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History matters

Brian Taylor | 08:37 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

In my youth, the images of the Reformation were all around me, when I cared to look. The Wishart Arch in my native Dundee where the Protestant Reformer, George of that ilk, is said to have preached.

Its defiant survival is probably owing to that presumed connection.

The remainder of glorious, old Dundee was cheerfully demolished by enlightened, progressive civic leaders.

In St Andrews, we youthful students were conjoined to avoid stepping on the initials PH carved into the pavement outside St Salvator's Chapel (the site commemorates Patrick Hamilton, a martyr.)

Cathedral and castle

Stand on the letters, we were told, and you would fail your finals. Even now, decades after that particular challenge, I steer well clear.

Then also in the Auld Grey Toon there is the Cathedral whose decline, if not final fall, can be dated to the Reformation when iconoclastic opinion turned against idols.

And the Castle, home to Cardinal Beaton who was, let us say, less than keen on what he believed was "heresy".

It was always about politics as much as religion. Or rather the religion of those times WAS politics. It was power, it was law, it was punishment.

But it was also social provision, discipline, education.

So you can look back to the Reformation - and you can see a disruption which still echoes today, if you choose.

Or you can look back to the Reformation - and you can see a radical new approach to governance, including nation-wide education. Again, if you choose.

Leading figures

Whatever vision is uppermost in your thinking, it is indisputable that the Reformation is hugely signficant in Scottish history, an intrinsic part of this nation.

A prime motivation for the 1707 Parliamentary Union was securing the Protestant succession to the British throne.

Which is why it is right that the First Minister should today be marking the 450th anniversary of the Reformation at an event in Edinburgh.

And why it is particularly pleasing to see that modern Scotland will commemorate that distant event in the presence of leading figures from the Kirk and the Catholic Church.

And why it is pleasing, further, to note that each of Scotland's prominent contemporary faith groups will be invited to a reception at Edinburgh Castle, also today. History matters. So does today's Scotland.


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