St Patrick’s Day

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 17 March 2011.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government whether Scotland can learn from the way in which Irish culture, history and achievements are promoted and celebrated world wide on St Patrick’s day. (S3O-13318)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I wish everyone, particularly the Irish diaspora in Scotland, happy St Patrick’s day.

There are lessons that we can learn from Irish experience. For example, Ireland sends a number of ministers across the globe to promote Irish culture, trade and industry on St Patrick’s day. That is not possible to the same extent for a minority Government that requires always to be in attendance at Parliament.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Scottish National Party

The minister will be aware of the St Andrew’s day campaign committee, which is calling for St Andrew’s day to be a full national public holiday. Perhaps she will support the call.

Will the minister comment on recent remarks in the Parliament about Ireland’s current economic situation? Members of the Irish community told me that they found the remarks “offensive”, “inexcusable” and “deeply hurtful”—their words, not mine. Will she join me on St Patrick’s day in confirming our unswerving solidarity with the people of Ireland and our total confidence in their ability to come out of the situation stronger than ever?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

There is no legal or statutory definition of a public holiday in Scotland, but momentum is building around the importance of celebrating our national day, St Andrew’s day, throughout Scotland.

On Anne McLaughlin’s latter point, I congratulate Enda Kenny on his appointment as Taoiseach.

On solidarity with Ireland, it is important to reflect that the International Monetary Fund forecast in October showed that the Irish economy is expected to grow at a faster rate than the United Kingdom’s. Indeed, in 2009, the gross domestic product per capita in Ireland was 12 per cent higher than that in the UK. More important, the Irish people are close neighbours of ours, and as they come through their difficulties it is better to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in solidarity than to trade insults, which some members seek to do.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

Is the minister aware that the St Patrick’s day festival in Coatbridge is one of the biggest festivities of the type in the world? Will she congratulate its organisers on their hard work, which enables Irish culture and history to be celebrated over the course of the two-week festival? Will she join me in urging Scots with Irish heritage to tick the Irish ethnicity box on the census form?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Indeed I will. I was pleased to attend a St Patrick’s day event yesterday with the consul general from Ireland. I understand from her that she is attending the Coatbridge event and that it has been going for nine years. I am sure that the Parliament will want to congratulate the people of Coatbridge on delivering that.

The Scottish census in 2011 will contain an Irish ethnicity tick box, which I hope will provide a baseline for the number of Irish in Scotland. I encourage those with an Irish identity to reflect it in the census.