St Andrew's Day

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 29 November 2007.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 2:15, 29 November 2007

The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-946, in the name of Linda Fabiani, on St Andrew's day. You have 11 minutes, minister, but I would be grateful if your speech was a little shorter than that.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 2:59, 29 November 2007

I want consensus in the debate, which is being held on the day before St Andrew's day. It is important that we celebrate Scotland together. Indeed, we should encourage the entire country to get involved. I had hoped that all the Opposition parties would find it in themselves to engage in a positive manner and focus on our national day, which is tomorrow, 30 November. I wanted to talk about an upbeat Scotland; that is what I intend to do, as soon as I have dealt with the Opposition amendments.

Iain Smith may have thrown me out of my seat just before the debate got under way, but I assure him that we will meet our manifesto commitment on St Andrew's day. We will make it a day in which Scots are engaged and a day that benefits Scottish confidence and the Scottish economy.

No Government—here or elsewhere—can force Scots to take a break. Unfortunately, we cannot decree a "full national holiday", under Scots law or United Kingdom law. Nor can we enforce jollity and happiness on the population, although, that said, people seem happier since May. I am only too pleased to accept the credit for that, on behalf of the Scottish National Party Government. We are leading by example and encouragement in making St Andrew's day a holiday across Scotland. We will continue to do that and we will encourage other employers to engage in this important day for Scotland.

A colleague from previous sessions of the Parliament is sitting in the public gallery for the debate. I commend Dennis Canavan for the sterling work that he did on St Andrew's day. [Applause.]

I know that my Labour Party colleagues want to celebrate all that is good in Scotland; all Scots want to do that. The Labour Party's acceptance of the winter festival in its amendment is a great step in the right direction. It is therefore a pity that the Labour Party then spoiled things by making a poor attack on the legislation on new year trading. As a member of the Parliament in the previous session, I was happy to support the overwhelming groundswell of public opinion in favour of a ban on shopping and trading on Christmas day, which is a day for families to be together. The question of trading on new year's day was left for a later date. Parliament remained unconvinced of the case for a ban.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party


When the winter festival was launched at the beginning of the month, some Labour members said that sending supplies of the saltire to pre-schools and colleges was nationalist propaganda. As a nationalist, I have never thought of Scotland's flag as belonging to any one party. I am surprised that anyone else thought that, particularly when the coalition Administration sent out saltires to schools last year. A celebration of Scotland is not a party political event.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I welcome what the minister says on the subject. However, does she accept that, when SNP candidates are out on the street during election campaigns, it is unhelpful for them to hand out the saltire as if it were a party political symbol? Will she pass that comment to her party headquarters and try to encourage SNP candidates not to do that? Surely the SNP, in handing out saltires, is trying to appropriate Scotland's national flag for party political purposes.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

There is absolutely nothing to stop any Scottish political party handing out the saltire to Scots people.

I welcome the amendment in Ted Brocklebank's name, despite the fact that he corrected my grammar. In the motion, I referred only to the six modern cities of Scotland. I apologise for that; I should have paid due respect to our ancient cities, too. I am happy to accept Ted Brocklebank's amendment. Obviously, he thought about the substantive issues and has made a considered contribution to the debate.

St Andrew's day is Scotland's national day. In our manifesto and the 100-days document, we set out our commitment to mobilise Scotland's national day for the benefit of our economy and country, and to give a boost to our traditional and contemporary culture. Our aim is to raise awareness of the day as a cornerstone of Scotland's winter festival, building on our success in attracting visitors to join us for hogmanay. We also want to build on the global reputation of Scotland's national bard, the excellence of our summer festivals and our incredible scenery.

We want to ensure that Scotland is seen as a year-round destination that is open for business and ready to engage with the world. The St Andrew's day programme involves events around the world and in all Scotland's cities—modern and ancient—and serves as a launch pad for Scotland's winter festivals. Throughout the country, top visitor attractions are opening their doors for free, in celebration of our national day.

Scotland's pre-schools, schools and universities are being encouraged to join the St Andrew's day celebrations. Some are hosting events and others have themed their activities on the day around the many cultures that make up Scotland's people. We are creating new events such as the St Andrew's day debate and we are working with new partners such as Edinburgh Leisure, Dance Base and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

The Government is spending £400,000 on St Andrew's day and a further £300,000 on the winter festival, giving sponsorship to Scotland's cities for their winter festival events. We are galvanising activity all across Scotland, sponsoring events in Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Glasgow, Stirling and elsewhere and delivering the St Andrew's day celebrations in Edinburgh.

We know of 60 schools events and 13 events in further and higher education institutions. For example, Banff and Buchan College is providing a free porridge breakfast for staff and students, and 87 second-year pupils from Waid academy in Fife are taking part in a sponsored walk along the old pilgrim route from Guardbridge to St Andrews cathedral to raise money for the Children's Hospice Association Scotland.

We are raising the profile of St Andrew's day and Scotland internationally as well as at home. A new section of the website, entitled celebrate Scotland, will provide a permanent on-line resource for the promotion of Scottish culture and festivals. The St Andrew's day section, which is live and promoting activity in Scotland and overseas on and around the national day, will build into a sustainable, international resource for the winter festivals.

We are selling Scotland abroad. Tomorrow, we will launch a new website in Chinese——which will be followed up with direct mail to appropriate Scottish stakeholders and Chinese media contacts. By celebrating St Andrew's day overseas and utilising Scotland's reputation, icons and traditions, we can reinforce Scotland's culture and place in today's world.

The Scottish diaspora are proactive and very proud to celebrate their home country's national day. To date, we are aware of more than 100 St Andrew's day events around the world, and we are still counting.

We are also doing more here. I hope that some members have already downloaded the Red Hot Chilli Pipers ringtone from the website. I am not technically minded enough to be able to do that, so I would be grateful if somehow could show me.

Our national conversation is up and running, and the public are engaging in their thousands to argue for and against constitutional change. The debate has shown how every aspect of life in Scotland has somehow been constrained by the current devolution settlement and, between this St Andrew's day and the next, the Scottish Government will make the case for constitutional change. I urge everyone who lives and works in Scotland and those throughout the world who have an interest in the country to join in that national conversation.

Scotland has been shaped by the ebb and flow of migrants over centuries and the richness of our culture and tradition, our architecture and music, our art and education are testament to those influences. That diverse population helps Scotland to experience different ideas and values and helps to develop a culture of entrepreneurship and ambition.

Scotland is growing in confidence, and becoming more dynamic, forward thinking and energetic. Of course, there are challenges that can shackle opportunities and our nation's potential. Yes, there are pockets of prejudice, bigotry, racism and discrimination. We will continue with a wide programme of work on those issues, and further develop the one Scotland campaign and the national statement and action plan on race equality. Moreover, following the announcement of the outcome of the spending review, we are considering the future funding of work and other projects that tackle racism and promote race equality, integration and community cohesion.

St Andrew's day is Scotland's national day. It is the national day both for everyone who lives here and for anyone who wishes to visit us tomorrow. It is time for us to celebrate everything that is good about Scotland and challenge what needs to be challenged.

Presiding Officer, I trust that you are pleased that I have given you some extra time. I move,

That the Parliament believes in the importance of celebrating Scotland's national day; recognises the opportunity that it offers to both celebrate what it means to be Scottish in the 21st century and to promote a fair and inclusive society; notes the Scottish Government's proactive support of a programme of events throughout the country and all of Scotland's six cities; commends the work of schools and community groups across Scotland in teaching our young people about St Andrew's Day and promoting diversity through their celebrations, and furthermore thanks the St Andrew's societies, Caledonian societies, Scottish Development International, Globalscots, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and all the other overseas organisations who have planned over 100 wide-ranging celebrations in countries around the world.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I am very grateful to you, as it happens. Thank you very much indeed.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 3:08, 29 November 2007

I am very pleased again to be taking part in the celebration of St Andrew's day and the winter festival that will follow. I am also happy to support the motion and the Liberal Democrats' amendment. However, although I support the sentiments that are expressed in the Conservative amendment, we cannot support it, as it would delete ours.

I say "again", because I have a strong sense of déjà vu about everything that is happening at this time. The new Government has helpfully left all the previous Executive's old press releases on its website. There I am, as the previous Minister for Communities, stating in a release last November:

"Scotland is a place where we can all benefit from a diversity of cultures, religions and backgrounds. The contribution of everyone should be valued and the events taking place on St Andrew's Day will remind us again of how rich our cultural influences are here in Scotland."

One of last year's events was the one Scotland ceilidh, which we ambitiously planned to be held in the open air. At least the new Government's jig in the gardens, which will take place under canvas tomorrow night, is more realistic about Edinburgh's weather.

The one Scotland, many cultures theme is rightly at the heart of our celebration of St Andrew's day in modern 21st century Scotland. Integration and multiculturalism are not contradictory—as some argue—but two sides of the same coin. As we rightly strive to ensure that ethnic minority communities are integrated as equals into Scottish society, we should recognise that integration will be all the stronger if it is based on respect for diversity.

Like the motion, I commend the work of schools and community groups across Scotland in teaching our young people about St Andrew's day. As under the previous Administration, packs and flags have, I believe, been sent out to schools. I am sure that many different activities will have been developed by schools throughout Scotland.

However, St Andrew's day is not just about Scotland. We should remember that St Andrew is also the patron saint of other countries, including Greece and Russia. I am told that he is also the protector of Romania.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Does the member think that Russia and Greece remember that St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland? Perhaps they concentrate on the fact that he is their patron saint, too.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I am not in a position to answer that question, but I hope that the answer is the former.

As with last year, many different events will be supported across the world tomorrow. I join others in thanking all the bodies that are referred to in the motion for the work that they have put in.

Scots around the world are our ambassadors. They can spread the message about the modern 21st century Scotland that we want to build. As Scots in the past went out into the world, our population is now growing as we attract more and more people to Scotland. A modern diverse Scotland welcomes people from across the world and embraces their enterprise, culture and ambition. On St Andrew's day, therefore, we should celebrate not just shared Scottish traditions, but our shared future.

Just as the broad definition of culture leads to the celebration of diversity, so its narrower artistic definition should lead us to the same conclusion. As we have reasserted our Scottish identity over the past few years through the achievement of home rule, we have seen a blossoming of literature and other forms of art. However, the writers do not all say anything like the same thing and many of them do not write about Scotland at all. For the most part, they are outward looking and they often draw on other cultures: Janice Galloway has reflected on the life and position of Clara Schumann and Ali Smith has transposed classical mythology into a modern setting. That is the modern diverse culture of a modern diverse Scotland. That is what we should celebrate at this time.

It is not that there is anything new in all this, given that the winter festival that begins tomorrow will culminate on Burns night. It is hard to think of a writer who has had more international themes or more international recognition than Burns. Debates may rage about his views of Scotland within the union, but they are irrelevant to his underlying appeal. Scotland's history and culture belong to us all; they should never be hijacked for narrow political purposes.

Clearly, the new Government has aligned culture with Scotland's international image and relations. That has some advantages in promoting Scotland abroad all the year round and particularly on St Andrew's day. However, there are two dangers. First, it could result in too narrow a definition of Scottish culture. Secondly, it might overlook the central importance of promoting culture at local level.

In celebrating Scotland and Scottish culture today and looking forward with confidence to the future, we should focus clearly on two central questions. What kind of Scotland do we want to create? How do we ensure that national cultural standards and increased access to culture go hand in hand? I endorse the motion's reference to

"a fair and inclusive society", but I have some concern that fairness has replaced social justice in the Scottish Government's lexicon. I hope that they mean the same thing, but I am not entirely sure. We have not time today for a detailed debate on what kind of society we want to create, but our amendment raises a specific aspect of that issue that is also relevant to the winter festival theme.

I will not embarrass the Scottish National Party too much by quoting all the SNP members who supported the final outcome of the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill, but suffice it to say that Jim Mather—now Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism—stated:

"We are particularly persuaded that the bill and its amendments offer an opportunity to ensure a sensible balance between the competing pressures of spending time at work, enabling people to earn and trade, and having the time to celebrate and relax with family and friends."—[Official Report, 7 March 2007; c 32805.]

Jim Mather's boss, John Swinney, waxed even more lyrical about the value of the bill in promoting a better work-life balance. In the light of those two ringing endorsements from the Scottish National Party's business team, it is hard to understand why the Cabinet Secretary for Justice decided to invoke business when refusing to commission a study of the effect of a new year's day ban on trading by large retailers. Can the minister give a better explanation for that overturning of Parliament's decision than the ridiculous excuse that the justice secretary gave at question time last week—that he could not afford the study because of the Edinburgh tram? If £300,000 extra is being spent on St Andrew's day this year, surely it would be reasonable to spend a third of that amount on an important study?

Given that we are celebrating Scottish culture, I will end by addressing the second question that I posed on cultural standards and access. I reassert the concern that I expressed at question time about the backward movement of cultural policy over the past few weeks. I set aside the budget, as I have asked questions about that; I will keep my powder dry until I receive the answers.

The statement that the minister made on 7 November, which ditched the local authority sections in the draft Culture (Scotland) Bill and binned all the central recommendations of the Cultural Commission was a serious backward step for culture in Scotland. I repeat the question that I asked during question time: how are we to address the current perceived inequity in access to cultural provision when there is no outcome indicator for culture among the outcome indicators for local authorities? Linda Fabiani said that the bill had no teeth, but it certainly had more teeth than her non-existent proposals. At least it would have placed some requirements on local authorities.

At a Scottish Arts Council conference some time ago, Annamari Laaksonen of the Barcelona Interarts Foundation, who is one of the leading cultural thinkers in Europe, said that, on the basis of international research, Scotland's intention to adopt a practical rights entitlement approach to culture was considered widely to be in the vanguard of cultural policy in Europe. That approach has now been consigned to the dustbin. Although the new Government talks a good game about Scottish culture, we must have serious concerns about how it will deliver.

I move amendment S3M-946.3, to insert at end:

"and, recognising that St Andrew's Day is the start of Scotland's Winter Festival which includes Christmas Day and New Year's Day and concludes on Burns Night, looks forward to the success of all components of the Winter Festival starting with the events on St Andrew's Day, and in this context regrets that the Scottish Government has overturned the decision of the previous Parliament to commission a study into the impact of a ban on large retailers trading on New Year's Day."

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative 3:18, 29 November 2007

This is perhaps the fifth time that I have spoken in a debate about St Andrew's day. It is a subject dear to me, as a native and resident of St Andrews. I am glad that the minister understood why I took mild exception to the reference to six cities in her motion. As the original ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, St Andrews is an ancient cathedral city.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

I am sure that, as a fellow Fifer, the member will also recognise the status of Dunfermline as a city and royal burgh.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

I fully take that on board.

For newcomers to the debate, the usual form is for speakers—before getting down to the economic nuts and bolts of St Andrew's day celebrations—to trot out the Fife town's historic links with the apostle Andrew. Those links are tenuous, in that they seek to validate Andrew as Scotland's patron saint on the basis that some of his finger bones and a tooth might—it is a dubious "might"—have been brought to the Celtic settlement of Culrivie, which is now known as St Andrews.

For a change, I will offer an alternative to the Andrew legend. St Andrews—or Culrivie or Mucross, in earlier derivations—was a holy place thousands of years before Christianity. South of St Andrews is Dunino Den, which has interesting pagan carvings and was a noted druidic place of worship. Most likely because of the druidic connection, Coinneach—or Kenneth—who was a disciple of Columba in the sixth century, established a monastic community on the site of an ancient Celtic well at Culrivie. That well can still be seen in the graveyard to the south of St Andrews cathedral. Kenneth's monastery predates the Andrew legend by at least a few centuries.

It is clear that the story of Andrew's relics added to the lustre of Culrivie as a holy place, but had Kenneth from Donegal not been outranked by Andrew of Galilee, we might well be debating St Kenneth's day rather than St Andrew's day, and my home town might have been called St Kenneths or—I apologise to Tricia Marwick—Kennoway. Interestingly, since Kenneth's saint's day is 11 October, that might have been more suitable as a national day. The November date comes in winter and in the middle of the school and university terms.

As we know, tomorrow will be a well-deserved holiday for parliamentary staff, but St Andrew's day does not yet seem to have gained national acceptance as a holiday in the way that Parliament might have hoped. Scotland's big companies—including the banks and insurance groups—and even public sector bodies such as the councils themselves, apparently have not seen an upsurge of employees claiming St Andrew's day as a holiday. As members will recall, Dennis Canavan's bill won the right for employees to swap any of their public holidays for a day off on 30 November.

On this side of the chamber, we fully support a national holiday on St Andrew's day. We believe that employers and employees should be encouraged to swap one of their public holidays in favour of a holiday on 30 November, and we are delighted that the other parties seem to have fallen in line with our thinking. What we opposed was an extra public holiday, on the ground that it could cost the Scottish economy up to £200 million a year. However, we accept that celebrating St Andrew's day could eventually be as powerful an economic driver as St Patrick's day is worldwide.

In that connection, our amendment stresses the international context of St Andrew's day. Of course, that will be even more important during the year of homecoming in 2009. St Andrew's day must always look outwards as well as inwards.

From a tourism perspective, 30 November is of course a great launch date for a season of winter festivals throughout Scotland. On a personal note, I would like to praise the excellent efforts of the local committee that organises a varied week of events in St Andrews around the patron saint's day. The events range from performances by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the University of St Andrews symphony orchestra and the Scots Fiddle Group, to less esoteric events such as family stovie suppers and whisky tasting—indeed, I look forward to doing some of that tomorrow night in the town hall, and to attending a beating of the retreat in St Andrews. I pay tribute to the efforts of Waid academy in its sponsored walk to St Andrews.

What do we do about helping to achieve Dennis Canavan's vision of a widely supported national holiday on our patron saint's day? The problem seems to be that existing holidays are so well entrenched that it will take time before a moveable holiday like 30 November will be widely observed. Even if the holiday had been the nearest Monday to 30 November, that might have helped. Perhaps the councils and schools hold a partial key to making the patron saint's day work. If schoolchildren were off, their parents might be encouraged to take the day off in lieu of one of the existing holidays. Also, the Scottish Government clearly has a role in encouraging employers in both the private and public sectors to consider 30 November as an alternative holiday. As part of that, the Government should ensure that there is a programme of events following fast on St Andrew's day.

Despite the First Minister's rhetoric this morning about putting finishing touches to excellent winter festival arrangements, from where I am sitting that looks a bit like wishful thinking. Tomorrow's national St Andrew's day celebrations look a bit isolated as there is no apparent linkage to other events happening later in December. That appears to me to be missing a marketing opportunity. I urge Linda Fabiani to take that on board. Whether the Government has the will—or, more important, the financial wherewithal—to make such a festival a reality is another matter. That is why we have addressed the issue in our amendment.

Finally, as a good unionist, I recognise and accept that Gordon Brown believes that, in a multicultural society, the time has perhaps come to observe a British national day holiday. Although our priority today is a Scottish national day, I would have no objection to a British national day—but, again, only if, like the St Andrews day holiday, it replaced an existing holiday.

I move amendment S3M-946.2, to leave out from "to both celebrate" to end and insert:

"both to celebrate what it means to be Scottish in the 21st century and to promote a fair and inclusive society; notes the Scottish Government's proactive support of a programme of events throughout the country and all of Scotland's cities, including the cathedral city of St Andrews itself and urges it to build on St Andrew's day as a launch pad for a winter tourist season; commends the work of schools and community groups across Scotland in teaching our young people about St Andrew's day and its importance in a national as well as an international context and promoting diversity through their celebrations, and furthermore thanks the St Andrew's societies, Caledonian societies, Scottish Development International, Globalscots, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and all the other overseas organisations who have planned over 100 wide-ranging celebrations in countries around the world."

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 3:24, 29 November 2007

For those of us who have been in the Parliament for a number of years, this may seem like a debate more on groundhog day than on St Andrew's day. Debates on the importance of St Andrew's day have been a regular feature of our parliamentary calendar, culminating this very day last year with the passing of Dennis Canavan's St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill. I am pleased to see Dennis in the chamber this afternoon, and I hope that he enjoys yet another debate on the subject.

Before Ted Brocklebank and Tricia Marwick get all excited, I assure them that I will return to the issue of the St Andrew's day holiday later in my speech. I start by welcoming much of what is in the Government's motion. However, on balance—the minister accepts this, too—I prefer the wording of the Conservative amendment, not just because of the grammar but, more important, because it mentions St Andrews the town.

I recall suggesting in one of our previous debates that St Andrew's day should be promoted as the launch of Scotland's winter festival season, which takes us from St Andrew's day through Christmas, our unique hogmanay celebrations and new year festivities and on to Burns night. I would like to see St Andrew's day become the switch-on day—we should not allow any Christmas lights anywhere in Scotland until 30 November, when there would be a big switch on and we could start to celebrate properly.

I am delighted that the idea of St Andrew's day as the start of our winter festival season has been picked up and that we have started to brand the various events that will happen throughout Scotland over the next few weeks as Scotland's winter festival. However, we should be clear that that is about promoting Scotland as one of the best places in which to spend time during the festive season. If the winter festival concept is to be successful, it has to be about promoting across the world the unique opportunities that Scotland offers to celebrate all aspects of the season. Those opportunities include the increasingly popular Christmas markets—this will be the eighth year in a row in which I will probably say that I must go ice skating in Princes Street gardens but never quite get round to it; cultural events, particularly those that feature traditional Scottish music and dance; our infamous pantomimes; the street parties that take place not just in our big cities but in communities throughout Scotland to see in the new year; or taking advantage of the special air and light that we get in rural Scotland and our Highlands and Islands in the winter months.

We have much to offer at this time of year and the winter festival can and should be developed to ensure that we make the most of all of Scotland. The winter festival must be about promoting the best of Scotland and not narrow nationalism. St Andrew's day can be our national day, but it can never become a nationalist day. It must not be focused only on the six cities, which is why I support the Conservative amendment. When I looked at the official winter festival website through, I was concerned to see that it provided information on what was happening in the six big cities tomorrow, but nothing about what was happening in St Andrews—there was not even a link to the St Andrews festival website, which contains information about the events to which Ted Brocklebank rightly referred. As the local member, I am not happy about that; it is not good enough. I hope that in future St Andrew's day will be seen by those who are responsible for the winter festival website as something for all Scotland, not just the cities. We have the opportunity to link the festival website to all the other events that are happening throughout Scotland.

I turn to the St Andrew's day holiday and our amendment. I have taken a consistent position on the case for a St Andrew's day holiday, which I have expressed on every occasion that this subject has been debated in the Scottish Parliament. I believe that St Andrew's day should be a public holiday and that public bodies such as the Scottish Government and local councils should take the lead in promoting it as a public holiday by substituting it for one of the existing public holidays—I have never agreed that the holiday should be additional, but rather that it should be a substitute for an existing holiday. Back at the start, the Scottish Parliament substituted the September holiday for the St Andrew's day holiday.

Sadly, the SNP has not been quite so consistent. In opposition, the SNP was all for an additional public holiday. In November 2004, Nicola Sturgeon said in a press release:

"St Andrew's day should be a day of national celebration and debate, and only a national holiday can allow us to exploit this enormous potential."

In a press release last September, Stewart Maxwell said that Jack McConnell

"has been rather miserly with his refusal to create an additional public holiday, and so we will continue to press for further changes by this weak First Minister."

He went on to proclaim that an SNP Government would

"ensure that all of our people can celebrate our national day just like normal nations. The SNP are the only party who can deliver on this promise."

In a debate in the chamber, Stewart Maxwell said:

"if we are serious about growing our tourism market by 50 per cent over the next 10 years, initiatives such as an extra bank holiday are exactly what we need, rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul by taking a holiday away from elsewhere in the year."—[Official Report, 28 September 2006; c28064.]

In its manifesto for May, the SNP said:

"we will make St Andrew's Day a full national holiday".

In its document, "It's time to look forward—the first 100 days of an SNP government", the SNP went further and stated that in its first 100 days it would

"introduce early legislation to confirm St Andrew's day as a full national holiday."

What has happened? Has legislation been introduced? No. In a written answer to Nicol Stephen, Linda Fabiani stated:

"There is no requirement to introduce further legislation to confirm St Andrew's Day as a national holiday".—[Official Report, Written Answers, 20 August 2007; S3W-2499.]

In "Reporting on 100 days: Moving Scotland forward", the First Minster confirmed:

"It has been decided that, for this year, staff in the core Scottish Executive Directorates, can choose to exchange their existing September weekend half-day holiday for a half-day holiday on St Andrew's Day."

It is not a full day, but a half day. There is not even a holiday for the Government's own staff. There is not even a half day; it is just a choice.

Perhaps Mr Maxwell, who is not here for the debate, can tell us later whether that is the sign of a miserly and weak First Minister and whether Peter is being robbed to pay Paul.

When the SNP was in opposition, it was more concerned about ensuring that the Liberal Democrats in government implemented every dot and comma of their manifesto than it has been about implementing anything in its own manifesto now that it is in government. It would appear that the St Andrew's day holiday is another promise that was made to get the SNP elected then ditched in government. Will the only people who will be guaranteed a holiday on St Andrew's day be the 1,000 people who had hoped to be recruited as additional police officers?

I move amendment S3M-946.1, to insert at end:

"but notes the failure of the SNP government to keep the SNP manifesto promise to 'make St Andrew's Day a full national holiday'."

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party 3:30, 29 November 2007

I thank Iain Smith for reiterating the SNP's and this Government's commitment to St Andrew's day. I also remind him that if this country had full independence, we would be able to make St Andrew's day legislation. He should think on that.

St Andrew's day is a day for everyone to celebrate, so I am disappointed that the Opposition parties are so bitter that they have used what should be an opportunity to show confidence in our past and future to sow the seeds of discontent and see failure instead of success. From speaking to various people, particularly in Glasgow, I know that if the Opposition cannot adapt to and embrace the SNP Government's new positive outlook, they will be consigned to history as failures. This Government will be applauded as a success that delivers for the people of Scotland, unlike the Opposition parties, which have scant ambition for Scotland's future.

I will move on to the St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill. I pay tribute to and congratulate Dennis Canavan for his conviction and dedication in getting his bill enacted. He met with very fierce opposition from the Lib-Lab coalition, which returned the bill to the Enterprise and Culture Committee in the hope that it would change its views and not recommend the bill to Parliament. I am glad to say that the committee re-scrutinised the bill but did not change its recommendation. That reinforces the strength of Parliament's committee system.

When considering the bill, the committee asked the previous Executive to enhance the celebration of St Andrew's day domestically and internationally: I am glad to say that that is exactly what the Government is doing. As the minister has already said, we view St Andrew's day as the launch of Scotland's exciting winter festival. On that point, I congratulate "River City"—a fantastic television programme—for introducing St Andrew's day into Tuesday's episode. I must also say that I hope that Archie gets his comeuppance.

Tomorrow's activities will include Glasgow's shindig in the square, Edinburgh's jig in the gardens, a Doric cabaret evening in Aberdeen, music, dancing and food in Dundee, a ceilidh in Stirling, and living history displays on Culloden battlefield near Inverness. There are international events including balls, dinners, lectures and concerts from Abu Dhabi to Washington. That is what it is all about: it is not about parochialism, as some of the Opposition have said, but about internationalism and ensuring that the Scottish people remain the internationalists they always were.

Young people are getting involved. Information was sent to all schools.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

Will Sandra White say whether she regards St Andrew's day and the saltire as the property of the whole of Scotland, whether the person is of her political belief or not, or of only of part of Scotland?

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

I believe that the saltire can belong to anyone in Scotland or elsewhere—whatever they like. It is a flag and we, as a political party, are identified with it. It is shame that the Liberal Democrats are not identified with some kind of symbol. I believe that the saltire belongs to everyone, and I think that it is cheap shot to try and take over a debate about St Andrew's day by talking about the saltire not belonging to some people.

I will continue with my theme of internationalism. Iain Smith talked about St Andrew's day being rolled out only in the big cities. Today, I got a phone call from my sister who stays in a wee place called Carntyne, near Glasgow; she asked me if I had any tartan because they are having a St Andrew's day celebration tomorrow and her kids want to join in. It is all about everyone being able to join in and celebrate.

Scottish universities are also in Edinburgh debating Scottish identity. Is not that a good thing? There will also be a conference on national days at Glasgow Caledonian University. I have received a number of St Andrew's day cards.

As people become more aware of the day and more employees take the holiday—both my employees are taking tomorrow off—it will continue to grow, which is a good thing.

I turn to Labour's amendment and remind members that the Lib-Lab coalition returned Dennis Canavan's bill to the Enterprise and Culture Committee in the hope that it would change its view and not recommend the bill to Parliament. In a letter to the committee, Tom McCabe said,

"there are more effective ways of encouraging Scots to celebrate our national day".

Iain Smith said:

"The bill will not deliver."—[Official Report, 6 October 2005; c 19881.]

Karen Whitefield—the member who voted against her own bill in favour of further consultation—said:

"I ... believe that the creation of a new bank holiday will not in itself achieve that aim."—[Official Report, 6 October 2005; c 19884.]

I will not read out the names of all the Labour members who objected to the St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

No. I am sorry, I will not take an intervention. Suffice it to say, you were in majority Government and you could have delivered a bill instead of pretending that others—

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

Sorry, Presiding Officer. The Labour Party and the Lib Dems were in Government and could have delivered if they so wished. They should stop using that white elephant to attack people.

St Andrew's day is a day of celebration and people in Scotland should be proud of our country, our people and our patron saint. I look forward to St Andrew's day being embraced by everyone. We should not hide from the fact that we are Scottish and proud of it. I am proud to support a St Andrew's day holiday.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

We are tight for time, so members must stick to their time limits.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour 3:35, 29 November 2007

I speak to the motion in the name of the minister and will say a few words in support of the addendum amendment in the name of my colleague Malcolm Chisholm.

I have no problem whatever with the motion and I do not think that any member opposes the sentiments that it expresses. I am one of the Labour members who in the previous session of Parliament supported our then colleague Dennis Canavan's St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill from the start to the finish of its parliamentary journey—I welcome Dennis Canavan to the public gallery. Therefore, I am particularly pleased—Ms White should note—that the current Government continues to stress the importance of St Andrew's day in the promotion of a fair, inclusive and diverse Scottish society.

As members rightly pointed out, it is important that we recognise that St Andrew's day is not parochial but is about Scotland's place in the world. It is a celebration of our diverse modern Scotland. Scotland today welcomes people from many nations and different ethnic origins. We have people from a variety of cultures and faiths as well as people of no faith. I welcome that.

I congratulate the Scottish Trades Union Congress on its organisation last weekend of the annual St Andrew's day march and rally against racism and fascism. There can be no place for bigotry in 21st century Scotland. The previous Executive's approach—one Scotland: many cultures—was correct, so I welcome the current Government's continuation of that approach. Parliament must encourage and support such events to ensure that all citizens of Scotland have ownership of the St Andrew's day celebrations.

The St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007 not only provides the possibility of encouraging the recognition of a national holiday on St Andrew's day but allows all Scotland's people to celebrate our cultural diversity. The people of Scotland will be able to celebrate our national identity and our membership of the international community. I share the hope that Dennis Canavan expressed during the stage 3 debate on his bill, when he said:

"I am confident that, in the years ahead, recognition of the holiday will grow and constructive negotiations between trade unions and employers will lead to it eventually becoming an additional holiday.—[Official Report, 29 November 2006; c 29767-8.]

I hope to see that day and I would be happy if the minister could confirm that that is her Government's intention, at least.

The Labour amendment expresses not bitter nitpicking but the genuine disappointment that is felt by everyone who supported the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill. It is in order to ask questions of a new Government about such an issue, so answers would be most welcome. Members know that I raised the issue last week with the minister's colleague, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr Kenny MacAskill, without much success. Perhaps Ms Fabiani will be more constructive. The disappointment and anger of members of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and the thousands of Scottish shop workers who backed the union's campaign to keep Christmas day and new year's day special are not artificial. There is widespread discontent—the evidence is in my postbag.

I would be happy if the minister could explain, as her colleague Mr MacAskill signally failed to do, why, in March this year, the Scottish National Party, with the exception of one member—Sandra White—voted in favour of carrying out the much needed further research into the impact of the ban on large retailers trading on new year's day but now, only six months later, when in government, does not hesitate to renege on that commitment, which Parliament made to the retail staff of Scotland. I believe that people should stick to their commitments. I will allow Ms Fabiani to intervene if she wishes, or she may wish to save her answer for the closing speech.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

Very well.

Does the Government not understand that such a reversal of the position that it took in March is considered widely to be unfair and that pandering to the prejudices of a minority of short-sighted employers demonstrates a worrying inability to stand up for the rights of ordinary working people throughout Scotland? Do Ms Fabiani and the Government not know that that is very concerning?

Will the minister relay to Mr MacAskill my dismay and that of my constituents at the content of his recent letter to me, in which he did not mention protecting the rights of shop workers or retail staff being compelled to work on new year's day? Astonishingly, the cabinet secretary chose to refer solely to his Government's aim of

"reducing regulation and constraints on business".

That is a partial approach that gives weight to a particular sectional interest over the rights of working men and women in Scotland. That is highly regrettable and is a myopic approach that the SNP may well come to rue. It certainly goes against the grain of the bill that my comrade in the gallery, Dennis Canavan, introduced successfully, and I urge Parliament to vote for the addendum amendment on that basis.

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party 3:41, 29 November 2007

Before I speak to the motion, I will deal with the point that Robert Brown made. He suggested that the SNP is somehow trying to hijack the saltire and use it for itself. I find that interesting, because I hold here a postcard with the Scottish saltire on it, emblazoned with the words "It's about freedom." It is produced not by the SNP youth wing—the Young Scots for Independence—but by the Scottish Young Liberal Democrats. It is not only the SNP that lays claim to the saltire. I welcome the Scottish Young Liberal Democrats trying to use it as well.

I am delighted that our national Parliament is able to have this debate on the eve of our national day, St Andrew's day. It is surely an opportunity for Parliament to speak with one voice and send out a signal to the country and the world that our national day is of huge importance to us, that we value it and that we want to make the most of it. However, with all the amendments that are before us, it remains to be seen whether we will speak with one voice. I suppose that we will find out at decision time.

The debate is important, because Scotland still has work to do to establish St Andrew's day as a national day that is as significant as those of many other countries. National days around the world have different meanings and different historical roots. St Patrick's day on 17 March is a broad celebration of culture that has close ties to the religious significance of the feast, as it usually falls during Lent, which means that those observing Lent can abstain from their Lenten abstinence. However, St Patrick's day now offers huge commercial and tourism possibilities not only for Ireland itself, but for places wherever parts of the Irish diaspora find themselves, be it Boston, New York or our country. American independence day on 4 July has different origins from St Patrick's day but is just as significant to the American people. It marks the foundation of a nation and the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that its founding declaration boldly set out.

I look forward to the day—which is coming soon—when we are able to celebrate our national independence day, too. However, in the meantime, Scotland has yet to establish for itself a national day that has anything like the significance of St Patrick's day, American independence day or many of the other national days around the world. Nobody seems to celebrate devolution day with much fervour, although I like to imagine that, every 12 May—the date on which the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999—wherever he is in the world, Lord George Robertson raises a toast to devolution and the Parliament killing the SNP "stone dead". Perhaps not.

We still have to establish a national day that has the same significance as those of many other countries. Burns night unites Scots and other lovers of the bard's works around the world in a celebration of the life, poetry and song of Robert Burns. However, it lacks the potential for the wider exploration and exposition of our culture and society that is found in the national days of other countries. I welcome the opportunity that is provided by the Scottish Government to mark as best we can our national day, St Andrew's day. The wealth of activities that are being undertaken by the Government and others to celebrate St Andrew's day build on what has gone before, and serve to make this year's series of events bigger and better than ever before.

We have to build on that and strive for yet more—St Andrew's day has so much unharnessed potential. The debate this morning was about tourism, and the tourist potential of a bona fide national day hardly needs explaining. I have already referred to it, but we need only look at the experience in Ireland: tourists pour into Dublin on St Patrick's day for a glimpse of what is possible.

We are moving in the right direction in that regard. The utilisation of St Andrew's day to kick-start a Scottish winter festival is a welcome step. Used properly, that festival can run from St Andrew's day tomorrow, through Christmas and hogmanay to Burns night in January. Taking in those traditional holidays, as well as modern events such as Celtic Connections, provides much-needed coherence and focus, with a continuous celebration of Scottish heritage and culture. St Andrew's day should properly be the launch pad for that. Such a winter festival will go some way to making it the sort of national day to which we aspire.

Noting the context of the debate—Ted Brocklebank mentioned this—it is interesting that Gordon Brown is desperately scrambling around for a date to designate as Britain's national day, although we already have days for each constituent part of the UK, with which people always identify more readily. Gordon Brown would give his eye teeth for a British equivalent to St Andrew's day, St David's day or St George's day, although St Gordon's day does not quite have the same ring to it, I am afraid. Instead of desperately clambering about to create a synthetic British national day, let us get on with the business of establishing St Andrew's day as Scotland's national day. I commend the Government for working towards that aim, with the events that it has set up this year.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 3:47, 29 November 2007

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate. The St Andrew's day holiday gives Scots the chance to celebrate Scotland's culture and all that is good about Scotland and marks the start of Scotland's winter festival and our traditional festive celebrations. It allows us to recognise our patron saint and to celebrate our national identity and our ethnic and cultural diversity—all that is good about Scotland. It allows us to reiterate our welcome to citizens around the world who choose to come and visit our country.

The events are a welcome move, and I welcome the Government's motion. I am sure that the St Andrew's day holiday will be a welcome boost to many Scots, offering them the opportunity to participate in the special events that are scheduled for the day, to do some Christmas shopping or to visit some of the country's vibrant Christmas markets.

It is important that we recognise the vital contribution of Dennis Canavan, who introduced the St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament back in 2005.

I hope that the St Andrew's day holiday will capture the imagination of people up and down the country, particularly in our schools. In my constituency, St Andrews primary school in Airdrie is possibly slightly more excited than many other schools—although I am sure that it is not alone in looking forward to the celebrations—because 2007 is the school's 50th anniversary year. The year will culminate in tomorrow's events. Throughout 2007, the children have been learning about the school's history and Scotland's history, people and culture. The school is looking resplendent, having been thoroughly decorated. Even the dull grey school gates have been painted bright blue and white with a saltire. Aside from the celebrations on the day itself, I am proud to say that the school has raised £4,000, which it has given to the aptly named St Andrew's Hospice in Airdrie, which does a fantastic job looking after the sick. That is one example of many that I am sure will be replicated across Scotland.

I hope that in the years to come St Andrew's day will become as embedded in our culture as Burns night has turned out to be. However, it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that, although the winter festival is a two-month-long celebration, two of the most important times in the calendar are hogmanay and new year's day. Scotland's unique hogmanay celebrations attract visitors from around the world. They are a valuable part of our heritage and culture, so it is vital that hogmanay maintains its status as one of the most important dates in our national calendar. Scotland is the only part of the UK that has a statutory holiday on both new year's day and 2 January, which ensures that Scots can make the most of our traditional hogmanay festivities.

Unfortunately, our historic celebrations are starting to be undermined by the growing trend of retailers to open 365 days a year, with many supermarkets also now opening 24 hours a day. That is leaving thousands of shop workers unable to participate in our national celebrations throughout the two-month winter festival season. Given the Government's enthusiasm for the winter festival, it is a shame that it has disappointed so many of Scotland's shop workers by scrapping the previous Executive's promised research on new year's day trading.

My Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007 was passed by Parliament earlier this year with overwhelming cross-party support, including from the SNP. It was a victory for Scotland's shop workers, who were looking forward to celebrating the new year with their families—which is not too much to ask and is something that most workers take for granted. Most shop workers will accept that they have to work on St Andrew's day, given its proximity to Christmas, but the reality is that although there is no real demand for shops to open on new year's day, more retailers are attempting to cash in on our hogmanay celebrations and to turn new year's day into just another shopping day.

Retail is now a 24-hour industry, and many workers are under constant pressure to work extra hours, particularly during the festive period. They work Saturdays, Sundays and even bank holidays, usually for no extra pay. Shop workers are among the lowest paid in the country—many are paid little more than the national minimum wage. Surely it is right that they should be allowed to join in with Scotland's hogmanay celebrations without worrying about having to work.

The thousands of shop workers across Scotland who backed the campaign to keep new year's day special were relying on the Government to deliver—after all, SNP members happily voted for the 2007 act, with its amendments, back in March. They happily supported the amendment to commission research into the impact of the ban, which is what ensured a parliamentary majority. It is therefore disappointing that the SNP Government has backtracked on the commitment that meant so much to thousands of Scotland's shop workers.

Shop workers across Scotland find it hard to believe that a party that claims to be the voice of Scotland and that is so enthusiastically promoting the celebration of our traditional St Andrew's holiday and the winter festivals is choosing not to support them about new year's day working. I ask the Government to reconsider its position, support Scotland's shop workers and honour the will of Parliament as expressed in March this year.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative 3:53, 29 November 2007

Along with the rest of the Scottish Conservative group, I am genuinely excited and looking forward to St Andrew's day tomorrow. I hope that it is a big success.

The minister asked for consensus at the start of the debate, and she has rightly got that on the bulk of the ground that we have covered. However, there is one important point to make. The minister and the SNP should not try to link St Andrew's day with independence, and it should not be part of the national conversation. I accept that it is not mentioned in the motion, but the minister spent at least a minute and a half trying to link it with the national conversation, and that is wrong.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

Yes, it would be a pleasure to take an intervention from the man who, I believe, invented phonics.

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

I would love to claim credit for that, but I did not.

If Gavin Brown is asking the minister to ensure that the SNP Government does not use St Andrew's day for a celebration or promotion of independence, will he give a similar commitment if he has his British day not to promote the union?

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

I have not made a commitment to promote a British day and I have not even mentioned a British day—I have spoken for only about one minute and 12 seconds. It is important that St Andrew's day should be for everybody in Scotland, whether or not they support independence. Iain Smith summed it up by saying that it should be a national day, not a nationalist day. I hope that all members support that.

I was going to comment on the political use of the saltire, but just in case Jamie Hepburn has a postcard of a Scottish Conservative saltire, I will keep quiet about that. When he held up his postcard earlier, it was the only time that I have seen Robert Brown silenced for more than a couple of minutes.

In the past week or two, we have read in the press a couple of articles in which people have tried to say that St Andrew's day will be a failure, that nobody is excited about it and that nobody will take the day off. I hope that they are wrong. I understand that 85 per cent of respondents to the consultation on Dennis Canavan's St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill supported the holiday and that a MORI poll that was issued shortly after the bill was introduced said that 75 per cent of people in Scotland felt that the day should be a holiday and supported what he had done. I hope that the nay-sayers are wrong.

We can hear and read about many positives, some of which have been mentioned. Sixty historic sites and monuments throughout Scotland will open free on the day, which is an excellent initiative. I hope that the number is far more than 60 next year. I understand that tomorrow the world's largest Dashing White Sergeant will take place—I might go along to that; it might be quite a lot of fun. A whole load of dinners, events and ceilidhs will take place. I am not sure whether it is true that a couple of aqua-ceilidhs will take place for the first time ever—I do not know whether the journalist who reported that was just having a laugh, but apparently they involve the splashing white sergeant and drip the willow—those are not my words, but those of the journalist. I cannot decide between the world's largest Dashing White Sergeant and the aqua-ceilidhs. Many great things are going on tomorrow.

The idea of a winter festival is excellent. If the first festival is not the massive success that we hope it will be, I hope that we will persevere with it, because two months is a long time, so getting the festival perfect first time is probably unlikely. In the period between St Andrew's day and Christmas, keeping people going for the first two weeks in December might not be easy, but I hope that we will persevere, because the festival could be extremely good for tourism and the economy as a whole.

I have a small point. We heard the minister talk about a new website that will be established to promote Scotland in China. That is a great initiative, but we need joined-up thinking. Last night I looked at just to see what it does and says. Lots of good stuff is on there, and it mentions a hotline to telephone to make bookings and find out what is going on. Unfortunately, that hotline's working hours were reduced last month to winter hours, so it is now open only from 9 o'clock to 5 o'clock, Monday to Friday. If we are trying to attract international visitors from the United States and south-east Asia, we need to be open not only from 9 to 5 United Kingdom time. I am sure that the minister will mention that to Mr Mather.

We must review how events have gone after St Andrew's day and how the winter festival has gone. We need ingenious or creative ways of building up the critical mass for St Andrew's day. If, as predicted, not everybody takes the day as a holiday this year, we should try to think of imaginative ways to encourage people to take the holiday next year, so that we get it right for the year of homecoming in 2009. My colleague Mr Brocklebank made a couple of suggestions to encourage schools to get on board. If children are off for the day, it is more likely that parents will take the day off. Parliament has set the right tone and the right example. I do not know whether it is true—someone can correct me if it is not—but I have read that Angus Council has decided that its staff will have the day off.

The economic benefits could be massive. We have heard how St Patrick's day works for Ireland—that one-day celebration is thought to be worth €80 million just for Dublin—so it is worth persevering for economic benefits. The initiative will be good for tourism, especially if we get the winter festival right. We have 28 million people throughout the world who claim some Scottish ancestry, so an enormous market exists for tourism, for wider economic benefits and for retailers from bringing us all under one strong identity. The holiday should be firmly established before the year of homecoming in 2009.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 3:59, 29 November 2007

As I listened to some members, I was struck by the curious thought that, in Roman Catholic countries, it used to be said that people were keen on holy days because that allowed them to have so many holidays—a very bad pun, I know. While I was listening to Karen Whitefield, I was struck by the curious fact that, apart from St Andrew's day, Scotland already has two internationally recognised days, in the form of Burns night and hogmanay. That is quite good going for a small country.

An amazing variety of themes have been stirred up by today's motion: the definition of a holiday; tourism and cultural issues; yet more manifesto breaches by the SNP Government; Scotland's place in the world and, of course, the United Kingdom; promotional advertisements for the cathedral city of St Andrews; and new year's day trading. That is good going for one motion.

There has been a lot of good common ground: members of all parties have welcomed the notion of St Andrew's day as Scotland's premier national holiday or national day and, as Iain Smith said, the start of the winter festival and of Christmas, but I strongly take issue with the point with which Linda Fabiani began. She devoted a considerable amount of her speech to linking St Andrew's day to the concept of independence. I agree strongly with Gavin Brown: I am not keen on national days that are too closely linked to the political philosophies of the Government of the day, whether it be led by Alex Salmond and the SNP or by Gordon Brown, who is promoting the British national day to which Keith Brown referred.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I would be intrigued to learn where the notion that I have linked St Andrew's day to independence comes from. There is no doubt that St Andrew's day is for everyone in Scotland. The national conversation is also for everyone in Scotland. When I mentioned it, I said that we are receiving views from all sections of constitutional opinion.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I am grateful for that intervention, which confirms the point I am trying to make. Consciously or unconsciously, the SNP sees a close connection between the symbols of Scotland's national position and the political philosophy that it espouses.

I will venture a few words on national identity. Scotland has a long-established national identity. We are comfortable with our place in the world—a world to which Scotland has contributed much of the physical and intellectual furniture. Most of us are also comfortable with our membership of and commitment to the United Kingdom, to which we have given much of its stamp and identity, and within which we have so many political, economic, social, historical and cultural ties.

However, identity is a diverse concept that varies from person to person. It comprises individual philosophy, religious belief and tradition, professional or employment links, cultural interests and national identity, among other things. People easily accommodate a variety of overlapping identities. That is part of our diversity—it is what makes us interesting and who we are. National identity is the same. Charles Kennedy memorably said that he saw no contradiction in being proud of his Highland heritage and of being Scottish, British, European and a citizen of the world; neither do I. I resent the idea that my national and personal identity can be imposed and restricted by any Government, even a cuddly one that is represented today by Linda Fabiani.

The SNP view of the world attempts to force a choice on people: if someone is Scottish, they cannot be British as well. Sometimes, SNP members have to restrain themselves from suggesting that if people support the United Kingdom they are somehow not one of us, unpatriotic and lacking a true understanding. It is a sort of tartan version of John Major's cricket test.

I was born in England and have lived in Scotland since I was seven. I have English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish antecedents. With a family background in Newcastle, it is highly likely that my ancestry was influenced by a bit of pillage and rape at some point over the years. I am not untypical of many people who move about and connect around our islands. The situation today is quite different from that at the time of the union, when only 3,000 Scots are reputed to have lived in England.

As so often under the SNP Government, in this debate all is not what it seems. The big furore about St. Andrew's day in the previous session has diminished to something of a whisper. As has been pointed out, the SNP Government is not giving us another holiday; that is another broken promise from the SNP. Things have changed. Instead of a weak and miserable Scottish Executive, in Stewart Maxwell's words, we now have a weak and miserable SNP Scottish Government. My heart beats faster at the thought of that change.

When I was on the train today, I met a friend who is a small employer. Their view is that politicians never think about who is going to pay. The Liberal Democrats are clear on the matter—we support the option of substituting St Andrew's day for a different holiday, but we do not support the provision of another holiday. It is a matter of choice, and the dark days of winter are perhaps not the best time to encourage a new holiday. Linda Fabiani conceded in the debate on creative Scotland that that is now the Government's view too. St Andrew's day undoubtedly has potential for stimulating a mini winter tourism season—I like Ted Brocklebank's amendment to that effect, which felicitously reminds us that even in an SNP-run Scotland a split infinitive just will not do. Some standards are, after all, universal.

There are opportunities and we must move forward on them, but we should not pretend that £0.3 million each year to support the winter festival idea is anything more than a token—and it is potentially offset by the rolling up of the cities growth fund that was used, for example, to support the hogmanay and winter wonderland events in Edinburgh. The SNP Government must get out of the habit of claiming the earth, the moon and the stars and delivering a rather more barren, pebbly beach in consequence.

Photo of Bill Kidd Bill Kidd Scottish National Party 4:06, 29 November 2007

As other members have said, St Andrew is not only—and importantly—the patron saint of Scotland, he is the patron saint of Greece and Russia. Furthermore, he was not a native of our shores, but came from the middle east. St Andrew is a truly international patron saint and, as such, is just the man for our 21 st century Scotland—one Scotland, many cultures. Our celebration of St Andrew will—and should—emphasise that he has been our patron saint since the 7 th century and that he will continue to be seen as a symbol of a mainstream European nation with a long history and a sustained culture.

The celebrations must also include the constantly evolving nature of Scotland. Immigration from Ireland, Italy, eastern Europe, Pakistan and India have added, and continue to add, to the number of people—such as my friend, Bashir Ahmed MSP—who are proud to call themselves Scots and for whom this land is their, and their family's, homeland. St Andrew is, of course, a Christian icon, but in Scotland he is also a symbol of unity—of a people with diverse backgrounds but a common destiny. Sectarianism and racism still rear their ugly heads in our land, but there is genuine revulsion on the part of the vast majority of Scots at those knuckle-dragging attitudes and their manifestations. St Andrew's day will not be for such attitudes; it will be for all to join together in joy, not hate.

The celebration of a national day on the day of the patron saint is an idea that resonates with the great majority of Scots. They will see the sense in nominating a day that all schoolchildren learn of but which, sadly, becomes less relevant as people become adults. At present, it ceases to be a red letter day. Making St Andrew's day the start point of a winter festival that runs throughout the dark months to include Christmas and the new year, on through Celtic Connections and past Burns night, will make it a day of relevance to all. If we make St Andrew's day a day of colour and unity of purpose for all Scots, no matter their racial background, and for all Scots with faith and without faith, we will be able to draw the poison of the bigots who seek to divide us for their own purposes.

We might not at the moment have the powers to establish a full public holiday on St Andrew's day, but we can make it a day of celebration of Scotland and Scottishness in all its wonderful guises. We can also, as the Irish have done with St Patrick's day, welcome home the Scottish diaspora and give them cheer wherever they now live in the world. St Andrew's day will serve the economy and enhance Scotland's image abroad, but mostly—and most important—it will serve to draw all our people together. Let us celebrate our unity by recognising diversity in a Scotland where St Andrew's day is seen as day for all Scots.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour 4:10, 29 November 2007

I am delighted to speak in this debate on St Andrew's day and to support the Labour amendment. I see the debate as an opportunity to celebrate St Andrew's day, to reflect on the successes of Scottish life, and to contemplate what sort of Scotland we want in the 21 st century.

I want to be positive about St Andrew's day and positive about Scotland. We have a proud history and heritage, and one of the aspects that I will concentrate on is science and innovation. If we consider Fleming, Bell's work on the telephone and Logie Baird's creation of the television, we have some tremendous examples to follow. That continues in current Scottish life, because one person in 100 is employed as a scientist. That is positive and we want it to continue. It is a relevant point to make on the back of yesterday's science in the Parliament event, which was organised by Bristow Muldoon, a former MSP.

Yesterday's event considered some key challenges for Scotland, including energy, renewables, electricity generation and climate change. As we look back at Scotland's great heritage and talent in science and innovation, we must also consider how to reduce carbon emissions, tackle fuel poverty and keep the lights burning in Scotland. Those are key tasks.

It is also important to celebrate Scotland's success in engineering. As I came into Edinburgh this morning on the train from Cambuslang, I saw the Forth rail bridge emerge through the morning gloom. It reminded me what a great advert for Scottish engineering the bridge is. Recently, I looked at some pictures of the building of the bridge. It was tremendously interesting to see each part being built. We should not forget that it took 4,600 workers to put the bridge up over a good number of years. Nor should we forget that there were 71 deaths during the process.

I pay tribute to those in modern times who have made efforts to encourage the Scottish workforce. I pay tribute to Karen Whitefield for the work she did on the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007, which gave workers in large shops the opportunity to spend some much-needed time with their families on Christmas day. The Parliament agreed that a pilot study would be run in relation to new year's day. The matter has been raised by a number of my constituents and I wrote to the minister about it. He said that he is not prepared to go ahead with that pilot. That is most disappointing. It is also disrespectful to the Parliament and its decision.

The minister thinks that a pilot would not be a good use of public money. I wonder whether he would like to tell workers who have to go out and work in large shops on new year's day whether the £100,000 that was spent on changing the Scottish Executive's name to the Scottish Government, or the £100,000 that was spent on coming up with the "Welcome to Scotland" slogan, was money well spent Perhaps we should not be surprised. When one of the major pieces of legislation on the workforce was voted through in the UK Parliament—on the stipulation of the minimum wage—two members of the Scottish Cabinet were not present. Regrettably, both Alex Salmond and John Swinney were absent on that occasion.

As we reflect on St Andrew's day, we should consider what sort of Scotland and Scottish society we want. A lot of members rightly mentioned the number of festivals and events that take place throughout Scotland. It is also important to reach out to other groups who do important work to build up Scotland as a society and as a country.

For example, in my constituency, the local community health initiative is doing important work—a lot of it resourced voluntarily—to promote healthy living, but it is worried about its funding in 2008. The mental health campaign groups are worried about changes in funding, which is being transferred to local government, and various housing campaign groups and organisations are concerned about whether the current local government settlement will deliver adequate social housing and help to meet the targets on homelessness.

From Rabbie Burns to Alexander Graham Bell, there is a lot to celebrate in Scottish life. We must remember our heritage and tap into Scotland's talent, but we must also speak out for the disadvantaged in Scotland. If we can continue to do all those things, Scotland will flourish and we can celebrate many more successful St Andrew's days.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 4:16, 29 November 2007

I will be brief, Deputy Presiding Officer. I am sorry that I cannot take interventions, but I have only two minutes.

I asked Malcolm Chisholm whether he thinks that people in Russia and Greece celebrate the fact that Scotland shares a patron saint with them because I wanted to illustrate the fact that I think that he was being too careful to internationalise a national day. It is an occasion on which to be whole-hearted about being Scots and about Scotland. We are here because we want to be here—or because we do not have the points to get into Australia.

The Government should do more in the lead-up to St Andrew's day next year. It should watch the Scottish Rugby Union film that the cross-party group on sports saw at lunch time. "This is my country," it said. That goes for everybody who is here. We should not get knotted up trying to explain how we are reaching out to the folk who have come to live here. Of course we are doing that—they know that, and we should not make such a song and dance about it.

I associate myself with the remarks of Bill Butler. The STUC was enthusiastic about Dennis Canavan's bill and the Government could work more with the STUC. It could also do more about having schools promote the notion of "Scotland: this is my country." With all due respect to Ted Brocklebank, I am not at all sure where St Andrews comes into it. We have latched on and said that 30 November is our national day. There is nothing wrong with that. The Irish have shown us how to do it and we should copy them—it is a good idea.

I am afraid to say—to Robert Brown and the other poor mooths in here—that we will continue to have the debate about our identity until we have sorted the national question. People in Scotland will continue to enjoy St Andrew's day, if the occasion is there for them to enjoy, without getting into all the trouble that we get into by trying to link it too closely to the political. It is about Scotland and her people.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 4:18, 29 November 2007

I will endeavour not to be a poor mooth for Margo MacDonald, but I question whether we will ever sort the national question, as she put it.

I hope that the long tradition of Iain Smith not skating in Princes Street gardens continues.

The minister started her speech by saying that St Andrew's day is an opportunity for us to celebrate Scotland together. That is absolutely right. It is correct to state that many cultures make up Scots and Scotland.

Like some other members, I was not born in Scotland; I was born in Berwick-upon-Tweed—a town that changed hands 13 times between England and Scotland. For centuries, the Scots and the English merrily used that key trading link for the benefit of their economy and, equally merrily, raided it, invaded it and slaughtered its inhabitants. I enjoyed being at school in Berwick because we got English and Scottish local holidays, and I am in favour of having more public holidays rather than having fewer or swapping them with others.

The powerful evidence that was presented on Dennis Canavan's proposal and the subsequent act showed that there is little correlation between the number of public holidays a country has, the productivity of its people, its economy and unemployment.

As Iain Smith said, the Liberal Democrats are justified in highlighting the confused position of the governing party on its inability to implement its manifesto commitment to make St Andrew's day a "full national holiday". I remain unsure what the SNP means by that. If it thought that there was no scope under Scots or UK law, why did it make the manifesto pledge?

There is always the temptation of using public holidays for political purposes, and of course the nationalist party of Scotland has used the issue in that way. I do not criticise it for that; it is exactly what a nationalist party would do. Millennia ago, Roman emperors would have day after day of public games and holidays. The number simply depended on their popularity. Indeed, it got to the stage when there were more public holidays and games than working days. In thinking of the use that is made of public holidays for political purposes, we need only look at recent history to find public holidays on which militaristic and political displays were made.

There is to be a winter festival, albeit it is to be repackaged and rebranded. I accept that the sincere view of the Government is that it wants to develop the festival into a genuinely exciting package in cultural and tourism terms.

As a single man, I think that we should do more to promote St Andrew's day folklore. Around midnight on 29 November, it was traditional for girls to pray to St Andrew for a husband. They would make a wish and look for a sign that they had been heard. A girl who wished to marry could throw a shoe at a door. If the toe of the shoe pointed in the direction of the exit, it was a sign that she would marry and leave her parent's house within the year.

A girl could also take an apple and try to peel it without breaking the skin. If she succeeded, she would throw the peel over her shoulder. If it formed a letter of the alphabet, it indicated the initial letter of the name of her future groom.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

Disappointingly, there is no apple on the desk before the minister for her to peel.

In Germany, on St Andrew's eve, young women noted the location of barking dogs, as it was said that their future husbands would come from that direction.

St Andrew is also expected to look after gout, singers, sore throats, stiff necks, unmarried women, women who wish to become mothers, fish dealers, fishmongers, fishermen, old maids, Greeks and Russians, as well as, of course, Scots—a rather eclectic group.

I am not entirely sure why Jamie Hepburn had so readily to hand a young Liberal Democrat postcard. I am unsure whether to commend or condemn him for that. Of course, he was right in what he said: political parties, public bodies, charities, churches, and royalty use the saltire. They may use it, but they do not own it. When used exclusively, the saltire and the other symbols for Scotland become the tools of nationalism. There is a fine line between their exclusive use, national identity, and ownership.

I do not doubt Linda Fabiani's sincerity in wanting Scotland to be independent, nor do I condemn the desire of Bill Kidd to use St Andrew's day as a parallel to today's politics. They can do that, but I think they are wrong.

Gavin Brown's contribution was highly appropriate. He reminded us that the minister said that St Andrew's day should be used for the national conversation. That policy was made by one party in the Parliament, which is in minority government.

If the previous Government had announced only £300,000 to promote St Andrew's day, it would have been condemned for lack of ambition. I do not want a political holiday—one that is Government sponsored; I want a festival that celebrates the best of all parts of Scotland, not only the cities or the Highlands.

If I may, Presiding Officer, I will close on a local note. If someone is lucky enough to be born in the Borders, or wise enough to make it their home, they have the great fortune of being not only part of Scotland, but part of the United Kingdom, and Europe. In the debate, we discussed the Scottish diaspora. I hope that those people will form part of what I hope will be a great winter festival for Scotland and the UK—one that is just great for people to enjoy.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 4:24, 29 November 2007

It would, of course, be entirely ungracious, unkind and inappropriate of me to recommend that any young ladies who hear dogs barking in the vicinity of Jeremy Purvis tomorrow night should run in the opposite direction.

Earlier, Ted Brocklebank gave us an erudite history lesson on St Andrew's contribution to Scotland. Interestingly, very few members have referred to the historical or, indeed, religious dimension of this issue. After all, as a saint's day, St Andrew's day was originally a day of religious celebration. I find it a little regrettable that that element has been entirely forgotten.

Of course, the celebration of saints' days went out of fashion in post-reformation Scotland. Although I am a member of the reformed church, I think that we should remember that our patron saint was the Lord's first apostle and consider the religious element of St Andrew's day to be worth celebrating.

There has been much discussion about St Andrew's day as a public holiday. I must say that I had forgotten about that. Although my staff have tomorrow off, I seem to have a full diary—as is usual on a public holiday. Perhaps next year I will get round to ensuring that I have the day off.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

It is on a Saturday next year.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

I dare say that my diary for Saturday is also full.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

Actually, it will be on a Sunday. Next year is a leap year.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Oh yes. Mr Smith is right to point that out. Perhaps I will get some time off then.

In the previous parliamentary session, I was a member of the Enterprise and Culture Committee that examined the St Andrew's day question and, like other members, I commend Dennis Canavan for his work on promoting the cause. Everyone recognises that the St Andrew's day holiday will have economic benefits—I recall evidence that suggested that Dublin benefited from St Patrick's day to the tune of €80 million a year—as well as benefits from promoting national identity and social cohesion.

However, against that, the committee had to recognise concerns about the potential cost to business as a result of creating an additional public holiday. Indeed, the Department of Trade and Industry estimated the cost at £200 million. The Conservatives, therefore, promoted the compromise position of making St Andrew's day a holiday that people could choose to take in place of another public holiday. As usual, the Conservatives led opinion on this issue in the Parliament and everyone came to agree with us.

I agree, for once, with Iain Smith on his amendment's reference to broken promises. Once again, the SNP has broken a promise. There was no doubt about what the SNP manifesto said: it promised to make St Andrew's day a full national holiday. Indeed, the SNP said in its 100 days document that that would be one of its first acts as a new Government. Now that it is in government, that promise has gone the same way as the promises on student debt, smaller class sizes and the elusive 1,000 extra police officers.

I regret to tell Malcolm Chisholm that we cannot agree to his amendment because we welcome the Scottish Government's decision to overturn the decision that was made in the previous parliamentary session to commission a study into the impact of a ban on large retailers trading on new year's day. Some members on the Labour benches put forward the bizarre argument that because the previous Parliament had taken that decision it would somehow be disrespectful to overturn it. The fact is that when another party wins an election, it always overturns previous decisions, and it would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

How do we differentiate between breaking promises and overturning a previous Government's decisions?

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

It is pretty obvious. A new Government is elected to overturn a previous Government's decisions. However, a new Government should not promise one thing in its manifesto and do something quite different when elected.

We do not regret what the SNP has done. However, as I pointed out last week to Kenny MacAskill, if the study was such a bad idea, why did the SNP vote for it when in opposition? Kenny MacAskill's response, which was that it was something to do with the Edinburgh trams, was the most bizarre and pathetic excuse for a U-turn that I have ever heard from a minister.

I agree with the comment made by many members that St Andrew's day is for everyone in Scotland—it is for old Scots, young Scots and new Scots from whatever background, creed, class or racial group. It should not be hijacked by any narrow partisan or political cause. In that respect, I agree with the Brown brothers—Robert and Gavin—both of whom made excellent speeches on that point.

Just as St Andrew's day should be a day for all Scots, so the saltire—our flag—should be a flag for all Scots. The minister and the SNP would have more credibility if they did not try to appropriate the saltire for party-political purposes. In recent years, we have seen the deplorable sight of the British National Party—an organisation with which I deeply disagree—seeking to appropriate the union flag for narrow, partisan, political purposes. It is very much to be regretted that the BNP has gone some way towards trying to tarnish the reputation of the union flag. That is to be deplored. I hope that the SNP will take on board the message that the saltire is a flag for us all. We should all be entitled to fly it. No one should try to hijack it.

Let us all—unionists and nationalists of whatever political persuasion—unite in flying the saltire and celebrating St Andrew's day.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 4:31, 29 November 2007

In this wide-ranging debate, despite the many differences, a great deal has united us. Before dealing with the various contributions, I join other members in welcoming Dennis Canavan to the public gallery. I acknowledge all his work on the St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill and on many other issues over his long career.

I will start with Margo MacDonald's short speech. I assure her that I agree entirely with her central point that St Andrew's day is an occasion on which to be whole-hearted about being Scottish. My passing remarks about St Andrew being the patron saint of Greece and Russia in no way contradict that.

At the same time, I agree with other speakers that on St Andrew's day we must look outwards as well as inwards. Ted Brocklebank made that point at the beginning of his speech. It was also at the heart of Bill Kidd's very moving speech about one Scotland, many cultures. He emphasised that it is highly appropriate for modern Scotland that St Andrew is an international patron saint.

I was a little bit puzzled by Sandra White's speech. She chided us for not having a more positive outlook, but at that point in the debate I had been the only Labour speaker. I suggest that she read my speech in the Official Report and tell me afterwards what was negative about it.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

My point was about the Labour amendment, which is certainly not positive.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I will come to our amendment later, but the central point is that Sandra White made those claims about our views on St Andrew's day. She went on to say that St Andrew's day is not about parochialism, but who ever said that it was? I pointed out that this year's celebrations are very similar to last year's, but I certainly made no complaint about that.

Iain Smith gave another example of that in respect of the winter festival that will follow St Andrew's day. As he reminded us, there have been winter festivals for several years in many parts of Scotland. He referred in particular to Edinburgh's long-standing winter festival, but I know that many other places celebrate the winter period in a similar way.

Jamie Hepburn said that nobody likes to celebrate devolution day. I remind him that the Scottish Constitutional Convention's report was launched on St Andrew's day in 1995. His party had nothing to do with that, so I can accept why he might have overlooked that fact. I suggest that he should watch out for another important devolution landmark tomorrow. On St Andrew's day, we celebrate devolution along with the other great advances in Scottish history and culture.

I join Bill Butler in congratulating the STUC on its march and rally against racism and fascism, which are an important part of the lead-up to St Andrew's day each year. I also share his sense of genuine disappointment about the failure to conduct a study on the effect of banning trading on new year's day. Widespread discontent about that is evident in Bill Butler's postbag and in mine, so I would be very surprised if SNP members did not see it in theirs, too.

As ever, Karen Whitefield talked eloquently about her constituency. I join her in congratulating St Andrew's primary in Airdrie on its 50th anniversary. She mentioned the fundraising that the school has done for St Andrew's Hospice, which I am sure is one of many superb examples of work that people are doing for St Andrew's day. She also talked about pupils learning about the school's history and Scotland's history. In that context, I am sure that we all welcome the news of a few days ago that Scottish history will always be part of the higher history syllabus.

She went on to discuss the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Act 2007, which she so diligently promoted, and expressed concern that thousands of shop workers will be unable to participate in the winter festival, especially on new year's day. It is entirely appropriate for that issue to be raised in a debate about the winter festival. She said that shop workers were relying on the Government to fulfil commitments that were first made during the second session of Parliament. It is certainly appropriate for the Parliament to express its disappointment about the Government's failure to meet those commitments.

Murdo Fraser helpfully and correctly reminded us of the religious origins of St Andrew's day. That theme will run through the festival period. On a more light-hearted note, Gavin Brown told us that a splashing white sergeant and a drip the willow are to be held—given my enthusiasm for swimming, I hope that he will be able to tell me where that is taking place.

Robert Brown and Jeremy Purvis expressed concerns about St Andrew's day being aligned too closely with a particular point of view, and I am sure that most members agree that that is to be avoided. Robert Brown also made an extremely valid point about multiple identities. It is important to emphasise that it is possible to feel simultaneously Scottish, British and European—many of us do—as well as being citizens of the wider world.

James Kelly made a powerful speech on the subject of being positive about Scotland and St Andrew's day, in which he focused on a particular aspect of Scottish history—our outstanding scientific achievements. We should celebrate those achievements, along with all the other aspects of Scottish history and culture.

Notwithstanding the differences that have been expressed, I hope that we can all unite in celebrating the diversity of modern Scotland and the richness of our culture and history. However, given that St Andrew's day is the start of the winter festival, it is legitimate to focus on an important day during that festival period and to express disappointment at a callous Government U-turn on the proposal to carry out a study on the effect of a ban on trading by large retailers on new year's day, to which the Parliament agreed. As people on all sides of the debate on new year's day trading united in support of that proposal, I hope that the Government will think again and help to make the winter festival even more inclusive and enjoyable.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 4:38, 29 November 2007

Someone—I cannot remember who—said that this has been a largely consensual debate, which is true. I am pleased about that because, as I have said repeatedly, St Andrew's day is for everyone in Scotland.

In his opening speech, Malcolm Chisholm rightly made powerful statements about Scotland being a modern and diverse nation, and said that we must celebrate that diversity. I am sure that all members agree. One of the first events that I was privileged to attend as a minister was the our Scotland event at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, which I understand was funded by the previous Administration and the City of Edinburgh Council. I opened that marvellous event, which showcased Scotland's many cultures. Tomorrow, the First Minister will attend the closing event.

Malcolm Chisholm and Bill Kidd spoke about the need to spread the message among the members of the diaspora. All members will agree that that is crucial to anything that we do for the promotion of our country.

I was concerned when Malcolm Chisholm spoke about the possible promotion of what he regarded as a narrow definition of Scottish culture. We would fight against that all the way. There is absolutely no definition of culture. We cannot put on culture the straitjacket of a definition, because that would not allow culture to flourish. As the minister responsible for culture, I have said all along that we must allow culture to flourish. We should not cram it into pigeonholes for the sake of ticking boxes. We have absolutely no desire to control Scotland's artists, musicians, dancers and actors, or to examine the narrow issue of "cultural entitlement". Let the arts flourish.

Concerns have been expressed about this Government using the term "fairness" rather than "social justice". I cannot see what the difference is. We should be promoting fairness in absolutely everything that we do as a Government, we intend to do so. If things are fair, we achieve social justice. Let us start by considering what we have to do to achieve that end.

Ted Brocklebank gave a very interesting speech. It was fascinating. When Ted stands up to speak, we are guaranteed to learn something, which is always useful.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Well, it is generally very useful—as was Jeremy Purvis's speech, which contained a lot of hints for a lot of people in the chamber. However, I hate to disappoint Ted Brocklebank, but I have absolutely no desire, and nor does the Government, to change Scotland's patron saint to St Kenneth—not even for Fife. And, in the interests of equality, I have to say that I was surprised and disappointed that Ted did not make a case for St Margaret, who also has a link to Fife.

Ted Brocklebank also spoke of the importance of promoting the concept of the national holiday, which I agree is important. There were interesting links to Gavin Brown's speech. Promoting the idea in our schools and building up momentum will make the celebration of our national day become a desire and a template for a holiday. Yes, we have to build on everything that is being done, and that is the Government's intention. We very much have an eye on the year of homecoming in 2009. As Gavin Brown said, that is important.

Ted Brocklebank and Murdo Fraser spoke about the religious significance of St Andrew's day. I spoke to Cardinal Keith O'Brien last night and I learned that St Mary's cathedral—which holds relics of St Andrew—has a special St Andrew's day mass, which John Swinney will attend to say a few words. My colleague Maureen Watt tells me that last Sunday, to celebrate St Andrew's day, she read the lessons in Doric in the kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen, which is great.

There has been a lot of talk about the winter festival, but there is so much more to it than people think. We have to get that across. I am delighted that people are already coming to us and asking whether they can be part of the winter festival. For example, we are going to have the first Gaelic Christmas concert in Glasgow, at St Andrew's in the square, which will be headed by Fiona Mackenzie, and the organisers have requested that the concert be part of the winter festival. Karen Whitefield mentioned hogmanay, and we also have Celtic Connections and Burns night. The Highland new year in the middle of January, up in Inverness, is also part of the winter festival, as is Shetland's Up-Helly-Aa. The difference is that we are trying very hard to unify everything under the winter festival theme. As Margo MacDonald said, we can build that up, and use this year as a springboard, which is absolutely what we intend to do.

Sandra White was disappointed at the negativity that some members have shown. I am too, but I hope that we can all get over that negativity and celebrate our national day together. The Labour group made contributions about the previously proposed potential for a new year's day holiday. Anyone listening to them might have thought that the Labour group had pushed the case that the big shops should close on new year's day, and they might have thought that, had Labour won the election—which it did not—the proposal would have been immediately implemented and all the big shops would have closed on new year's day.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

That is not the case. The Labour group backed a study of whether it would be appropriate to close the shops on new year's day.

Photo of Bill Butler Bill Butler Labour

Will the member give way on that point?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The minister does not appear to be taking an intervention.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

The Labour members do not like hearing the reality, which is that the Labour group backed off from its commitment and did not try to push it through. Labour members are now saying that no matter the result of the investigation and research, they were going to pronounce that holiday. As usual, they were not going to listen.

While we are at it, let us nail the myth about the SNP's position on the minimum wage. James Kelly made a spurious claim about what happened at Westminster. He was talking about a House of Lords vote on an amendment. Our own Alasdair Morgan took part in the committee that oversaw the National Minimum Wage Bill. Our MPs supported the bill and voted for it at its second reading. Our MPs supported Trades Union Congress-backed amendments to strengthen the bill. Our MPs voted on it more often than Tony Blair and as often as Gordon Brown. Let us nail that myth right now.

Having said all that, I am delighted that there is common ground in relation to our St Andrew's day proposals, as Robert Brown said. I am concerned about Robert Brown's concern about the identity that is being promoted. Robert Brown explained his antecedents, who are varied and treasured, as are my own and those of many people in the SNP group.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

You should be finishing now, minister.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I also worry about the view that we are somehow appropriating symbols. We are not doing that. Of course we use Scotland's flag—we are proud to be Scots. While I am on that subject, I have often seen the Conservatives using the union flag. Does that mean that they are appropriating it for their advantage? Possibly.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Minister, I am sorry, but you should be finished.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I will finish now. Let us have a fantastic St Andrew's day. Let us forget our differences, join hands for our national day tomorrow and have a very good time.