Not so Bonnie at the Home Office

28th April 2006 at 01:00
There are many myths about Bonnie Prince Charlie but the department of the other Charles - Home Secretary Charles Clarke - has added even more bunk to one of the great popular stories of Scottish history.

An error-strewn Home Office guide to life in the United Kingdom for immigrants describes the Young Pretender's 1745 mission as supported "mainly by Catholic tribesmen in the Highlands".

No offence taken, of course.

The prince is also said to have mounted his rebellion in a bid to "regain or seize the throne of the United Kingdom".

Ooops. Actually, he was trying to claim it for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender.

A biting critique of the booklet by the Historical Association, which represents history interests in schools and universities, further contends it is misleading to talk of Culloden as "the last battle to be fought on the mainland of the United Kingdom". The Irish do not talk about the mainland, while there were many pitched battles in Ireland during the rising of 1798, the association says.

The history section of the Home Office guide was written by Bernard Crick, the Edinburgh-based politics professor and a citizenship guru for the Blair government. He described the association's comments as "quibbles" which will be corrected in a revised version.

Harry Dickinson, professor of history at Edinburgh University and past president of the association, submitted a seven-page list of errors last May but these were overlooked. Professor Dickinson described the booklet as "shocking, a useless document" and a "political mistake".

Among other Scottish references, his critique points out that the massacre at Glencoe took place two years after the Battle of the Boyne and not before it, and that Hadrian's Wall did not eventually create a kingdom of Scotland. It is in England. Glasgow was also not built on the slave trade, as Professor Crick maintains.

Sam Henry, past president of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History, said: "I find the whole thing appalling. It is riddled with errors and it is the most turgid, abysmal piece of writing I have seen in a long time. If it's supposed to be for immigrants who have difficulties with reading, I have no idea how they are meant to cope with this."

Mr Henry, a Lochgelly High teacher, said the document presented a "stereotypical, Anglo-centric" view that would give immigrants a very limited glimpse into Scottish history.

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