IT was touted as almost revolutionary for the National Galleries of Scotland, and when it opened last year, The Remaking Of Scotland – Nation, Migration, Globalisation 1760-1860 was hailed for its honesty about Scotland’s role in the slave trade, a subject many Scottish people and institutions avoid.

What none of the reviews of the exhibition noticed was that the controversial subject of the Highland Clearances is hardly mentioned at all, despite the nation-altering nature of the Clearances which went on for more than a hundred years and almost exactly fitted the time frame focused upon.

Now, Scotland’s pre-eminent historian Sir Tom Devine has delivered a damning criticism of the exhibition’s take on the history of Scotland between 1760 and 1860, saying the gallery’s failure to deal with the subject is “seriously flawed and unbalanced”.

The National can reveal that the Clearances are not mentioned by word – though there is a reference to “improvements”

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The issue has arisen because one artist took to social media in recent days to point out the flaws.

Alex Boyd, who is currently doing a PhD in photography, tweeted: “In an exhibition called The Remaking of Scotland: Nation, Migration, Globalisation 1760-1860, there is a single oblique mention of The Clearances. Anyone with even a passing interest in Scottish history might want to ask why.”

He added: “The exhibition does to its credit deal with slavery in a comprehensive way, and isn’t afraid to discuss this in detail, but again, a room full of Scotland’s great and good dead white men doesn’t really address lack of discussion around the ‘improvements’ which led to migration.”

The National:

James Downs replied to Boyd: “I would have expected that an exhibition entitled The Remaking Of Scotland covering that period could not avoid placing the Clearances almost centre stage. Why was it omitted, and what sort of gymnastics were required to skirt round it?”

Devine told The National: “Clearances or mass dispossession of rural populations were at the very heart of this period in the history of the nation.

“Indeed, in my recent book, The Scottish Clearances: A History Of The Dispossessed 1600-1900, I provide detailed evidence to demonstrate that these unprecedented social convulsions were not confined to the Highlands, as is usually assumed, but also took place throughout the Borders and Lowlands on a large scale, changing Scottish society forever.

“I have not seen the exhibition, so cannot comment on its particular content or lack thereof, but any public attempt to depict the history of the nation without portraying the end of the old peasant society by widespread dispossession must be considered seriously flawed and unbalanced.”

A spokesperson for the National Galleries of Scotland said: “At the National Galleries of Scotland we always appreciate hearing feedback on our exhibitions and pieces of artwork that are showcased across all four galleries.

“During the development of the exhibition, the curatorial team liaised with advisers to ensure that the work was correctly displayed and appropriately explored the themes of expansion, migration and globalisation.

READ MORE: Joining the dots between the Clearances, colonialism, land reform and climate change

“We believe that the exhibition builds a strong narrative around the art that is displayed and in showcasing the various stories of the historical figures in Scottish history.

“We do acknowledge that the Highland Clearances could be better represented and a key issue has been finding relevant artwork that was both available and would adequately represent complex historical and ethical questions.

“We know that the Highland Clearances are an important event in Scottish history and this is a subject which we would want to address in more depth in the future.

“We are happy to invite Sir Tom Devine, or any person that would like to discuss this exhibition further, to meet with our team.”