News from Holyrood

8th February 2008 at 00:00
We were all thinking it, but it was the Conservative's Murdo Fraser that said it: get to the point, Ms Watt (or words to that effect).

Six minutes into her speech introducing the debate on the importance of Scottish history in the school curriculum, and the Minister for Schools and Skills, Maureen Watt, had managed the seemingly impossible: to make virtually no mention of the importance of history, Scottish or otherwise.

Instead, the chamber had been told about the OECD report, about the Government's plans to make Scotland "wealthier and fairer, healthier, smarter, safer and stronger, and greener" and about A Curriculum for Excellence and (inevitably) its four capacities.

Finally, however, Ms Watt got round to the subject of the debate. Young people, she said, must "understand where they live and the heritage of their families and communities". It was not about "brainwashing them into adopting a single set of political beliefs", she explained, but about ensuring they can make "informed decisions and judgments".

According to Fiona Hyslop, Education Secretary, youngsters need "a clear perspective" based on a sound understanding of the chronology of historical events.

Opposition parties agreed - on the face of it. The Government, argued Labour's Ken Macintosh, is not interested in "broadening young minds", just getting young people to see the world from a "particularly narrow and nationalistic viewpoint".

Mr Fraser also had his reservations, stating he did not "wish Scottish history to become parochial and inward-looking". Hugh O'Donnell, of the Liberal Democrats, went further, warning against heading "down the road of Joseph Stalin and Dr Joseph Goebbels" and "blaming the trials and tribulations of our country on a near neighbour".

Where would they find the history teachers to drop their professionalism in favour of all this myth-peddling, we wondered? In any case, as Mr Macintosh himself admitted, there isn't much of a debate: all MSPs are in favour of teaching Scottish history. Of course, he knew what it was really about - "not learning history, but learning to become more Scottish".

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