Declaration of Arbroath to be updated for TikTok generation

Thomas Hornall, PA
·2-min read

The Declaration of Arbroath, a 701-year-old document calling for Scotland’s independence, is being refreshed for the social media generation.

Literary group Scottish PEN and Arbroath Festival are calling for 16 to 25-year-olds to submit updated versions of the letter “inspired by the principles of the historic document” for a project called New Declarations.

The outcome will be shared on TikTok and on Instagram stories, as well as being performed at a spoken word performance at the Arbroath Festival and physically crafted to sit in a writing room at Arbroath Abbey.

700th anniversary of the Arbroath Declaration
Historical actors Ken Lownie (left) and Harry Brechin at Arbroath Abbey last year (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Declaration of Arbroath was written in 1320 by Scottish barons and earls asking the pope to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king.

It was created during Scotland’s long war of independence with England, which began with Edward I’s attempts to conquer Scotland in 1296.

Originally written in Latin, the most famous words in the declaration are: “As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.

“It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

Rebecca Sharp, a writer and mentor on the New Declarations initiative, said: “We studied the Declaration of Arbroath and how it functioned at the time of 1320 – background factors that influenced how it was written and who sent it, who it was for and how it was received.

“That led us into thinking about how to write a New Declaration, in the context of where we are now.

“The role of technology is always a factor, and clearly influences how we communicate now.

“Digital platforms and online spaces offer useful and exciting possibilities, while at the same time throwing up parallel concerns around ownership and control, freedom of expression, hate speech, censorship, self-censorship and identity.”

Tuesday marks the 701st anniversary of the letter.

The Arbroath Festival runs from July 2 to September 12 and is described as “an apolitical cultural celebration of the legacy of the declaration”.

Last year, research commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland found that more than half of Scots have never actually heard of the Declaration of Arbroath.

But polling showed nearly eight in 10 people wanted to know more about it.

Diarmid Hearns, head of public policy at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Our research also showed us that when people learn about and experience Scotland’s heritage, they are more likely to value it and want to conserve it for the future.”