Burns Day

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:17 pm on 25th January 1995.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West 2:17 pm, 25th January 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will bring forward proposals to make Burns day a national holiday.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

Although there are no plans to propose that Burns day be made a national holiday, I do not think that we need such an event to remember our greatest poet. We have continued to celebrate his works since his death almost 200 years ago, and I am sure that we shall do so for many years to come.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

Does that negative, disappointing reply have anything to do with the fact that Burns was an ardent supporter of a Scottish Parliament and a fierce critic of the Unionists, who used treachery, bribery and skulduggery to destroy Scotland's last Parliament?

Why are the Tories' prospects dim? Could it be the reputation Of Ian, Allan, Hector and Jim— Such a parcel of rogues in a nation?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

Now I know what the poet meant when he spoke of A rhyming, ranting, raving billie". I will say to the hon. Gentleman: Hale be your heart, hale be your fiddle, Lang may your elbuck jink an' diddle. As to Burns being a supporter of a Scottish Parliament, I remind the hon. Gentleman of his words in "The Dumfries Volunteer": Be Britain still to Britain true Amang oursels united For never but by British hands Maun British wrangs be righted.

Photo of Mrs Ray Michie Mrs Ray Michie , Argyll and Bute

If the Secretary of State will not honour our national poet in that way, will he consider making 30 November, St. Andrew's day, a national holiday? I wonder why Scottish Office Ministers lack a sense of adventure, which would allow them to dare to make a change, go out on their own and do something about a national holiday for Scotland. Never mind the Prime Minister and his dark words of danger and more danger.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I take the opportunity to welcome the decision by the Royal Mail to publish a set of stamps to commemorate the bicentenary of Burns's death. As to another public holiday, I do not think that it would be an appropriate step to take at this time. As the poet said: I am the keeper of the law In some sma' points, altho' not a'".

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe , Cunninghame South

As the only Ayrshireman in the House, I believe that the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) should be considered much more seriously than the Secretary of State suggested. I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a bizarre decision in Irvine to shift the Burns monument from the moor to the middle of a busy roundabout. If anybody is killed, will the Secretary of State take responsibility for that crazy decision, which was taken partly by Ayrshire Enterprise? Instead of such officials' salaries being increased, perhaps they should be docked.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I was not aware of the case that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but if he will send me details, I shall have the matter investigated and—to the extent that the matter may be the responsibility of the Scottish Office, although I suspect that it lies primarily with the planning authority—I shall see whether there is anything appropriate for me to do.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Given that Robert Burns was born in Alloway in my constituency, will my right hon. Friend congratulate Ayrshire Enterprise and all those who are supporting the Burns bicentenary next year on ensuring that the works and words of that poet are broadcast loud and clear world wide?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend makes an important point. There will be major opportunities for not only his constituents but Scotland as a whole to celebrate that important occasion, which will be internationally recognised. I am sure that the poet would approve of the actions of those who, as he put it, doucely manage our affairs in Parliament".

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Before the Secretary of State determines whether to make Burns night a national holiday, will he tell the House whether he has seen the cartoon in The Scotsman today, which depicts the Prime Minister as a giant puddin' over the caption: Great Chieftain o' the Puddin' Race"? Is the Secretary of State in any way offended that he was not depicted as a wee puddin' in the same cartoon?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

I am impervious to all cartoons and all other comments, whether written or drawn.