Archive | June, 2014

Bannockburn 700 Commemoration

24 Jun

No doubt much will be made of the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn as ‘anti-English’. However, to do so would be, as did Ian Davidson MP in the House, to show a startling ignorance of Scottish and, therefore, British history.

First of all, Bannockburn was not so much a Battle between the Scots and the English as a power struggle between Anglo-Normans and Scotto-Normans. Combatants, on both sides, held (or had held) lands in both Scotland and England, including both the Bruce and Balliol. There were “Scots”, who were supporters of Balliol, enemies of Bruce, or who simply feared the loss of their more profitable English lands, in Edward II’s army.

Second, the Battle is not being “celebrated” as Ian Davidson put it, “mainly because Scots slew large numbers of English people”, but being commemorated because it is a date which is as key in Scottish history as 1603. Bannockburn was the start of a 14 year road to the full restoration of Scottish independence, just as 1603 was the 104 year road to its loss. Furthermore, there have been commemorations (though, admittedly, on a smaller scale) of other important battles which the Scots lost (eg Flodden 500 last year).

Third, some will cite Scotland’s unofficial National Anthem, “Flower of Scotland”, as being an anti-English song celebrating the battle. However, to do so would indicate a lack of knowledge of the lyrics. Nowhere does the song mention the English; not once. The first stanza celebrates the winning of independence; the second mourns its loss; and the third expresses hope of its restoration. It is not about the English but about Scotland, past, present and future.

Fourth, people like Davidson, so ignorant of their own nation’s history, seem to imagine that the commemoration of Bannockburn is something new, which was only dreamt up by Alex Salmond to bolster the Independence referendum. The reality is that there were Bannockburn rallies in the 1930s (and even earlier commemorations by advocates of Home Rule). These rallies with their accompanying picnic, which were always well attended, were a highlight in the nationalist calendar with orators such as Don Roberto giving fiery speeches before distinguished guests such as the Duke of Montrose.

On the other hand, the cynical celebration of the start of the Great War (or WWI as it later became more commonly known) is an entirely new phenomenon dreamt up by the ConDem coalition to counter any supposed benefit the YES campaign might gain from Bannockburn. Had Davidson been correct in his assertion, one would naturally surmise that the “celebration” (Prime Minister David Cameron’s word) of the start of WWI (costing some £50m in a time when the government claims it cannot afford basic welfare) must be to celebrate the Allied Forces killing 4 million people from the Central Powers.  Furthermore, whereas Bannockburn broke the dominance of the English monarchy in the affairs of Scotland and led to the Declaration of Arbroath and the 1328 Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, the Great War achieved little except for the fall of a few Crowns and, far from being “The War to End All Wars” was only resolved by a second World War that affected almost 4 times as many countries worldwide.  Truly, something to celebrate!

The organisers of the event at Bannockburn this weekend have done their best to make the event a-political. This is sensible as, being a central part of a Year of Homecoming, it is directed as much (if not more so) at the Scots Diaspora as folk in Scotland.  Politicisation has come, however, not from the Nationalists or Yes campaign but from the Labour-Tory alliance on Stirling Council, who tried to organise a competing 3 day event, which they hadn’t the resources to run properly. How Stirling’s Armed Forces Day will play out is moot but the Bannockburn 700 event promises to be spectacular and fun (and I’m absolutely gutted that I can’t now be there!).

So, on this 700th anniversary, let’s lay politics aside and proudly commemorate Bannockburn for its historical importance to the people of Scotland (and to those of the Diaspora), whether YES, NO or DON’T KNOW.