I ENJOYED reading Dr Mary Brown’s "Yessay" (Oct 16) very much. It’s always fun to speculate about how well-loved fictional characters might behave in a real situation. It was a pleasure to read the comments from people who say that they now plan to read books written my grandfather, John Buchan. Whatever the reasons for doing so, that is very good news – for Scots and for everybody else.

However, the idea that John Buchan might not have been a Unionist later in his life really won’t do.

Dr Brown quotes, selectively, from a speech he made in a devolution debate in the House of Commons in 1928, at which he expressed heavily-qualified sympathy for the idea of a Scottish parliament within the United Kingdom.

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However, he was the Conservative and Unionist Member of Parliament for the Scottish Universities. The clues are in the words “Conservative” and “Unionist”. He remained an MP until he was appointed Governor-General of Canada (the King’s representative) in 1935. Moreover, he lived in England for most of his adult life and was married to an Englishwoman.

He always maintained that he had dual and equal loyalties – to Scotland which bore and made him, and England where he was supremely happy in adult life. By “nationalist” he meant no more than “patriot”, and there are plenty of No as well as Yes voters in Scotland – not to mention Scottish exiles – who are intensely patriotic about their native land.

I have no doubt that my grandfather would have been heartbroken at the thought of a Scotland sundered from the United Kingdom which he loved and served so well.

Ursula Buchan
Author of Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan

IAIN WD Forde is deservedly renowned for his support of the mither tongue, but he is mistaken in seeing the influence of Chaucer on the Scottish Makars as “anglicisation”. Chaucer’s older contemporary John Barbour wrote his epic poem Bruce in what is on any possible showing a different dialect, but the same language, as that of the Canterbury Tales: that is, the speech-forms descended from Anglo-Saxon were in use all through east and south-east Scotland as far north as Aberdeen before Chaucer’s writings could have had any effect.

To Barbour, his language was “Inglis”: there is no evidence that he was in the least troubled by this appellation, or ever thought of calling it anything else. Later Makars paid tribute to Chaucer, and rightly too since he was, and is, one of the greatest poets ever to use the language; but they were by no means mere uncritical followers or imitators: Henryson posed the question “Quha wait gif all that Chaucer wrate was true?”, and Gavin Douglas, taking him to task for his un-Virgilian re-telling of the story of Dido and Aeneas, remarks sardonically that “he was, God wait, evir woman’s frend”.

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To the Scottish poets of the early Stewart period, Chaucer was a fellow-practitioner in the same tradition and even the same language as themselves: Dunbar calls him “of oure Inglis all the licht.” Even Gavin Douglas, the first writer to make a patriotic point of insisting that his language was Scottis and not Inglis, acknowledges him as the master-poet he incontrovertibly was.

“Anglicisation”, giving this word its imperialist ring, is a blight on the later linguistic and cultural history of Scotland. The position of Chaucer (and Gower and Lydgate as well) in the mediaeval scene reflects the altogether healthy and productive relationship between the cultures of mutually independent states interacting as equals. Haste the day when Scotland is again able to interact with other countries on these terms.

Derrick McClure

TWO great letters in The National on Friday on the subject of Scots Wha Hae. I agreed with just about everything written by David McEwan Hill and Tom Johnston on the subject. I have just purchased the recording recommended by David. Quite superb!

When Robert Burns had this magnificent ode published in the Morning Chronicle, he stipulated that his name must not he published in connection with it, knowing full well that the meaning of the final line, “Let us Do – or Die!!!” would be interpreted as his political sentiments, of his own time, as much as its 14th-century setting.

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He was already under suspicion for his radical politics and was only too well aware that the threat of losing his employment with the Excise would be his ruin.

Norrie Paton

IN responding to Mr Mill Irving about the proper blue to use in the Saltire (Letters, Oct 23), I would like to know when the sky blue of the Saltire became the navy blue in the Union flag, as demonstrated too frequently when we have Westminster ministers sitting at their desks. Is this relatively recent or does it go back to 1603? Either way, it is another example of gross disrespect for the Scottish people.

Bill McDermott