AS we prepare to vote six Scottish candidates into the European Parliament on Thursday, it is more important than ever to put an election in a historical context, and I am not just meaning the history of the Parliament and Scotland’s role in it – that will be the subject of a profile in tomorrow’s National.

It is often seen as a ‘given’ by pro-independence and pro-remain supporters that Scotland is a European nation, but I very much doubt if the majority of Scots – certainly the unionists and leave supporters – know just how linked we have been to Europe for more than 2,000 years of definitive written history (and probably thousands of prehistoric years before that as Skara Brae on Orkney and other ancient monuments indicate some sort of connections to early Europeans).

It would be impossible to chronicle the nature and extent of those links in a large book never mind a single column, but as a believer in history as episodic rather than a continuum, I am going to attempt a chronological account of the most important and relevant episodes of Scotland’s history with Europe. By Europe, I mean the Continent rather than the rest of the UK and Ireland, the latter being our nearest neighbour in the European Union, though I will mention England and Ireland when necessary.

I am doing this column with the firm intention of showing why Scotland historically belongs to Europe. I make no apologies for my distaste for Brexit. Everything I know about Scotland’s relationship with Europe tells me that Brexit is the wrong move at the wrong time not only for Scotland but the whole of the UK. It is wrong because Scotland has always been a nation of Europe, and the Continent is moving forward with the EU – and due to Brexit, we Scots will be left behind, until we rejoin a much better union than the one we’ve been stuck in since 1707.

The first definitive account of the people that occupied what is now Scotland comes from the time of the Roman Empire. What is now mainland Scotland was peopled by the tribes which the Romans first called Caledonians – the name may mean ‘hard of feet’.

There are numerous Roman remains in the southern half of Scotland, including their forts, such as Trimontium near Melrose and the Antonine Wall between the Clyde and the Forth which was, for a time, the northernmost limit of the Empire. Apart from, or perhaps because of the battle of Mons Graupius in 84AD, the Romans seemed to be very wary about heading into the north of Scotland.

That battle heard the first words of a Scot as recorded by Tacitus, the historian who chronicled the deeds of his father-in-law Agricola, Roman leader in Britain at the time. Mons Graupius appears to have been the first time the Caledonian tribes had combined to fight the Roman legions and though he and his army lost, the words of Calgacus have come down to us: “They have made a desert and call it peace.”

The Romans had built Hadrian’s Wall to keep the Caledonians out of their province of Britannia, and later they called the Northern people the ‘Painted Ones’ or Picti. Extensive finds of items from that age show that eventually the Romano-Britons and Picts co-existed and traded with each other, until the Romans left in the fifth century.

By that time, Christianity was making its way into Scotland, led by St Ninian, a Briton who had been educated and ordained in Rome and who became the Apostle of the Southern Picts. He may well have brought Latin into use as a lingua franca at his Candida Casa foundation in Whithorn.

At least the Christians came in peace. The next big Influx of Europeans into Scotland was anything but peaceful. When the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danes raided England from the territories we now call northern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark from the middle of the first millennium, they tended to leave Scotland alone, knowing that fierce warriors awaited them.

That left Scotland to the Norsemen a.k.a. the Vikings from Norway, and from around 700 they invaded and occupied Shetland, Orkney, the Hebrides and parts of the West Coast.

Viking influence was widespread and it took until well into the second millennium for there to be peaceful coexistence between the descendants of the original Viking raiders and the Scots-Gaels and Picts who had formed the kingdom of Alba late in the first millennium. This was a real long-term example of Europeans influencing Scotland and it is noticeable that the Kings of Norway and the Kings of Scots treated with other as equals in status such as when the Treaty of Perth was signed in July 1266 between Magnus VI of Norway and Alexander III of Scotland to end their conflict over Norwegian territories in Scotland.

The biggest and most significant European incursion into the island of Great Britain had occurred 200 years before that Treaty when William the Conqueror invaded England and took the English throne. Contrary to what is often reported, William recognised Scotland as a separate nation but let King Malcolm Canmore know that he considered himself overlord of all Britain. Prior to 1066, Scotland had very much been seen as its own European nation by the only European that mattered – the Pope. It is said that Macbeth during his largely peaceful reign visited Rome and received the Papal blessing.

William of Normandy’s conquest of England saw Queen Margaret flee to Scotland. After marrying Malcolm, she played a huge role in transforming the Celtic church into a more Romanised body. Her son King David I was even more of a transformer, borrowing Continental ideas to give us the governance arrangements such as burghs, abbeys and sheriffs that made Scotland a recognisably European country.

It was when another English king, Edward I, tried to make Scotland into his plaything that the Scots began their longest, most fruitful and most challenging relationship in Europe. King John Balliol may have lost his throne for doing so, but he found enough courage in 1295 to sign the Auld Alliance with France. It was one of the first formal treaties between any two countries in Europe and would have a huge effect on Scotland for the next few centuries.

Edward Longshanks was furious and invaded Scotland mercilessly, only for William Wallace to lead the campaign against him. After the victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297, Wallace, as Guardian of Scotland, wrote to the Hanseatic League of trading ports, principally Lubeck and Hamburg.

The letter has been preserved and translates thus: “It has been intimated to us by trustworthy merchants of the said kingdom of Scotland that you by your own goodwill are giving counsel, help and favour in all causes and business concerning us and our merchants, although our merits had not deserved this, and therefore all the more are we bound to you to give you thanks and a worthy recompense, to do which we are willing to be obliged to you; and we ask you that you will make it be proclaimed amongst your merchants that they can have secure access to all ports of the kingdom of Scotland with their merchandise since the kingdom of Scotland, thanks be to God, has by arms been recovered from the power of the English. Farewell.”

The letter shows that Scotland was already trading with the Hanseatic League, and another letter connected with Wallace is from the French King Philip IV asking his agents in Rome to help Wallace in business with Pope Boniface VIII.

Scotland had status and great men of learning like John Duns Scotus were recognised across Europe.

The Auld Alliance stayed in place after Robert the Bruce won independence and Scots fought alongside the French against the English in the 100 years war. It was Scots returning from those conflicts who brought our true ‘other national drink’: Claret. The Alliance also brought great misery when Scotland fought the Battle of Flodden in 1513 to assist the French who were under the cosh from England.

It was a religious ‘war’ that proved to be Scotland’s strongest link to a Europe convulsed in theological turmoil. Before the Reformation, Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned as an infant, but under her mother Mary of Guise, regent for her daughter, the French influence was very much established.

One of the biggest European effects on Scotland was the ‘Cauld Blast frae Geneva’, the pejorative term for the arrival in Scotland of the Protestant theology of John Calvin, brought here by his disciple John Knox.

Thanks to Knox and his colleagues, Scotland’s Reformation was of a Calvinist Presbyterian nature which transformed Scottish society – some would argue not always for the best. Yet the ‘school in every parish’ philosophy of Knox was to have a profound influence on the development of Scotland in the 17th and 18th centuries as this small nation had the highest literacy rate in all of Europe.

In a very real sense that fact made Scotland a leading light in Europe as scholars from here went to study on the continent and vice-versa with Edinburgh becoming one of Europe’s leading centres for medicine and medical education.

Another European link which ended sadly in the eyes of many Scots was Jacobitism. Make no mistake, the cause of James Stuart and the claim of his son to the throne of the United Kingdom hugely involved such countries as France and Spain as well as all of these islands.

Influence was not a one way street. At the time of the Scottish Enlightenment it is fair to say that Scotland led the way thanks to its education system and people of global note such as David Hume and Adam Smith.

US President Thomas Jefferson wrote: “So far as science is concerned, no place in the world can pretend to a competition with Edinburgh.”

Frederick Wedderburn, a German visitor in 1791, proclaimed, “Scotland has produced, within these modern times, learned men and writers of great reputation, who cannot but excite the jealousy of their southern neighbours

It was to the Scottish Enlightenment that the great French writer and philosopher Voltaire was referring when he famously said: “We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.”

Scots were fighters, builders and thinkers all over Europe and in the early 19th century James MacPherson’s dubious Ossian fables and Sir Walter Scott’s romanticism influenced Europe and beyond. Artists and composers came here, just as Scots went to the Continent to finish their education. Felix Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave is just one of the many products of that era.

In the last century Scots fought in two world wars to defend our freedoms and those of our friends in France in particular. After that second war, and with Winston Churchill as a driving force, the European Convention of Human Rights was brought into force. It was largely drafted by a Scottish lawyer, David Maxwell-Fyfe.

The 2016 referendum proved how far apart Scotland and England are in their views of Europe. This small selection of Scottish links to Europe shows why. On Thursday, use your vote to prove that we Scots are part of Europe – we always have been and hopefully always will be.