THE original handwritten manuscript of an essay by Hugh MacDiarmid, which blames the Union for a cultural cringe facing Scotland, has been unearthed after 70 years.

In themes including economic and political disadvantage, which will resonate with many today, the poet attacks a lack of emphasis on Scotland’s literature, history and music in the country’s schools and universities.

He pleads for the nation to become confident and self-aware, to throw off a sense of unworthiness and place its own culture at the centre of its education system – like other nations do.

“In every other country, its national history and literature etc...have first place in its schools and colleges, as is natural; and it is in comparison with these...that the student goes on to extend his range, taking in the literatures and histories of other lands and in due course achieving some knowledge of world-history and world-literature,” he wrote.

“In Scotland alone this natural process is reversed, and Scottish literature and history are not only not placed first but come in at the tail, if at all.”

He continued: “This extraordinary state of affairs is all the more serious at a time like the present when Scotland has been reduced to such an appalling pass politically, economically and socially.”

MacDiarmid, who was a founder of the National Party of Scotland, a forerunner of the Scottish National Party, insists that for young people to be educated successfully they must have a grounding in their own identity before they can appreciate the culture and difference of others.

Read the full essay here

The poet blames the lack of foundation in Scottish culture for a failure to mould serious thinkers – which he says is to the detriment of the nation.

“Ignorance is still widespread and not only the ignorant but the whole nation suffers in consequence,” he wrote.

Quoting the German nineteenth century Romantic poet Friedrich Holderlin, MacDiarmid added: “Nothing is so difficult to learn as the mastery over our natural national gifts”.

He concluded: “We in Scotland have not remained unnoticed, but our activities have been, and still are, largely misunderstood and misrepresented. That will be put right. These things take time.”

The essay, entitled An Open Letter to a Glasgow Undergraduate, was first published in November 1946 in the Glasgow University magazine GUM.

The original manuscript was handed to the Glasgow University last month by a graduate who it is believed came across it after his wife died. Her family are believed to have been neighbours of the poet.

A controversial figure while alive, MacDiarmid is now considered one of the principal forces behind the Scottish Renaissance and has had a lasting impact on Scottish culture and politics.

He was born Christopher Grieve in 1892 and died in 1978. Hugh MacDiarmid was the pen name he adopted.

Last night the essay was provoking a debate with experts at odds over whether his arguments were still relevant today.

Sheena Wellington, the singer who captivated millions of people across the world with her haunting rendition of A Man’s a Man for a’ That at the opening of the reconvened Scottish Parliament in 1999, believed there was still resistance in some circles for Scottish culture to be a core part of the education curriculum.

“There is still in some quarters a kind of fear about Scots culture. It is an odd kind of thing. I don’t know if it’s a conditioning thing which has happened to Scots over many centuries. In most other countries in the world the country’s history and culture takes pride of place at the centre of learning, yet here there is still a feeling if you teach children Scottish history it will make them violent or angry.

“But why should it? There were plenty of things that happened in Scots history that Scots were involved in that weren’t good, but there are also interesting things that Scots did and the links they forged with other countries – France, America – that should be taught too as well as our relationships with our neighbours such as Ireland, England and the Netherlands.”

Lesley Richmond, deputy director of Glasgow University Library, said she was delighted to receive the manuscript last month.

However, Richmond disputed its relevance in today’s Scotland.

She said: “We have devolution, we had the referendum, and I do think we as a country have moved on. MacDiarmid did say what he had to say but I think Scottish culture has changed.”

Read the full essay here