Scots is descended from the language of the Angles who settled in northern Britain, in an area now known as Northumbria and southern Scotland, in the 5th century AD. The language was originally know as 'Inglis' and has been influenced by Gaelic, Norse, Latin, Dutch, Norman French, Standard French and English.
By the 14th century Scots was the main language of Scotland and was used in literature, education, government and in legal documents. This was the period when Scots literature began to take off and notable literary works include Barbour's Brus, Whyntoun's Kronykil and Blin Harry's Wallace.
After the union of the Scottish and English parliaments in 1707, English became the language of government and of polite society in Scotland, though the vast majority of people continued to speak Scots. English also began to replace Scots as the main written language in Scotland.
Since the 1990s there has been limited use of Scots in education, the media and in literature. In 1983 a Scots translation of the New Testament was published and 1985 the saw the publication of the SNDA's Concise Scots Dictionary.
Scots is also known as braid Scots, Doric, Scotch or Lallans. Some people classify it as a dialect of English, and while it is closely related to English dialects spoken in Northumbria, it has had it's own literary tradition since the 14th century. Today there is a continuum of speech ranging from broad Scots to Scottish Standard English and many people switch between different parts of the continuum depending on circumstances.
The UK government accepts Scots as a regional language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and the Scottish Executive recognises and respects Scots (in all its forms) as a distinct language, and does not consider the use of Scots to be an indication of poor competence in English.