Nationalist propaganda disguised as history for school children is a worrying sign about where Scotland is heading – Brian Wilson

All nationalisms rely on revising history to their own glorification and Scotland’s is certainly no exception.

An Education Scotland’s “timeline” of Scottish history leading to the establishment of the devolved Parliament was described as “arrant propaganda”, “dangerous nonsense” and a “perversion of history" by leading historians (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA)
An Education Scotland’s “timeline” of Scottish history leading to the establishment of the devolved Parliament was described as “arrant propaganda”, “dangerous nonsense” and a “perversion of history" by leading historians (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA)

One expects to find deluded claims and distortions on the fringes of debate, perpetrated by people with allegiances designated by flags or the abuse they hurl on Twitter.

When the same stuff appears as a publication of the Scottish government, with the intention of inculcating it into the minds of the young, then it needs to be taken seriously. In fact, very seriously.

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The story of Education Scotland’s “timeline” leading to the establishment of the devolved Parliament in 1999 was accompanied this week by horrified quotes from Scottish historians, regardless of political persuasion.

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Enlightenment left in the dark

Sir Thomas Devine denounced it as “arrant propaganda” and “dangerous nonsense”. Professor Chris Whatley of Dundee University described it as a “perversion of history… frightening as it was blatantly political and clearly designed to support the cause of Scottish independence”.

Glaring falsehoods like Churchill sending “English troops” to suppress “a major revolution” in Glasgow fitted into a more general theme of oppression and subjugation from 1296 onwards. Needless to say, all inconvenient evidence to the contrary was excluded. The Enlightenment? Never heard of it.

Slavery? Scotland’s role in Empire? The suffering of working people? Our bairns don’t need to be bothered with that kind of thing.

There is a section which directly links 20th-century “radicalism and nationalism” as if the two went hand in hand, which they most certainly did not. Sadly, there is no space for the dalliance between “fascism and nationalism”, perhaps with a Hugh MacDiarmid poem thrown in.

Used in schools for two years

On Wednesday, this despicable, dishonest, crude propagandist “timeline” was removed from the Education Scotland website – an admission of guilt. A spokesman for Education Scotland said primly that it was to ensure “our resource is not open to misunderstanding or misinterpretation”. Aye, right.

However, the more sinister element of this story is not what “emerged” this week. It is that attention was first drawn to the “timeline” two years ago but it has continued to be used in Scottish schools in spite – or because – of the fact it was “arrant propaganda” and “blatantly political”.

At that time, another Scottish historian, Gordon Barclay, wrote about it in the Scottish Affairs journal and submitted Freedom of Information requests about who wrote it, whether it was approved by ministers, and so on. All questions were blanked with the familiar contempt for Freedom of Information legislation.

If there was any possibility the Education Secretary, John Swinney, his advisers and the whole of Education Scotland did not know before then that they were publishers of a mendacious piece of propaganda, under the guise of children’s education, they certainly knew then. Nothing was done to amend or remove it until this week.

Salmond written out of SNP history

We have no idea of the extent to which the “timeline” was propagated in Scotland’s schools, as encouraged by Education Scotland. I suppose that will depend on the intelligence and disposition of individual teachers. But we do know that for two years, it has been the intention of Mr Swinney and his cohorts that this is how Scottish history is taught to teenagers of voting age.

It may be pointless to expect Holyrood, far less Scotland’s broadcasters, to investigate anything which inconveniences the regime. But anyone who thinks that falsification of history as propaganda is a minor matter fails to recognise the direction in which Scotland is being led – and it isn’t healthy. The questions must be persisted with.

Incidentally, for further evidence of why history is dangerous in Nationalist hands look no further than the SNP’s own website. As may be remembered, the ink was hardly dry on the Alex Salmond charge-sheet when he was entirely written out of the party’s history while “then deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon” had “spearheaded” the pro-independence campaign in 2014! Poor Alex no longer exists.

I feel confident that Peter Murrell must have been in another room, or perhaps taking a shower, when that audacious re-writing of history was agreed upon, all for the National Cause, Party and Government as one.

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