Living the Past

Not so many years ago opponents used to laugh at Scottish Nationalism as an echo of the past, reviving ancient battles and recalling Wallace and Bruce. There was some justification for this when party delegates turned up in kilts carrying Lion Rampants – in an age before tartan became mainstream.

Asserting an historic or traditional Scottishness provoked the Cringe from those whose worldview accepted that Scots had been beaten by history and that modernism dictated Britishness was dominant. The clammy touch of embarrassment still hung to the Labour benches at the opening of parliament on the Mound in 1999 when the singing of A Man’s a Man produced only sour faces and mumbled sounds. What was OK to say at a Burns Supper didn’t translate into modern Blairite politics, even among those whose street upbringings included varieties of the Scots tongue.

An aversion to history has adjusted the language of nationalism. We rarely talk of national freedom for example. It sounds dramatic –Wallace-esque even – when our debate is more about process and procedure. People bear arms for freedom.

Even national sovereignty, which I would say was technically correct, is only sporadically given an airing, imbued as it is with the air of centuries past. (It is also word of choice for Quebeckers whose movement is a more theatrical business altogether. I can’t find my original text but this phrase is from Wikipedia and sums up the whole 1500 section of the independence preamble: We know the winter in our souls. We know its blustery days, its solitude, its false eternity and its apparent deaths).

So is the Past another country? Does history matter in a modern context? Or do we still dismiss it as an out-of-date irrelevance?

I think it plays a key but understated role and shapes our attitudes to political questions. I don’t believe Bannockburn is directly relevant to policy questions or that we should remember Flodden when we vote. But I do think not enough attention is paid to the story we tell ourselves about our history. It is that which informs our sentiments – our feelings – about our country and how it should be governed and by whom. Further, I think the distortion of Scotland’s story (by Scots) and the vast panoply of omission our education tolerates, corrupts our judgment and diminishes us as people.

Now there is no great conspiracy at work here. Sorry. Rather it is an inch-by-inch retreat from one view in favour of another. It is a wrinkle of the old adage of history being written by the winners…of a slow surrender to the prevailing attitude. It is a why-bother shrug over generations when other questions seemed more important and aspects of Scottishness seemed less so – around the time of a world war for example. It is one result of the ambitious assimilating their thoughts with the views of the powerful, a general intellectual bending of the knee to authority.

We were taught the kings and queens of the United Kingdom but not the Scottish ones. I was brought up five miles from Abbotsford but was never taken there to learn about Scott while at school. I didn’t know the importance of Ettrick (Royal) Forest until years after I’d left school even though I played in it as a boy. No one told me in History class that Wallace was made Guardian of Scotland in the local kirkyard in the Wynd. (Years later Winnie Ewing would sing the Border Maiden for me at a party in Strasbourg in honour of the anniversary.)

We did know all about Flodden though – a crushing defeat when the Scots were, by some accounts, betrayed by the Homes. It wasn’t until the 1960s when the Earl of Home (former Prime Minister) was forgiven for this treachery by being made a burgess of the town by being obliged to ‘lick the birse’ – to pass through his lips shoemakers’ bristles which have first been through the lips of the entire town council…I think we made him pay. I particularly like that it took Selkirk – my town – 450 years to get over it. (If ever you want the definition of the word thrawn…)

We have allowed distortions of the national story to take hold and become standard thinking. This week on one of those nippy threads on Twitter someone – quite gratuitously – mocked Scotland with the words: You were bankrupt and England saved you with the Union.

Now I know many Scots tacitly believe this was the root cause of 1707 and it is now used even by otherwise ignorant ranters to demean Scotland. But it isn’t true. Scottish maritime trade was restricted by English embargo, it’s true, which was one reason Darien gained traction so quickly. But every penny subscribed to Darien was private money. Nothing came from Scotland the nation, which had no debt – although England did. When it was in the interests of the English Crown to assimilate Scotland, the money paid out – the Equivalent – went to the investors who had lost their cash.

It was in reality a bribe to sell out the country. The wider population protested at the deal as many still do today. Darien was partly created by English embargo on Scottish trade. Its investment was partly blocked by England at the request of Spain. Even the desperate stragglers were denied refuge on the king’s order.

But Darien has become shorthand, even among intellectually-challenged English nationalists, as a sign of today’s inability of Scots to run our own affairs.

Is this just post-event grievance? I hope not because to me Darien represented the very best of Scotland’s entrepreneurial spirit. It was ambitious and daring. It was international and prescient – why is the Panama Canal there today? Failure is the risk of enterprise and in almost every other sphere Britain has revered or glossed over its role as losers.

When the British were massacred in Afghanistan in 1842 it was the story of William Brydon, the sole mounted survivor, which was remembered. His tragic hero return – Where’s the Army? I am the Army – turned defeat into noble heroism. It was followed by brutal British repression.

When the British were crushed by rudimentary-armed Zulus at Isandlwana in 1879, it wasn’t the deaths of 1300 of Chelmsford’s troops or his disastrous leadership that came to mark the event but the following day’s last stand at nearby Rorke’s Drift. The humiliation of a heavily-armed, professional and British army by bare-chested natives is barely mentioned today. But the genuine heroics of Chard and Bromhead’s subsequent siege are known to every schoolboy.

Darien should be remembered for its failure but also for its place as a unique national experiment in which ordinary citizens with £5 to spare backed a great collective venture. It was bold in ambition and magnificent in scope. Collecting roughly half the estimated private capital of the country, it is possibly the greatest national investment scheme in human history. The people weren’t leaving it to the brave either. Thousands of them volunteered to make the trip themselves.

But that’s not how it’s remembered. The story has been edited to fit the prevailing narrative of incapable Scots.

I mention all this not because I enjoy a good moan – although it does you good from time to time. No, it’s because I read an *insightful piece by Nicholas Boyle, Emeritus Schröder Professor of German, University of Cambridge, on the anguished soul of England and thought it got to the heart of so much of the complex responses we get from our neighbours who pretend one moment to love us and the next to detest; one moment they subsidise us, the next they need us to stay. Essentially the argument is that England cannot find its own identity and won’t accept that it isn’t exceptional any more. The bullying of others is displacement activity for finding a role and being content with it. (Scots are one of the few remaining dogs they can safely kick). England doesn’t need to disport itself like other countries. It is unique and finds the expressions of nationhood of others to be trivial. It is driven mad when others fail to recognise this special status and pay respect.

The signs of this are all around us. Listen to the impudence of Theresa May lecturing 27 other countries on what Britain will put up with, having messed them around for 40 years…wonder at her blatant threats of retaliation if she is thwarted…just like the indyref when warm words turned to sinister threats if we dared defy them.

Out of my personal grievance box pops David Starkey, the open-minded English nationalist historian (quote: Scotland only has a history in so far as it relates to England). He scoffed at the idea of others having national emblems and jingoistic expressions. These were merely the outward signs of self-justification. England, he said, has no need of such trifles, so strong is its intrinsic worth.

Another personal favourite is the airy contempt that leads institutions to call themselves, for example, the Football Association (no need to mention the word English…goes without saying).

As Boyle writes: While Ireland, Wales, and Scotland became, for the English, slightly comic regions of ‘Britain’, ‘England’ became for them the sentimental ideal of ‘home’, the image of the green and pleasant mother-country that concealed the brutal realities of empire from its agents and possessed nothing so sordid as distinct political or economic interests of its own.

And, he goes on: …because England has been unable to acknowledge that loss,(of empire) it has also been unable to acknowledge the end of English exceptionalism, the end of the characterlessness the English had enjoyed as rulers of the world – with no need of distinct features to mark them off from their equals since they had no equals, embodying, as they did, the decency, reasonableness and good sense by which they assumed the rest of the world privately measured its lesser achievements and to which they assumed it aspired.

This default contempt for others came home to me when I interviewed our former ambassador in Washington, Christopher Meyer. We were skirmishing about Britain always sending troops abroad, always interfering, dragging ourselves into insoluble conflicts. I said other countries didn’t make that mistake and as a Scot I looked for example to Denmark which didn’t rush to back the USA and took pragmatic decisions in keeping with popular support at home. He spluttered. ‘Denmark! You can’t really compare Britain to Denmark. They’re poles apart in terms of importance…etc’ was the gist of it. In his words you heard the echoes of Palmerston or Chamberlain, brimming with conceit.

If we have been the beneficiaries of English charity, we are the victims too of their hubris. The stultifying hangover of empire and its loss still dictates so much of that country’s behaviour, buried as it is deep in the national psyche.

To end, one of my favourite pieces of historical propaganda contains an uplifting message for independence-minded Scots 700 years on. On the plain marble tomb of Edward the First in Westminster Abbey is inscribed Edwardus Primus Scottorum Malleus hic est 1308 Pactum Serva or Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots, 1308. Keep the Vow.

This is commonly regarded as the declaration of Edward’s triumph over Scotland, the epitaph of a wielder of the crushing hammer that destroyed a nation. Indeed that is the interpretation widely in use in Scotland. It is also poppycock.

Edward did have his triumphs in Scotland and he was brutal but he, like every monarch before and since, signally failed to crush the Scots or beat the nation. The opposite is true. His treatment of the people, including savagery against prisoners, male and female, so enraged the Scots that more flooded to support the fight against English domination. Edward’s real ambition had all along been victory over the Muslims in the Crusades. He saw it as his kingly destiny to recapture the Holy Land for Christianity. But the constant trouble caused by the Scots (and by Philip in France) robbed him of that destiny. The conflict with the Scots devoured him and after every setback they came back to haunt him.

The epitaph he bears is in reality a reminder of how his obsession with defeating Scotland derailed his reign and left the name of Scotland marked on his chest for eternity. Keep the Vow is the command to resist the Bruce for his treachery.

In other words, the reference to Hammer of the Scots is no boast. Instead it is post mortem admission of his failure to defeat them. He went to his grave in that knowledge.

If you accept that reading – and you can find a version of it detailed in The Hammer of the Scots by David Santiuste – it changes your impression of history. It demonstrates how, far from being crushed by Longshanks, men like Bruce, Wallace, Comyn and Murray led a resistance that refused to yield despite terrible cost and ultimately left their own mark on Edward’s grave.

In this version of history Scots more than survived and today continue, albeit in more delicate and democratic terms, a centuries-old cause linked to the concept of self-government, national freedom if you like but, in modern parlance most certainly, independence.

History is always with us. What matters is how you read it and what you think it means today.


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86 thoughts on “Living the Past

  1. Wow, drive for Indy has been a learning experience for me. Shame our history has been so neglected.

  2. Excellent article Derek. Thank You. Less than 20 years after Darien, England was thrust into financial meltdown with the South Sea Bubble saga.

  3. Very interesting.

    I also read that article by Nicholas Boyle
    It explained a lot,the extreme anger from some English folk about Scotland’s independence referendum – how very dare we.

    To the list of heroic ‘failure’ I would add Dunkirk.
    Whilst of course’forgetting’ to mention the 51st Highland division left behind to buy time whilst the rest were rescued.
    I only found out about that a few years ago when I read an article by the late great Ian Bell.

    • My cousin was one of the ones left behind. I’ve always felt ambivalent about that. He suffered five years in a PoW camp, but on the other hand he came out of it at the end and lived a happy life into his 80s. Another cousin from the same town joined the RAF and was shot down over the English Channel. I never knew the airman, he died before I was born. The 51st Highlander was part of my life.

    • It is true that the 51st HD’s actions and eventual capture at St Valery en Caux are forgotten but not that they were left behind to buy time for others to be rescued. It was most likely an act of political expediency in an effort to appease the French and reassure them about British intentions.

      Speaking as someone who’s Dad was amongst those captured I do find it irritating in the extreme that the establishment are always keen to overlook this part of the 1940 story when their Dunkirk celebrations / commemorations take place. However many English soldiers were taken captive at Saint Valery en Caux as part of the support regiments of the 51st and I’m sure it irks their relatives no less.

      • I have heard a quote regarding this event, but I’m not sure as to its authenticity – when the 51st looked upon the fleeing British army, one of their Scottish officers remarked “If the English surrender now, this could be a long war”

    • I worked with a guy in Cumbernauld in the early 70’s who had been part of the Dunkirk rearguard. They were simply abandoned once the evacuation was complete, surrendered to the Germans, and became POWs. He spent the rest of the war working in a Silesian salt mine.

  4. Thank you for that, Derek.

    Even back in 2014 I couldn’t understand how the Yes campaign expected to win without any reference to this issue. Civic nationalism is fine, peaceful modern self-determination is fine, but at some point you have to fire up people’s blood, their souls. Otherwise you might as well be recommending self-determination for Wiltshire.

    General ignorance of and misinformation about Scotland’s history is widespread. Many people react to finding out the truth, whether it be about Berwick in 1296 or Darien in 1705 or McCrone in 1975 with an impassioned declaration of support for independence.

    I recall telling the story of Wallace to some English friends in Sussex, back before Braveheart was filmed. One said, “is this some sort of secret history you’re telling us?” Is said no, that children often learned about it in school and the Wallace monument in Stirling was a phallic symbol to put Nelson’s column to shame. The next reply was “Then why isn’t Scotland independent?” My English friends genuinely believed that any Scot, knowing the past of their country, would support independence. I tried to explain that the history was passed off as tales for children with no relevance to the modern age, and that anyone who promoted this history as a reason to support independence was reviled as a dangerous fanatic.

    There was no thread of this nature running through the independence campaign. Bannnockburn wasn’t hijacked as independence propaganda – there doesn’t seem to have been any effort to try, despite the authorities doing their best to wreck the 700th anniversary celebrations just in case. The No campaign constantly accused the Yes campaign of intending to hijack history and sweep to victory on a tide of history-drenched sentiment. It didn’t even make the attempt.

    I think the fears of the No campaign were justified. I think a strand of campaigning along these lines could bring a substantial number of people to Yes. Not through resentment and grievance, but through realising how normal a nation we once were and how as a normal nation once again we can re-establish the trading links with Europe that Wallace re-established in his letter to the Hanseatic League.

    Some group needs to take this on.

    • Alasdair Macdonald

      Morag, Re Hanseatic League – I recall from school history our teacher, who subsequently became pretty senior in Her Majesty’s Inspectors, dictating a note to us, which included a phrase that “the Hanseatic league was hostile to Britain” (sic). The general tenor of the piece was about Britain’s brave stance against ‘foreigners’. As a 13 year old, it did not dawn on me at that time that there was no ‘Britain’. At the time, Scotland and England were separate independent nations and Scotland was a member of the Hanseatic League.

      A clear example of history being unionist propaganda.

      • I have read the letter in the Holstentor in Luebck. All my friends and relatives there are very sympathetic to Scotland remaining in Europe.

    • Wow. Thank you Morag also!

  5. My sentiments exactly, Morag – and Derek. History is everywhere and if we know our history we can understand why things are as they are now and what we should do about it. .

  6. Nailed it, yet again, Derek.

    • I also read the Boyle article and the one the other day about Gibraltar ( @wildernessofpeace i think). What stood out was how rapidly attitudes have changed in Gibraltar after being taught their own history, 10 years of teaching their history instead of UK has caused a sea change in national identity away from British. I was taught no Scottish history at school (in the 80s) except for p7 when the teacher had a particular personal interest, we should all make sure our childeren and grandparents read some Scots history instead of the Brit centric stuff they were taught.

  7. Exceptional post Derek.

    History happens every day. Its about perspective I think.

    Most folks, myself included, simply don’t see it being woven and don’t feel part of it. It’s all too big. How does the ant perceive the elephant kinda thing? I’d imagine most folk feel history carries them along, that they feel powerless to direct events and so its just something that happens to them. History is made by important people being the predominant meme.

    Well, I reckon not. I think that history is made by all of us and all at the same time. The smallest and least noticed action or event can have the most profound effect. Like an idea for example. An idea whose time has come? Or maybe lots of little things all coming together at the right time to make something greater, more capable than the individual. Butterfly effect.

    If enough people want a thing, the same thing, then it doesn’t matter what they’re up against. They’ll move mountains and make history that future generations can read about.

  8. Thanks for this Derek. Did your school take you to Melrose to see the resting place of Bruce’s heart or to Dryburgh to see Scott’s grave?

    The idea being pushed now is that Scotland was grateful for 1707 when the evidence shows the opposite. There were riots in the street on many major towns. The decision was taken by a handful of men (and they were all men) who stood personally to gain and were rewarded handsomely.

    Burns’ “bought and sold” phrase pretty much sums it up.

    But we are here and now. We must learn about our history and the lessons it can teach us and use it to empower our future.

    • Steve, as you’re às An Eilean you’re very likely familiar with the following but I thought anyone who isn’t might be interested.

      “Burns’ “bought and sold” phrase pretty much sums it up.”

      Also, essential reading for searing invective against some of those involved – and individually named – is “Òran an Aghaidh an Aonaidh” (A Song Against the Union) by Iain Lom. Two brief extracts in English translation:

      “Lord Duplin, the entry to your throat immediately opened and a turbulence rose in your heart when you heard that gold coming your way. You concealed the panting breath of avarice …”

      “Earl of Seaforth from Brahan … if I had my way, truly I would melt gold for you, and inject it into the shell of your skull until it would reach your boots”

      The complete poems in Gaelic with English translations, and many more which include contemporary accounts of other events in Scottish history in late 17th/early 18th century, are in ‘Òrain Iain Luim’ by Annie Mackenzie, The Scottish Academic Press, 1964, ISBN 7073 0046 0

  9. History is for the winners, those who pay or sway. Look at those that took the shilling, then moved to New Zealand!

    Watching the BBC’s piece on ‘Britains Ancient Capital’ – I guffawed – if it was a capital, then it was not a ‘Britain’ at that time – those notions came via Roman domination of ‘England’ – an empire that left England to itself, and the Britain they imagined.

    Where should I look to – like you – brought up on a diet of English polished history. Dambusters and The Cruel Sea for me, not a history buff .. but its influenced me until I stopped letting it, and I watch these things now with a bitter aftertaste.

    I don’t want to go back, I want to be looked upon as an assistant to a better fairer future. Our age group will drink in the early years, the tough but utterly captivating beginnings. You will get to write and be remembered, I will do my thing and be forgotten.

    On winning independence, I do look forward to a late revised Scottish History – my old chum, Reader of History at Aberystwyth notes there will be a furious assault on the subject in Scotland’s early days of new independence. I have no doubt he is right – starting with a new enlightenment that left England to itself.

  10. I also read Nicholas Boyle’s article yesterday. It brought to mind the emblem of the UK with the English Lion standing free and the Scottish Unicorn on a chain. Very poignant.

    • I really can’t ignore this distortion of history. Both the lion and the unicorn are Royal beasts of Scotland and were incorporated into British symbolism by Kng James the vi of Scots. Edward i’s three leopards are also there, though the Plantagenet line died out. So King Robert the Bruce’s descendant sits on the British throne not Edwards. That is why Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn is of such dynastic significance.

      • Absolutely, the Unicorn is chained because it is deemed the most dangerous of mythical beasts, and it was chained by the Scots not the English. One other point, Scotland as a Kingdom predates England, and is the senior partner in this dis United Kingdom.

  11. You say that no conspiracy is involved in this erasing of our history from the public record. Perhaps not. But if you were an aspiring writer wishing to produce historical material for the BBC you would fail. The BBC advice for their Scotland region, in their own booklet “Writing for the BBC”, published first in 1963 and reproduced into the 80’s was:

    “Historical costume drama is rarely required, as a stock of suitable scripts is already available, or will be produced by adaptations from books. Plays of a ‘home-spun’ kind, set in the countryside and depicting a life no longer lived in Scotland, will not be accepted.”

    Forget “Outlander” and other similar depictions of a “way of life no longer lived”. Watch instead, Poldark, Peaky Blinders, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey etc etc.

    • i take it we wont be getting a mini series on the Irish and Scottish potato famine and the brutal Highland clearances then. I take it nobody at the BBC wishes to reveal the reasons why that “way of life no longer lived”. Particularly as the these horrendous events came about during what the BBC regularly glowingly describe as the most glorious period of British history (ie.the reign of Queen Victoria) a woman who sat on the throne as “Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” and did nothing whilst those vast human catastrophes happened in her own realm.

  12. “It brought to mind the emblem of the UK with the English Lion standing free and the Scottish Unicorn on a chain.” I used to be annoyed at that, so I looked it up, and actually, the Scottish Unicorn was always chained, even well before 1707. The chains had nothing to do with English domination, but with the mythology of it being such a powerful and dangerous creature that it had to be kept chained at all times.

  13. Excellent, Derek.

  14. You must have heard that saying if you want to destroy a people you must first destroy their history that’s exactly what they have been doing for years now we along with the Irish and the Welsh have a proud history of fighting against English oppression they on the other hand are the oppressors nothing to be proud about the bbc history programs always start with Henry the 8th they never go back to Edward 1st they try to hide their oppression as if it did not happen

  15. I had no Scottish history at school. Just a small book with isolated anecdotes about Bruce, Bonnie Prince Charlie etc. I am positive that was deliberate policy. When I retired I enrolled in a Scottish history class at Dundee University. What a revelation. 100 per cent of that class had never been taught any Scottish history. I am making sure my grandchildren and great-grandchildren know their past!!

  16. I’m no great reader but, over the years, I’ve tried to find out as much as I can about Scotland’s history. It plays havoc with my emotions as I learn about the high achievements reached by Scots and Scotland only to be followed by heart-breaking lows as Scots and Scotland become their own worst enemies. After all the good and bad I’ve learned I am glad I am a Scot, whose country has such a wonderfully complicated history.

    We’ve had the heart-break of September 2014; it’s time for the glad-heart of independence regained.

  17. Excellent article. High time more of us took a real interest in our country’s past.

    On the question of whether or not a conspiracy is to blame for Scots history being obscure, perhaps it should be more widely known that one of the actions of Edward I was to gather into his own hands all the church and parish records he could find – to be conveyed to England for “safekeeping”. Since very few of these can now be found, the task of piecing together a full history of early Scotland is an extremely difficult one. I feel that this was, and is no accident.

    On the failure of the quite brilliant Darien Scheme, the part played by the Dutch king, William I in using the English and Dutch navies to blockade and harass the beleaguered settlers in Panama deserves a chapter of its own in the history books. A “United Kingdom” in full-blown operation!

    Thanks again for your article, Derek. I was beginning to think I was alone in taking an interest in our county’s background when the normal response of acquaintances to any mention of these things is a blank stare and a whiff of condescension.

  18. Excellent Derek, I get so angry at the false and ignorant information that gets trotted out about Darien. I only was awakened to it when a friend gave me Prebble’s book when I was twenty six years old. It was a subject that somehow escaped the British Imperial history taught in schools of the day.

  19. Well played Sir. Well played.

  20. Enjoyed reading all of this- thanks

  21. I was 18 before I knew who William Wallace was! I got a job in Stirling and asked a workmate who Wallace was. He nearly choked on his tea

    I learnt more about Scotland in primary school than 5 years at high School. History was the Romans, Saxons, Tudors and Henry the 8th. Everything I know of Scotland I learnt myself. How many more people are like me. What a disgraceful excuse of a nation we are sometimes.

    The SNP are called parochial and partisan for introducing Scottish History and Gaelic to schools in Scotland! That’s how unionists tick. They detest Scotland but choose to live in it. We are two nations. The Scots and the North Britons. We are not the same I don’t see them as brethren. I view them as from another country occupying a nation they are not part of. It’s true we are divided how we get independence is another story.

    • Every time I see a Union Flag flying on a building in Scotland I think of it as flag of ocuupation, I detest looking at it and more and more everything it represents.

      • The Howden park and ride in SW Fife when you pull into it in the bus from Dundee to Edinburgh sports three tall flagpoles. The central one sports the union flag but it is flanked by two saltires. IOW ‘you can have your flag that we have to fly, but we’ll keep it well guarded’.

        That is how it should be done. Fly it if we must but guard it well with saltires.

  22. It was learning about Scottish history that convinced me that Scotland should be an independent nation again. In the seventies I had a wonderful history teacher in my second year at secondary school, Mr Black. He believed that everyone should know their country’s history. I cannot remember exactly what he said, but I had a lightbulb moment, and when I was 16 I joined the SNP. I have supported Independence ever since.

  23. aye, Edward I could be seen as a bit like Chemical Ali;

    neither noted for being humanitarian; each with a silly legacy name.

    though one of them is esteemed.

  24. On reading about the Darien scheme I was struck by the fact that the investment was actually made in the Company of Scotland trading with Africa and the Indies and that the Darien Scheme, though a major undertaking, was not their sole activity. The expenditure of the money raised in Scotland had a major impact on the Scottish economy, initiating industrial and commercial growth. The Company’s trading expeditions made a profit, which put them in direct competition with England and investing of so much capital in the Company prohibited investment in manufacture and farming. So Scottish capitalists were crying out for funds and couldn’t sell their shares. At this time the Bank of Scotland was formed.

    After Union the Scottish treasury was carried to London in (I think seven) wagons with a large military escort. So the Scottish Government was not short of bob or two.

  25. Would you be interested in speaking at the BBC bias peaceful protest on 26th March?

  26. while there seems a commonality of view that the Scottish education system in my generation didn’t teach Scottish history – all of a sudden, countless ‘experts’ on Darien appeared in 2014, with lots to say.

    point – as indicated by Derek – is that, largely, was just discriminatory / inferiorist / racist opportunism, and nothing to do with history. it was to ‘prove’ Scottish incapacity and Scotland’s imagined need for a master.

    maybe we should stop going on about that historical episode ourselves – just treat its appearance in anti-independence conversation as something that discredits the Britnat who wants to parade it, and not Scotland.

    I’m confident about our people. They’re great – if only they knew it.

  27. It was the study of history that made me a nationalist. Like others have mentioned in these comments if more people knew the truth about Scottish history I’m sure it would have the same effect on them.

  28. We need to regain the passion of being Scots with a long history to look back on, and a future to look forward to with hope and enthusiasm. Otherwise we’ll be ground down into a region of England that can be forgotten.

  29. ‘Let’s make Great Britain Great again!’ Piers Morgan on BBC Scotland’s funded QT tonight; to thunderous applause. It is clear that in England, Britain is openly interchangeable with England now, even among the ‘Remoaners’.
    I challenge The National to feature this excellent piece . Preferably on the front page.
    Any enterprising History Master may consider distributing this quite sublime take on Scots History to their pupils, with a one word addendum.
    I swear, I’ve not Googled this.
    The Cabal: Clifford Arlington Buckingham Ashley and Lauderdale.
    Why has this been lodged in my LT memory, yet there was no mention of the Covenanters or The Tree of Liberty when we were at school?
    You are among our finest writers, Derek. Thanks again.

    • ‘Let’s make Great Britain ‘GREAT’ again’

      He said that did he Jack?

      And HOW, I wonder, does he define great? In fact I wonder what the usual QT audience considers makes a country ‘great’? I doubt that either Morgan or indeed they themselves know. Mibbies they could do worse than study a wee bit about the philosophical history of a country they don’t consider to be great?

      KNOW THYSELF an old Greek maxim.

      Maybe if some folks used their access to the world to see themselves as others see them, they’d revisit that whole definition of great thing? Right now the UK doesn’t live up to the definition and it has nothing to do with economic performance. A right wing and isolationist government manufacturing and leading a right wing and intolerant society. A government and society today noted, not for great statecraft, fairness, generosity, tolerance, wise laws, scientific achievements on behalf of mankind, practical aid for their friends and strangers alike across the globe. No, these days a government and population noted for quite the reverse.

      A ‘not so great’ Britain.

      Dear God, the UK government can’t even manage an equitable union or settlement with the populations of its own union. In its practice of politics, it manipulates division through lies, anger, mistrust, fear and outright hatred of the other. Of those it deems not thinking the right way. Look at what they’ve done to the peoples of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in pursuit of controlling their ‘little’ empire. In their arrogance and ignorance, with all the powers they had at their command, they focussed so much on what they ‘could do’ to secure their statehood and their power. They never bothered once to stop and consider what they ‘should do’.

      The UK, far from becoming ‘great’, is an international laughing stock. Worse. Should it continue down its current path, both politically and societally, it will become an international pariah. So much for greatness.

      • The use of “Great” as implying importance or superiority is generally misunderstood (deliberately by British Nationalists?). It is a geographical term not a political one. As such it should be treated no differently from Great Cumbrae and Great Bernera.

        So, even “Great” Britain is built on a lie.

      • They even had a wee Nicola Sturgeon joke from a redneck in the ‘audience’.
        Let’s do what Nicola Sturgeon does and have Referendums until we get…the rest lost to my tired old ears by raucous derisory laughter from the overwhelmingly Little England WW III is upon us repel Johnny Foreigner Home Counties types.
        Alistair Carmichael joined in the fun, using the first person plural ‘we’ when the ‘NHS’ i.e., the English Health Service got its usual 20 minute slot.
        Madness stalks these isles, Sam.
        If you’ve not watched it, don’t go there.
        Is Vera Lynn still alive?
        There will always be an England, erm, Britain.

        • As I said Jack. They really, REALLY, need to take a step back and view themselves through others eyes.

          I doubt they’d find the viewing pleasant, but hopefully educational.

        • I noticed that the micro-principled Alistair Carmichael laughed much more heartily than the others at the red neck’s remark.This is all part of the Westminster plan to encourage the demonisation of the Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

          How long before someone on QT is allowed to refer to her as “Wee Krankie and the Snatzis” to loud laughter from Dimbleby?

          • Not long now, Bryan. Donalda’s doing a great job as head honcho at BBC PQ ‘Redoubt’, isn’t she?
            If only Scotland had 56 SNP MPs and had the SNP had won the Holyrood election, we might have see the odd SNP politician guestng on QT?

          • Dimbleby’s ready laughter is why I cannot watch this damned programme. The worst occurrence was when he laughed like a drain after that wiseguy suggested, on the subject of post-indy settlement, Scotland could take the national (uk) nuclear waste.

      • My understanding of the use of “Great” as in Great Britain simply means big. England and Wales is Britain and adding Scotland made it bigger Britain.

        • Oh, I think we understand the definition and terminology perfectly. It’s Piers Morgan’s usage, definition and expectations that are on rocky ground.

  30. When I was in primary school, I learned a great deal about early Scottish History more or less from the Stone Age right up to Robert the Bruce. It was supported by interesting radio programmes from the Scottish Home Service. Entering secondary school, the whole emphasis changed to English history from the 100 Years War up to 1914. Thus, public examinations from Lower (‘O’ Grade) and Higher History contained a considerable amount of English History with some European History thrown in. Virtually no questions were asked on Scottish History. This must change.

    I would like to see the Scottish Qualifications Authority introduce separate Scottish History examination papers at NQ5 (new Standard Grade level) and NQ6 (new Higher Grade level). Too many of our young people in Scotland leave school without any knowledge of their history and that is a disgraceful situation. In my view, the Scottish Government and University History Departments should insist that this be done in order to correct a serious flaw in our school education system.

  31. I remember my shock at visiting Edinburgh Castle, just a few miles from where I grew up and went to school, and saw the Scottish Crown and Crown Jewels. Of course I knew all about the English Crown Jewels -hundreds of miles away- but no-one had thought fit to tell me about these.

  32. Someone online mentioned Nicholas Boyle’s article as neing on ‘The European’. I searchef high amd low! Thanks, Derek for linking to it here.

    IIRC Churchill talked about ‘The Finest Hour’ of the RAF’s pilots. I found it really weird to hear 1940 called the finest hour of the British Empire.

    As for his conclusion, that the ‘only’ way forward is an English Parliament subordinate to Westminster? Ha ha ha, how we laughed. By discarding the dissolution of the Union, isn’t he falling into the exact same hubris he’s spent so much effort tp decry?

    Yeah, ‘cos four national parliaments under Westminstet wouldn’t be unweildy at all.

  33. Worry not, when Dan Snow writes the history of the first two decades of the United Kingdom, he’ll get it right, and that Cringe Scot with the flowing locks will make an hour long historymentary for the EBC exposing the evil cult that swept throughout Scotland which nearly crushed their precious Union.

  34. Derek’s cogent and accessible essay takes us a long way forward, and should be placed much more firmly in the public domain. As a tour guide, the majority of my clients travel here from distant parts of the world, yet embrace with real enthusiasm this ‘new’ take on the history of our country. Only once was there a Scottish lady (accompanying her Australian sister) who said to me as she disembarked in Callendar, “John, I’m ashamed to say this, but I’ve learned more about Scottish history in the last hour and a half, than in the previous sixty-five years. I replied, ” do you think that was an accident?” What we learn at a young age can influence our opinions for the remainder of our lives. Therein lies the problem.

  35. That demented, rabid Brit, long haired historian Jack. He is like a frothing madman on twitter. You can see the red veins in his dead eyes when he lashes out against Scotland. Man is a lunatic.

  36. Fantastic post, Derek – that was a good-yin! The resulting comments – passionate and very readable – have been wonderful, too.


  37. EUROPEAN TRADE in our Scottish History:

    Cromarty, located on the Black Isle, has always relied & depended on its proximity to the sea and to its fertile farm lands.
    18th century trading with Norway, Sweden, Russia, Latvia, Holland, Belgium and even the Mediterranean is depicted on a postcard produced by Cromarty Courthouse (1991) mapping the routes from the port to Europe.

    Possibilities for future ventures: Scottish Ports for Scottish ExPorts.

  38. Brilliant and thought-provoking. Cheers aplenty.

  39. Fantastic piece Derek, well done.

  40. One of your best of recent times Derek. I have bookmarked this.

  41. A good article, one of Mr Bateman’s best, but in our rush to blame England for this nation’s woes, let’s not overlook the role of our fellow countrymen and women.

    Who fought longer and harder than anybody else to keep Scotland in the Union?

    Scottish men and women…

    Gordon ‘federal’ Broon.

    Ruth ‘no surrender’ Davidson, the non-Tory, Tory.

    The useful idiots of Labour’s branch office in Scotland, spouting two years worth of bus drivers in Aberdeen standing shoulder to shoulder with bus drivers in Aldershot…

    Lord Robertson and his forces of darkness.

    And not forgetting Lord Darling’s lifelong dream of a Scottish workers’ Republic…

    Having lived in England for a number of years, I can tell you that most English people don’t give two hoots if Scotland goes or Ireland becomes united…

    The biggest barrier to Scottish independence has always been Scots…

    The biggest barrier to Irish unification has always been the Irish…

    Let’s not blame England for everything…

    • very informative some of your comments , while i agree we Scots are at times our own worst enemy , divide and rule is a particularity English trait thats worked for hundreds of years so why drop a winning formula , apart from collusion by certain Scots , who is at the centre of the predicament we are in now with a food bank in every town , with most of our industry gone , when we have hundreds of applicants for one job in a Supermarket , and a future devoid of hope , while all meaningful investment is always directed south i know where blame lies you appear to have a problem with That “Ruth” or should you be addressed as B Spanner ? .

  42. Excellent article.

  43. I do blame England because if they had stayed in their own backyard Ireland Scotland and Wales would still be free and as for Irish Scots and Welsh holding us back that is also down to England it’s called devide and conquer a practise they have perfected over the years

  44. Exceptional, but needs wider circulation!! (not just social media).

  45. “I do blame England because if they had stayed in their own backyard.”

    Scots were enthusiastic builders of Empire, as it has often been pointed out.

    We’re not entirely blameless in this.

  46. My Cocaine- North Britons were empire building!

    Scots and North Britons are not the same. It’s not changed today. We are currently two nations. We just need to get the Scottish nation bigger than the North British Nation. Same as N Eire needs to get the republican side bigger than the Unionist side.

    The bigger side runs the show.

  47. History, of course, is bunk. While it is important to understand where we have come from, and it isn’t all glorious, it’s surely also important to understand the failures as well as the successes and to learn from the mistakes, rather than endlessly repeat them.

    I don’t think we should glory in our history and try to “make Britain (or America) great again” as that is simply a myth, a distraction from the present and the future. But nor should we accept other’s interpretations of our history where these interpretations are not history but propaganda, as Britain has done for much of its colonial legacy.

    As for reading history as showing us who is to blame for our predicament (and there are peoples who can justifiably blame our ancestors), I suggest the fault lies more with ourselves, that we are underlings. We have to make our own future.

  48. This is a fantastic piece of writing Derek, you write with such passion, knowledge and insight. Many thanks.

    As to the English… I have always felt they were schizophrenic.

    They take their imperialist political culture from a Conquerer. But their social culture is more benign and egalitarian. ‘A cat may look at a king’.

    The two natures fight each other like ferrets in a sack. This is why when their empire is weakened they are so vicious towards the Scots and ‘others’.

  49. Lovely piece, Derek. I really enjoyed it. Thanks.

  50. great piece Derek , it reminds me of a journey to Uist i took last year with my two cousins. We drove from Glasgow to Uig in Skye and then took the boat to Lochmaddy. On the road North of Fort William we passed through vast tracts of land devoid of any people or trace of people. When i remarked on this one of my cousin pointed out that many of the hillsides on the glens we were passing through had hundreds of terraced furrows along the vertical contours, overgrown and gradually disappearing but once it was pointed out i saw them on many of the hillsides along the road. Probably the work of centuries of toil and millenia of human habitation , but sadly they are the only remaining physical evidence of a people ripped from their land and exiled or worse in a cruel attempt at cultural genocide. If there is a Scot who can look on those barren hillsides and empty glens without the hairs bristling on their necks then they have no soul. Our country has been raped , and many of our own people have held her down whilst it was done.

    So whenever anyone asks me why i vote Yes , i tell them it is for political freedom and for Scotland to have the right to make our own decisions and determine our own future , and it truly is BUT what i wont usually say is that in my heart i also think we owe it to all those people who fought for our national freedom and for those who suffered murder and exile after our freedom was lost (sold).

  51. The worst deception is the portrayal ofthe Ossian saga as a mere fiction. It was an 18th century attempt to make sense of fragments but not fiction as claimed by Dr Johnston.

  52. Inspiring piece Derek.
    A sense of history, that we have been a sovereign nation with many international links for many hundreds of years would bolster our self confidence as a nation and increase turnout for yes at the least. This is of course the main reason why our history has been and is still being dow played.

  53. The ruling by the English supreme court ,that the Scottish Parliament exists only as a gift of the English Parliament and this gift can be withdrawn at any time , How can any unionist defend this Union what Union , all the SNP MPs should stand up during PMQs after Angus Robertson asks Mayday if she agrees with this ruling , after an answer that inevitably answers nothing ,all walk out of what is the English Parliament .
    End this farce NOW .

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