BBC hit by row over 'History of Scotland'

Advisers on landmark new television series quit in protest against its 'anglocentric bias'

One of the most ambitious historical television series ever created,
A History of Scotland – two years in the making and costing more than £2m – airs tonight. But while glasses of malt whisky are clinking as the makers congratulate each other, elsewhere tempers are fraying faster than the hem of well-worn kilt.

The BBC spectacular has driven a wedge right into the middle of civic Scotland and its academic elite. On one side are those who claim the series finally offers a genuine – and visually stunning – perspective on the nation's past. On the other, a group of senior historians who claim it commits the ultimate sin: that of pandering to English perspectives.

Fronted by the hirsute archaeologist Neil Oliver, who found fame as the presenter of Coast, A History of Scotland hits screens north of the border tonight and across the UK at a later date. Yet the content, and even the choice of Oliver, has sparked a war of words almost as intense as the Battle of Culloden itself.

First, the 10-part series comes under fire over claims that it is too "anglocentric". The failure to front it with a historian has been attacked. Academic advisers stormed out before programmes were completed.

Professor Allan Macinnes of the University of Strathclyde resigned from the series' advisory board after its first meeting. "I thought the whole production was dreadful," he said. "The first script I got was so anglocentric I couldn't believe it. It was written on the basis as if Scotland was a divided country until the Union came along and civilised it. At the time, England was divided, France was divided, Germany didn't even exist. I would like to see a wider European context."

The first of five parts ends with the Act of Union in 1707. A further five episodes will be aired later next year. Along with the series, BBC Scotland is planning a range of radio programmes, a new website, an interactive game, audio walks and concerts.

Another renowned Scottish historian, Professor Tom Devine from the University of Edinburgh, has revealed he turned down the offer of a place on the board for the programme and took umbrage over the choice of presenter. "I thought it was unfortunate that they had invited an archaeologist, albeit a practised media person, to present the programme," he said. "I think it's rather odd, especially with the success of people like Simon Schama and Niall Ferguson, who are historians. Although a lot of the commentary will come from interviewing historians, the authority of the presenter is very important."

BBC Scotland defended the programme. "The whole point of the advisory group is to look at the bigger picture, and we have been very much working with them and taking on board their suggestions," a spokesman said.

"We are one of the oldest countries in the world and have a rich and eventful history to back that up. It is also liberally doused with mythology we tend to hold on to but which doesn't reflect more current academic thinking over the past 10-15 years."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Lead Systems Developer / Software Developer

COMPETITIVE + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Lead Systems Developer / Sof...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Engagement Manager - French or German Speaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The world's leading financial services careers...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive - 6 Months Contract

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Digital Marketing Executive...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Senior Account Manager

40-45K DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Manager / Senior Account Manag...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future