THERE have been numerous assertions down the years that King Arthur was actually Scottish.

Imagine if that could be categorically proved – King Arthur immediately becomes the most-famous Scotsman that has ever lived. With all due respect to Sir Sean Connery any other claimants to that title, King Arthur is simply in a different league as a celebrity, a personality, a hero, the Once and Future King.

Next year, we may well see at least a massive debate about Arthur, and one eminent Scottish lawyer and former SNP Holyrood candidate is very much prepared to make the case that Arthur was a Scot.

Adam Ardrey has written two books, Finding Merlin, and Finding Arthur, and he is prepared to put forward his evidence that the legendary Arthur was based on a real person, a Scottish prince called Arthur Mac Aedan, the sixth century son of a Scottish king called Aedan.

So is he right?

This column has always concerned itself with factual matters, with stories that derive from history, usually but not always backed by written sources, photographs or film.

I am now calling for a debate on the "real" Arthur, for there are competing claims. It is surely time the mystery was solved, and the arrival of Warner Bros’ epic film King Arthur Legend of the Sword next year will surely see a huge debate on all the Arthurian tales.

The film is directed by Guy Ritchie and judging by the trailer it looks to be a cross between Game of Thrones and any number of sword-and-sandal epics.

The trailer also shows elephants, and that makes Ardrey laugh, as the world’s largest land animal was completely unknown in sixth century Britain.

Ardrey said: “The film looks like good fun, although there were no elephants here in the Age of Arthur.

“Its release, next year, gives us, in Scotland, a chance to engage with the established view that the historical Arthur was a man of England or Wales.

“They have no evidence of any weight and no historical Arthur to attach it to, even if they did. Scotland has Arthur Mac Aedan and all the evidence anyone could wish for.”

Unfortunately, there are huge gaps in Scotland’s written history. From the time of the Romans until St Adomnan’s Life of Columba, there is very little written history about the land we now call Scotland, and hardly any of it was contemporary or written by Scottish historians. That’s because the ancient Picts and Scots and north Britons who lived here at the time had an oral history tradition, handed down probably from one bard to another.

In time, these people would be called seannachies, and each clan would have at least one, especially in the Gaelic-speaking Highlands and Islands where the ancient Picts were long forgotten – we still do not know what language they spoke.

The only Scottish writer of note in the first 600 years of the Common Era was St Gildas, a monk born on the banks of the Clyde who wrote the tract De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (On The Ruin and Conquest of Britain). Funnily enough, writing before Scotland’s Arthur, he doesn’t mention any King Arthur at all.

It’s that kind of omission and other evidence that points Ardrey to a Scottish Arthur.

He said: “The legendary Arthur is usually said to have been a Christian English king. In reality, he was an historical figure, a man of the old way of the druids, a Scot and a warlord.

“Merlin, too, lived in history: he was the pre-eminent druid of the sixth century. Unlike Arthur, Merlin was too closely associated with the old ways of the druids to be Christianised and so he was ‘made safe’: he was portrayed as an old, avuncular, somewhat scatter-brained figure.

“He was not like this at all.

“Merlin’s twin-sister, the equally important Gwyneth, known as Languoreth – The Golden One – the Lioness of Damnonia and the Swan-necked Woman, was all but written out of history, simply because she was a woman.

“Typical, but I have written her back into history.

“For 1,500 years, the Christian Church and its temporal partners-in-power deleted historical evidence anent Arthur and fabricated a legend that, literally, suited their book.”

One of his main points, in keeping with his assertion that Arthur was a real person, is that the fantastical elements of the hero’s life can be explained in more prosaic terms.

In brief, the sword in the stone was a real thing, for on becoming a warlord leading his people in battle, Arthur Mac Aedan would have put his foot in the stone at the holy site of Dunadd in Argyll, while holding on to the sword.

Ardrey explained: “It will be no surprise to anyone that the trailer shows a southern British Arthur pulling a magical sword from a magical stone. The sword is shown stuck into the stone. In fact, there was no Arthur in any possible Age of Arthur in the south of Britain. The real, historical Arthur was Arthur Mac Aedan of Scotland – born around 559, died in 596.

“There are no such things as magical swords or magical stones, far less combinations of the two that can recognise members of the aristocracy.

“What happened was that in an inauguration ceremony in 574 CE, Arthur Mac Aedan placed his foot into the footprint cut into the stone on the summit of the hillfort of Dunadd, Argyll, and was given a sword to hold, just as our current Queen was given a sword to hold at her coronation.

“When, as part of the inauguration ceremony, Arthur Mac Aedan stepped out of the footprint cut into the stone, holding the sword, he literally took a sword from a stone.”

Ardrey rightly points out that the Excalibur legend is very much a creation of the later so-called chroniclers of Arthur’s life. The sword didn’t appear until the late Middle Ages.

One of the most intriguing suggestions by Ardrey is that after dying in battle, Arthur may well have been carried off on a boat to a mystical island of Avalon set in the Western Seas – Ardrey says Avalon is none other than Iona, burial place of Scottish kings from time immemorial.

THERE are many, many experts ready to dispute Ardrey’s version of the Arthurian tale. Some point to the obvious fact that Scotland’s Arthur lived in the latter years of the sixth century, when most of the accounts of matters like the Battle of Badon place it in the fifth century or even earlier.

By then, the people known as the Britons were squeezed into the west side of the island of Great Britain, as the Angles pushed deeper into the country. The British Kingdom at one point stretched from the south of Argyll all the way down to Wales.

But gradually the invaders conquered much of southern Britain, leaving only the Picts and Scots – who were too warlike for them – in the Scottish end of the British kingdom.

That "North British Kingdom" was called Strathclyde and, as it says on signs around the town of Dumbarton, the fort of the Britons, it was the ancient capital of that kingdom.

Ardrey said: “Arthurian locations in Scotland range from Argyll to the Borders. He was the warlord who led an allied army of Scots, Picts and Britons against invading Angles attacking Edinburgh – hence Arthur’s Seat.

“If it was not for Arthur, there would be no Scotland today. What happened down south would have happened up here.”

The Battle of Camlann – Camelot – did take place, says Ardrey, and it was at Camelon near Falkirk.

Ardrey said: “Now, up here, people can see the very stone from which Arthur really did take a sword – no magic involved; the site of the ‘Round Table’; the Isle of Avalon, the lot.

“The Camlann where the legendary Arthur died is Camelon, Falkirk, the exact spot now lies under the car park of Alexander Dennis bus factory.

“Fortunately, there are other, more-picturesque locations.”

Intriguingly, the debate might happen. As Ardrey said: “Time for a friendly exchange of views?”

He is working with VisitScotland to exploit the tourism benefit of the Arthur story and the film – many of whose exterior shots were filmed in Scotland, which, of course, still doesn't have a decent film studio.

A spokesperson for VisitScotland told The National: “Scotland has provided stunning backdrops to a host of high-profile movies in recent years, including The BFG, Macbeth and Skyfall.

“Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is another exciting opportunity to promote Scotland, not only as a wonderful set-jetting destination, but to highlight this country’s connections to the man behind the myth.”

Ardrey says pound signs should get tourism bosses thinking. He said: “Ask 100 Americans who Columba was and you will be lucky to find 10 who knew. Ask 100 Americans who Arthur was, who Merlin was, and you will be lucky to find 10 who do not know.

“The legend of Arthur is one of the foundation stories of the western world, and now it is history, too, Scottish history. We should be looking forward to inviting people to visit us, to see the legendary and the historical sites.

"In the film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it was said, if you know the truth and you know the legend, print the legend. Well, we can print both.”

This, I think, is one story that is going to run and run.