THOUGH the celebrations will be muted because of the coronavirus restrictions, listeners to the BBC will have the chance to hear a comprehensive history of the Declaration of Arbroath to mark its 700th anniversary.

Scottish writer and broadcaster Billy Kay presents the three part series about one of the most iconic moments in Scottish and world history, when, in 1320, the nobles, barons, freeholders and the community of the realm of Scotland felt compelled to create the document.

Kay said: “Composed originally in elegant Latin prose, it is addressed to Pope John XXII in Avignon, who is asked by the Scots to support the cause of their nation’s independence in the face of an overweening, bullying English neighbour. In doing this, it pulls at the heart strings of patriots around the world.”

Its famous passage runs: “For, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

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Kay’s opinion is that even more revolutionary is the so-called Deposition Clause, where they state that sovereignty lies with the Scottish people, and they can depose any King who refuses to defend their status as an independent nation.

“Yet if he [Robert the Bruce] should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the king of England or the English, we would strive at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and we would make some other man who was able to defend us our king.”

Kay said: “At a time when most believed in the concept of the Divine Right of Kings, this precociously democratic sounding rhetoric is quite remarkable.”

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In the series these famous passages are read by Dundee-born Hollywood star Brian Cox, recent winner of the Golden Globe award for best actor in a television series.

The series will examine the composition of the Declaration of Arbroath, which was one of the first statements in history defining national sovereignty.

Kay and his distinguished contributors will also examine its profound influence at home and abroad since 1320. In his book For Freedom Alone, Edward J. Cowan describes it as “the first national or governmental expression in all of Europe, of the principle of the contractual theory of monarchy which lies at the root of modern constitutionalism”.

The Declaration’s international dimension is celebrated throughout the series, with Ian Forrester, the UK’s last Judge in the General Court of the EU, talking about it in relation to Scotland’s place in European history. The possible influence of the Scottish Declaration on the American Declaration of Independence will also be explored, with Kay recording the feelings of Scottish Americans on the subject on Tartan Day in New York.

U.S. Senate Resolution 155, of March 20, 1998, states: “April 6 has a special significance for all Americans, and especially those of Scottish descent, because the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish Declaration of Independence, was signed on April 6, 1320, and the American Declaration of Independence was modelled on that inspirational document.”

While there is no direct evidence this is in fact the case, Kay will outline substantial circumstantial evidence which suggests that the two documents were connected through the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Kay will examine the role of the Declaration in the creation of modern Scottish identity, which he says is often polarised into nationalist and Unionist camps.

He said: “The hope is that, as far as the Declaration is concerned, admiration and love for it can extend to every Scot.”

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