THEY are amongst the nation’s most famous historical figures renowned for their leadership, bravery, inventiveness, literary prowess and, in some cases, grisly crimes.

But yet many young Scots have a very limited knowledge of the key people from the country’s past who helped shape its future.

According to a new survey, more than half of 16 to 24-year-olds don’t know Robert the Bruce led the Scots to victory against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn.

The poll of 1,000 Scots found 40 per cent also did not know William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, while a similar percentage were unaware Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner for 19 years.

Asked who invented the television, only 14 per cent knew it was Helensburgh-born engineer, John Logie Baird and over a third did not know Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes novels.

Nearly a third of Scots aged 16-24 did not know Burke and Hare murdered people in Edinburgh to sell for medical research.

The survey, commissioned by The Edinburgh Dungeon tourist attraction, also shows one in six Scots saying they they did not learn their history at school.

Instead, they rely on cinema and television including the recent Mary Queen of Scots film, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, and Netflix’ show Outlaw King, with Chris Pine in the title role of Robert the Bruce.

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Despite the lack of knowledge, the survey showed Scots of all ages have an appetite to learn more about their history, with 82 per cent cent saying they would have liked more of the subject at school. However, four in five said it should be taught in a more engaging and interactive way.

The lack of awareness of key historical events highlighted by the survey does not surprise Professor Murray Pittock, from Glasgow University’s School of Critical Studies.

He said the importance of the study of Scottish history in schools had been eroded over the past 80 years.

“Awareness of Scottish history is poor generally. Before the Second World War it was quite a staple of the basic school curriculum, but that is no longer the case.

“There is good Scottish history available the further you go up when people specialise in history in secondary school, but making sure everyone gets the basics is no longer a priority as it used to be.”

Mr Pittock said the trend dated back to what he described as a “slow redefinition” of British history in the 1950s and 1960s as not being about all the countries of the British Isles, but being more about English history “with some bits on”.

“If you compare the Empire Exhibition of 1938 with the Festival of Britain 1951 the former has got quite a lot of independent coverage of Scotland and the latter does not.

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“The reaction to the end of the British Empire with more of a focus on an integrated narrative of who the British were, rather than an understanding of the multiple nations involved, had a lot of consequences from Walter Scott dropping off the curriculum in English schools to Scottish history taking a back seat in Scotland.”

Mr Pittock said the teaching of Scottish history increasingly became “a matter of chance” as the trend embedded itself through the work of key curriculum and exam bodies.

“The general trend was that Scottish education absorbed the idea of a unitary British history and this was embraced by Scottish educational bureaucracy.”

In recent years, Scottish history has made something of a comeback. There is now a compulsory Scottish question in the history Higher and Scottish Studies has been introduced as part of the Curriculum for Excellence.

However, Mr Pittock is concerned that for many people television and film still provides them with their understanding of their own history.

“One of the reasons why there has been such a fuss about films like Braveheart is because it is the way too many people get their history.

“People should not get all their history through drama. Outlaw King happens to be academically advised and is done to a pretty high standard, but there are a lot of things in it you could question.

“A lot of these productions are not historically accurate. They are entertainment and liberties are taken with the facts so people are left with a false understanding.

“The answer is to ensure the widespread teaching of Scottish literature and history in Scottish primary schools and in the early years of secondary school.

“But one of the most important aspects of this is to stop making it a political issue as if this is a Nationalist agenda is totally wrong. It is not propaganda it is the history of Scotland and people should be learning about it in the same way people in other countries learn about and take ownership of their own history.”

Stuart Jarman, general manager of the Edinburgh Dungeon, said the attraction was conscious of the importance of teaching history in an “entertaining and edgy way”.

He said: “Our shows are based on solid historical research and we know from our visitors, including school groups and teachers, that they find this thrilling.”