It's UNESCO's International Year of Indigenous Languages, so BooksfromScotland had to kick off 2019 with a celebration of one of ours - Scots! We have all kinds of Scots in this issue, from modern urban, to traditional, to Doric, all expressed in many ways and in many genres. We've got poetry, childrens' books, short stories, social history and nature writing, all showing just how versatile and expressive Scots can be. So, lend us yer een an' yer lugs, an' enjoy this issue.

David Robinson was not born in Scotland, and yet cannot do without a sprinkling of some Scots words in his vocabulary now. Here he explores his own curiosity on a language that fascinates and confuses him in equal measure. And publishers: there’s a call to arms at the end, which BooksfromScotland think is a very grand idea indeed.


I have quite a few books on my shelves by friends, but only one that is written by one friend, translated by another and illustrated by a third. It’s written in a language that I don’t speak, yet which I partly understand even though I was never taught it.

Precious and the Puggies (Itchy Coo, 2010) by Alexander McCall Smith (translated by James Robertson and illustrated by Iain McIntosh) is that book and it is, of course, in Scots. And of all the subjects anyone born, like me, south of the Tweed should be wary of writing about, Scots is fairly near the top of the list. So although – see below – I’ve got something to say about it, I’m going to tiptoe away from that well-planted minefield of the extent to which it should be taught, published or broadcast. That’s up to Scots to work out. Not people like me who weren’t born here.

That said, I’m broadly sympathetic. Who wouldn’t be?  When, in McCall Smith’s story, the young Precious Ramotswe, in the middle of solving her very first case, walks home from school down a path that winds round boulders, Robertson’s Scots seems to emphasise its tortuousness. “It was a narra, joukin path – here and yon, muckle boolders had whummled doon the brae thoosans o years syne and the path had tae jink aroond them. In atween the boolders, trees had raxed up, their roots snoovin their wey through the gaps in the stane.” Whummled, joukin: you don’t have to be a Scots language obsessive to see its beauty, to see it lifting a child’s imagination, making it grow and twist around its subject like thos...


One of BooksfromScotland’s favourite releases last year was Amanda Thomson’s A Scots Dictionary of Nature. Here, she tells us more about her thoughts on the book and the Scots language.


A Scots Dictionary of Nature by Amanda Thompson Published by Saraband


Why are the words contained in the dictionary important?

The words help us to deepen our understanding of people and places, and they also pull us across time. They tap into the social history of Scotland – ways of living, being and interacting – but also reveal more personal connections, sometimes across different generations, so they allow us to remember in lots of different ways.


Why do you think these words, and the book as a whole, have so captured people’s imagination?

I think the book has captured people’s imagination in the same way ...



‘Hawns’ A Story taken from HWFG click

‘Hawns’ A Story taken from HWFG

‘Ahm gonnae tell you a story.’


A Year of Scottish Poems click

A Year of Scottish Poems

‘We hear the voice of our passionate, proud and provocative country most truly in its poetry.’


Tonguit click


A sing o a Scotland whit’ll chant hits hairt oot dounstairs o the Royal Oak, whit’ll pouk hits timmer clarsach hairtstrangs, whit like glamour will sing hits hairt intae, existence, whit haps sang roo …


Diary o a Wimpy Wean click

Diary o a Wimpy Wean

‘But dae I get ony thanks for stickin up for the lassies aw this time? Dae I chocolate.’


Runaway click


‘Och, Mikey.’ She opened her arms, a tentative smile on her lips. ‘Ye canna be too sure. No these days.’


Scottish Folk Songs click

Scottish Folk Songs

‘O come all ye at hame wi’ freedom, Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom’


A Kist O Skinklan Things click

A Kist O Skinklan Things

‘On any showing, the scale and quality of this movement is a phenomenon rarely paralleled in literary history.’


Jock’s Jocks: Voices from the Frontline click

Jock’s Jocks: Voices from the Frontline

‘I jined up wi ma pal Fred Duncan efter the leaflets cam oot fae Kitchener needin a hunner thoosan men. We biket wi a lot mair fae Millbrex ti Peterheed ti jine up in the 5th Gordon Highlanders.’


A Sprinkling is Enough: Fir for Luck click

A Sprinkling is Enough: Fir for Luck

‘For many years, this was the reason why I stayed away from historical fiction altogether – I simply didn’t believe I could do it justice.’