THE SCOTTISH Government asked the UK government to delete a mention of England’s 1966 World Cup victory in a children’s book to mark the Queen’s jubilee. 

According to an email, released under Freedom of Information, the Curriculum and Qualifications Division said that the win “doesn’t seem to merit this level of exposure” and was “not that relevant in the non-England parts of the UK.”

The suggestion was one of 52 made by civil servants in Scotland over the space of six months. 

Yet when the UK government's Department for Education looked to mention their involvement, they were told: “the Scottish Government is not content to be acknowledged at all in the development or production of this book.” 

They have since distanced themselves further, refusing to take part in the UK government's £12m project to send the commemorative book to every primary school pupil in the UK. 

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Instead, they have said it is up to schools to opt-in to receive the “unique gift.”

They have stressed that the UK Government was solely responsible for the content, development and distribution of the book, Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee celebration.

The contract was awarded to publisher DK, who was asked to ensure the book was “written with the aim of being inclusive, patriotic and ‘speaking to all children’ with regard to all regions of the UK.”

It tells the story of a little girl called Isabella, who visits her great granny and finds a box of souvenirs that become her guide to the history of the United Kingdom and the former empire.

After seeing early drafts of the book, members of the Welsh Government felt it would not be appropriate to distribute it to every pupil as it was too Anglo-centric. The Scottish Government soon followed suit.

The book's early drafts included an information box on Brexit, and mention of the Queen's intervention during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

In the emails exchanged between the governments during the development of the book, a Scottish civil servant says that they and their colleagues are “hardly experts in Scottish history and nuances of constitutional concerns” and asks for more time to share the draft text as there is “interest from ministers and [Special Advisers] on our side.” 

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They added: “The risk of not doing that is that issues get picked up by press or politicians after publication and nobody wants that, especially around children and the Jubilee.”

While the intended audience of primary school children "limits the complexity and the thoroughness" of the text it should "leave the reader with the overall understanding that while there is much to be proud of in British history" it "isn’t all positive and there are difficult and contested areas too which very much still matter today."

In the initial text, seen by the civil servants in Edinburgh, DK seemingly wanted to include the Queen’s reported intervention in the Scottish independence referendum campaign in 2014, when she expressed the hope that voters will "think very carefully about the future" days before Scots went to the polls. 

The comments by the monarch were seized upon by media and the No campaign and marked an incredibly rare intervention into politics by the palace.

The book wanted to mention the quote without mentioning the referendum, but the Scottish Government warned it would cause “further controversy.”

They said: “Without any context, it can be presented as a general quote on the future but for those aware or for those who research it, it is likely to stoke controversy. 

“In addition, these words attributed to the Queen have never been confirmed or acknowledged. 

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“Though widely reported at the time and since, the inclusion would infer some sort of official confirmation that the words were used by the Queen, which risks contradicting the Palace’s official position.”

Other edits suggested by St Andrew's House included removing the description of the Queen Mother’s death as a “tragedy”. 

“While it was a sad event, ‘tragedy’ reads as a little tabloid when describing the death of very old lady,” they suggested. 

The book said that the UK was “developed in 1922 as one united country made up of four smaller.”

The Scottish Government said the “word ‘developed’ is problematic, and the whole sentence glosses over drawn out violent and contested events.” 

“Suggest instead language that makes clear the formation of the UK was a complex process, but that the UK looks as we know it now since 1922 when the Republic of Ireland separated from the rest of the UK. (Wikipedia informs me it was not named the ‘UK of GB and NI’ until 1927!)”

They also accused the book of “Anglo-centric” language, as a Scottish timeline featured the caption “1328: England sees Scotland as an independent country in the Treaty of Northampton”.

They also called for the book to remove a sightseeing bus tour of London undertaken by Isabella and her family. 

“This is very anglo, not to say London, centric – could it be replaced with something about social change through the Queen’s reign? Inclusion, equalities.

"Could also use space for reflecting on current events affecting the UK and hence the monarchy – e.g. the pandemic and climate change, and potentially Brexit."

Somewhat bizarrely, in the draft seen by the Scottish Government, the book seemingly wanted to mark the invention of air conditioning: “Offices and houses could keep cool in the sizzling summer heat with the arrival of small air conditioning units by American company Frigidaire.”

“Doesn’t seem relevant in the UK” the Scottish Government pointed out.

They also said it was wrong for the book to mention that Hadrian's Wall was built by the Romans “to keep the tribes in the northern part of GB out of Empire"

“Historically this is a contested statement. There are other theories as to why it was built e.g to define the limits of the Empire; as a trading frontier.”

Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservative's Shadow Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture described the SNP government as "bitter".

He said: “The sheer number of suggested changes seems excessive – particularly in a book that, ultimately, the SNP Government opted out of providing automatically to Scottish schoolkids.

“The request for mention of England’s 1966 World Cup win to be removed appears ridiculous and petty. Whether Nationalists like it or not, this was a major event during Her Majesty’s reign which it would have been odd in the extreme not to acknowledge.

“For the sake of the Queen, you’d think the nationalists could take a day off from their bitter and obsessive agenda.

“This book was both educational and a nice keepsake for youngsters that marked The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, so it’s sad that the Scottish Government forced schools here to opt in if they wanted pupils to receive it.”

The Scottish Government and the Department for Education have been approached for comment. 

This article originally featured in our sister title, The Herald, in Scotland. 
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