Never let the facts get in the way of politics

21st February 1997 at 00:00
The launch of the consultation on Scottish history in the Jacobite Room of Edinburgh Castle was a neat touch, as befitted an occasion graced by none other than the Education Minister. With a monster painting of "The Highlanders' Charge at Culloden" in the background, the picture was complete.

No doubt if Michael "Braveheart" Forsyth had presided, the venue would have been Stirling Castle. Perhaps the "The Stag at Bay" might have adorned the wall. But Raymond Robertson was as fitting a Government figure as any, having taught history himself in a previous life.

Whatever Robertson's skills as a teacher, a good memory of the past does not seem to be one of them. He confessed he could not remember whether he taught any Scottish history at all during his Glasgow and Dumbarton periods, "certainly not at certificate level".

Neil Galbraith, chairman of the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, was also a history teacher; he served his time at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway. The other man at the top table was Chris Whatley, head of modern history at Dundee University, who chaired the council's history group.

Odd man out was physicist Cameron Harrison, the council's chief executive. As Galbraith observed: "We have three historians and a physicist here which means you will get eight different opinions."

It was not clear whether he thought they would all come from the physicist.

Galbraith's sense of the past was more acute than the minister's. Noting that the launch was taking place on St Valentine's Day, he stressed that the intention was to think in terms of endearment rather than a massacre.

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