Parliamentary officials baffled by accents of Scottish MPs


HILARIOUS evidence has emerged showing how parliamentary officials in London are baffled by the accents of Scottish MPs.

One Hansard reporter sent a note to a Scottish MP asking why he made a reference to the SNP calling them “big fairies”.

Bemused Jim Sheridan MP was forced to explain that he actually said “big fearties”.

The note was revealed by Pamela Nash, MP for Airdrie and Shotts.


Sheridan explained – in block capitals – to the Hansard Reporter: “No big fearties Scottish ref to people who are frightened.”

The Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire translated his words after receiving an “urgent request” from official Hansard shorthand reporters.

Hansard reporters log everything that is said in the House of Commons.

If they fail to understand something that is said, they have the option to request help from speakers.

Jim Sheridan said: “It was quite funny – it’s not a word used in England.

“Sometimes it’s hard for the Hansard shorthand reporters to understand all the people with different accents, like the Geordies too.

“They often seek clarification unless you speak with an exceptionally posh voice.

“Unless you are sitting right next to the shorthand writer, it can be difficult to get everything.”

He added: “What they thought I said was ‘big fairies,’ it’s applicable to both though.

“The debate today was on referendum in Scotland. I made the comment because  the SNP slogan used to be ‘Free By 2003’. But now it’s 2013, so why are we waiting?

“They had the chance in 2012, after that they are still not ready and they should be ready. Why waiting two years? They are frightened of Scotland, so that’s when I said they were “big fearties.”

The note was revealed by Pamela Nash, MP for Airdrie and Shotts.

She said: “Funniest note from Hansard I have seen yet. Need to get them Scottish lingo lessons :)”

After the hilarious mix-up appeared on social networking sites, one anonymous commenter wrote: “Hansard recruiters need to pick from a more diverse pool or buy a stock of hearing aids.

On Facebook, John Loughton, commented: “Hahahahaha this is genius!”

On Twitter, Gary C added: “In Scotland you would ref to someone meek and frightened as a ‘big fearty’ misunderstood as big fairies I believe in the commons.

Matthew Kay, who runs the office for Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell, revealed he had received similar requests, writing: “Get them all the time re Austin’s Yorkshireisms”.

The phrase “big feartie” has been bandied about in the world of politics on several occasions.

In October 2007, Alex Salmond called Gordon Brown a ‘big feartie’ after he ruled out an election that year.

And in October 2011, ‘big feartie’ was even adopted by an Eton- and Oxford-educated Home Counties MP – David Cameron. The prime minister used it as a challenge to Alex Salmond to hold an independence referendum at the Conservatives’ conference.

Other regional words for frightened have caused a stir. In 1983, Margaret Thatcher branded Labour’s Denis Healy ‘frit’, a Lincolnshire term for ‘frightened’ during Prime Minister’s Questions.


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  1. I have just recently finished a temp contract as a Customer Service Associate with Amazon. They have spent a fortune locating their call centre in Edinburgh, because people love and trust Scottish accents. This is yet another case of Home Counties Hooray Henries refusing to hear.

  2. Scottish accents may generally be liked, but some Scottish dialects are indeed very hard even for Scots from other parts of Scotland to understand. This is a non-story, not helped by your gratuitous insult to quite ordinary civil servants trying to do their job.

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