A DETERMINED councillor is hoping this year’s SNP conference can propel forward a campaign to bring Scotland’s oldest manuscript back to its rightful home.

Aberdeenshire councillor Glen Reid has put forward a draft resolution asking the Scottish Government to “right a historical wrong” and use its power to bring The Book of Deer back from where it is currently housed in Cambridge University.

Reid began efforts to bring the 10th century text back across the border last year.

A rare example of a pocket gospel, the book is written in Latin but also contains the earliest surviving written Gaelic in the margins added by people in the north-east from the 1100s.

In a similar tale to the Stone of Destiny, The Book of Deer is believed to have been stolen from Scotland during the Wars of Independence.

After disappearing, it appeared in England in a private collection before being purchased by King George I. It was then gifted to Cambridge University in 1715. 

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Reid put a motion forward to Aberdeenshire Council last year asking elected members to write to Cambridge University “expressing our desire for the Book of Deer to be returned to its rightful home in Aberdeenshire and begin the process of repatriation”, but this was shot down by the Tories and LibDems.

Equally, an attempt to get an emergency resolution at last year’s SNP conference did not succeed.

Reid – who will find out next week if the resolution has been accepted this time – is hoping the resolution will get the green light in order to raise the book’s profile and bring more attention to the issue.

He told The National: “It’s been a little frustrating so far, so fingers crossed it gets accepted and we debate it, we educate people and we bring it to the public attention in a much bigger way and raise its profile.

“I think if we can get picked for conference it will tick a lot of boxes. I think once people hear about this and the story behind it and the compelling arguments for it, I think it would really kick on.

“It’s very similar to the Stone of Destiny in ways. It’s a cultural wrong this.

“At least the Stone of Destiny was on display though, no one gets to see this. I think if you put this to most reasonable, open-minded people as to where it should be, most people would agree it should be up here.”

The National: Glen Reid is hoping his resolution will be accepted for SNP conference Glen Reid is hoping his resolution will be accepted for SNP conference (Image: Glen Reid)

When the book was returned to the north-east for the first time in more than 1000 years last summer – when it went on display in Aberdeen Art Gallery - it would’ve been a rare chance for Scots to see it, given it is only possible to see it in Cambridge by appointment and is not on public display.

The book is said to have originated in the village of Deer in Aberdeenshire and used to be housed in the monastery there.

From his research, Reid said it appeared to have once had considerable sway over the local people, which may explain why it was taken.

If the resolution is not chosen for debate, Reid said he will look at next steps which could include taking the issue back to the Aberdeenshire SNP group – which has fully backed the resolution - or writing directly to Cambridge University himself.

The draft resolution submitted for the SNP’s conference in October reads: “Conference recognises that our national treasures are a hugely important part of our culture and identity. Conference notes that the Book of Deer is Scotland’s oldest surviving manuscript, that it is a symbol of the shared cultural and religious inheritance of Scotland and Ireland, that it was annotated in Aberdeenshire and written in Scotland, and that it therefore belongs in Scotland.

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“Conference is concerned that the Book, which originated over 1000 years ago in Deer and is on a par with the Book of Kells, is not in its rightful home.

“Conference further notes that it is believed to have ‘disappeared’ during the Scottish Wars of Independence, appearing hundreds of years later in Cambridge, where it is currently stored.

“Conference believes that due to this, Scotland, and in particular the North East, is missing an educational, cultural and economic opportunity. Conference believes that the Book of Deer should be returned to Scotland from its current storage at Cambridge University.

“Conference therefore calls upon the Scottish Government to begin the process of righting this historical wrong and repatriating the Book to its rightful home in Aberdeenshire.”

Reid said he hoped one day the book could be co-hosted by Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

He said it was only right young people should know and learn about the text.

“My colleague Councillor David Mair is from New Deer and the point he raised was his children went to the local primary school and they knew nothing of it,” said Reid.

“There’s a general level of ignorance of our own history. I think we’ve got a duty to do something about this.

“It’s Scotland’s oldest manuscript, it tells the story of our ancestors and it resides locked away over 500 miles away in a vault. It’s just not right.

“Back here it would play a big role and be really visible.”