HL Deb 18 May 1994 vol 555 cc245-7

3 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether appointed advisers are to make recommendations on the history subjects in the Scottish curriculum.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

My Lords, there are no plans for a specific centrally co-ordinated review of history subjects. Responsibility for the content of the curriculum in Scottish schools rests with individual education authorities and headteachers. However, advice is provided from time to time both by the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum and the Scottish Office education department.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for his reply. However, will the Scottish curriculum, which is separate from the national curriculum which applies only to England and Wales, include Scottish kings before 1603; for example, Robert the Bruce? Further, will British monarchs after 1603 be included? If so, children in Scotland are likely to learn more about them than those south of the Border.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, there is a clear interest in ensuring that Scottish history before either the union of the Crowns or the union of the Parliaments is understood by Scottish children. Certainly they will learn about Scottish kings and queens. However, I believe that we enter a point of controversy at the point of changeover as to whether in Scotland King James is to be known as James VI or James I.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, has done the House a favour in asking the question, especially as the Scottish press has over the past year been most concerned about what sort of history should be taught in Scotland. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, is a member of a clan which is well represented in Scottish history. I believe that he will appreciate more than most of us that a great deal of such history is very much shrouded in mystery. In other words, I am not sure that Glencoe really happened in the way in which people suggest.

However, although I feel that we must have a general feeling for kings and queens, I hope that we do not spend too long on it. To most of the Scots, the part of history about which they are most proud involves the ships and the railway engines that we built and also the machinery and engineers that we sent all over the world. That is a much more important part of Scottish history than much of the stuff that I was taught in school.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I am not entirely sure that I agree with the first part of the noble Lord's observation. But certainly, once we have a shared history—for example, if children are being taught about the Industrial Revolution—there are clearly significant events in Scotland to which children's attention should be drawn. Their understand-ing of that particular period of history could be well based on what happened in Scotland itself.

Lord Renton

My Lords, will Scottish children be able to have the opportunity of becoming proud of the part which Scots have played in the building of the British Empire and, later, the Commonwealth?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

Yes, my Lords; very much so. I hope that they might even be taught that we had a domination of influence in all of it. As I said, once we have that shared history, there is clearly a Scottish emphasis to be given to the events of British history. However, we certainly do not want to treat them as separate subjects. We want to treat them in a way that shows that we do have that shared inheritance and that the Scots did have an important part to play.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that, according to my father, I am a direct descendant of John Knox who wrote a pamphlet entitled, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women? Does my noble and learned friend agree that it is time that the word "monstrous" was expunged from any new history curriculum in Scotland?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, it is for individual education authorities to determine whether or not they draw attention to that pamphlet. However, as a descendant of John Knox, my noble friend may be disappointed that that particular pamphlet certainly no longer forms part of our religious education.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord bear in mind that the Scottish descendants of Robert the Bruce, having come originally from Norman France, are more than capable of dealing with the President of the Commission?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I can only compliment the noble Lord on a quite exceptional exercise of ingenuity in bringing such a matter into a Question on Scottish education.

Lord Geddes

My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that a forebear of mine was so incensed by the pamphlet referred to by my noble friend Lord Davidson that she upped and threw her stool at the said priest?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

My Lords, I certainly hope that the tradition of the Geddes family is well known to Scottish children.

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