From the National Post, Tuesday, August 21, by Tristan Hopper
Never a big fan of the Glasgow-born Father of Confederation, Scottish authorities now appear to be excising him complete
As statues of Sir John A. Macdonald are vandalized or removed in the country he founded, the late politician is also being disavowed by the country where he was born.
A Monday report in The Times wrote that “all references” to the Scottish-born leader are being excised from official Scottish government websites and documents.
“We acknowledge controversy around Sir John A Macdonald’s legacy and the legitimate concerns expressed by Indigenous communities,” an unnamed government spokeswoman was quoted as saying.
A city worker begins cleaning the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald after it was vandalized in Montreal, Friday, August 17, 2018. The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes
Scotland.org, a promotional website run by the Scottish government, has removed a feature entitled “Sir John A. Macdonald: Son of Scotland, Father of Canada.”
First posted last year for the Canadian sesquicentennial, the feature was a standard biography of Macdonald, noting that the Canadian leader was forced to make an early entry into the working world as a result of the constant business failures of his Scottish father.
“(Macdonald) is revered for his key role in the formation of the country as we know it today, and is heart-warmingly referred to as ‘The Father of Canada,’” reads an archived version of the article. Any attempt to locate the piece on Scotland.org is now met with a 404 message, meaning it can no longer be found.
Last week, The Times also reported that Scottish officials are looking to rebrand Sir John A.’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate, an annual event funded by the Scottish government in which Canadians are invited to take to the ice in a traditional kilt.
Beacon Hill resident David Johnston, with the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band, skates and pipes at the same time during the Scottish Society of Ottawa’s annual Kilt Skate. Postmedia File
“We will continue discussions with Kilt Skate organizers and Indigenous representatives on the branding and purpose of the event before taking a decision in respect of future funding,” the Times quoted a Scottish government representative as saying.
Kilt Skate representatives could not be reached by press time, but the event’s official website continues to reference Macdonald as “the greatest Canadian of them all,” and to feature the former prime minister’s face on promotional materials.
Macdonald was born in Glasgow in 1815 and immigrated to colonial British North America with his family when he was five years old. As an adult, Macdonald would find himself as one of many Victorian-era Scottish emigres charged with managing far-flung corners of the British Empire.
A Âmemorial albumÂ published about Sir John A. Macdonald in 1891 included this photo, identifying Brunswick Place in Glasgow as the birthplace of CanadaÂs first prime minister.Archives of Ontario
While Macdonald is often shown with a thick Scottish accent in fictional portrayals, 19th-century British politicians who met the Canadian leader during Confederation talks all reported that he spoke with no touch of brogue.
Scotland has historically been rather lukewarm about celebrating Macdonald as a Scottish hero. There is only one monument to Macdonald in his native land, and it’s a plaque paid for by the Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario. In all 19 years of the devolved Scottish Parliament, there does not appear to have been one mention of Macdonald’s name in debates.
Most notably, Macdonald’s Scottish birthplace was torn down just last year. The shuttered former pub, located in a particularly rundown section of Glasgow, was suspected to have once been a textiles shop owned by Macdonald’s father, with the family living in the apartments above. The two-storey structure was razed in September, 2017 to make way for mixed-use condos.
A photo snapped Tuesday of the Candleriggs Quarter redevelopment site in Glasgow, Scotland. The presumed birthplace of Sir John A. Macdonald lies in ruins on the far right of this picture. Photo courtesy of Paul Kane
Perhaps tellingly, the since-removed Scotland.org article on Macdonald repeatedly misspelled his Scottish last name as “MacDonald.”
In recent months, however, Canadian controversy surrounding the former Glaswegian has garnered the occasional mention in the Scottish press. Last year, the Bank of Canada announced that Macdonald’s portrait on the $10 bill would be replaced with that of civil rights activist Viola Desmond, although Macdonald will be bumped up to a higher denomination currency. Earlier this month, the City of Victoria removed a statue of Macdonald, calling the late Canadian leader a symbol of “colonial violence.”
A September 2017 article in The Scotsman wrote that “demands have been growing to scrap anything bearing (Macdonald’s) name because of the way he treated the Indigenous population.”
The Scottish government is currently run by the independence-minded Scottish National Party, which won a minority government in the country’s 2016 elections. Although Scotland is a part of the U.K. and recently rejected a referendum on full independence, it has certain powers of self-government similar to that of a Canadian province.