Formerly director of the Saltire Society from 2002 to 2006, Michael Hance is director of the Scots Language Centre which was formed in 1993 at the initiative of the Scots Language Society and Cllr John Law, a member of the old Perth & Kinross District Council who was one of the most influential activists of the Scots language movement in the twentieth century. When the Council refurbished the AK Bell Library in Perth, John persuaded them to set aside a room for a Scots Language Resource Centre which was to be an administrative hub for production of resources.
Former Saltire Society Director Michael Hance
Unfortunately such material had to be of high quality if it was not to suggest that Scots was inferior to other causes, and funding from the old Scottish Office then dropped off, with treasurer Gordon Brench keeping things going but director Sheena Robinson getting embroiled in a contractual dispute. Funding responsibility then passed to the Scottish Arts Council who asked recipients to plan more effectively for the use of their awards and with salary and accommodation costs running at nearly a quarter of a million pounds annually new director Colin Milltown recognised that the future lay in a Scots Language Centre delivering services online.
Now the SLC has three functions : to curate material about what’s happening in Scots language circles ; provide an information point on what is Scots ; and make comparisons between dialects as spoken by people in the street and in great works of literature, promoting interest in such matters as the origins of place-names. Whereas previously correspondence averaged hundreds of letters in a year, the website enables contacts numbering hundreds of thousands as people come to it looking for playlists at Hogmanay and contributions to speeches at weddings. Before 1999 it was hard to make contact with those in government, but the arrival of the Scottish Parliament brought politics much closer with Karen Gillon MSP heading the first backbench committee and Irene McGugan MSP spearheading a report on how minority languages were funded.
A Cross Party Group on Scots had Saltire representation including Moira Stratton and David Stevenson, and when the Labour Government under PM Tony Blair signed up to the European Charter on Minority Languages, the responsibility for Scots was devolved to the Scottish Executive, who did nothing until the arrival in 2007 of the SNP minority government which set up a ministerial group under culture secretary Mike Russell to consider how better to support Scots. The global economic downturn impeded progress until in 2011 the National Census showed 1.5M people claiming to speak Scots with particular concentrations in the Northern Isles, Aberdeenshire, Angus and Ayrshire but the lowest proportions in the cities and the Western Isles. Now Scots language coordinators based in Shetland, Orkney, Dundee and Falkirk go into schools across Scotland (Shetland covers the Borders) to develop capacity for teaching in Scots, helping embed the work of the SLC which remains the first point of contact.