Churchill’s Scottish connections run deeper than we may think – Alastair Stewart

The wartime leader’s relationship with Scotland has been marginalised for too long, says Alastair Stewart

Monday, 24th August 2020, 11:50 am
Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill (Picture: Walter Stoneman/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill (Picture: Walter Stoneman/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Winston Churchill’s connections with Scotland are innumerable. There’s even a suite named after him at Prestonfield, and he accepted the Freedom of the City in 1942.

Churchill said that the three most important things he received from Scotland were his wife, his constituency and his regiment. During the First World War, he commanded the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scotts Fusiliers on the Western Front in 1916.

His two leading officers were both future Scottish political leaders. Andrew Dewar Gibb, a founding member and subsequent leader of the SNP (1936–1940) was Churchill’s adjutant, and Archibald Sinclair, a future leader of the Liberal Party (1935–45), was his second-in-command. Both men are pictured seated next to Churchill with the other officers of the battalion in May 1916.

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Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and public affairs consultant.

Churchill was the Liberal MP for Dundee for 14 years. First elected in 1908, he was re-elected to the seat four times before finally losing (to a Prohibitionist candidate no less) in 1922. The same year Churchill was elected to Dundee, he married Clementine Hozier, a granddaughter of the tenth Earl of Airlie.

In 1912, Churchill was among the first senior British politicians to call for Scottish home rule and UK federalism. He received his first government appointment from Scottish prime minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1906. He was close friends with the former Prime Minister Lord Rosebery, in his time a highly regarded Scottish politician.

Only two plaques to his time in Dundee were erected in 2008, but there is a portrait of him by Scotland’s Sir James Guthrie in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Otherwise, there are merely a handful of busts around the country including a miniature sculpture in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum.

The Edinburgh Evening News, rather wonderfully, if prematurely, claimed that Randolph Churchill’s by-election loss in Ross and Cromarty in 1936 “seems to be regarded as another nail in the political coffin” of his father.

Much of the myths that surround Churchill and Scotland are propagated by the total absence of a centralised book on him and Scotland. Churchill, as the absolute epitome of Britishness, was taken for granted in the years after his death in 1965.

There was no deliberate forsaking of him in Scotland, but the unquestionable rise of nationalism, devolution and too much of an exclusive focus on episodic Scottish history in our education system has pushed him aside as an irrelevancy. And yet nothing could be further from the truth.

However one may or not feel about Churchill, he - and the Scottish people - deserve to have the truth documented. History is much more than personal preference, it’s about preserving the facts. We’re a little late to the party, but there’s still time to get moving on this. It is not a political point to say that this should be consolidated, and serious efforts should be made to reclaim him by Scotland. History is about the truth, not who you like more than others. It is of paramount importance to ask how Churchill affected the Scots, and more importantly – how the Scots affected him.

The International Churchill Society has recently launched a dedicated Churchill and Scotland edition of its journal ‘Finest Hour’ It is also launching a fresh appeal for new stories, facts, photos, and diaries about Churchill’s time in Scotland to expand the study further. The team is looking to publish a book in the coming year. Get in touch at [email protected]

Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and public affairs consultant. Read more from Alastair at www.agjstewart.com and follow him on Twitter @agjstewart