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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Scots language body reported to charity regulator

 

The Scots Language Centre has been heavily criticised

A charity promoting the use of Scots language has been reported to Scotland’s charity regulator amid concerns over the organisation’s alleged “lack of inclusion” and “disproportionate” response to critics.

A complaint was filed with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) on 30 October by two individuals against the Perth-based Scots Language Centre (SLC). 

The centre has drawn criticism for the “manner in which the charity has responded to individuals raising those issues” of inclusion. 

Writing in a complaint to OSCR, Eilidh and Ashley Douglas said that the SLC “failed to respond to correspondence setting out concerns about inclusion in the charity’s output”, “inappropriately used its public social media channels to publish misleading statements about the concerns and the individuals raising them”, and “inappropriately provided statements to the press which contain misleading and damaging statements about the individuals raising concerns”. 

The pair wrote that the charity’s approach to their concerns “raises significant concerns about the charity’s management and/or governance in deciding to pursue these courses of action, adding: “As individuals, the charity’s actions have caused us significant personal and professional distress which remains unresolved and without apology.”

A couple, Eilidh and Ashley Douglas both have experience in the charity sector. Eilidh was previously chairwoman of Amnesty International UK, while Ashley, a researcher, writer and translator, was previously on the board of the Scots Language Centre from 2016 until 2019. 

Both Eilidh and Ashley have an interest in the Scots language and began raising concerns about the centre’s content and alleged lack of inclusion as early as November 2022. 

Between last November and June 2023, the two individuals highlighted on social media “issues of lacking LGBT inclusion in the SLC’s output”. 

The posts highlighted “relevant LGBT Scots materials or figures that the SLC had never appeared to mention or that, when sharing material, the SLC had failed to highlight the LGBT significance of that material”.

On 11 July, Mrs and Mrs Douglas contacted the SLC via email to raise their concerns, before following this on 25 July. On 1 August, the SLC posted on social media to apologise for the lack of response, adding that “both your emails have been recovered from the spam folder and forwarded to the appropriate person”. 

Despite monthly follow-up emails, no response has yet been forthcoming to either Eilidh or Ashley, with the final of these coming early on 1 October. 

Later that day, the charity posted a statement on social media saying it had taken “polis advice” to block members of the public who “overtly or covertly abusin oor channels fir malicious tairgetit harassment an/or defamation o the Centre, oor staff & contributors, an service uisers”. 

This followed the numerous concerns which were raised by Mrs and Mrs Douglas on X - formerly Twitter. 

Charity insiders told the Times on October 7 they had been subjected to a “vendetta”, with a spokesman adding: “Clearly, we cannot allow these unwarranted allegations to continue and are currently taking legal advice to determine the best course of action to take.”

However, no legal action has yet taken place, and the centre has yet to confirm whether its intention to challenge Ashley and Eilidh Douglas - the latter a solicitor - in court. 

The pair said the legal threats in the Times had proved to be “damaging”, and that the charity is yet to respond to concerns via email or on social media, which led them to making the complaint to OSCR. 

Eilidh Douglas told TFN: “As Scots speakers, as gay women, and one of us a woman of colour, we believe a charity supporting the Scots language should promote the well-documented contributions of diverse identities to the language - from hundreds of years ago to the present day. We know all too well the damaging consequences that flow from minoritised groups not being actively and visibly included.

“For simply highlighting that need for inclusivity, we have been met with inappropriate and inexplicable hostility by a public charity. The charity has never replied to our substantive concerns and refuses to acknowledge and apologise for its actions. Obviously damaging allegations of threatened legal action and alleged police contact remain in print without retraction.

“Sadly, this means that any belated steps the Scots Language Centre may now be taking to promote inclusive content cannot be taken seriously.

“In the absence of any appropriate response from the charity, we have been left no other choice but to raise the matter with OSCR. That any charity thought it appropriate to respond in this way to two individuals raising genuine and detailed concerns about inclusion gives rise to real concern about their fitness for purpose as an organisation.”

Since the story in the Times last month, a number of changes have been made to the Scots Language Centre’s output - including the removal of “racially-coded imagery” and the addition of LGBT inclusive content, both of which were raised to the charity by the two individuals.

Images of white people were used to represent Scots speakers, while a picture of a woman wearing a hijab was used to illustrate a learner of the language. This has since been removed. 

Scotland’s charity regulator told TFN that its role is not to resolve disputes between individuals and charities. 

An OSCR spokesperson said: “OSCR received concerns about the charity on 30 October that were risk assessed in line with our published policies. In this instance, we do not consider the issues raised to be of a regulatory nature.  

“Where decisions are taken by charity trustees that are within their powers to take, OSCR cannot take action on the basis that others may disagree with their choices.”

The Scots Language Centre was asked why it did not respond to concerns raised by Mrs and Mrs Douglas, and whether it still intended to take legal action against the pair. 

TFN also approached the charity to ask what steps had been taken in recent months to ensure that its work is more inclusive. 

A spokesman from the Scots Language Center said: "If the Scots Language Centre is contacted by OSCR regarding this complaint we will, of course, treat it very seriously."

 

Comments

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Ioana Berry
3 months ago

Cathy, that's not the point. The issue is that people of colour (POC) also speak Scots. This is not represented in the picture that contains 6 white people. It also suggests that POC are learning Scots. I think you might find they learn Scots in the same way as white people do. Hope this helps. In fact, we have a recognised expert in the Scots language who is a person of colour.

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Cathy Young
3 months ago

This charity is there to highlight and safeguard the Scottish language, that is its priority , hopefully people from all walks of life are drawn to get involved, but the charity should not be going out of its way to highlight any specific group.Scotland is proud of its amazing culture and the Scottish language is part of that, to start including people just for their sexuality or religious beliefs isn't appropriate, this group should be inclusive of both those groups and every other group of people but no single groups should be put above others.

As for stating that a white person represented the group on a poster and to insinuate that is wrong is a racist remark against white Scots , again the person in the poster is representing the charity and to imply a white person shouldn't be doing that is a racist comment. At the end of the day this is a charity to raise awareness of the Scottish language and nothing else and should be inclusive to all but not make any one group a priority above others. I feel like the right choice was made this time.