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.
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?
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.
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.
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'".
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.
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.
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".
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?