Scotland, Wales and Ireland are "feeble little nations", says historian David Starkey

English historian David Starkey caused outrage in the Celtic nations on Thursday after describing Scotland, Wales and Ireland as "feeble little nations."

David Starkey appeared on the BBC's Question Time programme on Thursday - St George's Day - along with other celebrities and politcians.

During the show, which is on once a month, the panellists answer questions from members of the audience on current affairs.

Mr Starkey made his comments during a discussion about whether the English should do more to celebrate St George's Day.

His point was that the English, unlike the much smaller nations of the Scots, Welsh and Irish (England has a population four times the populations of Scotland, Wales and the whole of Ireland put together), don't need to bang on about how great their nation is. They can admire their nation and its customs quietly, without having to openly celebrate it.

Mr Starkey also said (quite accurately) that bagpipes sound awful.
He has also previously called Mary Queen of Scots, executed by the Queen of England in 1587, 'a wh ore and a trollop and a murderess' - and, being a historian, he must know what he's talking about.

But only 72 people complained to the BBC, and nearly all of them were probably Celts.

Mr Starkey presents a documentary on Channel 4 about the life of Henry VIII.

Kicked in the sporran: Outcry over historian David Starkey's TV tirade against Scots

By Liz Thomas
25th April 2009
Daily Mail

David Starkey has provoked fury by describing Scotland, Wales and Ireland as 'feeble little' countries.

The acid-tongued historian also said Scottish poet Robert Burns was 'deeply boring' and dismissed bagpipes as 'awful'.

The comments on BBC1's Question Time prompted a backlash from viewers and politicians, who called them 'silly', 'offensive' and 'disrespectful'.

Apology: Historian Dr David Starkey called Scotland, Wales and Ireland 'feeble little countries' on the BBC's Question Time last night

The BBC said 72 people had made formal complaints, while scores more left comments on internet message boards.

Starkey, 64, who for 25 years was a lecturer in history at the London School of Economics, made the remarks after being asked whether St George's Day should be an English national holiday.

'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,' he responded.

'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.'

Scotland's culture and external affairs minister Mike Russell accused him of simply creating controversy to attract publicity.

Sour note: David Starkey upset the Scots by describing bagpipes as 'awful'

He explained: 'These are unfortunate and silly comments from someone who has a proven 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.'

Russell Brown, Labour MP for Dumfries and Galloway, where Burns lived for many years and is buried, said: 'Starkey should apologise to Scotland.

'I would welcome him to my constituency any time to see that most Scots are proud of what they do and where they live.

'This is a silly remark that many people will find offensive.

'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.'

Viewers accused Starkey of being xenophobic and rude.

One blogger wrote: 'His comments about the Celtic nations were deeply offensive and profoundly unprofessional.'

Another said: 'I am very proud to be Scottish and am very offended. Burns is a very good poet as Shakespeare was a very good author.'

Starkey's agent last night insisted he would not be making an apology, adding: 'I don't think David has anything further to add at this stage.'

It is not the first time that Starkey, who became a household name presenting the Monarchy series on Channel 4 and appears on Radio 4's The Moral Maze, has launched a broadside against Scotland.

He previously called Mary Queen of Scots 'a wh ore and a trollop and a murderess' and accused the Scottish nation of 'adoring failure'.

Speaking on Radio 2 last year, he also said: 'The only victory [Scots] have ever celebrated is Bannockburn; the rest is about wallowing in failure. They even have special music for failure - it's called bagpipes.'

Starkey has developed a reputation for his waspish comments.

Earlier this year he accused women historians of feminising history by focusing on the 'soap opera' of key figures' love lives rather than their achievements.

In the past he has also attacked the Royal Family, claiming the Queen was poorly educated and that Princess Diana was hysterical and destructive.


Clever man and always worth listening to. His logic is spot on. Also, for such wonderful places the Scots can't wait to get out of them.

- James Smith, Bury
Well he does have a point.

- Thai, Manchester

What? So no one's allowed to have personal opinion any more?

Starkey was asked a question and gave an answer.

Ask me bout Burns, bagpipes and St George's day and I'd say pretty much the same.

- Sandra, Galway, Ireland
The only people who will find this offensive are the 'chippy' Scots, and the 'whinging' Welsh who find England offensive. When will the English get the vote on independance? Only then will we be able to celebrate our Englishness in a patriotic way, as compared with the feeble efforts of the dependant Scots and Welsh.

- Frank, Bournemouth,

There's nothing wrong with the pipes, but Starkey's right about Burns - his turgid writing should be burned !

- Isaac, Glasgow

Message to the "dozens" who complained - it is HIS opinion and he is ALLOWED to voice his opinion.

By complaining you have confirmed in my mind that some Scots are extremely petty minded and really need to grow up. That's MY opinion and if you don't like it, tough.

- L. G., Berkshire

I totally agree with Dr Starkey - and I have Irish and Scots ancestors.They are 'little nations'. The Scots have always been trouble for us.They were always allied with France (our enemy).Look at those ghastly (Scottish) Stuarts.It was whilst they were around that we had a civil war.They were the ones who settled all the Protestants in Ireland,yet the English get the blame for all the troubles in Ireland.Look at all the people who ran Norheren Ireland from 1921,all Scottish.The Scots were the ones who were bankrupt in 1707 and came down cap-in-hand to us looking for a union,so we baled them out.Now the Scots have ruined our country.The Scots,Northern Irish and Welsh get far more money from central government than we English ,yet they dislike us intensely.They are all over-represented at parliament.As for ZeZe saying that Dr Starkey is a poor historian.He is a brilliant man,ask his students and former students.I understand that people who were not even on his course would go to his lectures.

- Jan, London

A few years ago (not many) I spent a day in Edinburgh Castle. I admired the Scottish Crown Jewels which had only recently been put on display, I admired the memorial to the Scottish fallen in two world wars, I was deeply interested in the history there. One thing only spoilt that day - a so-called guide who was entertaining a party of Americans, among other visitors; he said the most dreadful things about the Queen and England generally and the tourists were lapping it up. Being English and not wishing to draw attention to myself, I said nothing. I wish now I had made a complaint about this man's behaviour to his boss. It seems it's OK for everyone else to be rude about the English, but when a noted historian makes a comment about the other countries who make up the United Kingdom, he is expected to apologise. What nonsense!

- Jeanne, Southampton
Laughing out loud! Hardly a crime is it ?

There's one really good thing about the English that the scots and welsh would do well to learn...

To stop going on about being Scottish or Welsh.

I have never heard an English person going on about being English, but the Welsh and the Scots never seem to stop!

- chris, worth,uk

Everything he said seemed right, time England declared independence and stooped subsidising them.

- Chris D, S.Yorks

So you think that Burns was a great thing to come out of Scotland?

I think the M6 is better!

Why are you guys North of the border so sensitive? Its interesting to note that none of the negative comments hear come from Wales or Northern Ireland.

- Jim, Tiverton Devon
Last edited by Blackleaf; Apr 26th, 2009 at 12:12 PM..
lone wolf
Free Thinker
Is Britain still bickering over her greatness? Perhaps if she expended a little less energy to the tongue, the bowels could operate more efficiently....
L Gilbert
No Party Affiliation
lol Britain has its own glitches. For a Brit to be mocking other countries over something is just funny.
No Party Affiliation
No wonder why so many Welsh, Irish, and Scots now view their local sports in their native languages.

Whenever I watch TG4 online in order to watch hurling or GAA football, the narrators report the matches in Irish. Bounci TV reports shinty in Scottish Gaelic and I have even seen Llanelli's footy team reported in Cymru.

''Feeble'' people do not allow their language and culture to be denigrated. On the contrary they demand that these be respected. Bravo to them for making such demands!