Sneaky! Asked two questions! Fringe sneaky.
I’m looking at question 1, is there an accepted ‘proper’ way to speak Scots.
Yes and no.
If there is an acceptable Scots, it’s probably very similar to mine. I have the sort of English speaking voice that is used on ScotRail’s trains or Virgin customer service answering machines. My voice sounds educated, East Coast, non-urban. People are very keen to think I am a Highlander. I am from Kinross-shire which, as EVERYONE KNOWS has the largest loch in the Lowlands. My house is 138m above sea level. We get NOSE BLEEDS. My ‘highlandness’ is the palatable Scottishness, a romanticised ‘spirit of the glen’ thing which comes with me being blonde, Scottish-enthusiastic, and polite. It is easier to align that image with an idea of Scotland with hills, and Brigadoon, and not the industrial chicken sheds I actually grew up around. Much of my Scots language has been acquired through reading. It is middle-class, it is cultured, it is female, it is safe. So, in that way, there is a higher status of Scots.
However, it is not powerful. It does not have broad status as a prestige language in the public – it is the best of a bad lot. When Scots was at its historical height, it was used by lawyers, ministers, parliamentarians, members of court and the monarch. It seems unlikely that monarch in my lifetime will deliver a speech in Scots. There’s an outside, hopeful chance, that if there is still a monarchy when George takes power, that he would be able to deliver a Scots speech as a learner. Just as he could deliver a speech in French or German.
The lack of a prestige, standardised variety of Scots causes lots of problems. It seems like laws concerning Scots should also be written in Scots, but with no standard language, which variety of Scots should we use? What should be taught in the evening classes and immersive courses that I imagine for Scots? However, as Tom Leonard points out, as soon as there is a Standard Scots, there is just a new thing to adhere to that’s not Standard English.
This is the paragraph where I should bring together all the differing issues and come to a solution. I don’t have one. Hopefully people who are just skimming this post will see that there is a paragraph here and hope I just answered the problem. Blah blah blah, will solve all the challenges Scots faces.
PS. If you want to complicate your idea of Scottishness and the highlands vs. the lowlands, take yourself to see Anything That Gives Off Light. It messed with me in an identity sort of way. I had to get a hold of myself before doing the show. I walked around the bottom of castle rock and through the tourists on the Lawnmarket and my brain was like WHAAAAAAT SHOULD I BEEEEE?