Schools (British History)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:10 pm on 27th March 2003.

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Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 3:10 pm, 27th March 2003

To ask the First Minister what commitment the Scottish Executive will give to ensure that British history is adequately covered in the curriculum in schools. (S1F-2627)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Guidance to education authorities and schools provides ample opportunities for teaching British history, including Scottish history, at every level of the school curriculum.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

The First Minister might be surprised to hear that I was present during the march that took place outside the chamber at half past 5 last Thursday. I assure him that although I did not take part, I felt that it was my duty as an elected member of Parliament to stand by to hear and see what was going on at that march. Does the First Minister agree—given this great country's history of sacrifice in opposing tyranny and oppression wherever it may occur—that it is high time that our young people were made fully aware of the sacrifice that has been made by the generations that preceded us and of the great and distinguished heritage of this country?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I announced towards the end of last year that I thought that it was important that we in Scotland acknowledge a variety of occasions in our history, including the union of the crowns in 1603. I think that it is important, not for party political reasons but for reasons of knowledge, history and understanding, that young people in this country understand all of their roots, where they come from and what our country has done—good and bad—in the past. I certainly hope that in every secondary school and primary school throughout Scotland we not only teach our young people their Scottish history as effectively as possible, but teach them about the time during which they have been part of Britain, which should constitute part of their knowledge and understanding of where they come from. That will also help to inform them of the benefits of democracy, tolerance and respect, which are part of our national character.

Photo of Andrew Wilson Andrew Wilson Scottish National Party

Does the First Minister agree that anyone who studies British history should also recognise that Britain was first in the world in economic performance in the 19 th century, but is today 19 th and falling? We should recognise that many of the countries that became independent from Britain during the intervening period have prospered and that none of the countries that have become independent from Britain want to get back in.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Mr Wilson is full of contradictions; he has just made more. He has spent his four years in the Parliament —when the eyes of business were not upon him—criticising private profit, criticising those who would manage public spending, advocating substantial increases in spending on every occasion and trying to ensure that a culture is created in the Parliament that is hostile to public-private partnerships and other engagements with the private sector. He cannot do that and go round Scotland's boardrooms telling people that he is a friend of business. Mr Wilson must be more consistent. I hope that he will be in the weeks to come.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

Does the First Minister agree that one of the strands that goes through British history is the quest for justice? Four years ago, patients who had been infected with hepatitis C from blood products had been waiting many years for justice; they are still waiting for it today. Will the First Minister do all that he can to put pressure on the UK Government to allow the Scottish Executive ministers and the Scottish Parliament to do exactly what we want to do, which is to give fair payments to those who have been infected with hepatitis C?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am sorry—that was possibly wide of the original question. Does the First Minister want to respond?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I confirm that Malcolm Chisholm will—as he has been doing over recent months—work extremely hard to ensure that we bring about a just conclusion to the matter.