THE row over “colonialism” in Scottish culture is set to break out again as the result of a controversial new book which claims that Scotland’s history has been deliberately distorted by centuries of suppression and distortion to conform to a “Britishist” agenda.

Writer, poet and lecturer Stuart McHardy’s new book Scotland’s Future History claims among other things that the Scottish Wars of Independence should not be so-called as Scotland was independent even before England was properly founded and the conflicts fought by Wallace and Bruce were in fact “battles for survival” against invading armies.

He said: “Why do we call them the Wars of Independence? Just because a couple of English kings claimed to control Scotland when they never did?

“Because it fits in with the “British” view, that’s why and British just means English and people have happily kow-towed to it.

“Some people say why worry about it? Well I think it’s an insult to every person born in Scotland that we are told to accept this description.”

He also challenges accepted theories on other parts of Scottish history – among other refutations, McHardy states the original Scots were not Irish, the Picts are not “a mysterious lost people” and the Battle of Culloden did not end the Jacobite cause.

His most controversial claim is about post-Union colonialism: “The actualities of Scotland’s history have been neglected due to a perceived need within the political and educational establishment to prevent a version of our past that conforms wherever possible to the idea of Britishness that has been developed since the Union of 1707.”

He adds in the book: “Scottish history has been constantly and insidiously arranged to fit what can be interpreted as an essentially colonialist mentality.

“Scottish history as it has been written over the past 300 years has all too often been subjected to suppression, distortion or manipulation by those who were in positions of importance at school or national level.”

In an exclusive interview with The National, McHardy, 68, who describes himself as a cultural activist, said that generations of history teachers had been forced to conform to the “British agenda”.

He added: “When I was at school, nobody talked or taught about things like the Clearances. That only came about in the 1960s when John Prebble wrote about them – and he was not part of the university system which is why he was so frowned on at first.

“At least now we have historians like Tom Devine and Ted Cowan and others who have been doing great work on Scottish history but they have really only scratched the surface.

“Thank goodness the SNP Government came in with the curriculum for excellence that means Scottish history is taught in our schools. It will take a couple of generations for that to have a real effect, however.”

Calling for much greater concentration on archaeology outwith Roman remains – “not long ago half of all archeological digs in Scotland were to do with the Romans” – McHardy said that in future, history should be “about finding out who we are because the past always impinges on the present.”

He added: “It’s time that we rejected the notion of history being about big men doing big things.

“We should really be looking at the indigenous peoples of Scotland such as the Picts and the Scots and stop worrying about the Romans – after all, they came, they saw, they buggered off.”

McHardy feels “righteous anger” about the way that Scottish history has been taught in the past and is also scathing about the way certain institutions have manipulated history.

“The law, the kirk and the universities tell us that they are the identity of Scotland, but what they were doing was looking after themselves and protecting their own position within an essentially colonial situation,” he said.

“I don’t think that’s changed, and as long as we have David Mundell in the Scotland Office we still have a Governor-general – and I don’t see a great difference between a Governor-general and a Secretary of State.”

McHardy admits he wrote the book, which is published by Luath Press in Edinburgh, in a bid to provoke “a debate” about Scottish history and the way it is taught and written.

He said: “As a nation founded well over 1,000 years ago, we are known and admired throughout the world. It is time we knew ourselves better.”