THIS is not a normal Hamish MacPherson column.

For one edition only, today I am going to merely touch upon Scottish history – as I am going to write much more fully on the history of another country: England. I invite any of you with English origins or ancestry to pass it on to any English person you know.

First of all, however, an apology. In the second of my two Ibrox disaster history articles I inadvertently failed to attribute the remarks of match referee, the late Bill Anderson, to the journalist who published them, Craig MacKenzie. I am happy to acknowledge his authorship.

My column today has been inspired principally by three men, so I am going to get my thanks and attribution in now. The first is Scotland’s leading historian, Professor Sir Tom Devine, whose two articles in the Sunday National over the past two weeks have been nothing short of inspirational. The second is Michael Russell, who gave what I consider to be the best speech in the history of the Scottish Parliament (latest version!) at the conclusion of the Brexit debate in Holyrood last week. I am one of many people who is regretting that Mike, who has done a wonderful job as Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs, is standing down as an MSP in May – mind you, I can think of no-one better to be president of the SNP at this time, and he will have his hands full. My third inspiring person is my favourite historical novelist Bernard Cornwell. I have just finished reading War Lord, the 13th and final book of the magnificent Last Kingdom series. War Lord focuses on the Battle of Brunanburh, arguably the most important battle in the history of England before Hastings in 1066, and I will return to both those battles.

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Cornwell would be the first to admit that he sometimes plays around with historical fact, but he almost always starts from known facts and develops his story around them. As a writer about history – note, not a professional historian – I prize facts above all and nothing which I will write in this column is based on fanciful speculation.

And so to England, or Englaland as Cornwell calls it. In his great speech last week, Michael Russell emphasised – as I have done frequently – that Scotland is a European nation. He said: “We are European, not because of a treaty that we signed 50 years ago, nor do we stop being European because of a treaty somebody else signed today. It’s not half a century of EU membership that has made us European, it is centuries of engagement. We were European before we were British, we sent students to the Continent, shared citizenship with France, we appealed our very nationhood to Rome, wine was being shopped to my constituency, Loch Fyne, in the 15th century.

“In war and in peace – an cogadh, an sith – we looked to Europe and it looked to us, in Voltaire’s words, for our very idea of civilisation. We have an existential choice again. We have a choice of whether we can call ourselves European or whether we will have to narrow our horizons in the way that the Scottish Conservatives, to their shame, are telling us to narrow them. I will not narrow my horizons. I am European and I will remain European. I would be European even if I did not choose to be so.”

My points is that England is European, too. Throughout the long years of the debate on Brexit, and for long before, we have seen the rise of British nationalism – or English exceptionalism as it should more accurately be known. We are shown by politicians who should know better, and by the foreign-owned media, a myth parading as a British narrative, all wrapped up in the Union Flag, and all the time the tone has been anti-European. Oh, sure, they will deny until they are blue, white and red in the face that they are anti-European, but far too many people in England do not make the distinction between Europe and the European Union. Let’s face it, the EU is all about Johnny Foreigner for them, and how ungrateful all those countries are that “we” liberated from Nazi and fascist rule. Britain doesn’t need Europe, they say, and because we are British – well, English actually – we don’t want other countries telling us what to do…except our friends in the USA.

We are continually fed the xenophobic nonsense of pure-bred Britons – an Englishman’s home is his castle, anyone? – when the truth is that there is not a single English person resident in that country, unless their ancestry is Asian or African, who does not have European DNA in their blood.

Take the bluest of blood, for example. Our current royal family is descended from a whole lineage of foreign monarchs, princes and princesses and all sorts of European aristocracy, especially the Scots who took over the English throne in 1603. The Queen’s Consort, after all, is Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.

ENGLAND as we know it was first occupied by humans after the last ice age, around 9000 BC. They crossed from mainland Europe and began to develop as a separate people. The first identifiable people in what is now England were a Celtic people called the Britons. Similar but distinct Celtic tribes occupied the land north of the Forth and Clyde, and in the south east of England were the Belgic tribes, essentially settlers from what is now Northern France and the Benelux countries.

The Roman conquest of the southern tribes of the island of Great Britain took nearly 50 years in the first century AD, and they never managed to conquer the northern tribes, building Hadrian’s Wall to keep out those Celts. The Romans made several forays into Caledonia, as they called it, but always went back south behind their wall.

Roman families settled in the southern areas of Britain and intermarriage took place, until the Romano-Britains became established as a powerful minority which lasted well into the 4th century AD. The end of Roman rule early in the 5th century coincided with the invasions of the Scoti people from Ireland, the Picts from Scotland and the first great wave of European invaders, the Saxons, Jutes, Frisians and Angles, all tribes raiding from the area between what is now Belgium and Denmark and even further east in what is now Northern Germany.

The Romano-Britons and the native Celts survived these invasions, the latter occupying Wales and the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde, but what is now eastern England was settled by the Angles, while as the name suggests, the areas of Essex, Wessex and Sussex became Saxon kingdoms. The largest kingdom of England was Mercia, from the Mersey down to the Thames, and its primacy came because it was a mixture of Angles and Saxons in nature. The north-east of what is now England was then raided and conquered by the Norse Vikings, mainly Danes and Norwegians, who made Jorvik (York) their capital.

GRADUALLY the Angles and Saxons united and became Anglo-Saxons, especially after Alfred of Wessex brought them under his kingship as Alfred the Great, with only parts of Northumbria still in Norse hands. By the end of the ninth century, Scotland was already a country following the unification of the Scots and Picts, but England, as Cornwell claims, was not complete until after the great Battle of Brunanburh in 937 AD. After Athelstan of Wessex invaded Scotland, an alliance of Scots, Norse armies from Ireland and the Britons of Strathclyde were defeated by Athelstan’s Anglo-Saxon army at the battle, the site of which may have been the Wirral.

Athelstan claimed and fortified Northumbria and the country was now recognisably England and called so, but Athelstan and his successors could not stop the Danes from their depredations and eventually King Cnut or Canute the Great won the throne of England to add to his kingdom of Denmark.

The Danes did not stay long in control before the throne was given to the house of Wessex again, and Saint Edward the Confessor reigned before his successor Harold Godwinson was unable to prevent the Norman Conquest of 1066, the last Anglo-Saxon king dying in the Battle of Hastings. The description of the English people as Anglo-Saxons is still used today in complete disavowal of the truth that the Normans, Bretons and Flemish conquered England, and through conquest, the imposition of their laws and culture and intermarriage, they completely changed the nature of the English. From the Romans to the Normans, England was formed by Europeans over a millennium. So much for English pedigree.

The Normans continued their associations with France and kept their lands there, and over the next few centuries the wars between France and England dominated affairs in Western Europe. The English became more insular, but trade with continental countries developed.

After the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Scotland was confirmed as independent and never lost that status until the Parcel o’ Rogues signed it away in 1707. By that time the Scottish dynasty of Stuarts had reigned over England for a century, and intermarriage between the aristocracy of England, Scotland and Ireland saw bloodlines mingle.

More general immigration came with the likes of the Huguenots, French Protestants who fled Catholic persecution in their tens of thousands in the late 16th century. They came mainly to England and Ireland, and made a big impact. The Spanish Armada might have changed European history for ever, but England defeated the vast fleet and went on to be the greatest maritime power on Earth, though only after the Act of Union.

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The transition to the British Empire in the 18th century brought England into European affairs in a way that can be summed up in one word – war. The empire created by England and Scotland fought in numerous conflicts on the Continent and won the important ones – the Napoleonic Wars with France, for instance, though that triumph was won by collaboration.

The growth of the empire saw Britain become the dominant state in the world in the 19th century, but friendly relations were maintained with most European countries most of the time, and ancient enmities such as with France were set aside. Many English nationalists acclaim the victories in the two world wars as Britain’s high points, conveniently forgetting the roles played by the Soviets, Americans and many other countries.

They also forget that it was Winston Churchill who vowed that Europe would not be destroyed by war again and he was the single most important encourager of institutions such as the European Convention on Human Rights. It was the Conservatives who took the UK into the common market, and Margaret Thatcher who argued for the single market.

Just as with immigration from the Caribbean and elsewhere, immigrants from Europe have been instrumental in the UK’s economic and cultural prosperity.

Somehow all of this European history has been forgotten by the English exceptionalists. They should stop treating Europe and the European Union as synonymous. For like it or not, England is European, always has been, and always will be. It’s time to build bridges with our European friends – and if England won’t do it, then Scotland will.