Over recent days I've noticed several Facebook users campaigning for people to use the forthcoming census to record their national identity as "Scottish, not British". That's of course a no-brainer, but flicking through the form there are a few more problematic related questions. I'm sure most nationalists would instinctively prefer to also record their 'ethnic group' as being Scottish, but in the case of someone like me that would be downright dishonest! To the best of my knowledge, my ancestry is roughly 75% Irish and 25% French-Canadian, so the Irish tick-box it'll have to be. Strange though it feels, it's actually am extremely good thing to be able to claim a Scottish national identity but a completely different ethnicity - that's the very essence of SNP-style civic nationalism.
It's also fantastic to finally see questions on the Scots language in the census, although I fear the number of speakers may still be grossly understated due to confusion over exactly what is being asked. Many native speakers of what could be most accurately described as English-Scots transitional dialects may well have always regarded themselves as simply speaking 'bad English', and might not realise the questions apply to them. Fortunately, this website has been set up to unambiguously clarify the position, although how many people will actually find it is another matter. For my part, the questions about 'understanding' and 'reading' Scots pose no problems, and although I've basically spoken standard English since I was a teenager, the words I can recall using as a young child probably just about qualify me as a native Scots speaker. 'Writing' Scots seemed the trickiest question to answer in the affirmative - but then I recalled that I made several hundred edits to the Scots Wikipedia in its early days back in 2005/6. Admittedly it was an almighty struggle, but if that doesn't entitle me to claim that I can write Scots, I don't know what does!
But then there's the issue of Gaelic. Many years ago, I made a tentative start to learning the language, but never got past the very basic conversational stuff. As a result it would never have occurred to me that I should be doing anything other than ignoring the Gaelic questions in the census, but reading this comment from the Scottish government Gaelic ambassador Allan Campbell gave me slight pause for thought -
"It is extremely important that all those people with any knowledge of Gaelic indicate this in their response to Question 16 in the census questionnaire."
On a maximalist interpretation on those words, I should maybe consider ticking the 'understand Gaelic' box on the tenuous grounds that I have 'some knowledge' of the language, but somehow the idea still seems too absurd. Any thoughts?