St Andrew's Day

– in the Scottish Parliament at 5:03 pm on 1st December 2004.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 5:03 pm, 1st December 2004

The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-2006, in the name of Dennis Canavan, on St Andrew's day. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament believes that St Andrew's Day should be recognised as Scotland's National Day with a nationwide celebration of Scotland's diversity of cultures, faiths and ethnic origins.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 5:06 pm, 1st December 2004

I am grateful to the Parliamentary Bureau for the opportunity to introduce the debate and to all members who have signed my motion. Yesterday was St Andrew's day and the purpose of my motion is to ensure that, in future, St Andrew's day is more widely celebrated, nationally and internationally.

For many centuries, the last day of November has been observed as the feast of St Andrew. In Scotland and in many other parts of the world where Scots and their descendants are gathered, 30 November is recognised as a special day for Scotland. St Andrew is Scotland's patron saint and the St Andrew's cross is embodied in our national flag. The saltire became the national flag by act of Parliament in 1385, but the origin of its adoption dates back to the battle of Athelstaneford in 831. St Andrew's status as patron saint of Scotland was formalised in the declaration of Arbroath in 1320.

At one time, St Andrew's day was a popular day of festivities throughout Scotland, but nowadays it is probably celebrated more by expatriate Scots and their descendants in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There are St Andrew's societies and St Andrew's clubs in many parts of the world. If St Andrew's day was properly recognised at home as Scotland's national day, that would probably give a boost to such international celebrations and help to promote Scotland on the world stage.

St Andrew's day would also be an appropriate national day for a Scotland that is striving to be a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural and multifaith society. One of the biggest impediments to the creation of such an inclusive Scotland is the religious sectarianism and antipathy that still exists between some people of different Christian traditions. However, all the major Christian denominations in Scotland recognise St Andrew as our patron saint so, in that respect, he is a unifying figure. As regards St Andrew's multi-ethnic appeal, it is worth recalling that he was not a Scot and that he is recognised throughout the world as an international figure. He is the patron saint of other countries, including Greece, Russia and Romania.

Last Saturday, I attended the annual St Andrew's day event that is organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Glasgow. The event is described as a march and rally against racism and fascism and many of the participants are representatives of ethnic minorities.

If St Andrew's day were more widely celebrated, that would encourage all the people of Scotland—irrespective of their ethnic origins and beliefs—to participate in the celebration of our national identity and social inclusion. It could also be a celebration of Scottish democracy, bearing in mind that our present Parliament is only a few years old.

I was very pleased to hear the First Minister's announcement yesterday that the Scottish Executive plans to make St Andrew's day next year a national day of celebration on the theme of one Scotland, many cultures, and that the Executive will issue guidance to the public, private and voluntary sectors on ways in which they can take part in the themed celebrations. The First Minister said:

"I want all of Scotland to take part in celebrating our national day. From big business to schools, from community groups to sports clubs - I want 30 November to become a day in which all of Scotland unites to show the world the confidence and diversity of our modern nation."

I warmly welcome that statement, but I would like the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament to go one step further by establishing St Andrew's day as a national holiday.

The motion that is before us today does not explicitly call for a St Andrew's day holiday. It was deliberately worded in such a way that all members of the Parliament could support it. I know that some members have still to be persuaded of the merits of a St Andrew's day holiday and I hope that they will recognise the growing public support for the proposal.

Earlier this year, I published a consultation paper on my proposal to establish a St Andrew's day bank holiday. After a nationwide consultation over a three-month period, the overwhelming majority of responses supported the proposal. Earlier this month, a Glenlivet MORI opinion poll, based on a sample of 1,006 people in every region of Scotland, revealed that 75 per cent of them were in favour of a St Andrew's day national holiday.

On Monday this week, the public launch of my proposed bill was attended and supported by representatives of churches, trade unions, the business community and civic society. I urge the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament to listen to the people and to respond to their wishes.

I realise that there is a division of opinion in the business community, but surely a St Andrew's day holiday should be seen by many businesses not as a threat, but as an opportunity. That is especially true of businesses that are related to tourism, culture and entertainment.

Scotland is one of the few countries in the world that does not have a national holiday. We are also at the bottom of the league in the number of public holidays that we have compared with our European Union partners.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Dennis Canavan refers to the division of opinion within the business community. Has he considered carrying out an economic impact assessment of his proposal?

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I included that in my consultation paper and asked respondents specifically to indicate what economic advantages and disadvantages the introduction of a St Andrew's day national holiday would have. The majority of respondents said that the economic advantages would outweigh the disadvantages.

A St Andrew's day national holiday would enable Scots to recognise our patron saint. It would also enable us to celebrate our national identity and our membership of the international community. It gives me great pleasure to commend the motion to the Parliament.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I have a degree of difficulty, as I have 19 seat numbers on screen but only eight names. Now 20 seat numbers are illuminated. I think that I have most of the names, but I am not sure that I have them all. Too many members want to take part in the debate. Although the minister and I are prepared to accept a modest extension later, I ask members to keep their remarks to a maximum of three minutes.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Perhaps you know this already, but I think that there is a glitch in the system. Earlier, the desk to my right thought that I was Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The desk means no offence to either gentleman. I suggest that we wing this and that we see how it goes.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

You are biting into the available time.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I just draw it to your attention that the request-to-speak lights on both my console and Christine Grahame's console have gone off.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Do not worry about it. I have a note of most names. It may be that we will get the rest of them back as the debate proceeds. I now have 25 requests on my screen, but I am sure that there are not quite that many members wishing to speak.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 5:15 pm, 1st December 2004

It is my pleasure to take part in this debate. I warmly congratulate Dennis Canavan on lodging his motion and thank him for his welcome intervention in bringing forward the debate on a national holiday for St Andrew's day.

Mr Canavan quite fairly recorded the comments that were made by the First Minister, with whom I very much agreed when he spoke about the importance of building the confidence of our country. In many respects, confidence lies at the heart of the success, development and progress of Scotland. Many of the difficulties and challenges that we face as a society today are to do with the lack of confidence that has existed in Scottish society over the years. We should be focused on tackling the crisis of confidence that can exist in Scottish society. I cannot think of any better contribution to boosting our country's confidence—although this is not the sole mechanism—than to celebrate with much greater enthusiasm, organisation and verve the national day of our country.

Mr Canavan highlighted the fact that people in many other countries celebrate St Andrew's day with greater energy than is the case here. In addition, we can learn from other countries about how they celebrate their national days. I am thinking of the example of the Irish Republic and of the way in which St Patrick's day is celebrated, both at home in Ireland and in the United States and countless other countries, to pay tribute and accord to the significant contribution that Ireland and St Patrick have made to the development of society and communities. I think that a greater celebration of St Andrew's day would be a fitting contribution to boosting the confidence of Scotland. Designating St Andrew's day as a national holiday represents an important opportunity to do that.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Does John Swinney agree that Edinburgh was virtually a saltire-free city yesterday? That includes Edinburgh castle. I find that incredible on our St Andrew's day. Does he share my disappointment?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I share Mr Crawford's disappointment. We were assured at the European and External Relations Committee yesterday that, for the first time ever, the saltire flew over the British embassy in Washington DC. Perhaps that is a sign of things to come.

The debate has been enhanced not just by Mr Canavan's contribution but by the intervention of our faith communities—particularly the work of Cardinal O'Brien—in encouraging us to celebrate St Andrew's day much more actively and to reflect on the significance of the roots of St Andrew and the contribution that he made to the development of faith in this and many other societies. To those of us who believe that such issues are important, that has been a helpful contribution to the debate.

My final point concerns the way in which I think initiatives of this sort should be responded to by the Executive. Mr Canavan is an independent member of the Parliament, who has lodged a motion that has attracted wide support from across the political spectrum. I hope that the Executive will listen carefully, in a non-partisan and non-party-political spirit, to the points that are advanced in the debate and in the course of consideration of the proposed St Andrew's day bank holiday bill. The bill aims to make St Andrew's day a national holiday and, for once, to develop an agenda that is to the benefit of all the people of Scotland, regardless of their politics. That proposal will create more confidence in our society. That is exactly what Scotland needs in the years to come.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative 5:19 pm, 1st December 2004

I congratulate Dennis Canavan on lodging the motion. However, as he rightly pointed out, the apostle Andrew's only connection with the Scottish town that bears his name is the legend that a few of his bones were brought there either by a shipwrecked monk called Regulus or Rule, or by Acca, the Bishop of Hexham, on a foray north to convert the Picts of ancient Fife—it depends on which version of the legend a person prefers.

I understand that the Catholic Church chose 30 November as Andrew's national day more than 1,000 years ago quite by chance. However, that does not prejudice me in any way either against celebrating Andrew or his national day. As I said in a similar speech back in March, I have long been involved in celebrating our national day on behalf of my native city and have served on various bodies to that end over the years.

However, I must admit that I have had reservations about advocating a national holiday on 30 November, simply because it is so close to Christmas. Last year, some of my political opponents tried to make capital out of that in the local press, particularly when I ventured the idea that we might also—I did not mean instead—celebrate St Columba's day, which falls on 9 June, when the weather is better. I assure members that my suggestion was never meant to undermine the importance of the town of St Andrews in the celebration of our national day—indeed, the reverse is true.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

Not on this occasion, as I have only three minutes.

There are currently problems of success relating to St Andrews. There appears to be a public skirmish between people who might be called modernisers and people who might be called traditionalists in the town. I do not want to go into much detail, but a powerful consortium that calls itself St Andrews world class is set on rebranding St Andrews as a must-visit destination. There is merit in its argument, which is why I launched a campaign this week that urges the Executive to apply for world heritage site status for St Andrews. I will seek cross-party support for the application, which is richly deserved. Only four locations in Scotland have such status—the old and new towns of Edinburgh, New Lanark and the islands of Orkney and St Kilda. With world heritage site status, St Andrews would consolidate its position not only as a year-round tourism centre, but increasingly as the Scottish focus around which St Andrew's day could be developed and promoted internationally.

In that context, I have absolutely no problem with supporting Dennis Canavan's motion to have St Andrew's day declared a public holiday—with one proviso. I accept the Scottish Retail Consortium's view that public holidays can be good for trade—particularly in tourism areas—but Dennis Canavan himself has admitted that the business community is divided on the issue of whether the day should be a public holiday. Further disincentives to productivity in Scotland, which lags behind that of England in many sectors, are the last things we need.

However, in the interests of consensus, the Conservatives would be happy to have a trade in holidays. If Dennis Canavan and his friends are happy to swap the May day holiday—which, I would have thought, is an increasingly irrelevant date in the age of new Labour—for a public holiday to celebrate St Andrew's day, I might even be able to persuade David McLetchie to support a national holiday on St Andrew's day. I would be more than happy to endorse such a holiday, with St Andrews as the nation's ancient ecclesiastical capital being reinforced by world heritage site status as the centrepiece.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 5:23 pm, 1st December 2004

I was extremely impressed by Dennis Canavan's launch of his bill, for which he secured widespread support, and I want to reiterate three of the main points that his supporters made at the meeting.

First, there is the unifying effect of the proposal among the Christian denominations and among other religions that would favour a national day that is related to a saint—John Swinney alluded to that. Showing the Christian churches in particular co-operating would be extremely salutary and might have an effect on people who perpetrate sectarian violence but never go to a church of any description. We must teach people that religion is about co-operation, love and getting on better with one another.

Secondly, there is tourism, holidays, having good fun and celebrating culture, sport and so on. I support having the holiday on a Friday or a Monday, so that there could be a whole weekend of good cultural, social, sporting and other community activities. People could go back to their roots and there could be family gatherings—I am talking about the sort of thing that the Americans have at thanksgiving.

That example shows that a national holiday that is relatively close to Christmas can enliven the earlier part of the winter gloom. There could be a positive aspect rather than a negative one to having a national holiday in late November. It could be an opportunity and businesspeople should see it as one. If their staff enjoyed themselves more, they would be more productive on the days when they work. The negative view that some people have about a national holiday in late November is wrong.

Thirdly, on having an impact on Scotland's image abroad, Scots expatriates celebrate St Andrew's day much more than we do, as members have said. If Scotland promotes St Andrew's day as a national holiday, we can celebrate in each country the contribution that Scots have made to that country, whether it is a Commonwealth country, America or a European country. We have made a positive contribution to such countries and we could do ourselves a lot of good with St Andrew's day, as the Irish have done for themselves with St Patrick's day. We have much to learn from them.

The Liberal Democrat group has agreed that members can make up their own minds and that there will be no Executive line on the issue. I hope that that is helpful.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party 5:26 pm, 1st December 2004

I warmly thank Dennis Canavan for lodging the motion and for securing the debate. However, countries the world over will be astonished that the Scottish Parliament is even having such a debate. It should not be up to Dennis Canavan to lodge a motion and to make the case for a national holiday on St Andrew's day; it is for those who do not want such a holiday to explain why. The United States celebrates independence day, France celebrates Bastille day, Estonia has two national days and Ireland has, of course, St Patrick's day—or Paddy's day, as it is better known to most people. Paddy's day is a celebration of Ireland, the Irish and those who just want to be Irish for a day.

It is not as if Scotland has a surfeit of public holidays; we have only seven, while most European countries have 14. That is why we can rightly dismiss Ted Brocklebank's offer to trade May day for a national holiday on 30 November. May day is an important day in our calendar, as is St Andrew's day, and both should be recognised. Almost 90 per cent of our population support St Andrew's day as a national holiday. The Tories are out of step again.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien summed up the matter well when he said:

"From big business to the ordinary, working people, everyone would benefit from having a day in the darkness of winter to recharge their batteries and think of Scottishness and nationhood."

St Andrew, as others have said, never visited Scotland in his lifetime. His bones were borne to Fife by St Regulus. The shape of the cross on which St Andrew was martyred is Scotland's most recognised and enduring symbol: the saltire. It should not have taken Executive money to establish that.

St Andrew came to Scotland by accident, but throughout the centuries others have come to Scotland by design: Irish, Polish, Italians, Ugandans and people from every part of the world. All cultures and faiths have added to our wonderful mix, which is why we should have a national day to celebrate who we are, how we see ourselves in the world and how the world sees us.

The First Minister is fond of saying that Scotland is the best small nation in the world; it is, but every other small nation has its national day as a public holiday. It is time that Scotland did, too.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green 5:28 pm, 1st December 2004

In view of your earlier remarks about time, Presiding Officer, I will be brief—I hope. I congratulate Dennis Canavan on his bill and on his motion and I register my support and that of the Green group for his proposal.

As Dennis Canavan's research has shown, Scotland has considerably fewer national holidays—8 or 9 days per annum—than the European average, which is 12 days. Some countries, such as Austria, have 14 days.

On the minister's point about economics, I refer him to Unison's response to Dennis Canavan's consultation paper. That response states:

"A day concentrating on Scotland's past and future would help to galvanise the nation as seen in the recent opening ceremony for the new Scottish Parliament building. This would be beneficial to the tourist industry as a means of promoting Scotland not only abroad but also at home. If combined with holding the holiday on either a Friday or Monday to produce a long weekend, this could encourage Scots to take short breaks within the country at a time of the year when the tourist industry is usually quiet."

I emphasise that last phrase. The great problem with improving standards in the tourist industry is that for three or four months of the year the industry is economically inactive and almost dead. A St Andrew's day holiday at the end of November would give the industry impetus exactly when it most needs it.

In Scotland we have a national flag, thanks to the Scottish Parliament. We have a national book town and we might soon have a national bird. I would also like us to have a national anthem. We have all those trappings and it is fitting that we in Scotland should celebrate our national day and give it the focus that it receives abroad, where there is considerably more interest in St Andrew's day.

Photo of Colin Fox Colin Fox SSP 5:31 pm, 1st December 2004

Like other members, I congratulate Dennis Canavan on securing the debate. I was happy to sign up to his proposal that we celebrate St Andrew's day as a public holiday and have many motives for doing so. As other members said, Scotland perhaps has too few public holidays—we have fewer public holidays than anywhere else in Europe. We also work too many hours, so any holiday is welcome.

I also welcome the idea of a national day that is dedicated to a celebration of the diversity of cultures in Scotland, which is surely something to be welcomed. It seems that most people know very little about St Andrew. We know that he came from the middle east, that he was persecuted for his beliefs and that his remains were distributed around the world, so he seems to be a figure that Scots could use to celebrate internationalism and the rich contribution to our culture and quality of life that ethnic diversity makes in modern Scotland. We should regard St Andrew's day as an opportunity to welcome people from around the world and to offer them sanctuary from persecution, whether for reasons of religion, politics, ethnicity or anything else.

While the Queen attended the official opening of the new Parliament building, I was elsewhere celebrating with others the long-held commitment to a modern democratic Scottish republic. The First Minister envisages that the theme for St Andrew's day might change from year to year, so I hope that he will consider a St Andrew's day that is dedicated to a modern democratic Scottish republic.

Some Scots are hostile to the people who come from abroad to seek sanctuary here, but those Scots are ignorant of their own history and culture. For centuries, Scots have gone abroad in search of a better life. Every one of those people was an economic migrant. They embarked on courageous journeys, uprooting themselves and their families to travel to the other side of the world and risking everything in the hope of a better life and a fair welcome. Who among us does not have family in Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Europe or Ireland? Indeed, many of us might have family who fled Ireland to come to Scotland a hundred years ago.

I will make Dennis Canavan an offer that is a damned sight more attractive than Ted Brocklebank's offer. I mention in passing that when I leave the chamber tonight I am going to help to organise Edinburgh's next May day march. St Andrew's day—30 November—is the day on which the great red Clydesider, John Maclean, died. Dennis Canavan knows a lot about John Maclean. I am sure that he recognises that John Maclean was a true internationalist. He was one of the few figures who stood up against the imperialist carnage of the first world war and was dedicated to fighting exploitation on cultural, religious and ethnic grounds in order to bring people together. John Maclean's life is worthy of celebration on a day of diversity and solidarity.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 5:34 pm, 1st December 2004

It should come as no surprise that Dennis Canavan is asking for St Andrew's day to be recognised as Scotland's national day. After all, St Andrew is not only the patron saint of Scotland, Greece, Russia and Romania; he is also the patron saint of anglers—angling being a subject that I know is close to Dennis's heart. Of course, St Andrew is also the patron saint of fish dealers, fishmongers and fishermen, which is a matter of considerable constituency interest to me.

According to history, St Regulus brought St Andrew's relics to Scotland because an angel instructed him to take them to the edge of the world. I hope that moving 30 November to centre stage will move us a little nearer to the centre of the world.

I want to highlight a few curious paradoxes about public holidays, bank holidays and so on. I know that other members have already pointed out the number of such holidays that we get.

However, if we are talking about bank holidays—which Mr Canavan refers to in his bill—members will be interested to learn that Scottish bank holidays are not quite what they seem. For example, a Scottish bank holiday does not tell us whether a bank is open, while a Scottish non-bank holiday does not tell us whether a bank is closed. In fact, banks are not required to observe any of the statutory bank holidays one way or the other.

Indeed, there is a sense in which Scotland does not have any bank holidays whatever; we have them only by habit and repute. Indeed, when I were a lad and worked in the Post Office, it used to be my very great regret that I was paid off on Christmas eve, because it meant that I could not work on Christmas day and get the tips that the regular postmen got. I feel that it is legitimate to debate the question of what holidays actually are.

The fact that our need for a national day—which would be most appropriately embodied in St Andrew—has not yet been publicly recognised is certainly a subject for debate, so I very much support all Dennis Canavan's efforts in the matter. In his consultation document, he points out that all the countries in the Americas have national days. I think that it is time for Scotland to have a national day, so I congratulate Dennis on securing the debate and support him in all his endeavours.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 5:37 pm, 1st December 2004

Here's tae us—wha's like us? Damn few. As Tricia Marwick has pointed out, what other country in the world would say no to a national holiday and to an honest affirmation of its identity, beliefs and international responsibilities? A holiday on St Andrew's day might well do that for Scotland. However, Cardinal Keith O'Brien probably over-egged the pudding when he said that, on St Andrew's day, it would be a good thing for us to consider Scotland and nationhood. Whoops—we must not mention that word.

Let us be honest: business has put up spurious arguments against this proposal. Does the American economy go into a nosedive after thanksgiving day? Moreover, does the French economy get extremely ill and the franc have to be rescued on 15 July? We know perfectly well that countries all over the world use their national days to accommodate their nationhood and market their economies. Dennis Canavan's motion gives us the opportunity to start doing that.

I find it disgraceful that such a far-sighted and well-travelled man as Ted Brocklebank should think that having a national day will have a detrimental effect on Scottish business and the Scottish economy. He should think about the cottage industries that would be built on such a day. For example, there would have to be loads of flags for flying or for adorning underpants and other items of clothing. Shop assistants would spend at least a month selling all the artefacts that are now associated with more commercial occasions. I admit that a St Andrew's day celebration will probably be taken over by the same folk who make a mint out of mothers day, Christmas, Easter and any other secular or religious celebration.

That said, a St Andrew's day holiday could also be used to announce the winners of prizes that our nation had decided to award for scholarship and artistic achievement. People should be encouraged to go outwards from Scotland, learn from the rest of the world and bring their knowledge back to Scotland to make it a better place. Children should know Scotland, their roots, their future and their potential, in the way that American children learn through taking part in thanksgiving day pageants. It is a grand idea all round, and I urge everyone to support it.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 5:40 pm, 1st December 2004

As Stewart Stevenson pointed out, St Andrew is the patron saint of Angus. He is also the patron saint of singers, sore throats, spinsters, unmarried women and women who wish to become mothers but, more important, he is one of the patron saints of Russia, which is my first point.

Oddly enough, I had occasion this morning to speak to the Russian naval attaché in London, although my first attempt to get through to him failed. Alistair Easton, Jim Wallace's assistant, humorously quipped that he was probably taking some landscape photographs on a hill above Faslane. However, I spoke to him later, and he pointed out that St Andrew was made the patron saint of the Russian navy by Peter the Great at the end of the 17th century, and that the tradition is taken seriously in the navy.

My point is this: there is an opportunity in terms of internationalism and Scotland's relationship with other countries, such as Greece, of which St Andrew is the patron saint. I hope that there will be an international linkage. After all, the apostles and saints went out from the holy land—possibly, in the case of St Thomas, as far as India—so there is internationalism about Christianity, which we could use to our mutual benefit.

Let me stick up for the business end. We know that on Burns night—I make no apology for mentioning food—there is a considerable industry in sales of haggis, whisky, neeps and tatties and, dare I say it, Scottish cheese. I declare an interest, of course. Margo MacDonald is right when she talks about the sale of wee flags. There is a huge opportunity, and it is not just about sales within the Scottish economy or within the UK, but sales across the world. Wherever there is a Scot or a descendant of a Scot—the Scottish diaspora—we have an opportunity.

Donald Gorrie is correct when he says that when people have a holiday, it can make for better quality work on the other days. The tradition of St Andrew's day is special in Scotland, and we share it with Russia, the Russian navy and Greece. There is a great opportunity, and I have no hesitation in adding my full support, for what it is worth, to Dennis Canavan's motion.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I indicate my willingness to accept a motion without notice, if one were to be moved, to extend the debate by 10 minutes.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by 10 minutes.—[Tricia Marwick.]

Motion agreed to.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative 5:42 pm, 1st December 2004

I had not intended to speak in the debate, although Dennis Canavan's raising of the issue is interesting and has attracted public attention. I have long been concerned—this was touched on by Stewart Stevenson—that in Scotland we cannot clarify what we mean by a holiday. Many members have referred to a national holiday, but what does that mean? Is it a public holiday? Is it a local holiday? Is it a bank holiday?

I worked for a national company in Scotland, and although people had seven or eight public holidays, there were something like 70 or 80 variations of those holidays throughout Scotland. Some of those days were linked to traditional events that are no longer with us, such as the annual closing of the mill or mine. Those holidays were still being observed, although their relevance was not clear. My children and the children of my office staff in Dumfries were on holiday on Monday, but the Parliament has deemed it to be a holiday on Friday, so that staff who are off on Friday will find that their children are at school. That is the inherent contradiction of holidays in Scotland.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Does the member agree that we could resolve the inherent contradiction if we agreed in principle that there should be a holiday to celebrate our national day?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

We could resolve the contradiction if we could agree what a holiday is. I am pleased that Allan Wilson is here, because his Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department, the Education Department and local government all have a role to play. People want to know what a holiday is. What does the Glasgow fair Monday mean? Does it mean that the banks and building societies in Glasgow will be open? Does it mean that the tube will run on weekend times or with a full service? If an economic impact assessment is to be carried out in the short term, it should be carried out on the effects of those contradictions, which are disrupting Scotland's economy and family life and leaving a lack of clarity.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative

I am in my last minute.

Members have referred to labour day and various other holidays throughout the world. People know what happens on those holidays and everybody is clear which functions and services will be available and what is generally done in the family or domestic context on such days. In Scotland, we do not know what holidays mean. We do not know what will happen on the day or what services will be available. Whether or not the Scottish Executive accepts Mr Canavan's suggestion, it should bring together the relevant people from within the Executive and throughout Scotland to achieve clarity about what holidays mean in Scotland. That is the best thing that we could do for Scottish business on the issue.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

In Glasgow, the word "tube" means something different from the underground, Mr Mundell.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party 5:46 pm, 1st December 2004

I congratulate Dennis Canavan on securing time for the debate and I wish him well with his proposed bill on the issue. I point out to Mr Mundell that the majority of Scots favour making St Andrew's day a national public holiday. We in Scotland should use the national day to celebrate civic Scotland, our history, culture, arts and sports and a range of other parts of Scottish life. As Scots, we are proud of our heritage and society and we could use a national public holiday to embrace and celebrate modern Scotland and the Scottish way of life.

We should not consider the issue in isolation. St Andrew's day provides an opportunity for our economy. We could build on the events that take place during the winter months by having a Scottish winter festival that extended from St Andrew's day right through to Burns night. The promotion of hogmanay in Edinburgh and other cities in Scotland has demonstrated the potential of turning what is in effect a one-night stand into a week-long national celebration. We need to think big about how to assist the tourism industry at a time that is often the low season. Our identity and culture are key assets for our nation. St Andrew's day, hogmanay and Burns night are all significant days in the Scottish calendar and it is time to mobilise the benefit to the Scottish economy that could come from those days.

St Andrew's day should be a day of national celebration and we can achieve that and exploit the potential only by having a national public holiday. As members have highlighted, we have a small number of public holidays in Scotland—one of the lowest in Europe. By providing an extra holiday at this time of year, we can aid shops in the build-up to Christmas. A holiday would assist staff who work in the retail sector and boost local industry. Scottish people believe that there should be a national holiday which, I believe, would have economic benefits for Scotland.

St Andrew may have been a disciple who was steeped in Christianity, but he unites individuals of all faiths and those of none. He is a symbol of our Scottishness and the pride that we have for our nation. As Cardinal O'Brien said, he is a unifying figure. Let us stop looking for excuses not to have a national holiday on St Andrew's day and consider the enormous potential of such a holiday.

Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP 5:49 pm, 1st December 2004

I thank Dennis Canavan for bringing the debate to the Parliament. His proposal would create greater credence across the globe, as expatriate Scots celebrated our national day. As a fledgling Parliament, we have much to do to justify our existence, but the creation of a holiday would be yet another step in consolidating our Scottishness.

My parents emigrated to the United States of America in 1921. I was born on independence day, 4 July 1930—people in the States still celebrate my birthday every year. Given that independence day is a national holiday in the States, it would behove the Scottish Parliament well to make 30 November a national holiday in Scotland. We are slowly making progress. I believe that we will get there slowly but surely.

When I started my apprenticeship in 1947, although new year's day was a holiday, we had to work on Christmas day. The thought of anyone working on Christmas day and of that day not being a national holiday is totally unacceptable nowadays. It should also be unacceptable for there not to be a national holiday on St Andrew's day as Dennis Canavan suggests.

As a lifelong football fan, I would love to see the Scottish Football Association inaugurate a challenge match to be played on 30 November every year at Hampden Park between Scotland and a select team of players who are drawn from players who come from outwith Scotland but ply their trade in Scotland. All the profits from televising the match could go towards youth football development in Scotland. In that way, Dennis Canavan's proposal would also help in the development of youth football. Such a match could go a long way towards getting Scotland out of our 87th position in the world rankings—it could help us to raise our game.

I fully support Dennis Canavan's proposal for a national holiday on St Andrew's day.

Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP

I will stop there. You have an extra minute, Presiding Officer.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 5:51 pm, 1st December 2004

I congratulate Dennis Canavan on securing the debate and on his bill proposal to make St Andrew's day a national holiday. It is a proposal that I have long supported. I believe that St Andrew's day should be a national holiday.

I will start by referring to the previous debate that we had on the subject. It was held not that long ago, on St Patrick's day, when my colleague Donald Gorrie secured a debate on making St Andrew's day a day of national celebration. I was pleased to see the First Minister's announcement on the subject, as it suggested that we perhaps should be doing that. That is the first step in the right direction towards making St Andrew's day a national holiday.

There is a lot to be said for making St Andrew's day a national holiday. Not only would it give us a national day but, because of the fact that the day in question is 30 November, it would make a good start to the festive season. As other members said, November is a good time to have a holiday. Members of the Scottish Parliament are fortunate in having a recess in October, but many members of the public have to do the long haul from the summer to Christmas without having a holiday. It would do people a lot of good if they were to be given a break around this time of the year.

I do not share the concerns about the effect that the holiday would have on the economy. Tourism and business would benefit from the declaration of a national holiday in November. I am thinking in particular of the benefit to our tourism and retail businesses. Indeed, many countries around Europe have a holiday at this time of the year, to celebrate the start of their festive period. There is no evidence that those countries suffer economically from having such a holiday at this time. Indeed, if people felt that little bit better in themselves at this time of year, it could add to productivity.

I welcome the fact that we marked the occasion of St Andrew's day this year by the flying of the saltire on the Parliament building. Scotland is often said to be a slightly odd nation because we have two national flags and no national anthem. Surely, we should have a national day.

St Andrew's week is celebrated in St Andrews around this time of the year. If we were to create St Andrew's day as a national holiday, the concept could be developed much more, not only in St Andrews but across Scotland. It is important for us to have this holiday and I am sure that it would boost our economy. I am happy to support Dennis Canavan's motion today and his bill proposal.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 5:54 pm, 1st December 2004

I, too, congratulate Dennis Canavan on securing the debate. Along with Donald Gorrie, I was at the launch of the bill. I was amazed at the collection of different people from retail consortia, trade unions such as the Educational Institute of Scotland, schools, churches and St Andrew's societies who have given their support. The launch was most impressive and why not? It is extraordinary that Scotland, as one of the most ancient nations in Europe—we have been a nation since the 11 th century—does not celebrate its nationhood on St Andrew's day.

If I may, I will digress a little, as many things that I was going to say have been said in the debate. It is extraordinary that Scotland is a nation that does not proudly fly its flag at every single opportunity. Scotland has had to fight to fly its flag on its public buildings and elsewhere. I will add to what my colleague Bruce Crawford said about Edinburgh Castle. I lodged a motion in September 2001 about the union flag flying over the Army barracks there. When the Army wants to recruit our young men and women to fight in Iraq, it flies the saltire and when they fight in Iraq, they fight under the saltire, because the saltire represents St Andrew and St Andrew represents Scotland, patriotism, heart and all the things that are good about the nation. It is also extraordinary that, although there are saltire societies in Boston and elsewhere in the world, our Saltire Society has to fight to fly Scotland's flag.

I say to Dennis Canavan that I am green with envy, because he is putting up a smashing fight for a holiday on St Andrew's day and I am sure that he will succeed. It does not matter if the Scottish Executive is not behind him because the Scottish people are, and that is what counts.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 5:56 pm, 1st December 2004

I welcome the opportunity to close the debate. This is the first members' business debate in which I have had to speak as a minister and I realise that such debates are different, in that we try to join together and agree, so I will do my best to be consensual despite my instincts to the contrary.

As Dennis Canavan said, the motion explicitly excludes the question whether St Andrew's day should be a holiday. However, it was interesting that much of the focus of the debate was on that question, despite the fact that the motion, which the Executive is happy to endorse, expresses many areas of consensus.

I will comment on the positive matters that the motion highlights and then, if I have time, I will address some of the arguments about whether St Andrew's day should be a national holiday. On that question, I will make one basic point now. Members will be aware that Karen Whitefield has a proposal for a member's bill to establish the rights of shop workers to a holiday on Christmas day. That shows that declaring a day to be a holiday does not mean that it is a holiday for everybody in our communities. Indeed, some people would have to work to provide the kinds of things that members have said we would do with a national holiday, such as playing football.

I congratulate Dennis Canavan on bringing the issue to the Parliament. The Executive recognises the importance of St Andrew's day and welcomes the increased recognition for the day here and abroad that has been built up following devolution. St Andrew's day is rightly a day for celebrating and promoting our Scottish identity and Scottish achievements. It is also a day on which we should reflect on the things that have divided us and made us different; we should reflect on our history, good and bad. Earlier today, we talked about some of the historical difficulties that our children faced in our communities. We should aspire to making our Scotland a safe Scotland for all our children, which involves reflecting on our past as well as on our aspirations for the future.

It is interesting that mention was made of the St Andrew's day march that the STUC organises to fight racism and fascism, because that fight is one of the challenges that we seek to meet in embracing a notion of Scotland as a place in which everyone's culture, faith and ethnic origins can be celebrated. I was involved in the establishment and early days of that march, when the Labour movement came together with black and ethnic minority community organisations in an understanding that the old symbol of St Andrew's day could be harnessed to celebrate the idea of a new Scotland with a diversity of cultures, where everyone had the right to have their voice heard. We recognised that we needed to challenge some aspects of our culture. It is great that that march has fostered an understanding of the issues that are expressed in the motion.

The ideas and aspirations that people have for using St Andrew's day are, rather than being only symbolic, about what we are, how we live in our local communities and the kind of things that we want to do. As members might be aware, the Executive has agreed that, to capitalise on the increased recognition of St Andrew's day, there should from next year be an annual theme around St Andrew's day, the first of which will be "One Scotland. Many Cultures". That is exactly the right place to start and it will provide an ideal opportunity to celebrate and challenge Scotland's history and traditions as well as our cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. We will ensure that the celebrations are inclusive and acceptable to all faith groups. The details of how we will use the theme will be worked out with local authorities among others and we will publish our proposals in the spring.

Dennis Canavan and I are both ex-schoolteachers, so we know that having a holiday means different things to different people. One of the easiest things to do is to ask people, "Would you like another holiday?" The challenge lies in how we implement such a proposal.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

As part of the business of celebrating St Andrew's day and the international aspects of it, does the minister see merit in the proposal that I made this week that the Executive should support an attempt to make St Andrews a world heritage site, as the old and new towns of Edinburgh, parts of Orkney and St Kilda are?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I would be interested to see the details of that proposal. Anything that encourages people to come and visit Scotland and to learn more about it has to be welcome. Ted Brocklebank made the point that perhaps we should try to trade nationalism with internationalism in our choice of days on which to have a holiday, which was an interesting juxtaposition.

Our "One Scotland. Many Cultures" campaign—and the supporting work—has focused on anti-racism, but it is also about celebrating our cultural diversity and acknowledging the richness that that diversity brings culturally, socially and economically. Through the campaign, we are setting out a vision of the kind of Scotland in which we want to live. St Andrew's day can be harnessed to that purpose, but wishing it does not make it so. Just having the day does not mean that all our communities are united. We all share the challenge of what that will involve for everyone, whatever they are organising. We want to live in a Scotland where we respect and value the diversity of our communities, where the skills and talents of all are fostered and harnessed and where we welcome new blood and different perspectives.

The campaign challenges head on ingrained racist attitudes. It gets people to think about the sort of Scotland in which they want to live and whether their behaviour is getting in the way of that. Racist attitudes, regardless of whether they are consciously held, and behaviour hurt not only those who bear the immediate brunt of the prejudice, but Scotland's international reputation as a progressive, confident and outward-looking nation. Scotland should be dynamic and inclusive, a place where people want to come to live and work. It should also be a place where people, whatever their background and wherever they live, can contribute to the country's well-being and share in its benefits.

The Executive supports Dennis Canavan's motion fully. We are aware that he is carrying out further consultation on making St Andrew's day a public holiday and we await the outcome of that with interest.

No one should say that to oppose the holiday is to oppose the aspirations that we all share for the way in which St Andrew's day can be progressed. However, there are practical issues to consider. I think that there is a separate issue about rights at work and the number of holidays that we have. Some might argue that, on average, we do reasonably well in terms of holidays. However, it is also true that low-paid workers—generally women, who often have part-time jobs—do not have the same kind of holidays. It would be ironic if our declaring St Andrew's day a public holiday meant that low-paid women workers had to find someone else to deal with the child care.

Those are the kinds of hard, serious discussions that we have to have around the practicality of declaring St Andrew's day a national holiday. If all that it meant was that those of us with leverage in our workplaces had the holiday and those of us without that leverage had to manage the consequences of the holiday, none of us would want it to happen.

John Swinney talked about confidence, saying that confident people can have a national day. I think that confidence comes out of communities that are strong, respect one another, value and understand difference, celebrate diversity, have a strong economy and good local services and work with and respect faith communities. That is where confidence comes from. If we can use St Andrew's day to celebrate that, it is to be welcomed.

As I said, I congratulate Dennis Canavan on securing the debate. We look forward to his report on the consultation in which he is engaged on declaring St Andrew's day a public holiday. However, I am sure that we all share the belief that St Andrew's day can give us opportunities to unify ourselves around a commitment to safe communities in which we can celebrate our differences and similarities.

Meeting closed at 18:04.