Still Defending the Scots

Katie Stevenson

  • Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots by Michael Penman
    Yale, 443 pp, £25.00, June 2014, ISBN 978 0 300 14872 5

The political commentator Iain Martin, who claims that he fled Scotland before the 2007 Scottish elections rather than live under an SNP-led government, wrote a few months ago in a blog for the Telegraph of a Treasury aide who’d said to him that ‘Alex Salmond wants to be William Wallace.’ ‘No,’ Martin corrected him. ‘Alex Salmond wants to be Robert the Bruce.’ Wallace has been cast as ‘the people’s champion’, a role he played in the 1975 novel The Wallace by the prolific Nigel Tranter and, twenty years later, in Braveheart. But Martin was right that the appeal of Bruce would be significantly stronger to Salmond. Bruce re-established something that could be called Scotland and imbued it with a sense of identity and a belief in its right to sovereignty. During his reign, which lasted from 1306 to 1329, he ended England’s claims of overlordship and secured recognition that Scotland was an independent sovereign entity.

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