From ridicule to legitimacy? ‘Contested languages’ and devolved language planning

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In 1999, devolved governance was established in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which altered the contours of language recognition in the United Kingdom. Whilst much focus has been placed on how devolution improved the status of Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish, less attention has been placed on those minority vernaculars with ‘contested’ linguistic status. Scots in Scotland and Ulster-Scots in Northern Ireland fall into such a category as they are considered by some as merely ‘dialects’ of English but by others as independent regional languages. The formation of the Edinburgh and Belfast legislatures created policy processes closer to the point of application and has ensured that policy decisions, including those relating to language, have been influenced by the nuances of local identity (Birrell, 2009). This article, therefore, explores the extent to which devolution in Scotland and Northern Ireland has enhanced the status of Scots and Ulster-Scots in areas such as broadcasting, education and the arts. Whilst supporters in both regions continue to champion better policy coverage, changes since 1999 illustrate how the devolved administrations have facilitated incremental change and evolving policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-139
Number of pages19
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number2
Early online date8 May 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Apr 2019


  • Scots
  • Ulster-Scots
  • Language Policy
  • Devolution
  • Northern Ireland
  • Scotland


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