THE fate of thousands of soldiers marched from Dunbar to Durham was highlighted during the maiden speech of East Lothian’s new MP.

Kenny MacAskill spoke of the work of his predecessors, Oliver Cromwell and a changing East Lothian during the speech at Westminster last Wednesday.

The SNP MP, who became the county’s MP after unseating Martin Whitfield (Labour) in last month’s General Election, said: “When I first arrived here last month, I came across a statue of Oliver Cromwell, who is well-known in my constituency, in the town of Dunbar.

“He is not viewed as the Lord Protector; far from it.

“He may not have been as brutal there as he was at Drogheda, but people still suffered at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, when his English army killed thousands of Scottish soldiers and captured thousands more.

“Those who were captured were marched south, with many dying en route.

“They were taken to Durham Cathedral, where thankfully a memorial now recognises what they suffered.

“Many died in incarceration there. Of those who were released thereafter, some were given by the Lord Protector to the army of France. Others were sent to do drainage work in the area of the Wash in southern England. Others still were transported to Barbados and to the Americas.

“But some good did come from this, because in 1657, seven years after serving their penal servitude, some of those Scottish soldiers banded together to form the Scots Charitable Society of what is now Boston, which is argued to be the one of the oldest such charitable organisations not just in the United States but in the western hemisphere.

“They keep contacts with the community in Dunbar, as indeed did the Scottish Prisoners of War Society – because such an organisation does exist, with many American members, and they had a re-enactment of the battle last year.”

Mr MacAskill, 61, spoke about the changes in the county, including new industries.

The politician, who told the Courier he planned to move to East Lothian after securing the county seat, said: “My constituency has endured changes, but it has stayed the same in many ways.

“It continues to roll from the Lammermuir hills to the banks of the Forth. It contains fertile land, bonnie beaches and, indeed, fine folk.

“Some industries, such as mining, have gone.

“Other industries, such as renewables, have come – which is why it is important and appropriate that I am making this speech at this juncture in the debate on the Queen’s Speech.

“We build around those new industries, but they are still based around the vibrant towns and villages of both the historic county and the wider modern constituency.

“East Lothian’s people remain undiminished in their grit, determination and decency, and indeed – as a new arrival, I know this – in their warm and welcoming nature, as thousands seek to move to the expanding county of East Lothian.”

Mr MacAskill, who previously represented Edinburgh East and Musselburgh at the Scottish Parliament, also paid tribute to the work of the county’s MPs who had come before him.

He said: “Martin Whitfield and I disagreed fundamentally on Scotland’s constitutional situation, but in many other aspects we were at one.

“I am conscious of the fact that he was tenacious in opposing Brexit, and equally assiduous in representing his constituency, so I know the standards that he has set.

“He will continue to reside in the constituency, where I will no doubt bump into him.

“It was the same for those who went before him.

“My own colleague George Kerevan was equally assiduous. Prior to that, the constituency was represented by Fiona O’Donnell, who continues to serve the county as a Labour councillor in East Lothian.

“It goes all the way back to the late, great John P. Mackintosh, who set the standards and template that everybody who has represented East Lothian since has sought to aspire to.”