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On the 1707 trail

Pupils took a step back in time on a project to mark the 300th anniversary of the union of the parliaments of Scotland and England.

It's official: the education project for "A Union for a' that", being run jointly by the National Archives of Scotland, the Scottish Parliament and Historic Scotland, is "cool".

At least that's what P7 pupils from Mossneuk Primary in East Kilbride thought of their day out in Edinburgh last week. It took in a visit to the castle, a walk down the Royal Mile and a tour of the Scottish Parliament.

"A Union for a' that" has been created for schools to mark the 300th anniversary of the union of the parliaments of Scotland and England in 1707. The project was launched earlier this year with a programme of events for primary and secondary school pupils in Aberdeen. Later in the year, a free DVD and booklet, based on the project and covering government in Scotland from the time of the union to the present day, will be sent to every school in the country.

Now, a series of "A Union for a' that" educational visits for P6-7 children is being run in Edinburgh for schools from the central belt to tie in with the Making the Act of Union 1707 exhibition which can be seen at the parliament until November 18.

Visits are taking place on consecutive Mondays when MSPs don't meet and Mossneuk was one of eight schools that got the chance to send a class to Edinburgh for the day with free bus travel included.

Janice Bruce, the headteacher, said: "It's important for children to know the history of their country, because it helps them understand why Scotland is like it is today."

P7 pupils spent five hours on the union trail, starting with a guided tour of areas and displays in Edinburgh Castle most closely associated with the project, such as the Great Hall where the parliament once met, and the Honours of Scotland (also known as the Crown jewels).

Queen Anne was monarch of England and Scotland at the time of the union, so it seemed appropriate that the castle's education rooms are located in the Queen Anne Building, There, pupils took part in workshops comparing the coins, coats of arms and flags of Scotland and England before and after the union.

On the walk down the Royal Mile, the Mossneuk children stopped off first at the Court of Session. They visited the old Parliament Hall which was used by members of the Scottish Parliament from 1630, after the move from Edinburgh Castle, until 1707.

Other stops included the nearby Mercat Cross where, in the days before parliamentary broadcasts on TV, radio and the internet, a town crier would read out the news of what laws had been passed.

Inside the new Scottish Parliament, pupils had a chance to see Making the Act of Union 1707, an excellent exhibition featuring historic documents, paintings and objects, before setting off on the final leg of their trip: a tour of the building.

Although the pupils had been on the move for almost four hours, they showed no signs of flagging as they learned about the design of the parliament and the many Scottish materials used in its construction; the major differences between MSPs before the Act of Union and now; and how the Scottish Parliament operates in the 21st century including the fact that MSPs who continue to speak after their allotted time can simply have their microphones switched off.

Finally, before leaving the debating chamber, the pupils were shown the modern ceremonial mace and the inscription engraved on it almost 300 years after the Act of Union: "1998 there shall be a Scottish Parliament."

For further information about the Making the Act of Union 1707 exhibition: www.scottish. parliament.ukexhibitions

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