I FOUND Mark Smith's article ("We Scots have been looking at history the wrong way", The Herald, June 22) illogical and if I am honest, simplistic. To me it rang of "why let facts get in the way of a good theory?"

I would suggest that the reason most Scots have a minimal knowledge of their country's history is that it simply was not taught. I speak as one who not only got a Higher in history but also went on to obtain a university degree in history. At no point during those years was I taught a single event of Scots history. In fact, I clearly remember being less than impressed that in many history text books England was synonymous with the UK. It almost felt like only English history was relevant and anything Scots was intentionally ignored. It is therefore exceptionally unfair to blame a nation for not knowing their history when this was simply a policy emanating from the UK Government.

Another superficial piece of history quoted by Mr Smith is the involvement in empire building and military actions by Scots in positions of authority. This was a logical result of the requirement by the government of clan chiefs' sons to be educated in England or the Lowlands. It was the inevitability of insisting these Scots be forced to enter schools which to this day are the production line to leadership in government and the military. Hoist by your own petard comes to mind.

It is an obvious fact that history is written by the victors. I would suggest that if more Scots actually knew their history there would be a much greater feeling of anger aimed at the Parliament in Westminster. Of course we were involved in the slave trade, but so were the African chiefs who sold their countrymen to the slavers and the plantation owners, many of whom were freed slaves in later days. Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Vikings and Moors all have history of slavery and Brazil only banned slavery in 1888. I am not being deafened by their apologies.

If you throw a stone into the wake of a boat it will alter the pattern of the waves in some way but it will not affect where the boat is going. It is the same with history. If you are willing to learn from it you can better move forward, but changing street names and pulling down statues benefits the future not one iota. I would suggest to Mr Smith that he should worry far more for the future of his unionist ideology if Scots do give up victimhood, as the next logical emotion is anger.

David Stubley, Prestwick.

I AGREE with Mark Smith that Scots need to face up to their history, good and bad, but when I was at school I studied history for five years and the curriculum contained not one iota of Scottish history; what I got was Henry VIII and his marital woes, the Battle of the Nile, the League of Nations and the Russian Revolution. I note that in his cherry picking of bits of Scottish history, Mr Smith has made no mention of the 1707 Act of Union, when Scots rioted in the streets because their nationhood had been signed away, and the Speaker of the House of Commons declared "We have catch'd Scotland and we will bind her fast".

The past should serve as a lesson to the present, although that is a lesson which seldom seems to be learned; sadly, the war to end war didn't, and in the 21st century UK foreign policy would appear to have learned nothing from past centuries, involving itself in foreign wars including an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, and to the UK's eternal shame, the illegal invasion and bombing of Iraq. Carl Sagan wisely said: "You have to know the past to understand the present," and many would dismiss Henry Ford's comment that "history is more or less bunk". But he went on to observe: "It is tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we make today." In making today's history, how we deal with present issues, many of which are rooted in the past, will determine our future and the future of generations to come; that is what should concern us most of all.

Ruth Marr, Stirling.

NOT that long ago the Scots actor David Hayman narrated an excellent BBC documentary on this country's involvement in the slave trade entitled Scotland's Shame. The essence of the programme was that it related actual and authentic history, highlighting how the trade in human beings impacted every aspect of Scotland's economic, social and cultural life. In doing so it broke with the Great Man or Great Individual view of history which so often trivialises serious history. The same approach has been adopted by Professor Sir Tom Devine.

This authentic appraisal of the nation's past is not an easy debate to have and it is important that it is conducted as objectively as possible. It is, however, related to another aspect of Scotland's history and one that remains important for many people's view of their Scottish identity. When I was younger I, in common with millions of other Scots, listened uncritically to the song a Scottish Soldier. This relates the story of the Scot who soldiers far away and fights in many a fray. If I listened to the same song today I would do so much less uncritically and would be inclined to consider the origins of the Martial Scot.

History is an interesting area of study but it is also something we can learn and progress from. After all, we don't need to go back to Britain's imperial past to find examples of pointless, avoidable wars.

Brian Harvey, Hamilton.

MARK Smith’s article on how we view our history is interesting and perceptive, but may I take him up on one point?. We talk, he says, “about our lonely imprisoned queens and not our brutal warrior kings”. The sole member of the former set is easily identifiable; but whom has he in mind for the latter?

War is brutal; and if a king, whose supreme obligation is to protect his people, is faced with the choice of seeing his country overrun by a brute and adopting brutal means to prevent it, as was true of (for example) Robert Bruce, then there is no choice at all. Robert III and James III, who failed to prevent the English from ravaging the Borders, are not highly regarded in our history. James IV was incontrovertibly one of our greatest kings; but his reputation would have been higher still if he had been capable of some brutality: if while the English army was taking its position at Flodden he had followed his master gunner’s advice to strafe them with his cannon. Had he done so he might well have returned alive, with much of his army, to continue his energetic rule over a prosperous and outward-looking European power – instead of, by chivalrously withdrawing from his strong position and allowing the English an orderly muster, dying in the course of a catastrophic defeat and leaving his realm to years of near-chaos under his infant heir.

It is certainly true that Scotland played its full part in the discreditable history of British imperialism; but prior to the Union, there is no question which of the two kingdoms on the island had the worse record as an aggressor power.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen AB24.