Chief Executive of Ulster-Scots Agency Ian Crozier.
AS part of Ulster -Scots Language Week, responding to a Chronicle request, the Chief Executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency, Ian Crozier released a statement in respect of the New Decade New Approach agreement and the commitment by the UK government to recognise Ulster-Scots under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
In that statement Mr Crozier said: “In preparation for this new legal status the Agency is working on developing an education piece on the “Identity Markers” of Ulster-Scots.
Responding to interest expressed by readers we subsequently asked Mr Crozier what these 'identity markers', were and when they had been agreed?
Responding, Chief Executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency Mr Ian Crozier said:
“Designation as a National Minority within the United Kingdom is an important step forward in terms of enhancing recognition of and respect for the Ulster-Scots community and our Ulster-Scots identity in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK.
“An important aspect of the designation is that people are aware of what an Ulster-Scot is, so that they can tell whether they are one. While there are many thousands of people across Northern Ireland who are are well aware of their Ulster-Scots identity, there are many more who aren't.
“It is vital that we help them to recognise that part of themselves. Naturally, this also helps people who are aren't Ulster-Scots to recognise us as well, which is hugely important when you consider that we are part of a UK population of more than 65million people encompassing huge cultural diversity.
“Developing a list of the different aspects of Ulster-Scots cultural identity that our community will recognise and coalesce around is an essential step in promoting who we are. It should also reduce the misunderstanding and mischaracterisation that has negatively affected our people in the past.
“These identity markers are not new, they are simply the different aspects of Ulster-Scots identity that many of us have grown up with, but they are being described in a new way, through the language of human rights and being presented in a way that addresses how Ulster-Scots live today, as well as how our community lived in the past.
“Traditionally, Ulster-Scots identity has been closely linked to Scottish lineage, adherence to Presbyterianism and use of the Ulster-Scots language.
“While these remain at the core of our identity, for many in our community, use of the Ulster-Scots language is a less significant part of everyday life than it would once have been: and religious life in Ulster-Scots communities is very different to what it would have been even fifty years ago.
“We don't want people whose families have been Ulster-Scots for generations being cut off from their cultural birthright because they don't speak in dense Ulster-Scots or because they go to a Baptist church instead of a Presbyterian one, or don't go to church at all.
“We want as many Ulster-Scots as possible to claim their birthright, so we will include other expressions of Ulster-Scots cultural identity, including music, dance, sporting and food traditions, which might be more significant aspects of our lives today. This approach is very much consistent with that taken in respect of the Cornish community, who are the United Kingdom's other designated national minority.
“When the piece of work is sufficiently developed, the Ulster-Scots Agency will undertake a consultation with the Ulster-Scots community to refine it and ensure that it has broad support.
“Work on the new strategy for Ulster-Scots language, heritage and culture, which was a commitment in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, is being led by the Department for Communities.”