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Meeting date: Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 18 January 2022

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Point of Order, Topical Question Time, Business Motion, Covid-19, ScotWind Offshore Wind Leasing Round, Retrofitting Buildings for Net Zero, Judicial Review and Courts Bill, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Scottish History in Schools


Scottish History in Schools

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-02164, in the name of Stuart McMillan, on Scottish history in schools. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes what it sees as the importance of Scotland’s history being taught in schools; believes that learning about local history helps pupils engage with their area’s heritage and could empower them to explore their family’s history; notes the view that this work should include aspects of Scotland’s past that its people are not proud of, particularly in relation to its role in the transatlantic slave trade; believes that pupils in the Greenock and Inverclyde constituency could learn about the Radical War of 1820, which saw the final battle take place in Greenock and left nine people killed and many wounded, aged eight to 65; appreciates the role of libraries and museums in assisting schools and families in exploring their history; welcomes reports that many teachers already carry out this work, aiming to ensure that lessons suit their pupils; acknowledges that learning about the history of other nations is important, but notes the view that this should be an aside to learning about Scotland’s own history; commends the efforts of community groups, such as the 1820 Society and the Society of William Wallace, for helping keep stories about the nation’s history alive, and notes calls encouraging MSPs to engage with community groups in their efforts to learn about and promote local history in their constituencies and regions.

I call Stuart McMillan, who is joining us online, to open the debate.

Ah, I see that he is in the chamber—excellent. You have around seven minutes, Mr McMillan.


Thank you, Presiding Officer.

I thank those members from all sides of the chamber who signed the motion to allow the debate to take place. I was asked to lodge a motion for debate by a constituent of mine, Gordon Bryce, from the 1820 Society. Late last night, I heard that Gordon had sadly passed away this week. I pay tribute to him, not only for his enthusiasm and passion for life but for his hard work in helping to educate more people about the 1820 insurrection. I know that he was certainly looking forward to the debate, and I dedicate my contribution to him.

Maya Angelou wrote:

“History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.”

Anyone who argues for a sanitised version of the truth to suit their agenda is wrong. I do not want our classrooms to be consumed by history lessons that tell only part of the story simply because the state says so. Historically, that is what has taken place, which is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why many of us will often have heard comments from others about their lack of appreciation or understanding of the history of Scotland, for good or bad.

I have always believed that having knowledge of the past is crucial for the present and for the future. Learning about world war two and the atrocities of the Nazi regime ensured my international outlook on life. Spending time with young Germans as part of a student exchange programme while I was a teenager, and studying in Dortmund while I was at university, gave me the opportunity to discuss and learn more about the present at that time, and the hopes and aspirations for the future, always with the backdrop of the sad recent past shaping the future. I admire the generations of German people who have faced up to and owned their past, and dedicated themselves to ensuring that history does not repeat itself.

Where does that leave Scotland? Recently, my youngest had a homework project entitled “Sir William Wallace—hero or traitor?” My first reaction was, of course, to say that he was a hero. Members can go to the Society of William Wallace website to learn more about him and the actions to commemorate him. However, for educational purposes, the proposed question was right. Why should we automatically consider the oft-written position on history as the only truth? After some further research, my daughter completed the project and came up with her own answer. I am pleased to say that she agreed with me on this occasion, which, I assure members, is not often the case.

My motion mentions the radical war of 1820. I first became aware of that part of our history when I was asked to pipe at a memorial in Paisley in 2004. There always seemed to be events about it in Paisley, Strathaven, Glasgow and elsewhere, but I had no knowledge of Inverclyde’s sad involvement in that part of our history. In speaking to people from Inverclyde about the radical war, I realised that it was a part of our history that was a very well-kept secret, not only in my area but in other parts of Scotland.

At the bottom of Bank Street in Greenock, there is now situated a monument to those citizens who died in the massacre in Cathcart Street on 8 April 1820. It lists the names of John McWhinnie, aged 65; Adam Glephane; aged 48; John Boyce; aged 33; Archibald Drummond; aged 20; James Kerr; aged 17; Archibald McKinnon, aged 17; William Lindsay; aged 15; and James McGilp, aged 8. Those individuals were shot indiscriminately by the Port Glasgow militia volunteers, who were accompanying five Paisley weaver prisoners to the Greenock jail.

The radical war was never taught in our school, but I was certainly made aware of the events of Peterloo and Tolpuddle. Over many years, the 1820 Society has helped to keep that part of our history alive and to bring it to many more people. However, it should surely be part of our Scottish history that is taught in our schools to future generations. As George Orwell stated,

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

Our history cannot be rewritten, but it should be told in all its fullness.

A further part of the motion centres on Scotland’s part in the transatlantic slave trade. The Parliament has agreed to examine how we acknowledge and talk about Scotland’s role in that trade and in the empire. Man’s subjugation of man is not glorious or positive, no matter how much wealth was generated. Across the country, there are examples of how that vile trade enriched the few.

My constituency was a global leader in the sugar industry, as well as having some involvement in tobacco and cotton. The sugar warehouses at James Watt dock were built long after the abolition of slavery, but it is clear that the profits that were made over many years in the sugar industry will have played a part in constructing that iconic building.

After members in the chamber voted to ensure that Scotland tells its story, I established a working group to consider the location of a national museum, as I believe that such a facility should be located in Greenock at the sugar warehouses. There are many reasons why that location is ideal, and I have not yet heard a sound reason why it should be established elsewhere or even become a network of smaller facilities.

If we, as a nation, genuinely want to tell our story in full, we must aim for a facility akin to the stand-alone International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. In this themed year of Scotland’s stories, situating such a museum in Greenock would be fitting. Having that type of facility to visit, and as an essential visit for all school pupils, would help current and future generations to fully understand and appreciate our past.

Another reason why I am so invested in that project is the letter that I received from a young constituent in 2020, in which they outlined their experience of the Scottish education system as a black pupil. I was given permission to share the letter with the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills at the time, and I have had dialogue with the student since. I know that, across Scotland, there will be other young people of colour who have had a different school experience from white pupils, and—to be frank—that is rather sad. That is why I support a review of racial equality in our schools, so that teachers can be better equipped to talk about Scotland’s history in its fullness. I believe that a national human rights museum would be instrumental in helping to educate people of all ages about Scotland’s role in the slave trade and in the empire.

As the former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass stated,

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

I quote Douglass for a specific reason. He toured Britain and Ireland, and he spoke in Greenock on 10 April 1846 and on 23 January 1860. Why, then, is Scotland not ensuring that that part of our history is fully narrated to future generations?

Apart from a small land border, Scotland is surrounded by water. Where is the greater historical education about how Scotland’s maritime past, including our involvement in assisting the Confederacy in the American civil war, generated wealth and inequality? That is why the Clyde Atlantic Trust and its campaign to help to educate both current and future generations about the Clyde’s Atlantic history is a national story that needs to be told. The trust is also campaigning to create a museum, using immersive technology, to help to tell that story. Educationally, that would be fascinating, and hugely important in helping us to understand our trading past.

There are many more examples of our history that should be told in our curriculum, but I accept that we cannot tell them all. I do not consider the job of our educators to be easy in that regard, which is why I support the provision of further resources to support teachers in their task.

I end my speech with one further quote, which I believe is fitting for the debate. Again, it comes from Frederick Douglass, who said:

“The life of a nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.”

We have an opportunity to be honest, truthful and virtuous, and to help future generations. We owe it to them in memory of those who have gone before us.

As I had not spotted that you were in the chamber, Mr McMillan, I thought that I would compensate you with a little extra time. However, the debate is heavily subscribed, so I would be grateful if members would try to stick—roughly—to the time limit for their speeches. On that basis, I call Kenneth Gibson. You have around four minutes, Mr Gibson.


I congratulate my colleague Stuart McMillan on bringing the debate to the chamber.

The teaching of history should be exciting and inspirational. The great French philosopher and historian Voltaire said:

“We look to?Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.”

In the 18th century, European thinkers challenged old ideas about almost every aspect of life, arguing that the way forward was to use reason when seeking answers. Scotland truly was the Athens of the north. Pupils could do worse than read Arthur Herman’s book, “How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It”, which examines the Scottish enlightenment’s profound impact on intellectual thought around the globe.

If we are to build the confidence of our young people, the incredible achievements of our forebears should be discussed. In Ayrshire alone, we have Alexander Fleming, Henry Faulds and William Murdoch, who discovered penicillin, discovered fingerprinting and invented gas lighting, respectively. Stuart McMillan’s Greenock had steam-engine inventor James Watt. It is sad that, 15 years into an Scottish National Party Government, the enlightenment, and Scottish invention and discovery, is not at the core of Scottish history teaching. What other nation would omit such astonishing contributions to humanity? The cringe remains.

In primary school, I was lucky to be taught by Miss Moncrieffe, whose passion for Scottish history brought to us the decisive Pictish victory over the Northumbrians at Nechtansmere in 685, Athelstaneford, the maid of Norway and the wars of independence. Miss Moncrieffe also focused on the slave trade, in particular the role of the tobacco lords, whose wealth was based in Virginia and the Caribbean plantations, where many Scots were overseers or were indentured, while vast numbers of Africans toiled in chattel slavery.

Secondary school was completely different. The 1970s history curriculum was dire—no Scottish history was taught at all. Claudius’s successful Roman invasion of England and the resistance of Caractacus were covered, but without mention of Calgacus and Mons Graupius, Hadrian’s wall and the Antonine wall, or the subsequent collapse of Roman Britain. The centuries in which the Anglo-Saxons overran and transformed much of Britain were completely ignored, as was the establishment of Dalriada, which eventually grew into the kingdom of Scots. Alfred of Wessex burning the cakes prior to fighting the Vikings was followed by a leap of centuries to the life of a medieval English peasant—they ate a lot of herring, barley and onions while growing walnut and mulberry trees, apparently. There was no mention of their place in the feudal system, or of the frequent famines, pestilence, violence or grinding poverty that beset their lives. Henry VIII’s closure of the monasteries was covered, but with no word of Scotland’s own reformation.

We then jumped to spend three years learning the social history of England from 1815 to 1914. We covered Peterloo, the Poor Law Amendment Act, Catholic emancipation, the Chartists, the Tolpuddle martyrs, life in the dark satanic mills of northern England and so on—it was labour history, but without the industrial revolution, New Lanark, the Highland clearances or the potato famines in both Scotland and Ireland, which fundamentally shaped the Scotland of today.

Of the union of the Crowns and the union of the Parliaments, the Scottish enlightenment, the rise of Britain’s empire and Scotland’s role in it, our incredible contributions to humanity and Scotland’s myriad pioneers in medicine, engineering, the sciences and exploration, there was nothing. It could have been worse—at St Gerard’s in Govan, pupils would spend an entire year studying the history of Salisbury town, much to their bewilderment.

The snapshots of Scottish history that are now taught at national 5 and higher are much better than before, but they remain limited. Teachers select one of five topics from the wars of independence, Mary Queen of Scots and the reformation, the treaty of union, migration and empire, and the great war. It is desperately unambitious given the years of learning that are available throughout a pupil’s school life.

Presiding Officer, history should start at the beginning and be honest—warts and all. How did we get here? Out of Africa to the earliest settlers’ arrival in the wake of the last ice age to the great migrations of the Celtic tribes, the Roman invasion, the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings. It should cover St Columba’s arrival in 563 to spread Christianity, Kenneth MacAlpin’s victory over Pictland and the slow unification of Scotland to more or less our present mainland boundaries in the 10th and 11th centuries, adding the Clyde and Hebridean islands in 1266 and the northern isles in 1472.

Especially now, the cataclysmic impact of the black death, which killed up to half of Scotland’s population in 1350, should be studied. The perspective, impact and importance of the reformation, the union of the Crowns, the union of the Parliaments, the industrial revolution, risings, the clearances, empire and the lives of kings, queens and everyone else should also be covered. Scottish history is exciting, but only if we make it so.


I thank Stuart McMillan for his excellent opening speech, which covered the ground well. I very much enjoyed the breathless tour de force that we just heard from Mr Gibson, who summed up thousands of years of Scottish history in four minutes—well done.

I have a real interest in Scottish history. I remember when I was very young reading a battered copy of Walter Scott’s “Tales of a Grandfather”, which, despite being two centuries old, summed up early Scottish history well. It is a subject that I have read, studied, written about and lectured in, and I still receive small sums in royalties from a book that I wrote some years ago, which is still available on Amazon. It is an excellent read and I commend it to members.

Stuart McMillan raises some interesting points. It is important that the history that we teach in schools is set in an international context. Scottish history should be set in the context of British history, which should be set in the context of European and world history. I absolutely agree with the two speeches that we have heard so far; we need to start with our history and understand who we are as a people. We do not have enough of that in Scottish schools and in that respect I agree with Mr Gibson.

Aspects of Scottish history are taught well. We hear a lot about the wars of independence and the Highland clearances, but whole swathes are totally ignored. Stuart McMillan talked about the radical war of 1820 and Kenneth Gibson talked about the enlightenment. My passion is for the 17th century and the great struggle between the royalists, the covenanters and Oliver Cromwell that was the start of the modern world. That was when we settled the big questions about how we would be governed, what the relationship would be between king, Parliament and people and how people would be free to worship their god as they saw fit.

All those were settled in the course of the 17th and early 18th centuries, as was the relationship between England and Scotland, but none of that is taught in Scottish schools—it is completely ignored as a topic, but it is vital. If we are to have well-rounded pupils and people coming out of school with a proper understanding of their country and where it came from, we need to get that right.

I will make two other points, because time is short. When history is taught in schools, we need to make sure that it is accurate. I was appalled to see a report recently about materials being used in Scottish schools that say that Winston Churchill sent tanks into George Square. Churchill did not send tanks into George Square, Presiding Officer. That is a myth that has been disproved by all the historians, but somehow it has ended up in teaching material in a Scottish school, and that is simply not good enough.

The further point that I make has been raised by Neil McLennan, who is a former president of the Scottish Association of the Teachers of History and one of our most authoritative voices in the area. He has raised concerns about the impact of politics on the teaching of history, particularly the impact of nationalism. In his view, there is a danger that it makes Scottish history too parochial and presents a sanitised version of Scottish history. The example that he gave was one that Stuart McMillan referred to: the teaching of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade whereby materials identify Liverpool and Bristol as ports that were used for the slave trade but do not mention any Scottish ports such as Glasgow or Greenock. In Neil McLennan’s view, that is very unfortunate.

In 2011, the Royal Society of Edinburgh called for a review of history teaching in schools to address some of those concerns and some of those that we have heard in tonight’s debate. The Scottish Government of that time rejected that call. I think that it is now time for that issue to be revisited.

Already in this debate we have heard different perspectives and concerns about the way in which history is being taught. It is time for a full refresh of history qualifications and revision of the curriculum for excellence to make sure that our young people who are leaving school get a proper grounding in the history of their country, and to make sure that that history is accurate, fair, and balanced.


First, I thank my colleague Stuart McMillan for bringing the debate to the chamber. From the number of speakers who are lined up, it is clear how important it is for the subject to be debated.

I did not like history when I was at school, and pretty much everything I now know about Scottish history I have learned during the decades since I left school. I learned more about the battle of Hastings and Oliver Cromwell than I did about the battle of Bannockburn and the Highland clearances. I have tried to analyse why I found the subject boring, and I can only conclude that it was because I had no interest in learning a timeline of dates of battles—the battle of Hastings springs to mind—nor the succession of the royal family. To be honest, I still have no interest in those things. I realise that my generation learned little or no Scottish history—the history of my own nation.

What I have learned since my school days, however, I find fascinating. Scotland has a rich, enlightened history that I could never find boring. These days, I lap up the fascinating histories of countries all over the world.

I am aware that history as it is taught throughout schools in Scotland now is more relevant, but no nation should allow the erasing of its history. It was erased in the curriculum, and I find that shocking.

Erasing women from our history was also common, and it is only now gradually beginning to get better. We did learn about a handful of our great Scottish inventors, such as Alexander Fleming and John Logie Baird, but I would love to have known about Elsie Inglis, Jane Haining, the Edinburgh seven, Victoria Drummond, and so many more women pioneers to whom Scotland is indebted.

I would also like to have known about the part that Scotland played in the slave trade, burning witches, the clan wars and the clearances. Those are just some of the historical events in which we hardly covered ourselves in glory, and they should have been taught.

Those stories were not told, and therein lies the problem. Young people deserve to see the full picture of their nation’s historical past. As Stuart McMillan’s motion acknowledges, it is just as important for children to know about the history of their local areas as it is for them to know about the history of Scotland the nation.

Huntershill house in Bishopbriggs in my constituency of Strathkelvin and Bearsden was the birthplace of Scotland’s father of democracy, Thomas Muir. Sadly, the house has been sold off to a developer and left to rot, to the shame of our local council. Thomas Muir was a towering figure in Scottish history, yet I learned nothing of him at school. The local campaign group, Friends of Thomas Muir, does great work in my constituency in promoting his memory today. I believe that his legacy is now taught in schools in East Dunbartonshire, but too many people of my generation will be completely unaware of that incredible man.

I welcome any move that will educate our young people about Scotland’s history, warts and all. Without knowing where we have been, we do not know where we are now, and how far we have come. I thank the many teachers, community groups, and museums throughout Scotland that recognise that and are dedicated to educating our youngsters on their history.

Finally, I thank Stuart McMillan again for securing this important debate.


First, I extend my thanks to Stuart McMillan for securing the debate and echo his condolences to his constituent. It is a great shame that he was not able to listen to the discussion here in the chamber.

I am reminded of what Cicero said about history, which is:

“We study history not to be clever in another time, but to be wise always.”

I find myself standing in some opposition to what I have heard today. I almost sought to intervene on Murdo Fraser to ask what we should drop from the curriculum if we are to fit it all in. Curriculum for excellence was drafted with thought when it came to history, or “the past” within social studies, as it is described in CFE.

I want to talk about the curriculum for excellence benchmarks and what teachers look for when they seek an assurance that a young person is sufficiently knowledgeable in an area to be able to move on. At the third level, which is the start of high school for most children, four of the 11 aspects that a teacher needs to see have to be about a specifically Scottish area of history, but at the fourth level it is only one out of 16.

I want to consider why that is the case. To do that, we need to turn to article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the right to an education and what it means to be educated. Article 29 says that education should build young people’s respect for other people and the world around them. In particular, young people should learn respect for “human rights and ... freedoms”, “the child’s parents” and the

“cultural identity, language and values”

of countries, including their own. If young people take only a microscopic view of Scottish history, they will fail to understand why we are where we are today and they will fail to appreciate the global history that has informed the position that we are in today.

My focus is on Scottish history, which I absolutely accept—as I think that all members do—must be taught in the context of British, European and world history. It is about covering the Scottish aspect of that in greater depth, warts and all, and getting it right, as other members said.

I can give you the time back, Mr Whitfield.

I am grateful, Presiding Officer.

I am grateful for the intervention, because it concerns me that, whenever history is discussed, people talk about it from their own point of view, when the role of our teachers is to inspire our young people to consider history in their own right.

In primary school, children find out about their own history by tracing the ancestry of families and developing a wider understanding of what has happened in the context of their school and community. I had the privilege to teach in Prestonpans, where we taught the Jacobite uprising because of the battle of Prestonpans. That was important to the young people, not just because they lived there but because it gave them a wider understanding of history.

That brings me back to the point that I was going to make to Murdo Fraser. What are we going to miss out as we guide young people? Curriculum for excellence seeks to teach the skills that a young person needs if they are to be able to analyse a situation and bring their own opinion to it. How those skills should be taught should rightly rest with the teacher, with the pupils and what interests them, and with the school and community. For the young people of Prestonpans, it might be that the battle of Prestonpans is a way of learning about primary and secondary evidence and analysing why an event about which people have diametrically opposing views happened.

Time is tight, so I will conclude. There is concern about politicians influencing the history that is taught in schools. I urge us to take a step back: let us trust the teachers in Scotland and, more important, let us trust our young people to say what they want to learn, so that we can teach them the skills to be the great historians that they need to be if they are to understand where we are today.

I call Siobhian Brown, who joins us remotely.


I thank Stuart McMillan for securing the debate.

I grew up in Australia. Although Australia has an interesting, albeit shorter, history, I have always been fascinated by the long and detailed tapestry that is the history of the country that I now call home, Scotland.

When my constituency, Ayr, is mentioned, people initially picture Robbie Burns, Scotland’s most famous son, and rightly so, but there is so much more to my constituency.

Before I talk about the importance of local history, I want to take members back to the classroom. When I talk to friends and family who went to school here, they often say how much they hated history as a subject—Rona Mackay alluded to her experience in that regard. However, history is much more than royalty, dates, places and acts of Parliament. It is people—ordinary people like you and me. It is our ancestors, our cultural identity, our sense of place and who we are.

Let us take a trip to Ayr, to talk about a subject that fascinates most children: witches and witch trials. You might think that you must instead transport yourself to Salem, but you should stay where you are. Did you know about the Ayr witch trials? While 20 women were tried and found guilty in the Boston town, women and children were being persecuted in Ayr—as 4,000 of them were across Scotland—because of religious intolerance and mass hysteria. Children who are learning those stories can read the names that are still present in Ayr town: Bell, Campbell, Cunningham, McCall, Sloan, Thomson, Wilson and Young.

That is how history can captivate. How much more interested will a child be when they see that they or their relatives have similar names, and realise that it could have been them if they had lived in those days? In order to capture the interest of the young, we must bring history home and make it local. After that, it is much easier for children to learn about national and world events

I move on to Prestwick, which was the first home of the open golf championship in 1860. It is Scotland’s oldest baronial borough, which dates back more than 1,000 years. There are connections with King James VI and to Robert the Bruce, who is said to have drunk the water there—if you ask any school pupil in Prestwick, I am sure that they would be able to tell you.

When people picture Troon, they tend to picture its rich golfing history. However, they should take a trip to Crosbie church—which has been on that site since 1229, in one form or another—where they will find tales of Scottish kings and the assassination of James V’s illegitimate son.

With advancements in technology, we can immerse ourselves in history from anywhere in the world, at the click of a button. We have wonderful Facebook pages such “Remembering Auld Ayr”, which was set up by Richard Devine and now has close to 24,000 followers worldwide. Richard and the team who run the page have a deep knowledge of, and passion for, Ayr local history. They also deliver local historical tours, telling stories that are personal to the town, and they have up to 60 people attending each tour. I would love to see our local schools connect with those groups to learn more about local history—the types of things that are never found in school textbooks.

There are also dark times in local history. Indeed, my colleague included in his motion the importance of educating ourselves on

“Scotland’s ... role in the transatlantic slave trade.”

Our children should be encouraged to be proud of the good, and to reflect on and learn from the darker periods.

We cannot forget our own political history. In 1315, Robert the Bruce convened the first meeting of the Scottish Parliament in the church of St John the Baptist in Ayr. Let us teach our children more Scottish history, and teach them local history; take them to the places that are steeped in it; and, most importantly, tell them stories about their ancestors. We will all become history one day, so the stories and teachings must continue.


I congratulate Stuart McMillan on bringing this important debate to the chamber.

There are many arguments for teaching more Scottish history in our schools—as we have heard, its potential to empower young people is chief among them. However, I come at the debate from a particular angle. At the outset, I should say that things are certainly getting better, and give teachers credit for that. However, until very recently, Scots have often learned so little about their own country’s history that the situation could be—and has been—described as profoundly abnormal.

I remember a survey from a few years ago which found that only around half of Scots had, to take one example, ever heard of the declaration of Arbroath. That is not normal. It is not readily possible to imagine a Norway where no one had heard of the Eidsvoll constitution, or a France in which not a soul had heard of the Bastille. Kenneth Gibson’s account of what was not taught in secondary school history, neither to his generation nor to mine, explains a lot.

Why is Scotland such an outlier? Until very recently, the teaching of Scottish history, Scottish literature or Scottish geography has relied almost entirely on the enthusiasm of individual teachers. There was, in the past, simply no official expectation that children and young people in Scotland would need learn anything very much about Scotland.

Perhaps some of the blame for that lies in the way that we have ceased to think of history—both the bits that we like and the bits that make us shudder at ourselves—as a story, yet there is no shortage of stories of either kind in Scotland, from the ancient houses at Skara Brae to the art of the Picts, from the statutes of Iona to the battle of Largs, from James II of Scotland blowing himself up with his own cannon in Roxburgh to the growth of a school in every parish, or in most parishes, to the sorry and financially interlinked stories of the slave trade and the Highland clearances.

Ultimately, we should teach this stuff, not just because it might promote the development of any particular skill or create any particular economic benefit, but because it is interesting and it makes people think. The evidence from schools around Scotland is that young people find it interesting, too, and that it inspires them in all sorts of other areas of the curriculum. We should teach it because, without some of this information, young Scots will find it impossible to locate themselves in Scotland’s story.

I must counter Mr Whitfield. None of that is a case for teaching less world history, so I hope that we will have no more complaints to that effect in the Parliament, condemning school trips to Bannockburn.

Let us get past the anxiety that some people seem to have that teaching young Scots about their country is a political act. It isn’t. However, not teaching them about it—many of us were barely taught about it in secondary school—most certainly is a political act.

In 2011, I faced perhaps the most hostile crowd that I have ever faced in this place when I proposed—successfully—that young Scots doing higher English should have to learn about at least one Scottish writer. That was an idea that a number of members seemed to regard as a sign that the barbarians were not so much at the gates as melting the gates down and making them into weapons of mass destruction.

I believe—I certainly hope that this is the case—that we are getting beyond all the anxiety about teaching about Scotland in schools. It is entirely reasonable for any country to know its history, good and bad, and not to be afraid to do so.

I support the motion.

Despite the commendable efforts of all the speakers so far to stick to their time limits, I am conscious of the number of members who still want to contribute to the debate, so I am minded to accept a motion without notice, under rule 8.14.3, to extend the debate by up to 30 minutes. I ask Stuart McMillan to move such a motion.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Stuart McMillan]

Motion agreed to.

I call Stephen Kerr.


Thank you, Presiding Officer. I presume that that does not mean that I can speak for up to 30 minutes; I am sure that you will correct me.

I have really enjoyed the debate, and I commend Stuart McMillan, not just for securing the debate but for giving a really fine speech to open it and for setting a balanced tone for the discussion.

I would like to talk about my love of history. I love history, and the reason for that is that inspirational teachers imbued me with a love of history. It is true that there are probably not enough classroom hours to cover the curriculum that was outlined by Kenny Gibson, but it is possible to inspire young people to leave a classroom with a desire to know more by doing their own research. I think that that was part of what Martin Whitfield was saying in his speech, which I also enjoyed greatly.

I have to say that my love of history is entirely amateur, unlike that of my colleague Murdo Fraser. He is a professional, because he receives royalties from his book, which is apparently available on Amazon. Do you want me to repeat that gratuitous advertisement, Mr Fraser?

As a number of members have pointed out, when we celebrate Scotland’s history, we must be careful not to examine it solely through the lenses of nostalgia or ideology. That is particularly true when it comes to teaching history in schools. We must encourage pupils to have a broad and critical understanding of our history as they study history, and to ask the searching and difficult questions about our past. We must emphasise the importance of creating as accurate a picture as possible, based on bona fide research and historical evidence. Sadly, I fear that the way in which history is sometimes taught in our schools does not live up to that standard.

I want to return to the theme that my colleague Murdo Fraser mentioned earlier and to quote the same source—the senior lecturer Neil McLennan.

Can Stephen Kerr name a specific school about which he has such concerns?

No. It would be wholly improper of me to entertain such a question in this debating chamber.

Nationalist nostalgia and ideology are increasingly seeping into the curriculum, which is creating a one-sided and inaccurate representation of our shared history. I mentioned that I will quote Neil McLennan, who is senior lecturer and director of leadership programmes at the University of Aberdeen. Murdo Fraser has already cited the example of the slave trade. Neil McLennan has said:

“if you read guidance from the SQA ... the curriculum gives examples of slave ports like Liverpool and Bristol, but the slave trade wasn’t solely centred on England”.

He asked for Glasgow to be inserted.

When I was in secondary school, we never got one hour of Scottish history, so the teaching was bound to be focused on Bristol, Liverpool and the slave trade. In fact, we did not get the slave trade in secondary school but, as I said in my speech, we got the tobacco lords and the slave trade when I was at primary school 50 years ago.

With the greatest respect, I think that we are about the same vintage, so I will not say anything insulting. However, I am talking about the current curriculum, not the one that Kenneth Gibson and I probably went through.

Neil McLennan asked for Glasgow to be inserted, but that has not happened. In the newspaper article in The Herald on Sunday, McLennan is reported to have said:

“Is it because the system is so bureaucratic even minor reforms are too hard to do? That’s very worrying if so. Is it because of power balances? That those in coveted positions don’t fancy those changes? Or is it because of an underbelly of parochialism linked to nationalism where those changes are unpalatable?”

I am quite sure that Mr Kerr heard my opening contribution. I could not have been any stronger about what we need to do in respect of the transatlantic slave trade. I read the article that Mr Kerr has read, but I am sure that he would acknowledge that there was no narrow nationalism or imperialism—none of that nonsense—in my contribution to this debate and how I set out the debate. It is about having education and history so that we can educate present and future generations in order that they know what Scotland was like in the past, warts and all.

I can give Stephen Kerr most of that time back.

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer.

This is not the first time that Stuart McMillan and I have had such an exchange in the chamber. I recognise and accept that what I am saying is not necessarily representative of the feelings of every nationalist, let alone every member of the SNP in the chamber. However, there is a fear within the nationalist movement that presenting a more accurate representation of Scotland’s history will create a negative narrative. Some even go as far as to describe that as “talking Scotland down”. I am sorry, but I am sure that Stuart McMillan and I agree that that is plain nonsense.

Will the member take an intervention?

You should be very brief, please.

I am not arguing for a more accurate version of history; I am simply arguing for an accurate version of history.

I take that point entirely, and I am not ascribing those views to any particular member in the chamber tonight.

I am way over time, and I can tell that I will wear the Presiding Officer’s patience even thinner, so I will conclude.

We have a proud history, but not a perfect one. We should take pride from our many achievements as Scots, but we should also learn from our mistakes. That will not only present a more accurate picture of Scotland’s past; it will aid us in our aim to develop Scotland in the present for the better.


I, too, congratulate Stuart McMillan on securing the debate.

It is extremely poignant to be discussing the teaching of Scottish history in our schools when we have just lost the foremost historian, Professor Ted Cowan, who was a popular and influential champion of Scots history. I met him in connection with some of the many times that he took to television to spread the word beyond the academic sphere. For many of us, Ted’s tracing of the origins of the American declaration of independence back to the declaration of Arbroath in 1320 was fascinating and inspiring. It is fitting that we pay tribute to him in this debate about the importance of understanding Scotland’s past in order to shape its present and future.

Prior to being elected to serve Argyll and Bute, I managed the Museum of Islay Life. I should declare an interest here, as I remain a trustee. Stuart McMillan’s motion emphasises the importance of local museums in revealing the continuity of shared values and culture that our communities enjoy and that make every community unique and special—as my colleague Siobhian Brown touched upon.

Let me open the doors of the Museum of Islay Life and reveal some of its treasures. They are treasures of Islay, but they also provide the wider links that Martin Whitfield discussed in his speech.

First, there is a 12,000-year-old flint tool made shortly after the last ice age by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. They were Islay’s first inhabitants and comprised just one of many waves of immigrants who have made Islay, and Scotland, what it is today.

Then we come to the illicit still. Today, we pay taxes on the whisky that we make on Islay, but the island’s vastly successful whisky industry has its roots in an ancient skill that was imported from Ireland and honed over centuries by entrepreneurs and innovators—a continuity of culture that has a profound impact on Islay’s economy. Today, we export whisky but, sadly, Islay once exported people. Poverty and clearance made sure of that. Emigrants flooded abroad and those islanders who remained had kinfolk in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America.

We then come to a century-old, hand-sewn stars and stripes. Islay folk did not just serve in world war one; that conflict came to Islay’s shores in 1918 with the wreck of two troopships and the loss of hundreds of young American soldiers and their British crews. The people of Islay behaved with great courage to rescue men from the sea. They gathered the bodies of the dead and buried them with respect. Four local women sat up all night sewing a stars and stripes to honour the dead before the first mass funeral. That flag, gifted to an American President, now belongs to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC—but, as it is so much part of the history of Islay, it has been displayed in the island’s own museum since 2018.

That year, I worked with the fantastic primary and secondary schoolteachers and children there to bring that story alive. As Martin Whitfield has discussed, the curriculum for excellence, the evidence, the stories and the contradictions were all brought into those lessons. It was clear that we needed to show how their community was part of one of the great events of world history. Their island is not just a dot on the map, but a community with a unique and valuable take on the world, past and present. All communities are like that.

My constituency is blessed with many great local museums, including those at Lismore, Luing, Seil, Auchindrain and Kilmartin—there are just too many to mention, and they all have their unique stories to tell. As Stuart McMillan said, this is Scotland’s year of story-telling, a fitting time to celebrate the stories that have come down to us from our past and that enrich and inform the lives that we lead today.

Ted Cowan was a storyteller. As a professor and teacher, he inspired generations of Scots historians. As a writer and charismatic broadcaster, he informed and enthralled a much wider audience. There is still much that Ted Cowan would have wanted to be done, and the motion addresses that.

Scottish history is certainly not all glorious and good, but it made us who we are, led us to where we are now and guides us towards where we are heading.


I, too, thank Stuart McMillan for securing the debate, which has been fascinating, and I have enjoyed hearing the speeches from across the chamber. I extend my condolences to Gordon Bryce’s friends and family; I am sure that he would have enjoyed tonight so much.

I thank Jenni Minto for evoking a wonderful holiday that I had in Islay last summer, when I was able to visit the Museum of Islay Life. I know that Ms Minto was instrumental in getting the museum set up and that she worked on it over the years, so I thank her for my enjoyment of her history in Islay.

History is so important in understanding the culture of our country. That includes telling history in its full, often challenging, truth, and from the perspective of all. It means acknowledging injustice to women, to children and to ethnic minorities and the impact on the conquered as well as on the conqueror.

Not for the first time in the chamber, I turn to my visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg in 2017. It was a profound experience. The museum is a national and international destination and centre of learning where people from all round the world can engage in discussion about, and commit to taking action against, hate and oppression.

I took two aspects from my visit to the museum. The first is educational engagement and the way in which the museum works with young people. That is demonstrated by one of the exhibits: a real court experience that young people can have when they take on the role of jury members, hear real evidence and reach conclusions. They then hear the true-life verdict and the arguments of the lawyers and judges involved. They examine the actual ruling and their understanding of it.

The second aspect, which is perhaps more important, is bearing honest witness to the past and what colonialism has meant for Canada. That included recognising the injustice towards First Nations people and the history of the damage of, in particular, forced adoption into a culture and religion. We are still uncovering the truth of that, as shown by the recent demonstrations of anger. Indeed, some of the monuments that I visited in Winnipeg were recently vandalised by people as more of the truth of that history came out.

All nations are having to deal with and examine colonialism. I do not know how to square the circle at all. Ted Cowan would have views on that. Tom Devine spoke about the National Library of Scotland sanitising some of the colonial language as an

“anachronism by imposing the values, and in this case the terminology and language of the present, on the past of two centuries or more ago”.

The British empire is a fascinating part of our history but surely most of the people in Scotland and those who left Scotland at the time were themselves suffering from desperate poverty, living on subsistence farms or working in mines and mills, for instance. They were not necessarily part of any oppression of other peoples and suffered desperately for much of their lives. That is an important aspect to recall.

To go back to my initial thoughts, that is why we must acknowledge the injustice to women, children and ethnic minorities—those who suffered under the regimes of the past. We have to learn from those events, so I thank Mr Gibson for raising that.

The museum in Canada also tells the story of the genocides of the world, including the Holodomor in the Ukraine, which the UK Government has shamefully yet to recognise as a genocide. What a laser focus that history puts on the current crisis on the Ukrainian border. That is why history is important.

Education and bearing honest witness to those principles have influenced my work with North Lanarkshire councillors Danish Ashraf and Agnes Magowan, who presented a motion to North Lanarkshire Council asking for education to include an honest look at the colonial history of our country. I was delighted when the council agreed to that motion and embraced the Black Lives Matter message. That is why the curriculum is important.

Whether we are talking about Skara Brae or Maeshowe, looking at Roman history—I have a Roman bathhouse in Strathclyde park in my constituency—or considering the wars of independence, the reformation and the covenanters through to our modern history, in which we can celebrate the Glasgow girls’ success in preventing dawn raids on asylum seekers and achieving the right to further and higher education in our country, we must ensure that our pupils are fully informed, educated in analysis and reflection and confident in their own view of history so that their actions will lead to a better future through their understanding of our past.

I assure members that the repeated references to Skara Brae have not gone unnoticed in the chair.


I thank Stuart McMillan for bringing the issue to the chamber for debate. I very much appreciate that the motion acknowledges the growing number of people who believe that the teaching of history should include an honest representation of the more shameful aspects of Scotland’s past, such as its involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

I should start by emphasising why it is so important to include that in the teaching of Scottish history. It is not an attempt to talk down the country, as some critics in the wider national media would have us believe. It has two clear constructive purposes: first, to allow students to understand the horrors of the past with a view to ensuring that they are never to be repeated; and secondly, to ensure that students develop a realistic appraisal of how far we have come as a nation and as a society, and how far we still have to go.

A proper teaching of those aspects of our history gives context to the on-going struggle for racial justice, both here and around the world. Scottish history lessons must also find a place for the voice of Joseph Knight, a former slave and domestic servant whose successful court case in Edinburgh in 1777 was founded on the principle that

“No man is ... the property of another”.

Our history lessons must also find a place for the voices of the Quaker women in Edinburgh who spoke up against slavery, supporting abolitionist Frederick Douglass in his speaking tour in the 1840s and carving his campaign message on the side of Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood park, not so far from where the Scottish Parliament sits today.

Changing our approach will allow students to understand why that struggle proceeds at different speeds from one place to another; to see how its legacy affects people of different backgrounds and experiences in different ways; and, perhaps most importantly, to understand how the moves towards racial justice, from abolition onwards, have strengthened us. We are better off as a society when everybody’s human dignity is respected.

I highlight and applaud the measures that were recently implemented in Wales that seek to ensure a good grounding in black, Asian and minority ethnic studies for every student. That encompasses the study of history, identity and culture. The history component includes teaching on the involvement of Wales in slavery and colonialism. Although there are differences in the educational frameworks between our respective countries, I do not see any reason why Scotland could not aspire to that kind of approach.

I believe that we should move towards that and that the teaching of Scottish history would be more comprehensive and inclusive for it. I know that that view is shared by colleagues across the chamber. I would welcome an assurance from the minister, in concluding the debate, that we can all work together on taking forward those issues.


I, too, congratulate Stuart McMillan on securing the debate. I believe that to live in Scotland is to live in history. History is the story of us, had we been born a wee bit earlier. Teaching Scottish history in schools helps us to understand Scotland’s place in the world, showing how past decisions still influence and shape our choices today.

To illustrate Scotland’s living history, there is no better place to start than my constituency of Uddingston and Bellshill, which was the birthplace of the Scottish trade unionist and supporter of home rule James Keir Hardie. That proud legacy has shaped my politics and still links my community to those fiercely progressive views today, more than 100 years after his death.

Scotland has forged a formidable history, with an influence and legacy that reaches well beyond our shores, from noble clansmen and powerful monarchs to enlightenment philosophers and world-famous engineers and scientists. We are a nation that survived and thrived on the kindness and hospitality of our neighbours and kinfolk, yet we are also a nation that experienced the shocking abuse of traditional hospitality that led to the dreadful massacre at Glencoe in 1692.

Our history is at once global and indigenous, with a mix of kinship and conflict. History in schools allows our young people to explore the associations between the local, the national and the global. Our lives and our histories are also shaped by a sense of place, and I applaud history teachers who have taken learning from the classroom into the local community by forging innovative links with local organisations, including museums and historical societies. It takes partnership to deliver a truly inclusive curriculum, and forging and strengthening those partnerships lifts history teaching beyond textbooks. It has the potential to elicit new and important information about who we are and where we come from.

I also commend the efforts of organisations in my constituency that are working to that end, including Hamilton Mausoleum Trust, the Low Parks museum, Bothwell castle and the Lanarkshire Family History Society. Another good example is the wonderful online multimedia archive Colourful Heritage. Its work with local schools has uncovered the heritage stories of Muslim and south Asian immigrants to Scotland. It also includes a fascinating account of the provenance and set-up of the New Stevenston mosque in my constituency, which work was led by long-time resident of Holytown Ghulam Saqlain Siddiquie.

Earlier, I said that to live in Scotland is to live in history. For me, and as others have mentioned, that includes ensuring teaching of our nation’s darkest historical moments, particularly our significant involvement in the abhorrent transatlantic slave trade, as well as Scotland’s part in the often brutal legacy of the British empire. It is clear that without such knowledge we cannot fully understand our country’s place in the world and why we live the way we do today.

History will always be a source of debate over whose stories to tell, which is how it should be. However, schools and local historians need to be in it together, working towards an understanding of not only history at large but diverse traditions and communities that have never been properly recognised and remembered.

Learning through history, specifically local history, has immense potential to help to meet the aims of Scotland’s curriculum for excellence. As we strive to develop the four fundamental curriculum capacities that we want to see in our children—successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors—the key is exercising flexibility to keep learning meaningful, accessible and enjoyable.

Let us bring the gripping narratives of Scotland’s past alive to makes sense of our world today and inspire the next generation of Scots to become the responsible and ethical leaders of tomorrow, locally, nationally and globally.


I thank Stuart McMillan for securing the debate and all my colleagues for their contributions on a subject that is of great interest to me—not least because of my previous employment as a teacher who taught a little of the subjects that have been mentioned.

When learning about history at school, in England as much as in Scotland, I was curious about and a bit disappointed by the lack of content regarding events and significant figures in black and minority ethnic heritage and culture. Although we have made some progress in diversifying our curriculum, we still have a way to go to make sure that we can all see ourselves in our shared histories and herstories. I certainly did not.

Teachers have the privilege of inspiring curiosity to ask not only the questions “When?” and “Where?”, but “Who?” and “Why?”. Primary schooling is well placed to not only consider dates and timelines, but to bring to life the stories of people and communities in relatable, creative and compelling ways. I have certainly tried to do that over the years.

The flexibility of curriculum for excellence will always lead to debates about the syllabus. However, we must promote gathering of evidence, questioning of sources, and analysis and understanding of implications and impacts. We must learn the lessons of the past to inform our tomorrows.

Of course, the past is not alright or, indeed, all white. Black Lives Matter has certainly brought into sharp focus the need to recognise that education is the route to tackling prejudice and to building a more just understanding of society. The role of key individuals and organisations is instrumental in that.

The Coalition for Racial Equalities and Rights has been at the forefront of supporting black history month and developing materials that help teachers to plan inclusive history lessons, and its work should be recognised. Black history month helps us to recognise people who have pioneered civil rights and tackled racial discrimination. Telling stories about “Who?” enables learners to explore the “Why?” of attitudes and cultures of the past, in order to inform our futures.

The Minister for Equalities and Older People, Christina McKelvie, said that

“It is important that we recognise Scotland’s role in these painful parts of history, to ensure we learn from the mistakes and atrocities of the past”

and that we make sure that they are not repeated.

Would you accept an intervention?

I will take an intervention.

Kenneth Gibson, please speak through the chair.

I apologise, Presiding Officer.

Does Ms Stewart agree that focus on the transatlantic slave trade should help to educate people about modern slavery in the world today? According to the United Nations, there are 40 million people in modern slavery, including 20 million in the Indian subcontinent, one in five people in Mauritania and many in the middle east. Would that help to create a greater focus among nations, including Scotland, on dealing with that particular issue of the modern age, as well as looking to what happened in previous centuries?

I can give you the time back.

I accept what Kenny Gibson said, but it is unfortunate that maybe, in the past, our debates have not been robust enough for us to learn the lessons from previous slave trades, in order to allow a greater focus on modern slavery.

Faith communities have played significant roles, too. The Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre, which is based in Garnethill, is the first purpose-built synagogue in Scotland. It is a beautiful category A listed building in the heart of Glasgow, which is now open to learners, and not just from Glasgow—people from Skara Brae and Islay are welcome to come, as well. The centre tells the stories of real people, going back more than 200 years.

Based in Glasgow, the Colourful Heritage centre also provides an excellent online resource that highlights histories and stories, primarily of south Asians and Muslims in Scotland. I will share a wee example. In 1911, the Glasgow Indian Union was established to represent seamen who worked in the Govan area. That was actually before the red Clydesiders were established. There was a vibrant lascar community in Anderston in my Kelvin constituency. That is a fascinating contextualised part of local history to add to current debates about race and equality.

The examples that I give have been driven from the experiences and efforts of our black and minority ethnic individuals and groups, but it is encouraging to see that work being addressed more widely.

In collaboration with race equality stakeholders, Museums Galleries Scotland now recognises and represents a more accurate portrayal of Scotland’s colonial and slavery history. Lucy Casot, the chief executive officer of Museums Galleries Scotland, said:

“The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the critical need to understand and act on the racial injustice and colonialism that is still prevalent today.”

I welcome the Scottish Government's support for that collaboration, but I also ask for an update on how that is going.

Of course, the Colston four—

Please conclude around now, Ms Stewart.

I will jump to the end of my speech.

Voltaire, who is often quoted—including by Kenneth Gibson—said:

“We look to Scotland for all of our ideas of civilisation.”

That was said at a certain time in history, and we need to make sure that we live up to that—

Ms Stewart, you need to conclude now.

I look forward, in an independent Scotland of the future, to reflecting on the lessons that have been learned from the past to ensure a more just and equal society that acknowledges the contributions of and reflects all of its citizens.

Thank you, Ms Stewart. I cannot accept another motion without notice, so I call on the minister to conclude the debate, for about seven minutes. I will give him a little longer if he can weave in a reference to Skara Brae.


I have never had the chance visit Skara Brae or the museum on Islay, so I look forward to visiting both, in due course.

This has been a really important and enjoyable debate. It has been very wide ranging, but because I have only up to seven minutes—as the Presiding Officer correctly reminded me—I will not be able to cover every point that has been made. However, I will endeavour to respond to as much of the debate as I can.

I thank Stuart McMillan for lodging the motion and bringing the debate to the chamber, and I join him in conveying condolences to all those who knew Gordon Bryce.

I start with a fundamental premise, on which I think we all agree. Learning the context of Scottish history is an essential part of the experience in our schools. Many members have reflected—as they often do, and as I often hear—on their own experiences at school and the fact that they did not learn enough about Scotland’s history. I was fortunate in that regard, because I was taught some of the history of our country when I was at school. The subject matter—I am sure that Martin Whitfield will be delighted to know—sparked and generated such an interest in me that I went on to study history at the University of Glasgow. I tell Murdo Fraser, with regret, that his book was not, at that juncture, on the list of suggested texts. I do not know whether it is there now; my experience of higher education is falling into the historical realm.

Having mentioned the University of Glasgow, I join Jenni Minto in mentioning my sadness at the passing of Ted Cowan. He was one of my lecturers when I was at university, and was a great and passionate proponent of Scotland’s history. We have lost, in the shape of Ted Cowan, a great champion of our history.

I return to young people’s experiences of learning Scottish history at school. I understand why members would reflect on their own experiences, but with regard to the current experience, I highlight that Scottish history is, in fact, a mandatory element of our national education. There is a wealth of resources to enable children to start learning about our country’s history at the earliest stages of their education, and Scottish history is a core component of history subject matter right through to the senior phase.

I will respond to some comments from members. As I said, I will not be able to respond to them all, but a number of comments should rightly receive a response. Stuart McMillan and a number of other members, including Stephanie Callaghan, rightly spoke of Scotland’s links to the historical slave trade. In particular, Stuart McMillan mentioned the establishment of a museum about slavery in Scotland. We have an expert group, that is led by Geoff Palmer, that is considering the matter and what form any such museum might take. The scope of a museum, and whether a physical museum will be recommended, will become clear when the group’s recommendations are delivered later this year. Nevertheless, I know that Stuart McMillan will continue to champion Greenock as a location for such a museum; I would expect him to do no less.

I have to say that I was not surprised to hear the comments from Murdo Fraser, given that he took to Twitter to respond to the issue that he highlighted today—notwithstanding, of course, his great passion for Scottish’s history, which would be the other reason why he wanted to speak today. He mentioned the resource that Education Scotland published on red Clydeside. I recognise that there was an inaccuracy in that resource. There is a method by which people can report that; Education Scotland will reflect on it and make changes where necessary.

However, I do not want anyone to have the sense that Education Scotland or any part of the education establishment is wilfully and deliberately misleading our young people with some form of political agenda. I reassure Murdo Fraser and Stephen Kerr, who also expressed concern, that Education Scotland works in partnership with the University of Glasgow to produce resources across the humanities curriculum. I think that we can rely on their professionalism. When a mistake is identified, of course we expect it to be rectified.

Will the minister give way?

That will depend on how much latitude I have.

I can give you the time back, minister. There is certainly latitude for you to take an intervention.

I am very grateful to the minister for giving way. I welcome the reassurance that he has given, but will he address my concluding point? Is a proper review of teaching of history needed? Having listened to the entire debate, the minister will know that members have, from different perspectives, expressed the concern that aspects of history are not being properly addressed in the curriculum. Is it not now time to follow the advice of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and conduct a review?

I suspect that all of us have taken part in the debate because we have a passion for Scotland’s history. It would be great if we could teach the entire breadth of the historical experience of Scotland, although I note Mr Whitfield’s point about our curriculum having been designed to imbue and stimulate interest in, and to spark a passion for, studying the subject in its wider sense. We cannot pretend that there is no limit to how much can be taught in the specific context of the school environment.

I will pick up on the point that was made in relation to Professor McLennan’s reported remarks. I reiterate that our curriculum is not subject to political direction. The Scottish Qualifications Authority is preparing for consultation of, and engagement with, history teachers on the opportunities for teaching non-European and diverse perspectives in our history courses. That engagement will take place with relevant professionals. Account can, of course, be taken of Professor McLennan’s concerns that neither Glasgow or Greenock is mentioned as a slave port, but I respectfully suggest that the idea that that is part of some political plot seems to be a bit overstated, so I hope that we can place the issue in its proper context.

Presiding Officer, I have probably extended your latitude as much as I can. I have not even been able to talk about the history of my constituency, which I very much regret. I hope that I will be able to do so at another juncture.

Our curriculum will continue to focus on the historical, social, geographic, economic and political changes that have shaped Scotland.

Will the minister give way?

I will see whether the Presiding Officer will let me give way.

You have a very generous seven minutes.

It has been said that we need to talk about some of the negative aspects of Scottish history. That is important, because it should be warts and all; slavery is an important part of our history. However, why are we also not teaching positive aspects of our history and contribution to the world, such as the enlightenment?

I had hoped to be able to respond to Mr Gibson’s point, so his intervention has enabled me to do so. It is not the case that such aspects do not form part of the subject matter. In our schools, young people can elect to study, for example, the enlightenment as a topic as part of the Scottish studies award. I certainly encourage them to do so because—going back to my experience—I studied the topic at university, and it is not without some contention and debate about its place in the historical context.

We will continue to ensure that Scotland’s history is taught to young people and that it is placed in a wider global context, so that we ensure that the past informs recognition, understanding and valuing of the diversity and complexity of the modern world and modern Scotland.

Meeting closed at 18:59.