The Politics of Language Policy in Scotland

Abstract

The Scottish Parliament reconvened in 1999 after an absence of almost 300 years. While Scotland did not gain full political independence, the new Parliament gained responsibility for a broad range of domestic public policy. This paper investigates the impact of these historic constitutional changes on one particular area, language policy. Scotland has two indigenous languages, Gaelic and Scots. Historically, both were official languages of Scotland during different periods of time but the usage of each has declined dramatically due to the encroachment of English. This paper situates Gaelic and Scots within their historical contexts and analyses the cultural and political status of each language today. It is noted that while Gaelic remains in a precarious position, there is reason for greater optimism with regards to Scots. The latter has closer connections to Scottish identity and its promotion has become a political priority for the Scottish National Party.

Key Words: Gaelic, Scots language, Scottish nationalism, Scottish identity, Scottish National Party, language policy, language endangerment, language rationalization

The Politics of Language Policy in Scotland

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