I HATED history at school; the only way I could remember facts was to memorise a list of dates. 1314 was one of them but most of the others from 1066 forwards were not Scottish history.

I don’t recall lessons on the significance of the Highland Clearances or of why we have Fort William, Fort George and “old military roads”. The significance of the 1746 Act of Proscription was lost in tales of heroic Admiral Nelson. Nobody mentioned the Calton weavers or the 1919 “Battle of George Square”; any reference to the struggle for Irish independence was a negative one, they didn’t tell me about the Croke Park Massacre, the Black and Tans and their atrocities never existed. Nobody mentioned the British Empire butchering its way round the world or Churchill’s dismissive racist attitudes towards what he deemed “inferior races”. Nobody told me that the British exploitation of Australia allowed the native aboriginal population to be treated as fauna which could be exterminated with impunity.

Yes, perhaps Andrew Bowie ("Scots Tory MP backs Union "fightback" in the classroom", The Herald June 10) is correct; his opinion based on the wealth of experience he gathered during the handful of years out of short pants that he spent in the “real world” before becoming embedded in the innards of the Conservative Party is right: it is time that our children were told the truth about history.

David J Crawford, Glasgow.


A GOOD pub quiz question is as follows: In which examination diet run by SQA or its predecessor SEB did it become compulsory for candidates in History, at any level, to answer a question on Scottish History?

The answer, unbelievably, is 2011, and at Higher only. British History had been compulsory at Standard Grade since 1990. Before then, questions on Scottish History and on British History had appeared throughout O Grade and Higher papers but only British History had been compulsory. Put another way, since the beginnings of external assessments after the Second World War, British History has been compulsory in Scottish external examinations seven times as long as Scottish History has.

In this light, it seems bizarre that Tory MP Andrew Bowie is claiming that there should be a "fight back against nationalist bias" in the teaching of history. It is extremely disappointing that you should give such arrant propaganda house room at all, let alone make it front page news, particularly at a time when people in this country are going hungry and food is rotting in storage as a result of a shortage of HGV drivers, itself a result of the Brexit-inspired policies of the party to which Mr Bowie adheres.

Larry Cheyne, Bishopbriggs.


I REFER to the support given by Andrew Bowie for a plan to root out "undue nationalist bias" in the teaching of British history in Scottish schools. It can be argued with some force that the process of the anglicisation of Scotland has been persistent for hundreds of years and continues today.

Lord Roseberry, when Rector of Aberdeen University, remarked in 1880 that there was not in Scotland at that time any Professorship of Scottish History. Coming more up to date, the Scottish Centre for Economic and Social Research stated in 1989 that "Scottish children are probably unique in learning more about the history, literature and culture of another nation than they do of their own". There are some of us of an age to remember that history at school was British History, which in effect was related to England in the main. Some of us will also remember the arrival of A History of Scotland Book 1 by IMM MacPhail, first published in 1954. A second volume was published in 1956. The author at the time was principal teacher of history at Clydebank High School. In 1999 we were fortunate to have published the account of the last 300 years or so by Professor TM Devine, The Scottish Nation 1700-2000.

I believe that, in the face of the anglicisation over generation after generation referred to above, a measure of emphasis on matters pertaining to Scottish history in what is taught in schools should be readily accepted. By all means let a debate take place on how a coherent and fact-based curriculum for the teaching of history in Scottish schools should be approached, having regard to accuracy and balance. It would be beneficial, however, all round if that debate could take place with the use of constructive and non-partisan language.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.


NEIL Mackay concludes his article today on Scotland’s possible exit from the Union ("As Britain declines, London prepares for an existential fight against independence", The Herald, June 10) with "a crumbling power will ruthlessly, angrily, resist such an endgame". Such potential anger can be seen as arising from underlying attitudes held by senior English figures from the beginning of the Union. At the time of signing, these appeared to assume subservience of Scotland to England: John Smith, Speaker of the House of Commons, for example, remarked: "We have catch’d Scotland and we will bind her fast." Such language suggests a colonisation of Scotland.

Yet, the international treaty drafted in 1706 and ratified in 1707 by two Acts of Union, north and south of the Border, is habitually represented as one reached by partners, equal in standing, if not size. Further, time and again reference is now made not to the "Treaty of Union", but to an "Act of Union" as if there were one act in one parliament, though there were two acts in two parliaments. One consequence of using the singular term "Act of Union" rather than "acts" or "treaty" is to elide important stages in the process. Another is that it is possible to fudge Charles de Gaulle’s cynical and somewhat sexist view of the evanescent nature of such agreements: "Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last."

The anger Mr Mackay refers to can be seen to be generated by long-term differences in the understanding of what actually happened in 1707: it cannot, whether one is unionist or not, have been both a free union and an act of colonialism.

Professor Ian Brown, Giffnock.


BACK in December 2020, Boris Johnson welcomed the final EU/UK Brexit deal, saying that it would bring “a new stability and a new certainty". But the long-running squabble over the Northern Ireland Protocol shows that, yet again, the Prime Minister’s Brexit claims were worthless.

But never mind, Lord Frost has found a way round the problem using a radical new defence. He argues that Brussels has adopted an “extremely purist” approach to the deal ("EU patience with UK ‘wearing thin’ as trade war threat looms", The Herald, June 10). Presumably he believes that this defence will allow the UK to dump the parts of the Brexit deal it doesn't want to comply with. But he could find that he has set a very dangerous precedent.

Were the EU to let UK away with this dubious defence, how could we stop lawyers, stuck with fighting hopeless cases, getting their clients off by simply accusing the prosecution of taking an extremely purist approach to the law? It would certainly help to solve the problem of our overcrowded prisons.

Alistair Easton, Edinburgh.


FROM what I can understand, Abertay University student Lisa Keogh was subject to a disciplinary process after allegations were made about her behaviour in class and that she was subsequently cleared of behaving inappropriately ("Law student who said ‘women have vaginas’ cleared of charges", The Herald, June 10). Such processes are of course stressful and hopefully everyone can congratulate Ms Keogh in graduating and wish her well.

People are of course entitled to express their views for or against trans women’s rights just as we are with any other subject. However, Joanna Cherry’s apparent position, that the accusations of inappropriate behaviour should not have been explored, goes too far. The fact that Ms Keogh was able to successfully defend her position will stand her in good stead.

Everyone involved in this process, including the student or students who made the complaint, should reflect on the experience and try to learn something about how to hold rigorous debates on the many sensitive issues that are raised when studying law and many other subjects. Could all of the participants in the debate have been clearer in presenting their positions and open to hearing and considering opposing views? As someone strongly supportive of Scotland catching up with other jurisdictions in recognising trans people’s rights I am dismayed that respectful debate has become more or less impossible and is generating so much distress on all sides. Surely it is possible to do better?

Brian Dempsey, School of Law, University of Dundee.

Read more: Scots Tory MP Andrew Bowie backs 'Unionist fightback’ in the classroom