The departing artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) has spoken for the first time about what she has described as anti-English bullying, which caused her to question her position.

Vicky Featherstone, who was the first artistic director of the NTS and is leaving after eight years at the helm, said a period of criticism that focused on her Englishness led her to question whether she could do her job.

Ms Featherstone, who is to become artistic director at the Royal Court Theatre in London, said attacks on her programming – with some critics questioning the company's track record on staging older Scottish plays – began to mention her background prominently.

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Read the full interview with Vicky Featherstone here

The cumulation of opinions expressed in articles, letters and comments led to the most difficult period of her highly successful tenure, she says.

In an interview with The Herald today, she says: "It became a thing, interestingly, because people didn't like my programming. And rather than articulating that, it was easier to say the reason my programming was wrong for Scotland was because I am English, and therefore I don't understand how to programme for Scotland."

She adds: "It really, really upset me, because, as with all kinds of bullying, you don't have a voice – so the hardest thing for me was that if people had criticised the programme, I could have defended it, but when people are criticising the programme because I am English, that is indefensible."

In a separate development, Alasdair Gray, the author and artist, has criticised "colonists" who come north of the Border for a short period to advance their careers. In an essay, Gray mostly criticises arts administrators but adds: "I think Scottish folk in other professions will know settlers and colonists with similar attitudes."