Brief update

We’re aware that things have been a bit silent on the campaign front since the flurry of excitement a couple of weeks ago and many of you may be wondering where the campaign is currently at. So here is a wee update:

Since hearing the good news about the University’s plans to allow the School of Scottish Studies archives and libraries to remain in their current building, we have been trying to find out exactly what this entails and also what will happen to our staff. Unfortunately, the University has not been very forthcoming with information on this issue so there’s not really much to report. What we have managed to do, however, is to arrange a meeting with the Principal next week which will be open to all staff and students of the Department and which will hopefully result in a lot of these questions being answered.

In the meantime, there’s not an awful lot we can do and so the campaigners are taking a wee break. There will be no session on the steps/cèilidh sa cheàrnag today as it’s Innovative Learning Week at the University and many people are busy and/or away. We’ll let you know if we plan to hold one next week. If any of you are in need of a cèilidh and will be in Edinburgh on Saturday night we would love to see you at our Comann Ceilteach/Highland Society Highland Annual 8pm-3am in Teviot! There will be dancing, sessions, an open mic and Kathleen MacInnes is headlining the traditonal cèilidh. Tickets £8.50/£6.50 on the door.

In other news, the University recently re-advertised the post of Chair of Celtic with a much broader application criteria (as a result of pressure by the campaign). We’re very excited to see who applies for this post and look forward to welcoming the future Chair into our Department!

As always, we’d like to thank you all for your continued messages of support and we will be back with a proper update after the meeting next week…


Dispatches: Cautious optimism and a ceilidh!

Hello everyone and thank you for all your messages of congratulation today.

We are cautiously optimistic about the University’s press release; it’s definitely what we want to hear but we hope to have everything confirmed to us tomorrow. 

In the meantime there is still the usual Friday ‘Session on the Steps’ to look forward to – hope that as many of you as possible can come and join us for that, and meanwhile your continued support/sharing/re-tweeting/petition signing is much appreciated; keep it up! We have been absolutely amazed at how fast the news has spread and how many views we’ve had on the blog and the petition. Rumour has it there may even be cake tomorrow, so make sure you arrive in time to stop us eating them all. 

Tapadh leibh a-rithist and hope to see as many of you as possible at 1pm tomorrow, 27 George Square.

Excellent news!

Students at the University of Edinburgh today welcome the decision to dedicate £350,000 to improve accessibility to the department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, meaning that the building and facilities at 27-29 George Square will be much more accessible. This means that it will be possible for staff, students, teaching and research to remain on the same site as archival and library resources and study space.

The decision comes in the wake of a student campaign to maintain the integrity of the department, keeping teaching, academic staff, student workspace etc. together with archival and library resources. This campaign has attracted widespread support from academics, politicians and musicians (including Aberdeen University’s Professor Derrick McClure, the traditional singer Sheena Wellington, famous for singing at the opening of the Scottish Parliament, and Jean Urquhart MSP).  A campaign petition gathered close to 2,500 signatures within the first few days, and a motion lodged in Parliament supporting the campaigners (Motion S4M-05507) has received the support of 13 MSPs.

A student spokesperson today said “We are grateful to the principal and the Senate for acknowledging the overwhelming weight of public opinion and the value of maintaining teaching, research, staff, students, archival and library resources under one roof in line with recognised ‘best practice’ among collections of this type.It’s great that the University is responding so readily to student concerns to protect the work and continuing contributions made by the department of Celtic and Scottish Studies to this invaluable national treasure.”

2,000 signatories!

Well today was an excellent day for our campaign, with the blog topping 3,000 views and the petition reaching 2,000 signatures! Thank you all so much for the support you have given us; to those who have written letters, read this blog, written to University management, signed the petition and helped us out in all sorts of ways.

This is going to be a sort of ‘Editor’s Picks’ of the comments we have had on the petition to celebrate our 2,000 names milestone; we’ve had so many messages of support from so many different places it was very difficult to pick just a few but hopefully we have managed to do our support base justice. (If you are quoted here and you don’t want to be, please let us know and we will take your comment down; also if you do not see your comment/message below, please don’t take it personally – we really do appreciate them all!)

In other news, don’t forget that we have another Session on the Steps taking place this Friday at 1pm outside 27 George Square. These events have been brilliant so far and we might have a big name or two dropping by to say hello at some point so watch this space! There will be a bake sale this week and, as always, plenty of tea available – please do come along if you can manage it.

Anyway, here is a small selection of the great comments we have had on our petition:

Heather Holmes, Livingston:

It makes no sense to separate the facilities in the School. The Library and Sound Archive are such an integral part of the life and soul of the School for both the students and staff. The facilities enrich the experience of both. A separation of resources will be detrimental for the future prosperity of the School and all involved with it.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen:

The School of Scottish Studies has a magnificent record of achievement. Its loss would be not only a blow to the field but a disgrace to Edinburgh and the entire Scotish academic community.

Katya Maslakowski, Chicago: With any science discipline the separation of equipment from those performing the research that makes a university like Edinburgh University, an internationally renowned institution, would be unthinkable. However, this is exactly what these proposals would do to Folklorists and Historians of Scotland. This represents the short-sighted nature of universities toward their humanities departments. Please consider that this material is delicate and important as a continual draw for the University and helps secure top graduate students that continue on the traditions of innovative scholarship in ethnology and folklore. The is no feasible benefit to this plan, and a huge cost in prestige and academic-face. Please consider this more carefully. Thank you.

Rory Larson, Lincoln: Endangered language and folklore material is priceless as heritage to the native people and to scholars all over the world. This should be kept in the hands of people who care about it organized as an institution to maintain it.

John Moulden, Derry: Specific research collections built up by specialists should be kept together, their accessibility sustained and controlled and not dispersed or placed where their value is unrecognisable.

Thalia Blacking, Edinburgh: I am a traditional musician and university teacher here in Edinburgh. Please don’t let the SSS become another victim of the profit pressures which are already causing so much damage within our higher education system and society as a whole.

Linda Gowans, Sunderland: How can a university, of all places, be thinking of separating a resource from the people who want to use it? It is the very special combination of staff and resources at the School which have enabled so many students and researchers both to contribute to a knowledge of Scotland’s culture and to achieve personal fulfilment in study and publication. The year 2014 would be the most ironic possible choice for Edinburgh University to demonstrate a lack of concern for Scotland’s cultural heritage.

Clive Sneddon, St Andrews: Keeping material together as collected preserves part of its meaning and value. A University should understand this, and act accordingly.

James Moreira, Machias, ME: If this plan is to place the collection in the general library for the sake of “efficiency,” that is ill-advised. The contents of folklore collections are of a particular kind and require very special forms of cataloguing, accession, and preservation. The best people to handle those tasks are folklorists. It is common practice, i.e. *best* practice, both in Europe and North America for folklore archives to be established and maintained by the (often small) institutes that created the collections. Even special collections librarians generally lack the proper training to maintain a folklore archives.

Peggy Bulger, Fernandina Beach: As the recently retired Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, I know how important the School of Scottish Studies and an integrated archive is to international reseach. Separating them would be a death knell to the preservation and promotion of traditional Scottish culture.

Jennifer Cutting, Takoma Park: Who is going to preserve Scotland’s great and unique cultural legacy (so hard-won!), if not the School of Scottish Studies? Separating its components will weaken and cripple the School of Scottish Studies. Keep it intact, and give the gift of Scottish cultural heritage to all the generations to come!

Stuart McHardy, Edinburgh: This flies in the face of all reason. No doubt it has come about because of some management-obsessed bean-counter with no awareness whatsoever of the roleof education other than to provide employment, looking to cut costs. That this has even been considered is an utter disgrace and makes me asheamed of my alma mater.

Peter Millington, Nottingham: As an alumnus of the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition (NATCECT), University of Sheffield, where a similar process has already taken place, I can assure you that the proposed project would severely impede future research into Scotland’s culture, language and traditions. Does Scotland really want to follow England’s example? Don’t do it!

Lorna Waite, Edinburgh: I spent months in the School of Scottish Studies listening to the only oral history tapes from my hometown. I come from a working class background and am a Gaelic learner also. The School exists as a connected community of speakers, resources, material culture and technical, pedagogic expertise which cannot be fulfilled by its fragmentation. I would also suggest that the proposals by the University would go against the terms of the statutory Gaelic Language Plan which the university has responsibility for. The School is a national asset, to atomise it is to actually say you care nothing for Scotland. It is an act of iconoclasm. Too often, Scottish culture has been inferiorised and marginalised. I see the university continuing this dynamic and it is culturally immoral.

June Factor, Melbourne: As the co-founder of the Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, now a treasure of Museum Victoria, I am conscious of the importance of maintaining a close connection between folklore archives, libraries, teaching and research. The Scottish Studies centre at the University of Edinburgh has been a model in this regard, and it would be against the interest of folklore scholarship to separate the archive collection from the libraries and the teaching and research scholars. I hope the university recognises the symbiotic relationship of resources, teaching and research and maintains and supports the School of Scottish Studies in its present form.

Alison Ní Dhorchaidhe, Glaschu: ‘S e goireas prìseal, luachmhor a th’ anns an togalach aig Sgoil Eòlas na h-Alba, leis an leabhar-lann is an tasglann far a bheil iad. ‘S e àite cudromach eachdraidheil a th’ ann cuideachd, agus tha mi den bheachd gum bitheadh e na chall mór do chultar mhuintir na h-Alba nam bitheadh e nas duiliche cothrom a fhaodainn air seudagan na Gàidhlig is na Beurla Gallda a th’ ann, gun teagamh. ‘S e sgaradh gun fheum a bhitheadh ann, agus tha e na chomharradh de lùghdachadh cor na Gàidhlig agus cudromachd cultar nan daoine.

Ian Ó Loingisgh, Dublin: Should this go through it would constitute a frightening precedent for similar archives, particularly here in Ireland….

Once again a massive thank you to everyone who’s signed this petition. It’s grown amazingly fast over the last couple of days, gaining over 1,000 names in 24 hours – we’ve all been blown away by how much support we’ve had from the wider community.

Hope to see some of you 2,000 signatories at one of our Friday sessions! Here are some photos as well from our previous session!

Dispatches! Regular cèilidhs and a campaign update.

Thanks very much to all of you for supporting our campaign so far. The views on the blog are going up and up and our prescence on Facebook and Twitter is also growing.

For those who don’t know already, our Facebook address is:

And you can follow us on Twitter at:

@SSSCampaign (hashtag #SSSCampaign)

We are going to be launching an e-petition in the next few days, so watch this space!

We will be holding regular ‘protest cèilidhs’ on Fridays at 1pm, outside the department at 27 George Square, Edinburgh (Southwest corner near the Meadows) – we are calling them the ‘Session on the Steps’ or ‘Cèilidh sa Cheàrnag’. One of the greatest things about this campaign is that it has been a fantastic way for people to get to know each other, and to build links within and beyond the department. We would like to invite anyone interested in the campaign and supporting our cause to come along, it’s great fun – here are some of the members of our campaign at the Burns Cèilidh we held:

Other updates:

  • Our campaign appeared on ‘Aithris na Maidne’ on the 28th of January, and ‘An Là’ (both Gaelic news programmes) on the same day.

You can listen to us on Aithris na Maidne (starting ten minutes into the programme) at:

and view the clip from An Là at:


Campaign Launch! What our campaign is all about.

An internationally respected icon of Scotland’s folklore, heritage and languages – the archives and library resources of the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University – face unprecedented challenges if current Edinburgh University plans go ahead. The School of Scottish Studies Archive, which celebrated its 60th birthday last year, houses thousands of hours of field-recordings in Scots, Gaelic and English from all over Scotland. This makes it one of the most unique and precious repositories of Scottish cultural history in the country. It also contains valuable manuscripts, photos, video footage and surveys, along with thousands of books in the Celtic and Scottish Studies libraries which are used daily by students, researchers and the general public.

As students at the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, we have learned that plans by the University will result in the separation of this internationally-renowned Archive Collection from its associated libraries and from the teaching and research of the Department. A student campaign is under way to convince the University and the public that the School of Scottish Studies Resources must remain intact and accessible to researchers and ethnologists at all academic levels, and to the wider public.

In a series of meetings between senior University staff and students of the department over recent months, a number of facts have emerged that we now must make known to a wider audience. To ensure the academic integrity of Celtic and Scottish Studies in Edinburgh, we call on all interested parties to support our campaign.

Our key areas of concern are:

  • ŸMove 2014: As part of a plan to combine all the departments in the School of Literatures, Language and Cultures in one building, the university intends to move the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies from its home in 27 George Square to a new facility at 50 George Square in the spring of 2014. Despite these plans being drafted around five years ago, there are still no concrete plans for the School of Scottish Studies resources. The Archives, which continue to be chronically understaffed, will be permanently separated from the Department along with the libraries but their ultimate location remains unclear.
  • Ÿ Archives: A review on the archives was commissioned and published in 2012. It praises the resources and the skill and knowledge of the staff who manage them, although it points out key failures on the part of wider university management such as under-staffing. The University recently released a statement promising to fundraise in order to provide a new Centre for the Archives, and two steering groups will be set up to achieve this end. But this commitment does not address our key concern: the threat to the integrated and holistic nature of the Department and its resources. The only concrete plan at present is to move the Department and separate staff and students from their resources. The Archive Review specifically recommends the archives remain ‘a resource managed within their academic department’ (p. 22). Despite recent projects such as Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o’ Riches, which have made 18% of the material accessible online the remainder is unavailable if this format, making accessibility a pressing concern.
  • Ÿ Libraries: The Celtic and Scottish Studies library resources have been earmarked for dispersal to various locations on and off campus, including an unstaffed Undergraduate Resource Centre in the new building at 50 George Square. Due to shelving limitations, only 10% of books will move to the new facility, which, as unstaffed, would be entirely unsuitable for most of our resources anyway. Valuable or rare books will be moved to the University Library Special Collections. Of the remaining books, some will be held, inaccessible except through a lengthy recall process, in storage several miles outside the city. Those which are deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ will be disposed of entirely. We also stand to lose our skilled and immensely helpful Scottish Studies Librarian if these plans go ahead.Ÿ
  • Chair of Celtic: The absence of a Chair of Celtic at Edinburgh University since the retirement of Professor William Gillies in 2009 is unacceptable.  We urge the University to invite applications from all dynamic and innovative Celtic scholars to fill this crucial post without further delay.
  • Ÿ  Gaelic: The University recently published its first Gaelic Language Plan, in which it recognised ‘the importance of creating opportunities for the practical use of Gaelic in a wide range of everyday situations and is committed to increasing its level of provision in this area’ (p. 13). The inter-disciplinary, holistic nature of the department makes it a vital meeting place for Gaelic speakers from within and outwith the University. We fear that separating the constituent elements of the department would seriously damage this ‘safe space’ for Gaelic within the University.

These key points outline a real threat to the integrity of the Department, and thus to the reputation of the University as a whole. As students of Celtic and Scottish Studies, we are deeply concerned for the future of our discipline within the University if these plans to fragment the Department are allowed to proceed.

The importance of the Archives and associated libraries to research and teaching has been placed at risk.  We see no justification for separating them, thus threatening 60 years of innovative scholarship in the field of Scottish Ethnology and Folklore. The ground-breaking digitisation work of the Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches project, the cross-university collaboration which has won numerous accolades, has highlighted the value and importance of the material but there is still more work to do. The continuing record of the Scottish people contained within the Archives, which features prominently in many taught courses and wider research projects, is at stake.

We request that:

(a) University management allow the staff, students and resources of the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies to remain together in their entirety, preferably at 27-29 George Square, where we thrive in a positive, integrated environment;

(b) the University strives to fill the Chair of Celtic, vacant since 2009, as soon as possible.

We now invite the public to support our campaign.  We urge Edinburgh University to listen to the consistent and unanimous opinion of this student body, and ask you, the public, to join in our determination to protect the School of Scottish Studies resources for us, for scholars of the future and for all of the people of Scotland.

Please write or email your concerns to

Professor Dorothy Miell (Head of College of Humanities and Social Sciences):

Professor Dorothy Miell

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

The University of Edinburgh

55-56 George Square



Letters or emails of support to students or requests for press interviews can be sent to:

Students of Celtic and Scottish Studies

C/O Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies

27-29 George Square



Follow us on Twitter @SSSCampaign

To hear a bit more about the campaign listen to today’s (28.1.13) ‘Aithris na Maidne’ on Radio nan Gàidheal, starting ten minutes into the programme.

Who are we?



This blog is run and updated by students of the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. We aim to use this blog to keep people updated as to what is happening at the School (musical events, conferences, research seminars etc) as well as to raise awareness of all the great things we do here. 

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about us (you can view the full article here:

“The School of Scottish Studies was founded in 1951, and is affiliated to the University of Edinburgh. It holds an archive of over 9000 field recordings of traditional music, song and other lore, housed in George Square, Edinburgh. The collection was begun by Calum Maclean – brother of the poet, Sorley MacLean – and the poet, writer and folklorist, Hamish Henderson.”

We are very proud of our rich heritage and resources here at the School but we are also always looking forward to improve and develop on the great things we already have – hopefully this blog will help those of you who are also interested in or connected with the School to keep abreast of what’s going on!