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Remember Bannockburn? Politics (i.e. Scotland v England) will be put aside for 700th anniversary, say SNP

Politics will be set aside to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the Tourism Minister has said.

Roy Ramsey (right) as Robert the Bruce with Roy Murray as Edward II during the launch of the Bannockburn Live festival
Roy Ramsey (right) as Robert the Bruce with Roy Murray as Edward II during the launch of the Bannockburn Live festival

The Bannockburn Live festival will be held on the last weekend in June on the battleground, with re-enactments, history lessons, a clan gathering and live music all marking the occasion of Robert the Bruce's victory over Edward II's English army.

UK Armed Forces Day is also being staged in Stirling on the same weekend, raising the potential for the events to be used by independence and unionist supporters as the countdown to September's referendum continues.

But Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said: "It will be a weekend where we put politics aside. We've worked very closely with Stirling Council and different bodies to bring together a day of celebration, not of politics. Everyone can have a great time and I'm sure it will be a remarkable success.

"Bannockburn Live will of course remember history and the events around the two-day battle in 1314, but we can also look to the present with Armed Forces Day taking place on the same weekend in Stirling, so I'm tremendously excited about one of the premiere events in Scotland this year."

There has been criticism over a lack of interest and publicity in the £650,000 event with ticket numbers reduced to 20,000 for the weekend, but with the programme officially launched today organisers are confident it will be popular with Scots and visitors from across the world.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: "Of the ticket sales that have been made so far, many have come from abroad which is a tremendous starting point considering we've only just started the launch today - so we're in good shape and it's clear this event will have a good following from around the world.

"The hardcore estimate in terms of income from Bannockburn Live is about £500,000 into the local economy but it will also integrate with Armed Forces Day and Pipefest, which is an amazing event in its own right with 1,000 pipers marching at Stirling Castle on the night before Bannockburn Live. Overall, it's a great opportunity for Stirling and Scotland to showcase itself to the world."

Mr Cantlay said he does not see any problem with the hosting of Armed Forces Day at the same time.

"We're in the events business so we see (Armed Forces Day) as an opportunity to harness interest and visitor numbers to create a huge interest in Stirling on that weekend."

Around 40 clans are taking part in the festival, which is part of the Year of Homecoming to celebrate Scottish culture and heritage.

Sir Malcom MacGregor, convenor of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, said: "The story of King Robert, of who supported him and who did not and why, has great resonance throughout the clan network worldwide.

"So it is wholly appropriate to commemorate this battle in 2014 with many friends and relatives from around the world. We look forward to welcoming many clans and families from overseas, who will have made the journey to Scotland from distant parts of the world, and we thank them."

Visitors to Bannockburn Live will be able to experience life as it was in 1314 and trace their own ancestral roots.

The National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland have been working for months to transform the battlefield and restore historic monuments. A new visitor centre has also opened ahead of the anniversary.

Visitors can find out if they are related to anyone who fought in the battle as part of Strathclyde University's Bannockburn Genealogy Research Project.

One of the most popular aspects of the festival is set to be the large-scale re-enactment of the legendary clash.

More than 300 "warriors" will perform in scenes choreographed by Clanranald, the team behind the battle sequences in hit films Gladiator and Robin Hood.

Manager Malin Heen-Allan said: "When they needed someone to take on the encampment and battle side of the Bannockburn festival we barged down their door to take part.

"There are several elements to the festival, in our field you will be walking into one large encampment where all the soldiers and every social level will be shown.

"We want to show what it took for an army to march, so we have a kitchen, a blacksmith, a hospital - every aspect an army would need for a campaign like Bannockburn.

"The battle itself took place over two days but we have 30 minutes to try and give the essence of what it was like to be there 700 years ago.

"We have a combat team that regularly work in films and TV, and for this they have been training with 12ft spears that Robert the Bruce used at Bannockburn to prevent cavalry charges."

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