The Declaration of Arbroath was on display at the national museums of Scotland in June 2023,
the first time in 18 years. It is a foundational document in European and American thought.
The declaration was a letter from the barons and wider community to the Pope in support of Robert the Bruce’s claim to the Scottish crown, and argues for Scottish sovereignty and question of national identity.
Bruce had been excommunicated by the Pope in Rome because he had murdered John Conwyn. The English crown was more influential at the time and had more power, but the scots were persistent.
The document was drawn up in times of great turmoil. After the death of the Scots king Alexander in 1296.
The wording came from the scholar Duns Scotus and his political theory of freedoms of all people – and was not limited to the barons. The words were also borrowed from the Roman historian Salas.
During the Second World War, this document was used to recognise the rights of the countries in Europe that the Nazis were trampling over.
Tartan Day set up in 1998, in honour of the declaration and takes place on the date it was signed. Both James Wilson and John Witerspoon, American founding fathers, quoted the declaration. It also had a influence on Presbyterian and Covenanters.
The document has an effect on the present day constitutional arguments over Scotland’s right to self- determination – while it is also a document with wider political significance.