Ethnic history

Ian O Bayne (Letters, 2 April) made a good point about the Norman ethnicity of both Robert Bruce and Edward I but was wrong to say that Scotland was a multi-ethnic "nation" in mid-13th century. It was, in fact, a multi-national kingdom.

There's a delicious description of the king of Scotland's army at the Battle of the Standard in the 12th century – "That wicked army of Normans, Germans, English, of Northumbrians and Cumbrians, of men of Teviotdale and Lothian, of Picts who are commonly called Galwegians, and of Scots".

Who's first and who's last in the list sets out the power structure. But in any case, all speaking different languages, all pulling in different directions, it gives a perfect picture of the Scottish kingdom of the time. And hardly a surprise that it got badly beaten.

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Nor did Robert Bruce bring us together in one nation, if we are to judge by his notorious massacre of the Scots men, women and children of Buchan. Long after Bannockburn different regions and nations of the kingdom kept their own cultures, language and laws, and the question of when Scotland became one nation must remain moot.

The Reformation in the 16th century was when the will of the people, as opposed to the aristocracy, first emerged. But perhaps the will of the people has always been too revolutionary an idea for Scottish historians to consider.


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