Michael Fry, in his book Wild Scots writes that claims of mass eviction of small farmers from the Highlands of Scotland by landowners are exaggerated. The farmers left voluntarily in the late 18th and 19th centuries, he writes, in order to escape poverty.
Fry's claims have earned him comparisons to Holocaust deniers, and a motion of censure was proposed by Rob Gibson, a nationalist member of the Scottish parliament.
MacMillan dedicated Nemo te condemnavit, a choral work commissioned by Yale University, to Fry, and said in an interview with Scotland on Sunday that the violent reaction to Fry's work "puts us up there with the Nazi Reichstag and Supreme Soviet Assembly as a parliament with an instinct for banning writers. What's next? A mass burning of books which do not receive the imprimatur of the Scotia Nostra?"
He added, "Fry's views represent a refreshing, revisionist challenge to the tired and hoary old myths so beloved of the complacent, self-obsessed Scottish establishment. Fry deserves our encouragement and thirsty curiosity rather than an archetypically Scottish witch hunt with its attendant and predictable immaturity and hysteria."
Former Labour minister Brian Wilson, who had made the comparison between Fry and putative Holocaust denier David Irving, said, "I am not interested in [MacMillan's] opinion. He is entitled to his views, but his public comments usually go over the top of whatever he is talking about."
Roseanna Cunningham, a member of Scottish parliament who signed Gibson's motion of censure and whom MacMillan called "terminally embarrassing," said "It is interesting, of course, that these outbursts from James MacMillan always seem to happen when he has a new piece of work he is trying to publicize."
At the Edinburgh Fringe five years ago, MacMillan had a tirade against anti-Catholicism and intolerance. Last year, he swore at the Scottish Executive and Scottish Arts Council for cutting the full-time staff at the Scottish Opera by half.
Nemo te condemnavit, the title of which means "Has no one condemned you?", will premiere in the United States later this year.