Robert the Bruce heir says No to independence

The 11th Earl Of Elgin, Andrew Bruce outside his family home , Broomhall House in Fife. Picture: Contributed
The 11th Earl Of Elgin, Andrew Bruce outside his family home , Broomhall House in Fife. Picture: Contributed
Share this article
Have your say

THE MOST prominent living descendant of Scots hero Robert the Bruce - who secured Scottish independence from England militarily at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 - has come out against a “yes” vote in September’s referendum.

Lord Andrew Douglas Alexander Thomas Bruce, the 11th Earl of Elgin and the 15th Earl of Kincardine, hereditary chief of the clan Bruce, is the direct descendant of Thomas Bruce of Clackmannan Tower, appointed by the Bannockburn victor as his heir.

Robert the Bruce famously sent the English king Edward II “homeward, tae think again” after the two-day battle 700 years ago.

But today the present Bruce, 90, said firmly: “You cannot, in this modern world, be independent.”

Speaking to The Times newspaper before events to commemorate his ancestor’s famous victory at Bannockburn 700 years ago, Bruce, known as Lord Elgin since 1968, said: “The great worry to me is that you cannot, in this modern world, be independent; you are interdependent and it is the method of your interdependence that matters.”

He echoed fears that the aftermath of the vote will be a divided people.

He said: “The other thing which I worry about is that a referendum always means that some win and some lose and there is a terrible fear of a bitterness which is invoked as a result.

“In a small country it is a very difficult thing. What worries me is that we are going to be ill at ease, one with another, which seems unnecessary.”

Lord Elgin will be attending the Bannockburn Live celebrations in Stirling at the end of next month, as well as organising a special church service in Dunfermline to remember his ancestor.

Although he says he will be unable to attend the UK’s Armed Forces Day celebrations, taking place at the same time as Bannockburn Live, he said he was firmly in support of it.

Because of his frail health, he will leave other members of the family to represent the Bruce clan at Armed Forces Day.

But the Earl, who was severely wounded in battle during the Second World War when his tank was destroyed, said: “People don’t know enough about the armed services.

“Things like Armed Forces Day are utterly essential to retain awareness.”

He added that it was “a great shame” both events had been organised for the same weekend.

He said: “It seems to me that in a way you are blunting the point of the two things; the juxtaposition between modern and ancient is too great.”

His family’s link to Bannockburn means he will be spending much of the week leading up to its 700th anniversary at events commemorating the battle.

He will then be taking some members of the clan to Ceres Highland Games while Armed Forces Day is being celebrated, on Saturday, June 28..

He said: “The men who supported King Robert got back to Ceres in Fife three days later.

“’We won!’ they said. And from that moment onwards, apart from during the First World War and the Second World War, Ceres has held a games in honour of the victory.”

In the weeks after D-Day in 1944, as a 20-year-old Scots Guards lieutenant, Lord Elgin, then Lord Bruce, landed on the beach at Arromanches as a troop commander in charge of three Churchill tanks and 15 men.

The fighting was intense and he was involved in three battles.

Two tanks were destroyed and six men killed.

Later he was ordered to assist a beleaguered unit of Welsh Guards.

As they advanced they came under attack and a grenade was hurled down the turret.

A wireless operator was killed and Lord Bruce’s hand and right leg were badly hurt.

He recalled that he was left propped up against the tank while the three remaining crew headed to the front.

On hearing tanks approaching he decided to play dead in case they were German.

He said: “I heard them stop and tried to stay absolutely still.

“Then I heard the voice of a brother officer saying ‘Oh dear, it’s poor old Andrew, he was such a terrifically nice chap’.

“I opened my eyes and said ‘less of the was’.”