Scotland a Feeble Country! and Burns is Boring! – So Says Academic on Question Time
Academic David Starkey is now facing the wrath of the Celtic Fringe after last Thursday’s appearance on BBC’s Question Time. The Tudor lover dropped more than a few insults, dismissing the nations of Scotland Ireland and Wales as “feeble” little countries. The outspoken historian, is promoting his Channel 4 series on Henry VIII is now being hunted down for an apology. The show received 72 complaints.
He also dismissed the Scottish poet Robert Burns as “deeply boring”.
Dr Starkey responded to a question as to the suitability of designating days given to the celebration of patron saints as national holidays. Speaking about the prospect of a holiday on St George’s Day, he said: “If we decide to go down this route of an English national day it will mean we have become a feeble little country, just like the Scots and the Welsh and the Irish.
“We do not make a great fact about Shakespeare, like the Scots do about that deeply boring, provincial poet Burns, and we do not have national music like the awful bagpipe. The Scots and the Welsh are typical small nations with a romantic 19th century-style nationalism.”
Scottish politicians immediately voiced their feelings at the historian’s comments. Mike Russell, Scotland’s Culture and External Affairs Minister, said: “These are unfortunate and silly comments from someone who has a track record in courting controversy.
“Dr Starkey is well known for his outspoken remarks and is clearly interested in attracting publicity for his many television appearances. He may be a very well-qualified academic but unfortunately, when it comes to Scotland, he still has an awful lot to learn.”
Russell Brown, Labour MP for Dumfries and Galloway, in whose constituency the burial site of Burns lies, said: “Dr Starkey should apologise to Scotland, and I would welcome him to my constituency any time to see that most Scots are proud of what they do and where they live.”
Last night the historian would only say: “I have nothing more to add.”
Dr Starkey has a history of insulting Scotland. In 2004 he was accused by a Scottish historian of exhibiting “stupid English prejudice” after telling a newspaper that Scotland was an unimportant country. He told The Sunday Times: “Let’s get a sense of proportion — five million people against 45 million. I love Scotland but it is not an important country.”
Mr Brown added that he thought Dr Starkey’s remarks were out of touch. “This is a silly remark that many people will find offensive,” he said.
“Dr Starkey’s apparent willingness to write off the entire nation of Scotland as ‘feeble’ shows that a knowledge of history doesn’t make you understand the reality of modern life in different parts of the UK. A love of your country doesn’t make you a romantic nationalist, it just makes you proud. Dr Starkey seems to have forgotten that.
“Scots don’t spend their days walking around in kilts playing the bagpipes and reciting Tam O’Shanter, but that doesn’t make us any less proud of that part of our history and culture.”
The Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman has also faced the wrath of the Scottish lobby. He once complained that Britain was run by “a sort of Scottish Raj” and that some Scots had chips on their shoulders.
That paled in comparison to the outrage caused by his treatment of Burns, whom he described in an edition of Chambers Dictionary as “no more than a king of sentimental doggerel”.