THE TV historian Dr David Starkey was accused of "stupid English prejudice" yesterday after claiming that Scotland was not important and simply basked in the reflected glory of its southern neighbour.
He cited the Darien scheme - the disastrous 17th century attempt to create a Scottish colony in Central America - as an example of the country’s limitations.
He said: "Scotland matters for a single reason, which is its involvement with England from the 17th century onwards. Then it becomes important. Could Scotland have had an empire of its own? The Darien scheme suggests not."
He went on: "I love Scotland but it is not an important country. Your own political elite don’t want independence because they love swanning around as Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
"Given the choice of being First Minister of Scotland or Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown would always choose the latter."
However, the leading Scottish historian Neal Ascherson dismissed Starkey’s remarks as "a basket of cheerfully stupid English prejudice".
He said: "Of course it is true that Scotland is not important to England. As a matter of fact, there are quite a lot of countries in the world that are not important to England, but they still have a right to exist and are interesting to their own inhabitants and to human history in general. This is true of Scotland.
"It is a fact that England failed to reduce it to Scot-shire and maybe that’s a source of annoyance to some people."