IT is well-known that I seldom agree with Michael Fry's interpretation of modern Scottish history. But I do think that Tom Devine's review of his book, The Scottish Empire, is unfair and biased (October 20).

Devine and Fry are in general sympathy with the dominant Great British unionist interpretation of Scottish history, and some readers will want to know what motivated Devine's ''a case of history repeating itself once more''. The reports in the Scottish press that he is working on a new book on Scots and the Empire provide the most obvious answer.

Without books like Fry's, a comprehensive history of the ''Scottish Empire'' will not emerge. When Devine criticises Fry for paying little attention to ''the mass emigration of ordinary Scots to the Empire'', he is guilty of the same fault in his Scottish Nation,

1700-2000 (1999). In that book he simply ignored a whole host of primary sources dealing with the forced emigration and the physical destruction of Scottish Highlanders. Similarly, Devine said nothing about the slave trade or the Scots' role in ''the black Holocaust''.

Moreover, ''building blocks'' of ''archival-based evidence'' require inevitable controversial interpretation. It is very doubtful if Devine's research will reveal how many ''negro slaves'' were murdered by those Scots engaged in Empire-building. How can Devine be so indifferent of the human suffering of the black slaves or the courageous resistance of the abolitionist movement in Scotland as elsewhere?

Before he has completed his original, archival-based research on Scots and the Empire, he has already made up his mind that the Empire did not dilute ''Scottishness at home'' and ''helped to ensure loyalty to the [1707] Union''.

Though Devine accepts uncritically inherited and parochial unionist assumptions about Scotland and the Empire, a more distinguished and internationalist historian has argued against that narrow-minded view. In his fine book The Search for Africa: The Making of a History (1994), Basil Davidson said: ''When, in 1603, King James VI of Scotland followed Elizabeth to the throne of what was not yet Britain (in so far as Britain has ever become a cultural reality), the English people were not yet a racist people.''

Dr James D Young,

8 Tarbert Place, Polmont.