16/09/2009

Welcome for historical visits



Today, my colleague Laurie Bidwell and myself today made comments about the Scottish Government's plans to subsidise visits to historical visits by Scotland's school pupils. Our comments are below. As a historian I welcome anything which encourages an interest in our country's history.
I think though that we should encourage our children to take an interest in all of Scotland's history rather than in a narrow range of historical sites. For example, it is easy to argue that the Scottish Reformation had at least as big an impact on Scottish identity as Culloden or Bannockburn. I think that the Scottish Government should be looking at ways to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the Reformation next year.
Closer to home, I also think that we should look at ways of promoting Dundee's heritage. Verdant Works and RRS Discovery operated by Dundee Heritage Trust help us understand Dundee's history and are well worth a visit.
Qualified Welcome for Historical Visits programme
Dundee Labour Councillors Laurie Bidwell and Richard McCready today provided a qualified welcome to the announcement, on 10 September, by the Scottish Government of funds to encourage school pupils to visit Bannockburn, Culloden and Burns’ birthplace. Both councillors recognise the importance of promoting Scotland’s history, but they believe that there is much more to Scotland’s history than Bannockburn, Culloden or Robert Burns and more appropriate ways of funding this.


Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:“Visits to museums and sites of historical significance are an essential part of the education of every pupil in our schools. At first glance it seems commendable that the Scottish Government has provided conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland with additional £180,000 funding to subsidise school parties visiting Bannockburn, Culloden and Robert Burns' birthplace. This is, perhaps, better understood as a back door bailout to National Trust for Scotland which has recently acknowledged financial difficulties and has been discussing the mothballing of some of their properties. If the government want to encourage school visits, I think it should remain true to the spirit of the concordat with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) and local councils. A key plank of this agreement was an end to ring fencing of funding. This is another example of the SNP government in Holyrood breaking that agreement. It would be better to stick to the Concordat and give the cash to local authorities so that our history teachers can arrange visits to places that they judge best fit in with the history curriculum in their schools.'


Councillor Richard McCready said:”I welcome this announcement and the opportunity that it gives for pupils to visit Bannockburn, Culloden or Burns’ birthplace but there is much more to our country’s history than these sites. I think that it would be good if the Scottish Government also supported visits to other important historical sites. In order to understand Dundee’s history, a visit to Verdant Works or Discovery Point would be appropriate. It is impossible to understand Dundee's 19th century history without understanding the industrialisation of Dundee and Verdant Works and Discovery Point help to do this.”