700th anniversary of Declaration of Arbroath to be marked

6 April 2020, 00:04

Declaration of Arbroath
Scottish independence referendum. Picture: PA

A display of the document at the National Museum of Scotland was postponed last month due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Monday marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, despite an exhibition of the document being postponed.

The National Museum of Scotland will display the historical piece later in the year with venues currently closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A procession was also supposed to take place on Sunday and follow the journey the original document would have made from Arbroath Abbey to the nearby harbour.

The letter was written in 1320 asking the pope to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king.

However according to new research commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland, more than half of Scots have never actually heard of the declaration.

When told about it, 72% of 1,000 people surveyed agreed it was important or very important for Scotland’s development as a nation with 77% of people wanting to know more.

Just less than half (48.7%) had heard of the declaration and knew at least something about it.

Diarmid Hearns, head of public policy at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “The signing of the Declaration of Arbroath is an incredibly important document in the birth of Scotland as a nation.

“The survey we commissioned shows that while it may not necessarily be the first historical date that comes to mind, when people hear more about it, they recognise its significance.

“Our research also showed us that when people learn about and experience Scotland’s heritage, they are more likely to value it and want to conserve it for the future.

“We also found that almost 70% of people prefer to learn about history by visiting historic sites.

“It shows that there is a huge appetite for people in Scotland – and from further afield – to learn more about Scotland’s history, and the Trust is here to help them do that.”

A new book is also being released with more than 50 writers collaborating for a “people’s history” of the document.

Conquered by No One has been edited and coordinated by Neil McLennan, a former history teacher and now director of leadership programmes at the University of Aberdeen.

Contributors include Lord Charles Bruce, one of the most prominent living descendants of Robert the Bruce.

Mr McLennan said: “On this day 700 years ago, the document was drawn up so it is a fitting date by which to have drafts for each of our chapters.

“In late April or May The Declaration of Arbroath was sent to the Pope and he responded on August 28 so we are following this historic timeline for publication.

“The project was audacious at best when we first started with fifty people from across the country – ranging from historians and writers to teachers and civic figures – contributing to a single text.

“The current restrictions on freedom of movement have caused some difficulties but today (April 6) we have chapters and biographers for each noble and Baron whose name appears in the historic Declaration of Arbroath.

“It has been a truly cooperative effort and we thank each of them for bringing history alive.

“Readers will be fascinated with the stories of the people behind the treaty, never before shared in this way, and moreover the local stories which impact on each area of Scotland.”

By Press Association

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