IN 2020 Scots will commemorate the most important artefact of our long history.

The Declaration of Arbroath will be on display at the National Museum of Scotland as part of our 700-year birthday celebrations of this pivotal document’s role in the consolidation of our nationhood, our national claim to freedom and our sovereignty.

Written as a letter to Pope John XXII, it asked the head of the church to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king. It was penned in Latin by Bernard de Linton, Abbot of Arbroath, and sealed by eight earls and around 40 barons by crucially claiming to represent the whole “community of the realm” of Scotland.

Not much is known about Bernard de Linton, Abbot of Arbroath and some time chancellor of Scotland, save that he was certainly of Norman descent, as was Robert de Brus himself, albeit our hero king also had a fair amount of Gaelic nobility in his blood. At any rate, I like to assert that the Arbroath declaration, the first proclamation of civic purpose, was composed by one “New Scot” about another!

The importance of the Declaration of Arbroath resonates through history to the present day, not least in its influence upon the creation of modern global democracies. Twenty years ago some of the usual suspects, who hate anything which suggests Scottish influence, scoffed when first American historians, and then the US Senate itself, focused on the Scottish declaration’s influence on their own declaration some 450 years later. A great deal of humble pie was served soon after when contemporary accounts demonstrated that the Angus town of Arbroath was indeed on the minds of the 18th-century revolutionaries of Philadelphia.

Closer to home, we have the recent explosive and highly effective (Joanna) Cherry Case and Scots Law, reminding our prorogating Prime Minister that no monarch or executive is above the law. For it was the Arbroath declaration that sought to protect the people from the idea of “divine right”, from the whims, ambitions and self-interest of those with position and asserted, for the first time ever in European history, that the community of the realm had the right to remove those in power who failed to defend their rights – am I ringing any bells here? It was a point made before the Supreme Court with great flourish by Cherry’s advocate Aidan O’Neill QC.

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Thus it seems fitting then that the Declaration of Arbroath should be on display not only in the year that Scotland should demand to go to the polls to determine our future at a second independence referendum, but in an era when Boris Johnson and his adviser, the cunning Dominic Cummings, have tried every trick in the book to thwart democracy in pursuit of their own fanciful version of Brexit.

The very essence of the Declaration of Arbroath is a recognition of Scotland as an equal European nation and its antithesis is the game-playing tactics emanating from Number 10. Johnson and his predecessors may have done everything in their power to thwart the will of the Scottish people, to put our democratic choices on the back burner, to ignore and treat us with contempt, but they are not above the law nor can they, with impunity, undermine Scotland’s rights.

The National: Boris Johnson and his predecessors may have done everything in their power to thwart the will of the Scottish peopleBoris Johnson and his predecessors may have done everything in their power to thwart the will of the Scottish people

Many people in Scotland, of course, may not be fully aware of the significance of the Declaration of Arbroath and its importance. When I was at school, it was barely mentioned, although that wrong has been partially righted at least for our children, with Scottish history back on the curriculum. This gap in our historical understanding of who we are, what we stand for, our right to sovereignty and our influence on the development of modern democracy explains a lot in terms of many Scots’ slow return to self-determination. As does, of course, the activities of the “plastic macs” who deprecate any mention of Scotland’s struggle to assert our independence as mediaeval mumbo jumbo. In fact, it was this antique declaration which first articulated the two most powerful concepts of the modern era, the sovereignty of the people and the right of national self-determination.

It’s ironic really that we don’t celebrate this declaration date on a yearly basis – they do in New York at their hugely successful and joyful Tartan Day, so why can’t we? This year, our national treasure and arguably favourite comedian Billy Connolly led the Tartan Day celebrations, another apt piece of the jigsaw given his recent comments on independence. Connolly has shifted from a Unionist stance to curiosity about independence, saying in a BBC interview that “if Scotland would like it, I would like it”. Now there’s a democratic statement for you.

Connolly isn’t the only Scot on a voyage of discovery. Awakened by the first independence referendum in 2014, sustained by the establishment and success of our devolved parliament at Holyrood and horrified by the xenophobic Brexit rhetoric spewing from the UK Government, there are plenty of Scots who don’t want “to settle for whoever England votes for” anymore, to quote the Big Yin again.

Holyrood’s roll call of achievements has been rightly celebrated this year for the 20th anniversary of its birth, highlighting Scotland’s fast-track evolution as the polar opposite of Westminster in terms of plotting out its own very distinct path politically, socially and culturally. In that time, Scottish voters have embraced their devolved parliament and grown in self-confidence, shedding the cliched chip on our shoulders, the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” stereotypes, to dare to dream of a multi-cultural, fair and inclusive society, and an equal and independent footing on the world stage.

For me, this evolution as a nation has been encapsulated by another far more recent declaration.

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The Declaration for Independence issued by 48 of Scotland’s finest cultural figures including historian Tom Devine, poet Kathleen Jamie and singer-songwriter Sheena Wellington to name but a few, is another vital stepping stone on our route to self-determination. Their guiding principles for a new and better Scotland include a written constitution to protect the rights of our citizens and our relationship with governance, with a review of national and local government in place once we are independent to make them more accountable to the people and more beneficial to our needs. It advocates a clear separation of powers of the Scottish Parliament and the executive with an independent judiciary. Sound familiar? Another grouping of 48 important and influential Scottish folk, 700 years on from the first 48 that sealed the Arbroath declaration. I think Robert the Bruce and the “community of the realm” would approve.