For some years, I have been endeavouring to engage the Scottish Government on a significant aspect of the history of our nation, to which it is integral, critical and forgotten. The Cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs has now advised that “we do not have any plans at this time to develop a specific maritime heritage strategy”.
Denying the promotion of Scotland’s maritime culture is breathtaking in its arrogance. It is an insult to history, to the many entrepreneurs who successfully traded for centuries in all aspects of global maritime activity, to the 6,500 merchant seamen of Scotland who lost their lives in two world ears – proportionately more than all Merchant Navy losses in the rest of the UK – and to the children of present and future generations who are deprived of an essential understanding of what made our nation great.
Scotland is one of the very few principal maritime countries which does not present its national maritime heritage in a uniform and accessible setting. The Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine, with its associated Denny Tank at Dumbarton, is not national in its limited presentation.
In the current financial climate, I do not make a case for a new national maritime museum, but proper, highly visible recognition within the existing structures of schools and the national museum or in the now advanced museum in Leith is unarguable.
In 2011, there were 44 local community museums in Scotland with a low-key maritime flavour and a few museum ships. These do not tell the national story across two millennia.
In April 2014, I raised many written questions on the Scottish Government’s strategy papers Our Place in Time, From Strategy to Action and Going Further by Museums Galleries Scotland. I still await answers.
The Delivery Plan 2013/15 describes itself as a dynamic document. Where is the dynamism? Where is the pride in our heritage?
(PROF) GORDON S MILNE, OBE