ARGUMENTS concerning the Scots language – its roots, dialects, survival and legitimacy – will always be with us. They exist on a perpetual low boil, present but rarely advancing beyond their familiar divisions, if only because detractors rarely engage in such debates in good faith. Opportunists will seemingly never stop trying to undermine the legitimacy of a nation via the tongue it uniquely employs, and nothing – not even recent research from Dundee’s Abertay University, which suggests speaking in Scots is functionally equivalent to fluency in a second language – looks likely to end that.

Stuart McHardy is a lecturer in history and a former director of the Scots Language Resource Centre: neither the knowledge he brings to bear or his appreciation of Scots’ subtleties are lightweight. The Wey Forrit, is motivated in part by the “impertinence” of those who would deride both Scots and the cultural diversity of the nation that produced it, and its combative tenor is palpable as a result. “Whit bathers me”, he writes, “an gies a link atween aw the subjecks coverit in this wee beuk is the ongaun reality that sae monie fowk that think o theirsels as Scots gang alang wi sic impertinence wi a will.”

Yet it is possible to focus too much on McHardy’s means of articulation: Scots, like every language, depends on what one does with it. McHardy, in addressing Scotland’s constitutional divide and his own preferred solutions, does little new.

The Scottish philosopher David Hume was sometimes sniffed at by contemporaries for writing in a “French” style, which was to say he wrote as though elegance of thought required elegance of phrasing to be properly understood. And, much of the time, it does. Wording matters. In a social media landscape of instantaneous opinions, the arguments for more carefully considered writing – even aside from the sheer joy of beautiful prose – are many and pressing. Scots can represent that care and possible beauty as well as anything else. What lets The Wey Forrit down is not that it sounds Scottish; it’s that too often it sounds like Twitter.

The Wey Forrit is an indirect commentary one of the chief difficulties facing the post-2014 Scottish independence movement: how can necessary momentum be sustained, while recognising that a condition of constant campaigning cannot be indefinite?

There are many – politicians, activists and yes, writers – who have, since long before that rainy September morning marked by the triumph of the feart, simply never stopped. Tweets, blogs, articles, speeches, press releases, placards abound. There have also been books, but perhaps not as many as there might have been, if the movement’s vanguard had not been compelled to stay abuzz with constant activity. This generation of independence supporters arguably has just as much intellectual heft and wit as those that preceded it, but it has not yet produced a Break-Up of Britain or a Red Paper on Scotland for the 21st century. Eventually, that absence will start to bite.

The Wey Forrit is not that significant work, though it never claims to be: it is a slim collection of essays, tied mainly to the events of the last few years but backed by significant historical knowledge, which nevertheless feels insubstantial. It seems unlikely to sway the unconvinced, or propel those already in favour of national sovereignty in new, necessary directions.

It is when McHardy introduces historical context to Scottish realities that the book comes alive. McHardy’s scholarship allows him to puncture shibboleths and half-facts about institutions both Scottish and British, and it’s the only time one feels The Wey Forrit is delivering something the reader couldn’t find elsewhere.

There are the standard critiques of the British state and the political culture it has produced. There are observations about the SNP, its missteps and distinction from the wider movement that will not be surprising to any average Yes campaigner. There are repetitive and unnuanced dismissals of the “MSM” (mainstream media) that will, even for those who take a dim view of contemporary journalism, become grating.

Some would argue the uniqueness of Scots is its ability to be conversational and poetic simultaneously. The Wey Forrit unfortunately veers towards the former rather than the latter, and the conversation in which it engages is – despite its best efforts – with those who already agree its conclusions.

The Wey Forrit: A Polemic in Scots by Stuart McHardy is published by Luath Press, priced £8.99