to be categorised as regional if the newspaper covered only part of the member state jurisdiction.
The case was part of the Spanish government’s attempt at silencing the Catalan magazine Les Innocentades which has been credited with increasing awareness of the Catalan independence movement amongst young Catalans. The magazine publishes exclusively in Catalan.
The legislation allowing such publications was rescinded on Wednesday after the Spanish government cited a clause from the ‘borders and jurisdictions’ article that defined a nation state as one that “contained an independent legislature” capable of creating its own laws.
Scotland, and indeed Wales now that it has voted for the powers to create its own laws, are affected by the ruling as both are now defined as ‘nations’ for the purposes of language. However the EU having also recognised Scots as an official language has created an unexpected quirk in that Scots cannot now be legally used for content in any Scottish national papers as it is considered ‘foreign’ to the official English language of the member state, the UK.
Official exemption from the ruling is possible but must be applied for by the member state and not the region, thus the Scottish government may be powerless to alter the effect of the ruling and will rely on officials from the UK coalition government in order to submit the appropriate paperwork.
A source close to DC Thompson, who own the Sunday Post, has told Newsnet Scotland that they were aware of the case and have been secretly lobbying both the Scottish government and Westminster officials for some time. However it is unlikely that an application will be submitted before the new Scottish government is formed after May 5th and even then the process is likely to take at least 18 months.
In the meantime said our source, the publishers have been making preparations for the Anglicisation of the famous cartoon strip in order to remove any Scots words and phrases which will now be illegal.
Newsnet Scotland understands that Oor Wullie will become ‘Our William’ and ‘The Broons’ will be renamed ‘The Brown Family’. Other characters affected are ‘Wee Eck’ who will be renamed ‘Little Al’, ‘Fat Boab’ will become ‘Big Robert’ however ‘Soapy Souter’ will remain as his nickname is made up of recognised anglicised terms. Wullie’s famous catchphrase ‘jings, crivvens and help ma boab’ is to be replaced with ‘blast, crikey and crumbs’.
The new changes will be published this Sunday and it is expected that editions of the Sunday Post will be snapped up by eager fans wanting to see the new ‘William’. The owners are also readying themselves for complaints from outraged fans and traditionalists.
The spokesman explained that they sympathised with any feelings of betrayal that loyal fans may have, but with fines of 200,000 Euros a possibility they simply could not risk continuing to publish in Scots.
One thing that will not be changed, say the publishers, is Wullie’s trademark bucket and dungarees and of course his spikey hair.
Newsnet’s Scots language editor Paul Kavanagh called the ruling “unfortunate” and added “It’s ironic that at the very moment we seem to be moving forward in promoting Scotland’s linguistic richness that this comes along and stops us in our tracks.”
Mr Kavanagh, whose language articles for Newsnet Scotland prompted praise from First Minister Alex Salmond added: “It is absolutely vital that whoever forms the next Scottish government makes this issue a priority. To lose 18 months due to a legal technicality is frustrating to say the least.”.