MEL Gibson has claimed that Braveheart, the 1990s blockbuster movie that told the life story of Sir William Wallace, may have been responsible for Scotland attaining devolution in the 1997 referendum.

In an interview, Gibson said of the 1995 Best Picture Oscar-winning film he directed and starred in: “It certainly woke something up there in Scotland. I know they achieved partial autonomy for that and I think it was a good thing.”


AS that other Scottish hero Kenny Dalglish might put it: “Mebbes aye, mebbes naw.”

After its European premiere in Stirling on September 3, 1995, the film went on show all over Scotland and there was no denying the powerful emotional impact of the story on Scottish audiences.

The gruesome ending of Wallace’s life by the English executioner had such an effect on people that on the opening night in Edinburgh, some came out of the exits of the Odeon Cinema in Clerk Street – now defunct – with tears pouring down their faces. I know, I was there.

There were also reports of anti-English shouts and cries inside and outside cinemas that were showing the movie.


YES, but not quite the political one Gibson or some political pundits claim. The fact is that support for Scottish independence flatlined in the opinion polls for some time afterwards, and support for devolution rose only slightly, but far easier for the Unionist media to ascribe that rise to a Hollywood movie riddled with historical inaccuracies – what happened to the bridge in the battle of “Stirling”? – than to the awakening of the long-simmering sense of Scottish injustice at the democratic deficit in this country.

When that guid Scotsman Tony Blair won the 1997 election, he and the Labour Government carried out the promise of a devolution referendum and its success was down to the late John Smith, Canon Kenyon Wright, Donald Dewar, Alex Salmond, and a host of others rather than a blue-painted American-Australian actor director, though of course we all love that “Freedom” speech.


INDEED, and there is no doubt that Braveheart did do things for Scotland, such as giving tourism a multi-million-pound boost and awakening a new desire in younger people in particular to learn about Scottish history. At the time, even Tory politicians were caught up in the hype that surrounded the film, and there was no little embarrassment for then Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth in the revelation that much of the film was shot outside Scotland because we simply did not have the facilities for the shooting of a minor movie, never mind a major Hollywood epic – Mel Gibson, no less, told him so.

Forsyth promised to do something about it and Scottish Screen came into being. Nevertheless we are still waiting for a national film studio more than 20 years later.

On Tuesday, our columnist Hamish MacPherson will begin a two-part series on the facts about Sir William Wallace by listing where the movie got it wrong.