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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Account Manager / Sales Account Manager / Recruitment Account Manager

£25k Basic (DOE) – (£30k year 1 OTE) : Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright A...

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering