Gibson: Braveheart changed history

Hollywood actor Mel Gibson is convinced his hit 1995 movie Braveheart may have changed the course of Scottish history by having changed the course of Scottish history.

The academy award winning blockbuster has been criticised by many for its historical inaccuracies, though it did contain a scene in which a British political party won a general election by a landslide promising amongst many things that it would create devolved institutions in Scotland. Though this is historically inaccurate, the scene played out two years later in a curious case of life imitating art when Tony Blair’s New Labour government formed in 1997.

Gibson’s film also depicted Robert The Bruce as a folk hero who fed off Scottish voters’ feeling of detachment from Westminster, and in particular the policies implemented by the Conservative government. Although this was dismissed by many historians as “cinematic folly”, the film had actually cleverly foretold growing disillusionment among the modern day Scottish voting public with John Major’s Conservatives.

Another scene which was derided by many critics involved a referendum held by the British government which eventually allowed for the formation of a devolved Scottish parliament to handle matters such as education, environment and healthcare. Although this passage of the film had no historical basis whatsoever, it is interesting to note that in 1998 – three years after the film’s release – Tony Blair’s government held a similar referendum yielding identical results.

Gibson said yesterday: “I became really aware of what a piece of art could do to change things – especially when we filmed the scene near the end in which the newly-formed Scottish parliament became the first to ban smoking in enclosed public places. I remember how much flak I got from the reviewers for that one, but no-one said anything to me when the actual Scottish government did the same thing in March 2006. I like to think the film started the ball rolling on some stuff – it hit a chord, definitely.”

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