… in a few weeks, we get up to date on things Scottish.
A leading historian was under pressure to apologise yesterday after he described Scotland as a “feeble little nation”.
David Starkey also hit out at Robert Burns, describing him as a “boring provincial poet”, and dismissed bagpipes as “awful” on BBC’s Question Time.
… Jim Mullen from Haddenham asked if Dr Starkey could be reported for racist comments.
The Scots spend a good deal of their time expressing umbrage over this sort of thing. In 2005, Niall Ferguson went much farther than Starkey. History News Network summarizes:
An expatriate Scottish historian provoked fury yesterday by calling for the land of his birth to be put into “liquidation” because it had become “the Belarus of the West”. Professor Niall Ferguson said Scotland’s glory days were long over, leaving it a “small, sparsely-populated appendage of England”.
The Glasgow-born academic, who is now based at Harvard University in Massachusetts, said that Scotland’s assets should be broken up, with the Scottish Parliament closed and the Scottish Football Association taken over by its English counterpart.
However, a leading fellow historian condemned his views as “tripe”, while the Scottish National Party said they would be “unrecognisable and unsupported by the vast majority of Scots”.
Prof Ferguson said the “ridiculous” Holyrood parliament building – which he described as a “risible and over-priced folly” – should be turned into a multiplex cinema or shopping mall, while Rangers and Celtic should “go where they belong”: to “pretty near the bottom of the [English] Premiership”.
The Laurence A Tisch Professor of History at Harvard, who moved to the US from Oxford University in 2002, has long been an arch-critic of Scotland, but his latest tirade in a Sunday newspaper marks a new level of hostility towards the country.
Writing from South Africa – to escape his “Caledonian heritage” of Auld Lang Syne, kilts and whiskey – Prof Ferguson said Scotland must “face up to some harsh realities”.
He said the country’s weather is “impossibly wet”, most of the land north of Loch Lomond is “barren rock”, and said that educational standards have mostly collapsed.
He added: “When it comes to sport – and I do not count the one decent tennis player – Scotland is the Belarus of the West. In fact, when it comes to just about everything, it is the Belarus of the West.”
Prof Ferguson said Scotland had been cursed by a misplaced “superiority complex” that it did things better than south of the Border.
He said that rather than a “Scottish cringe”, there was a “Scottish swagger”, which he admitted he had been guilty of in the past.
However, the academic said it was time to cut Scotland down to size. He said: “Those who called it ‘North Britain’ in the 18th century had it right.”
Prof Ferguson said the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament after 300 years had created a “glorified county council” rather than restoring the country’s political independence.
He said: “The idea that Scotland might one day ‘be a nation again’ should simply be dropped.