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From the Times, 28 September....

Scotland may say sorry to unwilling emigres


CANADIANS, Australians and New Zealanders could soon be offered something they never expected - an apology for the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries. A cross-party group of MSPs called yesterday for the Scottish Parliament to "regret" the clearances and "extend its hand in welcome to the descendants of the cleared people who reside outwith our shores".

They also detailed a second agenda: to set up a new Clearances Centre in the Highlands where descendants could come to search for information about their deported ancestors.

Fergus Ewing, SNP Member for Inverness, told Parliament yesterday that Scotland should follow what was now an internationally established example.

"The genocide and ethnic cleansing which has taken place against in America and Australia has been acknowledged long ago," he said. "The time has now come to acknowledge the suffering of the Highlander."

Jamie Stone, a Liberal MSP who proposed the motion, told Parliament that much economic good could come from such an apology. The Highlands, he said, could serve as a starting block for tourists in search of their cleared relatives.

"We all know our American friends are very, very keen to find their roots," he said. "If they discover their ancestors come from Ayrshire, let them go back down the road. If they go to John o'Groat's, let them boost the economy of Caithness and Sutherland."

The idea of an apology was, however, treated with caution by two Gaelic MSPs who said that the history of the clearances was not clear-cut.

John Farquar Munro, a Liberal MSP for Skye, said: "I am not sure the Scottish Parliament should apologise for this. In truth, our own clergy were as guilty as anybody in this. They told their flock that it was God's will for them to leave their homes for the benefit of the great white sheep."