Burns charity convener urged to resign after appearing to criticise young Scots poet

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A PETITION has been launched urging a convener of a Robert Burns charity to resign after she appeared to criticise a Scots poet’s accent and dialect.

Lesley McDonald, Education Convener at The Robert Burns World Federation, has been slammed for posting several negative tweets in relation to poet Erin Boyle.

Boyle performed “Fae The Scheme Tae The First Team”, a poem about Scotland getting into Euro 2020, for BBC The Social.

Lesley McDonald resignation petition - Poetry News Scotland
A petition calling for McDonald to resign now has over 500 signatures.

She received criticism from viewers about her Scots accent and dialect, to which McDonald replied in agreement. 

One user tweeted: “Jesus! This drives me nuts and makes me ashamed to be Scottish…I don’t know anyone (thank god) who talks like that!” to which McDonald replied “They certainly don’t!” 

Another person tweeted : “I do wonder if people not from Scotland think everyone in Scotland speaks like this.”

McDonald replied “Sincerely hope not.” 

Another remarked: “They want the rest of the UK to think we all sound like Glaswegian neds” to which McDonald replied “It’s ridiculous. A bit like all the Gaelic road signs. Do they think we all speak Gaelic?”
 
The Robert Burns World Federation charity describe themselves as aiming to “preserve, promote and celebrate Scotland’s heritage, language and culture”. 

But yesterday they were forced to distance themselves from comments made by McDonald.

Lesley McDonald anti-Gaelic tweet - Poetry News Scotland
Lesley’s tweets appeared to criticise Boyle’s accent, and the Gaelic language.

The official Twitter page for the charity yesterday posted: “The Robert Burns World Federation values all the languages of Scotland and dialects.

“The comments of Lesley McDonald were personal and do not reflect the opinions of the Federation.”

A petition has since been launched on Change.org asking for Lesley McDonald to resign and holds over 500 signatures. 

The petition reads: “In June 2021, the Scottish poet Erin Boyle published a Scots poem via the BBC ‘The Social’ page.

“She received a number of unkind and hateful comments through prejudice against the Scots language and Scottish accents.

“Lesley McDonald, the Education Convener and member of the board of the Robert Burns World Federation, agreed with a number of prejudiced comments against Miss Boyle’s accent, including comments that hoped people outside of Scotland would realise that not everyone speaks like Miss Boyle, and made at least one anti-Gaelic language comment. 

“The Robert Burns World Federation (RBWF) states one of its aims is to promote and celebrate Scottish heritage & languages, as well as the works of Robert Burns, who wrote a number of his poems in Scots. 

The petition continues: “An open letter was written to the RBWF outlining Ms McDonald’s comments, as they are diametrically opposed to the aims of the RBWF’s Mission Statement.

“The RBWF issued a response that Ms McDonald’s comments were her personal views, are not aligned with the RBWF & the RBWF wishes to promote all of Scotland’s languages. At the present time, Ms McDonald remains in post.

“We feel that given the stated aims of the RBWF, Ms McDonald should not remain in her post as Education Convener as her prejudices towards modern Scots, their accents and their usage of Scots language or Gaelic language may hinder the RBWF’s mission of promoting Scottish culture and celebrating it.

Lesley McDonald - Poetry News Scotland
Lesley McDonald is the Education Convener for the Robert Burns World Federation.               (C) Lesley MacDonald Facebook

“Ms McDonald should resign from her post, or be removed from her post, to prevent any further damage to the RBWF’s reputation.” 

Scots comedian Janey Godley weighed into the argument by tweeting: “Why is it that Scottish women performing Scots poetry/songs end up with really w***y people losing their accounts with such vile hatred towards these talented women?

“I mean for F***Sake it’s music and poems @Erinboyle @Lenniesaurus @ionafyfe why the spewing hatred?”

More than 100 social media users and Scottish performers also took to Twitter to criticise McDonald’s comments.

Singer Iona Fyfe tweeted: “@RobertBurnsFed They might be her personal comments, but it’s not appropriate for someone who publicly posts anti-Gaelic comments and contributes to a pile-on on a girl reciting poetry in Scots, to be on the board of an org celebrating @RobertBurnsFed + the Scots language?

“Board shake-up needed.”

Susan McAlindon wrote: “@RobertBurnsFed As someone who was taught Burns at the age of 10, I am deeply offended by her comments and angered that she is employed as part of the institution of the most amazing poet Scotland has had while not actually believing in it.”

And responding to the charity’s response, Twitter user Mac @fmacn said: “@RobertBurnsFed Absolute nonsense. Her comments made it clear she does not value ‘all the languages of Scotland and dialects.'”

The Robert Burns World Federation today said: “The RBWF values all the languages of Scotland and dialects and it is written into our mission statement and governing documents that we should promote Scottish literature, history, art, music and language.

“The RBWF Board are meeting later today and we will issue a statement in the above respect, when this has concluded.”