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Special investigators

The Scots Detective. Channel 4, Wednesdays 11.40am-12 noon. September 20-October 25

This five-part television series adopts the format of police drama to reconstruct evidence relating to the Scottish Wars of Independence, the rule of Mary, Queen of Scots, An End to Auld Lang Syne, the Scots Empire and The Irish are Coming. The series is to support the Higher Still development progamme for history at Intermediate 1 and 2, although the first episode, Freedom is a Noble Thing, could be used for the 5-14 curriculum.

James MacPherson plays the role of DI Scott, and has help from "SAM", a remote controller who acts as link between the scenes in all five programmes.

There are interviews with "expert witnesses" such as professors Tom Devine and Archie Duncan, Louise Yeoman and Fiona Watson, visits to the scenes of crime and access to documents like the Declaration of Arbroath.

In all the programmes, students are asked to think abot who, what, why and where, and are given a number of practical activities like writing a detailed account of the events portrayed, debating issues such as Wallace: traitor or freedom fighter? and developing evaluation skills, thereby linking in with the Higher Still curriculum.

They would provide a good starting point for an extended response at Intermediate 2. Programme notes on the "4learning" area of the Channel 4 website at www.channel4.com will encourage further follow-up work to be done independently.

The two programmes on Mary, Queen of Scots and the Union of 1707, are the most demanding. But in all cases the programme makers, Caledonia Sterne and Wild, have presented the information clearly.

The Scots Detective is a valuable history resource and is most certainly worth recording.

Jim McGonigle Jim McGonigle is principal teacher of history and president of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History

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