Scottish Government raised concerns over mention of England’s 1966 World Cup win in children’s jubilee book

Civil servants in Scotland raised multiple concerns about the content of a children's book celebrating the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, emails show, including asking for a reference to Brexit to be removed and questioning a mention of England’s 1966 World Cup victory.

The Scottish Government later said it was "not content to be acknowledged at all in the development or production of this book", which was commissioned by the UK Government and distributed to children in state-funded primary schools.

Critics said the concerns over the 1966 World Cup reference appeared “ridiculous and petty”.

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The UK Department for Education spent £12 million on the book, Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration, which tells the story of a girl called Isabella who visits her great-grandmother and finds out about the history of the UK and the Commonwealth through a box of souvenirs.

Children in England received a copy of the book automatically, but schools in Scotland and Wales had to opt in after both devolved administrations appeared to snub the project.

Emails released under Freedom of Information show Scottish Government officials listed dozens of issues with the text after being shown early drafts.

These included “Anglocentric” sections and a reference to Brexit they wanted deleted given its “highly divisive nature”.

A reference to England’s 1966 World Cup victory was also questioned, with Scottish officials commenting: “This is another mention of an event that doesn’t seem to merit this level of exposure – and it’s not that relevant in the non-England parts of the UK.”

Elsewhere, civil servants took issue with a section describing the death of the Queen Mother as a “tragedy”.

“While it was a sad event, ‘tragedy’ reads as a little tabloid when describing the death of very old lady,” they wrote in their feedback.

They also recommended removing a reference to the Queen’s reported intervention in the 2014 independence referendum, saying it was “likely to stoke controversy”.

An email from an official in the Scottish Government’s curriculum, qualifications and Gaelic division said their chief concern was the “tone” of the book.

It read: “While we do appreciate the desire to take a positive tone, it can’t be so positive it comes across as wilfully euphemistic.”

As an example, the official said it “feels odd to reference the abolition of slavery in the UK without in any way recognising that British people had been major owners of enslaved people and major beneficiaries of enslavement”.

In a later email about the book’s acknowledgements page, a Scottish Government official said it was “not content to be acknowledged at all in the development or production of this book”, adding: “Please can you remove the reference?”

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said: “The sheer number of suggested changes seems excessive – particularly in a book that, ultimately, the SNP Government opted out of providing automatically to Scottish schoolkids.

“The request for mention of England’s 1966 World Cup win to be removed appears ridiculous and petty.

"Whether Nationalists like it or not, this was a major event during Her Majesty’s reign, which it would have been odd in the extreme not to acknowledge.

“Similarly, while Brexit has its supporters and detractors, it was a major news story and merits inclusion in any book chronicling events of the last 70 years in the UK.

“For the sake of the Queen, you’d think the Nationalists could take a day off from their bitter and obsessive agenda.

“This book was both educational and a nice keepsake for youngsters that marked the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, so it’s sad that the Scottish Government forced schools here to opt in if they wanted pupils to receive it.”

Children in England and Northern Ireland have already received their copies of the book. Schools in Scotland and Wales will receive deliveries next month if they have opted in.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The book is a UK Government project and they are responsible for its content, development and distribution.

“Scottish Government officials were given sight of drafts and provided feedback to the Department for Education upon request.”

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