Scots seek to rewrite history to improve their self-image

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More teaching of Scottish history in schools north of the border was demanded last night by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth, to combat widespread ignorance in the classroom about the Union with England.

Mr Forsyth did not mention recent films such as Rob Roy and Braveheart, but he clearly had them in mind, when he condemned the "victim culture" which had been imposed on Scotland.

"We are misrepresented as being exploited, marginalised, and even conquered. Yet the reality is that we always have been and remain fully sovereign. We entered the Union freely and are at liberty to withdraw at any time, provided a majority of our people wish to do so," he told Conservatives in Angus.

He particularly wants to set the record straight for schoolchildren, after a survey showed that 37 per cent of schoolchildren imagined that England conquered Scotland in 1707.

"Knowledge of the heroic achievements of our forebears will infuse in the coming generations a proper appreciation of what it means to be Scottish and a true perception of the identity of our people and our nation. Confidence in that identity will furnish a stable foundation for your relations with the rest of the world - commercial, cultural and political."

To set about correcting the impression about English conquerors, he has asked the Scottish Qualifications Authority to consider the introduction of a standard grade in Scottish history which could be offered as an alternative to the current history standard grade.

HM Inspectors of Schools were completing a survey on the quality of history teaching to be published in 1998. He acknowledged that to encourage more sustained and coherent attention to Scottish history for children aged five to 14 years he would have to allocate more resources for staff development and teaching materials.

The Scottish Consultative Council on Curriculum would very shortly publish the final consultation paper produced as the result of a review of Scottish history in the curriculum undertaken at the request of ministers, and Mr Forsyth promised urgent action.

He had also commissioned the Scottish History Resources Project, which was currently being undertaken by the National Museums of Scotland, to make available by the summer a CD-Rom on Scottish history from 1840 to 1940.