Burns Night (Promoting Scotland Abroad)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 22nd January 2004.

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Photo of Margaret Jamieson Margaret Jamieson Labour 2:30 pm, 22nd January 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive whether Burns night will be used to promote Scotland abroad. (S2O-1120)

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

The First Minister, as president of the regions with legislative powers, is hosting a Burns supper in Brussels on 19 February to promote Scotland's place in Europe. On 13 January, Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, gave the inaugural Robert Burns memorial lecture in New York in the presence of the Deputy First Minister. That received worldwide media coverage for Scotland.

Burns night also presents a unique opportunity for the promotion of Scotland as a tourist destination. VisitScotland.com is promoting Burns on its home page and VisitScotland's London office is presently running a Burns promotion to attract visitors to come and stay in Scotland.

Photo of Margaret Jamieson Margaret Jamieson Labour

Does the minister agree that significant opportunities to benefit from the 250 th anniversary, in 2009, of the birth of the bard will be available to Scotland? Does he further agree that Ayrshire, as the birthplace of Burns, should be the centre of the benefits that those opportunities bring?

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

I recognise the passionate commitment of the member and assure her that we are working towards the celebration of Burns's birth in 2009. That is why we have put together a team of players from VisitScotland, the Scottish Arts Council and a number of other agencies. In partnership with local representatives and local authorities, we will put something together that will genuinely commemorate the important role that Burns plays in the history not just of Ayrshire but of Scotland.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I hope that the First Minister makes a better speech in Brussels this year than he did at the Burns supper that I attended in Glasgow last year.

Will the minister guarantee that the opportunity that will arise in 2009 will be used to promote Ayrshire internationally? In addition, will he consider the possibility of renaming Prestwick airport as the Rabbie Burns airport?

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

The member has asked two questions rather than one. I have a number of things to say. First, it should be recognised that, out of the poets of 191 member states of the UN, only Scotland's national poet has been chosen as the poet to represent all humanity. Secondly, I assure Alex Neil that the First Minister will represent Scotland positively in an international forum.

We want to work with all players at a local level in Ayrshire to ensure that when, in 2009, we celebrate the birth of Burns, the celebrations are appropriately put together. I reassure the member that we will not have the situation that Burns described in one of his poems when he said:

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men

Gang aft agley".

We assure the member that the Scottish Executive is on the case.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

Does the minister agree that an excellent way in which to promote Scotland is to encourage and support Burns suppers, such as the forthcoming European Union Burns supper in Brussels? MSPs, including my good friend Jamie Stone, have been asked to participate in that supper. Perhaps Jamie Stone will become an ex-good friend once he has delivered the toast to the lassies and I have replied to it.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

I welcome the contributions that individual members will make. We are all ambassadors for Scotland wherever we go. I hope that we can use Burns's work to represent what we think Scotland is today and that his work will make a contribution in the future.

Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green

Will the Executive consider promoting Scotland in Europe by sending representation to the tartan day celebrations in Paris this year? I would prefer the First Minister, who has an interest in the entente cordiale, to go.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

The question must be a question on Burns.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour

I suggest to the minister that we should celebrate Burns every day of the year and not only on 25 January.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

The member raises an important issue. We recognise Burns's importance as our national poet, but many contemporary poets in Scotland represent Scotland in a contemporary way and reflect our country's traditions. Through the work of Burns and other Scottish poets, we can ensure that poetry is at the heart of the nation. We should all hear their contributions.