THERE is a lot being said and written about the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath – except on BBC television and STV, our so-called national broadcasters who are really a national disgrace.

However, there is no doubt about the most beautiful contribution.

The Illustrated Declaration of Arbroath is a stunning book all about the most important document in Scotland’s history, our own Declaration of Independence.

It has been a labour of love for Andrew Redmond Barr, the 27-year-old author from Edinburgh, who was born in the Midlands but has lived most of his life in the capital.

“I went to university here,” Barr explained, “studying English, and took a real interest in Scottish literature, particularly in the idea of a Scottish Literary Renaissance put forward by 20th-century writers.

“It really opened my eyes to the long history of artists and writers trying to transform Scotland in various different ways. I ended up writing my thesis on the poetry and politics of Hugh MacDiarmid.”

READ MORE: How the Declaration of Arbroath still resonates in modern Scotland

Barr’s first book, Summer of Independence, was an account of the 2014 referendum from a cultural perspective. This second book moves him into a new sphere that appears to suit him well – Scottish history with a modern twist.

Asked when he first become aware of the Declaration, Andrew Redmond Barr is refreshingly honest: “I don’t know. It’s one of the strange things about these kinds of historical icons, they can exist in your imagination long before you decide to act upon them and find out more. What I can remember is the moment in early 2018 when I realised 2020 would be the Declaration’s 700th anniversary. I immediately knew I wanted to do something creative to mark the occasion, although it took a while to decide on writing a book.”

Barr has developed a fascination for it: “I have always been interested in the medieval world. I’ve liked JRR Tolkien since I was wee. There’s something about the ancient past, real or fictional, which fascinates me.

“The Declaration is particularly interesting because it’s about the power of words and the way you can construct an argument to have a profound impact on the reader. There’s something about that which I suppose is appealing to writers.

“I was also fascinated by this idea of freedom, which can mean many different things, but in this case is about Scottish sovereignty and nationhood. I liked the thought that a thread of that same idea has wound its way through the ages, all the way up into the present day.

“My first idea was to produce a kind of illustrated scroll, with the text of the Declaration handwritten and surrounded by drawings. But then I realised I didn’t only want to produce something visual, I wanted to write about the Declaration’s significance too. A book was the natural solution.

“It was something I could illustrate, but also something I could fill with my own reflections on the meaning of it all. The Saltire Society agreed to publish it, which I was delighted about. I ran a crowdfunder to get things up and running and started working straight away.”

The idea of making it illustrated works superbly. Barr explained: “I’ve always liked authors who illustrated their own books, be it Tolkien or Alasdair Gray. Traditionally, we associate the Declaration of Arbroath with just one image, which is that rectangular piece of parchment with wax seals dangling.

“But you can’t fill an illustrated book with just one image. So I began to look very closely at the wording of the Declaration and realised the text itself was full of images: saints, kings, battles. It has everything. I wanted to translate some of that into my illustrations and bring the whole Declaration to life. I’ve been delighted with the response to the book so far. The main thing people are telling me is that it’s accessible and easy to understand, which is a good thing for those who aren’t so keen on longer academic texts.”

Having had a “really positive experience” working with the Saltire Society, he is hoping to write fiction or fantasy or a more visual book next time. “Scottish history is my inspiration,” Barr said, “and I’m always looking for ways to make it more accessible or to do something new and inventive with it. I have a few different projects in mind.”

His commitment to independence is unwavering: “We are going through strange and dark times, and none of us know where we might end up next. Independence might take longer than some had hoped, but it is still very much a worthwhile project with equality and humanity at its heart. If we remember the fundamentals, and remember what independence is really for, I think we can make a convincing argument whenever the time comes.”

The Illustrated Declaration of Arbroath is now available to order at for £14.99

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