The heads of all the clans and members of The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs

Jamie Macnab, the 24th chief of the Clan Macnab, is staying out of the Scottish independence debate for good reason. “The Macnab clan were on the English side at Bannockburn,” he says. “We were apparently a huge and very powerful clan prior to Bannockburn, but now we’re a very small clan, probably as a result of the side we took… I don’t think we’re very good at choosing any of our battles.”

His reluctance to be drawn on which way he will be voting on 18 September is shared by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs (SCSC), of which about 120 of Scotland’s 140 clan heads are members. This week it issued a statement saying it would be remaining neutral on the issue of independence.

“2014 will be a great year for clanship for many people and a momentous year with the referendum,” it read. “There are varying views amongst chiefs and clans over what is best for Scotland. Because of these differing opinions, the SCSC will not comment on independence.”

The announcement was included in a press statement welcoming Bannockburn Live, a two-day jamboree to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Robert the Bruce’s victory over the English in 1314. Taking place over a weekend of 28 and 29 June at the famous site near Stirling, it will include the largest battle reenactment ever seen in Scotland. The symbolism of the event has not been lost on supporters of the Yes campaign.

Many clan chiefs plan to attend and one might assume that it could prove to be an awkward social occasion for the Macnabs, given their history. But their 51-year-old chief, an estate agent who lives in Edinburgh and specialises in the sale of country houses, told The Independent the idea that Scotland’s clan leaders are automatically more likely to side with Alex Salmond on the issue of independence is nonsense. “There’s an assumption that chiefs would be tartan-wearing, claymore-bearing people who are into a Yes vote – I don’t think that’s true at all,” he says.