I am delighted to open the debate, which I hope will give us the opportunity to discuss what is great about Scotland and how we can use St Andrew’s day to celebrate our history, our people, our culture and our world-famous food and drink.
It was a remarkable journey that took St Andrew from being a fisherman on the sea of Galilee to being patron saint of Scotland. St Andrew became a disciple of Jesus and later an apostle in Asia Minor, Macedonia and southern Russia, before being crucified in the year AD 70 in Patras, in Greece. His journey did not end there. After his death, legend has it that the monk St Regulus, or St Rule, was instructed in a dream to take St Andrew’s remains to the ends of the earth, for safe keeping. St Rule did as he was told, removing some of the bones and taking them to a town called Kilrymont, which is now called St Andrews.
Such was the veneration for St Andrew that St Andrews became the ecclesiastical centre of the medieval Scottish church, with a great cathedral. That, in turn, led to Bishop Wardlaw of St Andrews establishing a centre of learning and, 599 years ago, securing the papal bull that established the University of St Andrews, which is Scotland’s oldest university and the third-oldest university in the English-speaking world.
St Andrew’s journey can still speak to us today. In life, his missions brought people together across many lands, in new friendship and faith. In death, the journey of his remains to Scotland led, in time, to a flourishing of literacy and learning. I will touch on both themes in the debate.
St Andrew’s day is a thoroughly appropriate occasion for Scots and friends of Scotland, at home and abroad, to join together in fellowship to mark our national culture and heritage. The Government will be active on a number of fronts. Tomorrow, the First Minister will host the brave@heart St Andrew’s awards in Bute house, and Angela Constance, the Minister for Youth Employment, will host a St Andrew’s day concert by celebrated Scottish band Mànran in our European office in Brussels.
On St Andrew’s day itself, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Mike Russell, will attend a St Andrew’s day dinner at James Watt College in North Ayrshire and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice will be at Edinburgh castle to witness the St Andrew’s day event, which promises to be a carnival of contemporary dance, with a light show, fireworks and a unique twist on the Scottish pipes and drums. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth will attend an event in Perth as part of Scotland sings, which is a brand-new national event that brings together participants and audiences in community singing events—I do not know whether the cabinet secretary will sing, but if members attend they will find out.
I will be at the Saltire Society literary awards 2012 on St Andrew’s day. The event is being delivered in partnership with the Scottish Book Trust and the National Library of Scotland. I look forward to presenting the book of the year award.
That is just some of what the Government is doing to celebrate St Andrew’s day. I know that members of all parties will join together to celebrate Scotland on St Andrew’s day at events across the county. Last week I wrote to all MSPs, setting out a range of events that are taking place and giving details of the Scotland.org website. It is worth exploring the website to find out about the St Andrew’s day events that are happening in members’ areas and all over the world.
A good example of what happens internationally is the Alexandria Christmas parade. During my visit to the United States of America last November I was privileged to participate in the parade, which takes place over the St Andrew’s day weekend in the suburbs of Washington. It was a sight to behold. There were 30,000 walkers, massed pipes and drums and the largest collection of Scottie dogs that I have ever seen.
St Andrew’s day is not just important in itself; it fires the starting gun for Scotland’s winter festivals programme and a time when we welcome visitors from around the world to bring in the new year at the home of hogmanay and celebrate Burns night in the land of the bard’s birth. The Scottish Government will part-fund 17 events in nine local authority areas over the winter festivals period. Five of the events will take place around St Andrew’s day, in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, St Andrews and East Lothian.
I welcome Patricia Ferguson’s amendment, the sentiment of which is absolutely right. All of us can and should share in the saltire and the celebrations that take place. However, I am rather bemused by Annabel Goldie’s amendment, which seems to be a crude attempt to hijack for unionist purposes what should be a celebratory debate.
I was in Cardiff yesterday. If I were to suggest to a Welshman that he could celebrate St David’s day only if it was as part of the United Kingdom, he would just laugh. Annabel Goldie should be comforted that it is perfectly possible for unionists to celebrate Scotland for its distinct and individual identity. There is room in the tent of celebration even for Annabel Goldie. I hope that she will take part.
I am grateful to the cabinet secretary for her graciousness in permitting me to intervene.
I know that the cabinet secretary does not care for the impact of history but the fact is that within this enduring union, which receives my approval although it may not receive hers, Scotland has actually achieved many great things—distinctively Scottish things, but as part of that union. I cannot believe that the cabinet secretary would not want to reflect that. That would seem uncharacteristically churlish.
We could debate who is churlish. I would accept that Annabel Goldie’s amendment is not a crude attempt to hijack the debate for constitutional purposes if she could list for me the whole range of events—if she cannot list a range of events, perhaps she could list a few—that will be taking place on Friday to celebrate Scotland’s place in the UK.
As a Government, we have worked hard to increase interest in Scotland’s national day. We continue to encourage all parts of Scotland—public bodies in particular—to recognise St Andrew’s day but, as a Government, we would be keen to see more participate. It is worth noting that the number of public holidays that Scotland recognises, which is currently nine days, is lower than the number recognised by many of our European neighbours—some have as many as 14 per year.
I mentioned earlier how St Andrew inspired a first flowering of higher education in Scotland. That began the great movement that led to our having four universities at a time when England had only two. Because of the graduates that they produced, we had enough teachers to establish the first universal public education system in the world, with a school in every parish. It is therefore entirely fitting for schools and pre-schools to celebrate Scotland and its culture by marking St Andrew’s day.
Edinburgh castle is running activities for pupils in primary classes 4 to 7 in the run-up to St Andrew’s day. Pupils are encouraged to visit one of Scotland’s most iconic castles to find out more about Scotland’s history.
The St Andrew’s day debating championship will take place on 3 December, with the final being chaired by the Deputy Presiding Officer. Education Scotland is working with the English-Speaking Union and the Scottish Parliament to take forward the debate, which will reflect the year of creative Scotland and the forthcoming year of natural Scotland in 2013. Around 20 secondary schools and seven universities will be represented.
We have been building up the offer of free access to key Scottish visitor attractions around St Andrew’s day, which is mentioned in Patricia Ferguson’s amendment. The initiative, over the St Andrew’s day weekend, has proved popular and returns this year. I am delighted to say that as well as St Andrews castle and Edinburgh castle, St Andrews cathedral, where the bones of the saint are said to be interred, will be open for free on St Andrew’s day itself.
For the first time this year, some of Scotland’s sports centres will take part in St Andrew’s day. For example, at Thurso swimming pool there will be free swimming for kids, while at Port Glasgow swimming pool there will be free swimming for those over 60. Many sports centres are offering discounts and free trials right across the weekend, starting on the 30th, in the lead-up to the Commonwealth games in 2014.
I set out a few minutes ago the importance of St Andrew’s legacy, which enabled Scotland to become the first country with universal public education. In turn, that led to Scotland becoming the first country with universal literacy. This year, for the first time, we will celebrate that legacy by using St Andrew’s day to launch a new initiative on literature. We are celebrating our literary heritage on St Andrew’s day through book week Scotland. Yesterday we delivered on one of our manifesto commitments by marking the start of book week, Scotland’s first national, inclusive celebration of reading. Supported by Creative Scotland, the initiative is being delivered by the Scottish Book Trust in partnership with many other organisations. I thank everyone involved for creating such an inclusive and diverse programme of activities for everyone to enjoy.
The book week programme of activities will encourage Scots of all backgrounds and all ages to embark or continue on a lifetime’s journey of reading. We have a great programme of activities and events taking place, engaging local communities across the country. For example, at 100 authors in 100 libraries events, authors will share their love of books with those attending the events across Scotland. The Scottish library service has created that national programme of writer events in libraries, which has been supported through the Scottish Library and Information Council.
RNIB Scotland will open its transcription service in Partick to show people how to make a book for someone with sight loss or create writing in Braille.
I encourage everyone to get a copy of the book “My Favourite Place”, which contains a collection of stories about Scotland’s best-loved places written by the public and some of our best-loved authors, such as Alasdair Gray and Liz Lochhead. Copies are available in bookshops, public libraries and National Trust for Scotland properties.
The cabinet secretary has given an impressive list, but I wonder whether there could be something that is a bit more imaginative—a huge St Andrew’s day prize where everybody would know what it stood for. She has mentioned many events that are dotted about the country. They are all good, but they do not hang together well.
That is a good point and it is one reason why the national book prize that the Saltire Society runs will be announced on St Andrew’s day, as a St Andrew’s prize. Our culture is many and varied. This year, we are focusing on celebrating literary culture, but I am attracted to the concept of having a prize.
This year, events will be focused on book week Scotland in particular. If that is successful, it can continue. The week will include events for toddlers and pre-schoolers, for example, and a St Andrew’s day reading hour, which will take place at 11 o’clock on 30 November. The idea is to encourage everyone to celebrate reading, and participation can happen anywhere. The national museum of Scotland is taking a lead on that and will hold a read-in event for reading hour with Alexander McCall Smith. There will be reading activities for people from babies to pensioners.
I hope that everyone will celebrate reading as part of celebrating our culture. Reading helps with skills, employability and self-improvement. The turn of a page takes us to new countries, opens new horizons and extends our human sympathies. It is no wonder that Abraham Lincoln was reported to have given credit to the role played by novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe and her great anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in the emancipation of slaves.
Our literary heritage is central to Scotland, which is why we are celebrating literature and giving a prize on St Andrew’s day to the best of our Scottish literature to mark the importance of our celebrations.
Robert Burns’s message rings out loud and clear. Sir Walter Scott’s historical novels enthralled 19th century Europe and inspired writers such as Alessandro Manzoni in Italy and Adam Mickiewicz in Poland. We have had more recent literary giants. We recently debated “Sunset Song” in the Parliament and we have modern writers such as Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway and J K Rowling. Book week is an important part of our celebrations.
I said at the beginning of my speech that it was a strange and remarkable journey that took St Andrew from the shores of the sea of Galilee to the shores of St Andrews. That a Jewish fisherman, with the help of a Greek monk, could have such an effect on a country that he never saw in life and probably scarcely knew existed illustrates how Scotland has always depended on the contribution not just of those who are born here but of those who come here as visitors and immigrants—one Scotland, many cultures, indeed.
What matters about St Andrew and Scotland is not the truth of the legend but its effect in helping Scotland to become a nation of learning, literacy and literature. That is why we are particularly using literature this year to help to celebrate and promote our national day.
I finish by quoting one final inspirational author. In his poem for the opening of this Parliament, Edwin Morgan wrote:
“Light of the day, shine in; light of the mind, shine out!”
This St Andrew’s day will shine a light on Scotland and I am sure that, during the debate, we will see the light of the mind shine out.
That the Parliament welcomes the celebration of St Andrew’s Day and the opportunity that it gives Scots, friends of Scotland and those who would like to know the country better, to celebrate Scotland’s people and history, world renowned food and drink and traditional and contemporary culture and notes the many events that will take place overseas, in the rest of the UK and in Scotland, on or around St Andrew’s Day, which includes the launch of Book Week Scotland, Scotland’s first national celebration of reading, which is a diverse programme of book-related events that will be held across the nation between 26 November and 2 December 2012.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in today’s debate on the continuing relevance of St Andrew’s day to contemporary Scotland. I signal that Scottish Labour will support the Government’s motion; I doubt that a single member would have any difficulty with the sentiments expressed in it.
I am pleased that the Government will support Labour’s addendum amendment, which will strengthen the Government’s motion—I am pleased that the cabinet secretary recognised that. We will also support the Conservative amendment, as we do not have the same difficulties with it as some others seem to.
We Scots cannot claim exclusivity for our nation’s patron saint. Greece, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, Barbados and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople all claim St Andrew as their patron saint. Germany and Poland have also long celebrated St Andrew’s day.
We in Scotland have only recently begun to celebrate, at least in a co-ordinated and national way, St Andrew’s feast day as our national holiday, so we do not yet have the type of traditions attached to 30 November that can be found in many other countries. I was intrigued to read that many of those traditions seem to be associated with young women who are trying to find a husband or work out when they might be married, sometimes by following very complicated rituals that perhaps owe more to wishful thinking than to saintly intervention.
I intend to say more about our celebrations later in my speech, but for now I note that the Scottish Labour amendment is partly intended to stress that we think that St Andrew’s Day is an integral part of the Parliament’s promotion of a fair, inclusive and diverse Scottish society. In relation to the passing of the St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, the former Minister for Communities Malcolm Chisholm remarked:
“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.”
The cabinet secretary has outlined all—or at least many—of the events that are taking place, which demonstrates how right Malcolm Chisholm was then and how relevant his words are today.
St Andrew’s day is not, and must never become, parochial; it must be about Scotland’s place in the world. It is a celebration of our diverse modern Scotland, which today welcomes people from many nations and different ethnic origins. We have as citizens people from a variety of cultures and faiths, as well as people of no faith. I welcome that, because I believe that it helps to make us all stronger.
I place on record my congratulations—and, I am sure, those of every member—to the Scottish Trades Union Congress on its continued and long-standing support for and organisation 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. As the cabinet secretary rightly said, one Scotland, many cultures has been a statement of Scottish Government policy over two political Administrations and must remain our approach. Parliament must encourage and support such events to ensure that all citizens of Scotland have ownership of the St Andrew’s day celebrations and feel that they truly belong and are as relevant as anyone.
Just as Scots in the past went out into the world, our population is now growing partly because we are attracting 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, we should celebrate not just shared Scottish traditions but our shared future.
Just as a broad definition of culture leads to the celebration of diversity, its narrower artistic definition inevitably leads us to the same conclusion. Indeed, as Scottish Labour’s amendment reminds us, the winter festival that begins on St Andrew’s day culminates in Burns night. Burns was an internationally recognised genius whose art is outward looking and encompasses universal themes that should be celebrated throughout the year, not just on 25 January.
How is Scotland celebrating its national day? I was pleased to find that Historic Scotland is giving free entry to many of its properties on the day. However, on looking again, I found that the offer this year seems to extend only to one day and not to the entire weekend as I recall happened last year. That may just be because of when St Andrew’s day happens to fall this year, but it would be helpful to have a weekend offer available for those who perhaps do not enjoy the holiday.
As one would expect, St Andrews is having a celebration, and the Edinburgh Storytelling Centre will host a singalong. Many of Edinburgh’s other attractions such as the Edinburgh Dungeon, Our Dynamic Earth, Mary King’s Close and—my personal favourite—the Camera Obscura all have special pricing arrangements over the weekend, which is to be welcomed.
The Scottish Book Trust has, as the cabinet secretary mentioned, put out a lovely book called “My Favourite Place”. I suspect that, as well as being available in local bookshops, it is probably available in an MSP’s office near you, thanks to the Book Trust, which provided copies to us for distribution. I am certainly grateful to the trust for that.
I was intrigued to see that East Lothian is holding a saltire festival, while Glasgow is branding its events under the heading “Glasgow loves St Andrew’s day”. Apparently there will be a party in George Square on Friday night, with pipes, drums and Highland dancing, and other events will carry on until Sunday. I noted that the organisers are promising that there will be mayhem and are warning that a kilted caricaturist will be on the loose. I am not sure why a kilted caricaturist should be particularly feared, but I take the warning in the spirit of generosity in which it is clearly meant.
I may be biased in saying this, but Glasgow has got the idea of the celebration better than some other areas—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but I missed what Mrs MacDonald said, although I am sure that it was pithy. [Interruption.] Ah—she thinks that I am biased. I own up to that; I am guilty as charged.
Glasgow has put together a branded campaign and a coherent menu of new, themed activities over the weekend that are specific celebrations of St Andrew’s day, which ties into the point that Mrs MacDonald made during the cabinet secretary’s speech. I hope to carry on that theme. When EventScotland and VisitScotland come to review this year’s programme, I hope that they will think about what more they can do to badge and brand events around Scotland, so that those become a better known set of festivals and attract more visitors in the future.
I wonder whether more could be done to encourage retailers to become involved. Given that St Andrew’s day happens to fall in the run-up to Christmas, it seems to me that special events organised by traders and stores around 30 November would perhaps encourage shoppers to patronise participating stores more than they normally would during that weekend. Such schemes may be under way already, but if so, they have passed me by—and, as an avid shopper, there is not much in that direction that passes me by.
I am not in the least biased, so here is an idea. At Christmas, we wear Christmas tree badges, brooches and so on. I am sure that we could get something for St Andrew’s day that everybody could wear—it would not be wrapped in a union jack, right enough. That would be something through which we could all celebrate our common identity.
I thank Mrs MacDonald for that helpful suggestion. Perhaps we could have a saltire and a union jack, although that may be pushing it too far. I can just see the competition that we could organise among schoolchildren to identify such an image. Perhaps that is something that we would want to do in future years.
With floods and bad weather the order of the day, it is sometimes difficult to think about celebrating anything at all, but I genuinely look forward to hearing colleagues’ speeches and about the celebrations in their areas. I hope very much to make my own small—and probably modest—contribution to the mayhem in George Square at the weekend.
I move amendment S4M-04970.2, to insert at end:
“; believes that Scotland’s national day and flag belong to all of the people of Scotland regardless of origin, current residence and political beliefs; welcomes the decision of Historic Scotland to allow free entry to Edinburgh Castle and St Andrews Castle and Cathedral in celebration of St Andrew’s Day, and recognises that St Andrew’s Day also marks the start of Scotland’s winter festival season, which ends on Burns Night and includes the Christmas, Hogmanay and New Year celebrations.”
On seeing the title of today’s debate, I was reminded of a time when the St Andrew’s day debate was confined to members’ business. It is now elevated to the status of a Scottish Government debate, which is entirely appropriate. I hope that the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs is not too stunned by my acquiescence.
As members are aware, I believe in the United Kingdom and in Scotland’s place in that union. A person need not be a member of the Scottish National Party to be proud of Scotland and her achievements. No one in the chamber has a monopoly on patriotism. Patricia Ferguson made that point well; I thank her for her support of my amendment. The Scottish Conservatives welcome the opportunity to celebrate Scotland and the St Andrew’s day tradition.
On a mechanism for enhancing the celebration, I say to Margo MacDonald that I celebrate it by just being myself; I think that that is what an awful lot of people in Scotland do.
St Andrew was, of course, the first apostle. He was a fisherman on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. However, it was not until the end of the first millennium that St Andrew’s links with Scotland were established, when he was made the patron saint of Scotland after some of his relics were brought by St Rule to St Andrews, where they remain to this day. Other relics can be found in Patras in Greece—I have viewed them there—in Amalfi in Italy, in Warsaw in Poland and in St Mary’s Roman Catholic church in Edinburgh, so he was well travelled in death.
St Andrew was no less well travelled in life; he preached along the southern borders of today’s Ukraine along the Black Sea, as well as along the Dnieper and Volga rivers, which is why he became a patron saint of Russia, Romania and the Ukraine. However, the temporal reach of St Andrew does not end there, with his patronages in sainthood extending from Luqa to Esgueira, and even as far as Barbados. The global reach of St Andrew is not limited merely to countries that enjoy him as their patron saint. This year alone, individuals of all nationalities will gather, from Australia and New Zealand to the USA and Canada and from Bonn to Brussels to celebrate the saintly feast day.
The cabinet secretary asked me about UK celebrations of St Andrew. I am quite surprised by the request, because in her motion she notes that many events will take place in the rest of the UK. However, to help her out I can confirm that many Scots will congregate in London, Cambridge, Bedford, Dorset and other parts of England to celebrate St Andrew’s day.
That is what many people in Scotland—hundreds of thousands of them apparently, according to recent polls—feel instinctively is part of their identity. They do not have a problem with it. I appreciate that the cabinet secretary has a problem with that, but it is not a problem that is shared by the majority of people in Scotland. St Andrew and his saltire are by no means the property solely of Scotland, let alone of the Scottish National Party or of any other form of nationalism.
The debate calls on us to celebrate Scotland, which I genuinely always welcome the opportunity to do, because we have a great deal to celebrate. We have a distinct culture and history, and our contribution to the world at every level cannot be overstated. I celebrate all those attributes as a Scot, but I also—alongside hundreds of thousands of other Scots—celebrate them as a citizen of part of the United Kingdom. Remember: 800,000 Scots live elsewhere in the UK.
From a union that was inspired by pragmatism and rationality, one of the world’s most wonderful and remarkable democratic countries has developed and grown. Of course Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have many individual successes to extol, but I believe that our greatest successes—those that we can celebrate the most, and those that define who we are as people and what we are as a nation—are those that happened not by acting alone and looking inward but by acting together and looking outward as part of the remarkable union that is the United Kingdom.
I remind Parliament that it was together, as part of that United Kingdom, that we led the fight against slavery and delivered huge social reform and the universal franchise, which were made possible by acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, so we can all—Scots and English alike—take pride in that.
My point is that it was a United Kingdom Parliament that put an end to slavery and that Scotland was part of that. It was also as part of the United Kingdom that we led the fight against totalitarianism in all its insidious forms, from fascism to communism. Patricia Ferguson quite rightly reminded us of the STUC’s role every year in ensuring that we never forget the importance of that fight.
It was together, as part of the United Kingdom, that we created what is perhaps the most respected public health institution in the world—the national health service, which continues to ensure that everyone in the United Kingdom, regardless of status, receives the health service that they need free of charge.
It is interesting that it was also together, as part of that United Kingdom, that we brought a common market to the nations of our union a century before Europe did. That common market brought unparalleled prosperity to the partners of the UK.
However, it is clear from listening to members on the SNP benches and to the cabinet secretary’s speech that there is a belief, which we hear about with increasing frequency, that Scotland—they claim—is hampered by the union. We are, they insist, somehow held back because we are part of the UK. Only with independence, they assert, can we really be a successful nation. However, that incantation is nothing more than tilting at windmills, because we did not achieve those defining successes alone. Rather, we accomplished them together as a union of nations. In doing so, we crafted who we are as people as well as who we are as a people. Nationalism, with its instinct to look inwards, neglects that fact.
In a globalised world, separatism cannot be the answer. At exactly the time when we should be working together to face the difficult challenges and uncertainties that abound in our modern world, I must question how separation can help that. The difficulty with separation is the risk—I am not saying that the SNP is culpable; I am just saying that it can happen—of introspection and marginalisation.
St Andrew’s reach throughout the United Kingdom as well as the world shows us how interconnected are our identities, cultures, histories, successes and—most important of all—our futures. I add my name to those who proudly celebrate Scotland, speaking out for the majority of Scots who celebrate our successes not alone, but as part of an enduring union.
I move amendment S4M-04970.1, after “culture” to insert:
“, as well as Scotland’s place in, and shared history, identity and culture with, the UK,”.
As the MSP for North East Fife, which is home to the town of St Andrews, I am privileged to participate in today’s debate on Scotland’s day of national celebration. I am delighted that this year’s programme of events in celebration of St Andrew’s day is busier than ever before. St Andrews is currently holding the St Andrews festival, which runs until the weekend. That is just one of the major events that are planned for Scotland this week, alongside programmes such as Scotland sings and book week Scotland, which tie in perfectly with the year of creative Scotland.
From previous debates, I had understood that there was a general cross-party agreement on having a public holiday on St Andrew’s day, on the internationalism of our patron saint and on the need to put aside political differences so that we can celebrate Scotland’s national day together, as people of Scotland. As has, however, been pointed out several times in the past, St Andrew is not exclusively ours. Other countries, including Russia and Greece, respect him as their patron saint. Despite its further bail-out, Greece certainly needs a patron saint looking after it and its people.
The date of 30 November has its obvious significance in Scotland, but it also captures worldwide significance. On that day in 1786, Peter Leopold Joseph of Habsburg-Lorraine, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, abolished the death penalty—it was the first European state to do so. Cities across the globe now celebrate cities for life day in memory of that pioneering act of humanity. In 1872, the first international football match took place in Glasgow between Scotland and England, and in 1934 the Flying Scotsman became the first steam locomotive officially to exceed 100mph. Not least important, in 1982 Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album was released. All those events may have only tenuous connections to St Andrews and Scotland, but they all took place on 30 November and are all of great importance, in their own right.
Perhaps I can supply a connection with “Thriller”. Apparently, the producer of the video was inspired by “Tam o’ Shanter”, perhaps reflecting the theme, so there may well be a Scottish connection to “Thriller”.
I thank the cabinet secretary for that useful piece of information.
Cities for life day is an event that does not gather as much interest in Scotland as it does elsewhere. In a country that has not had the death penalty since the 1960s, that may be understandable. However, on the day on which we celebrate St Andrew, I feel that we should all consider the importance and on-going relevance of cities for life day.
It was a 0-0 draw.
St Andrew’s day has also borne witness to cultural and historically significant firsts. The first international football match gathered together 4,000 souls as Scotland held England to a 0-0 draw, as I just said. Despite the result, the match helped to invigorate the Scottish people with a love of football, which continues to this day—albeit with little current success.
Of more interest than the 0-0 draw is the first 100mph journey by the Flying Scotsman. The locomotive travelled on countless journeys and covered about 2 million miles between London and Edinburgh after that. I rather fear that it will be a long while before we have a new high-speed train in Scotland.
Some people may question how those examples are linked to St Andrew’s day. They are indicative of several things: humanitarianism, peace, equality, national pride and links between nations. As I mentioned, St Andrew was renowned for his humanitarianism and egalitarianism. Is not it right that the first international football match brought together on the terraces 4,000 people from different walks of life, in the same circumstances, to enjoy a game? Surely that demonstrates those values. Cannot it be said that a love of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album, which just happens to be the best-selling album of all time, brings together millions of people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe in a shared experience?
St Andrew’s day is about much more than Scotland and its own history and culture; it is a day for the entire world. It is a day of tolerance, pride and equality. Events that are taking place globally this week reflect that. For example, the Scottish Society of Central Pennsylvania is hosting its St Andrew’s day supper. Over the next few days, St Andrew’s day events will take place in Brussels, Den Haag in the Netherlands, Bermuda and Manila. St Andrews is hosting a 10-day-long festival, which includes a food festival, as part of which a food from Fife dinner will be held at the Old Course hotel in St Andrews on Thursday. There will also be a Fife young fiddlers event, a torchlight parade and many other activities besides. Last Friday, there was a major poetry event in St Andrews, at which readings of the Ayrshire poet Rab Wilson, who wrote mainly in Scots, led a highly successful evening.
I wish all the organisers of and participants in those events—which are the first in Scotland’s winter festival programme—every success, and I wish those who are involved in later events in the programme every success, too. I also welcome book week Scotland which, I am sure, Fiona McLeod will talk about in more detail.
The internationalism of the day cannot be overstated. St Patrick’s day is renowned internationally for people enjoying themselves and celebrating all that is good about Ireland. The same should be true of St Andrew’s day in relation to Scotland, so I welcome the work that the Scottish Government is doing to promote it within our borders and beyond them. It is clear that St Andrew’s day is very important to the people of Scotland and to the people of the world, so it is right for us, as a Parliament, to hold such a debate. I commend the Government’s motion and Patricia Ferguson’s amendment. I wish, however, that I could understand the logic of Annabel Goldie’s amendment. I see and recognise 300 years of shared history, and I see and recognise a social union, but I do not recognise the narrow prism that her amendment seems to imply.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in the Scottish Government debate on St Andrew’s day, although a Scottish Government celebration of St Andrew’s day might be more appropriate than a debate. I am sorry to disagree with Ms Goldie.
St Andrew’s day should be a celebration of Scottish culture and tradition and a way for us to highlight that culture and tradition to the rest of the world, and to generate trade and tourism. Scotland has such a rich and vibrant history that we should all be proud to be Scottish and to share our traditions with the rest of the world.
Scotland has many things to share, from the Loch Ness monster to the elusive wild haggis, which frolics around steep mountains and hillsides, but only ever in one direction—the true
“Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race”.
Members might ask, if it is so elusive, how am I aware of its habitat? That evidence comes from a study in 2007 of the haggii and the stories of the many thousands of tourists who have come in search of the creatures.
Leaving aside the unique Scottish wildlife for now, my region has a vibrant history and many unique Scottish businesses. Ayrshire is, of course, the home of Robert Burns. There is a museum dedicated to his life in Irvine, where he lived for a time in 1781. It is said that Burns came to Irvine as a farmer but left as a poet. Just down the road in Alloway is the Robert Burns birthplace museum. The Irvine Burns club, which was opened in 1862, has a huge range of artefacts and one of Scotland’s most significant Burns treasure troves; I recommend that everyone who has an interest in Burns visit the centre to see the incredible array of Burns memorabilia.
Irvine also has the annual Marymass festival, which is organised by the Irvine Carters Society and North Ayrshire Council. The society dates back to the 11th century, when Irvine was the main port for Glasgow and men transported goods by cart to the city. The festival itself, which dates from the middle ages and arose from Mary Queen of Scots’s visit to the town in 1563, is a focal point for the town and attracts visitors from far and wide. Every August, many Irvinites return home to experience the fair’s rich pageantry and the week-long festivities. The festival not only promotes Irvine and contributes to the local economy, but brings thousands of people into Scotland.
Meanwhile, across the water in Arran, we have the famous Isle of Arran Cheese Shop and Arran Aromatics. I challenge anyone who goes to Arran not to come back with something from one of those shops or—if it is more members’ thing—something from the Arran Whisky distillery, which is one of the few remaining independent distilleries in Scotland. Arran, which is a beautiful island in itself and attracts visitors from across the world, is known as “Scotland in miniature”. Many people who come to the island take a piece of it home through those businesses and many others; indeed, many of those businesses have extended their reach not only in Scotland but throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas.
At a recent Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry event on exporting that I attended, the owners of Arran Aromatics and the Isle of Arran Cheese Shop said that they used to export to the mainland, which was Ayrshire, and then extended their exports to the middle east—or Edinburgh. Now they export to the far east, including Dubai and China. We in this Parliament have a duty to encourage Scottish businesses, culture and tradition to thrive not only throughout the world, but within Scotland itself.
I find it strange that one of the biggest celebrations of Scotland is tartan week, which takes place in Manhattan every year and is one of the largest outdoor Scottish events. Although it is great for promoting Scotland abroad, I have to ask why we do not have a similar co-ordinated event in Scotland on St Andrew’s day to promote our culture, history and businesses.
Everyone in Scotland should be able to celebrate St Andrew’s day. When I was a civil servant, we were delighted to be given the day off as a public holiday; however, most of us used the day to make a start on the Christmas shopping, with barely a thought given to St Andrew. Like any public holiday, it comes with a cost. If local authorities and the national health service gave all staff the day off, they would still need people to provide essential services, and those people would have to be paid additional-hours payments. With ever-decreasing resources, public services simply cannot afford such funding.
As the Labour amendment states,
“Scotland’s national day and flag belong to all of the people of Scotland regardless of origin, current residence and political beliefs”.
Everyone has a part to play in promoting Scotland. Not just one party but all of us in the chamber have Scotland’s interests at heart, and we all need to work together to ensure that we promote Scotland and St Andrew’s day.
First of all, I refer members to my register of interests as the chair of the Scottish Library and Information Council and as a member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. So, yes—Mr Campbell was correct. I am going to talk about book week Scotland.
I usually speak as a very high-tech librarian and talk about evidence, references and citations. However, I am also a book lover. As a result, I want to start with a quotation with which I agree utterly and which I was surprised the cabinet secretary did not use in her speech. In her press release for the launch of book week Scotland just a few weeks ago, she mentioned
“reading’s unique capacity for” empowerment
“enrichment, education, solace, pleasure and growth”.
I am sure that everyone in the chamber agrees with that sentiment.
There are so many aspects to our first book week Scotland. The cabinet secretary talked about it being an inclusive and diverse celebration. I would like to highlight just a few of the areas of book week Scotland, which started on Monday and finishes at the end of the week.
Something I want to highlight as being most important is the league of extraordinary booklovers. I had lodged a motion through which I had hoped to get a members’ business debate on book week Scotland. I had hoped to fly into the chamber for my members’ business debate, replete with my league cape and mask, but of course that would not have been appropriate behaviour in a parliamentary chamber. However, I have them in my bag, so I will wear them later.
The league of extraordinary booklovers is a group of people who have been recruited in the past year and who will be online all this week. If members need any ideas about what to read, or need to find out about a particular genre or author, they should email the league. Its fingers will fly over the keyboard and make sure that members get back suggestions to keep them busy this week. I thank my constituent from Milton of Campsie, Lindesay Burton, who is one of that extraordinary league.
The cabinet secretary referred to the reading hour, which is at 11 o’clock on St Andrew’s day. I do not suggest that everybody stop working then, but it would be nice if we could all, from the long list of celebrations that the cabinet secretary read out, take a quiet moment at 11 o’clock on St Andrew’s day to read a piece of Scottish literature. Of course, in my members’ business debate, I could have said, “Right, everybody, get your books out and read,” and we could have had a quiet 45 minutes.
I will also highlight something that I particularly like, which is the family pack of three books that will be presented to every primary 1 pupil in the country. It is so important that we start children reading at an early age and that we encourage their parents and carers to read with them and to introduce a love of literature. I have a constituency connection again: one of the books in the pack is “Jack and the Flumflum Tree” by the children’s laureate, Julia Donaldson, who is one of my constituents.
There are lots of local events in my constituency. On the theme of introducing Scottish literature to young folk, I am pleased that we are having bookbug sessions in Bishopbriggs, Lennoxtown, Lenzie, William Patrick and Westerton libraries. All the bookbug sessions this week will be on Scottish themes.
The cabinet secretary referred to the book, “My Favourite Place”. I, of course, have a copy with me, although I am not going to ask all members to read it now. We were all given copies of it. In a motion that I lodged in October, I suggested that although members should of course stay at home and read their copies, they should also think about where they could take them afterwards to donate to others. I have decided this year to take copies to care homes and sheltered housing in my constituency.
When I got the book, I saw that it could perhaps be difficult for someone with arthritic hands to read, so I spoke to Booktrust. There is an audio version of the book on its website, which it is happy for us to download on to a CD and take along to older or visually impaired people. We should make sure that literature is there and available to all of us.
In true librarian fashion, I turn to my bookmarked page in “My Favourite Place”. One entry that particularly caught my eye was “Island of (South) Rona” by Valerie Mcilreavy, which is about an island off Skye that I visit every year and which my Dalmatian dog is named after. It is a lovely poem to read.
Of course, members would not expect me to finish on anything other than Howard Swindle’s little ditty, “Mobile Library Man”. Please enjoy book week Scotland. It will be back next year, and I hope that I will get a members’ business debate then.
The idea behind celebrating St Andrew’s day on 30 November was partly handed down to us by the old church, and we are stumped with that, in a way. We cannot really change the date, although St Columba’s day on 9 June is slightly more attractive time at which to celebrate. However, let us brighten up the day.
A friend of mine who is teaching English as a foreign language in Paris said to me yesterday in an e-mail that she has found that all the students who are learning English with her have an incredible appetite for Scottish culture. We should recognise that international view on St Andrew’s day. That shows that, although people are awakened to the possibilities of using the universal language of English, they see Scottish culture through and beyond that prism.
I will discuss our national day in terms of identities. I was interested to note that, earlier this month, Mike Russell gave a lecture in the Neil Gunn centre. I did not manage to attend it, but its theme was “The Writer in a Time of Change: Gunn, Walsh and the Process of Independence”. Mike Russell said that he shared Neil Gunn’s belief that internationalism is richer when nationalisms come together. The writer of a review of the lecture said:
“As an SNP politician, it would have been easy for Mr Russell to distort this interest of Neil Gunn’s to his contemporary advantage. Instead, he stuck to his brief, indicating that Gunn’s political perspective was as an internationalist as much as a nationalist.”
That is a great thing for us to bear in mind today. We should recognise and celebrate how Scotland is seen around the world and how people here recognise what they see.
In a debate at the weekend, Alex Salmond talked about the fact that people are entitled to have as many layers of identity as they wish. That is another way of saying that we are celebrating a identity now and let us not mistake other identities with it at the moment. Alex Salmond was responding to Bill Clinton, who had said that what we have in common matters more. Yes, it matters—but if people are not themselves, how can they contribute to that “more”? Today, we are discussing what matters.
On reasons to celebrate, we also have reasons to remember with gratitude some of the people who cannot celebrate with us now. There is David Morrison, who was a librarian in Wick. He went up there from Glasgow and was the author of the Scotia Review. He was a great facilitator of arts activities and he died a few months ago. Among the musicians, Ian Hardie and Derek Hoy will not be playing today, nor will the great Michael Marra.
We must celebrate the fact that our music in particular attracts people to Scotland. The new year celebrations are part of the attraction, but St Andrew’s day allows us to think why our music has become even more popular. I thank Donald Shaw, who is the director of the Celtic Connections festival, which is part of our winter festival, for enlightening us. He said:
“Partly that is about the changing face of the way the music has been presented. Swapping white heather and kilts for Doc Martens and T-shirts has helped, as has the way the music itself has loosened some of its shackles. Celtic Connections has been at the heart of that process.”
Scottish music today is cool. It has always been cool, but it is being heard in many more places where people can judge it against everyone else’s music. What Donald Shaw said means that the many people who want to celebrate St Andrew’s day throughout our country will do so through poetry and song. I hope to contribute to that, myself. When we talk about the outlook for Scots on St Andrew’s day, we should recognise that people from five continents come to play in this country at Celtic Connections. They are preparing to do so now.
Scots are seen around the world as a welcoming people. I think that the winter is not off-putting. St Andrew’s day is a national day and is worth giving a lot more weight to, and I certainly think that people in here singing traditional music of whatever kind they like would be one of the best things that could happen. I see that today’s Daily Record talks about people who say how they feel much healthier by singing. That was, of course, included in the motion that I lodged on the Scotland sings project, which runs from St Andrew’s day to 2 December. That project considers that singing is good for people and that it should make them smile. I hope that St Andrew’s day makes us smile and that I can personally add to the contribution that allows us to feel good about ourselves in this country.
If the Parliament does not feel that, we can get bogged down in analyses that might look at such things through the prism of the UK. There is not British literature or British traditional music; there is Scottish literature and Scottish music. Those are means by which we will celebrate our national day, and I hope that even the Tories will recognise that.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in today’s debate. When I read the motion as I sat down to write my speech last night, I wondered where to begin in seeking to cover, in six minutes, a celebration of Scotland’s people and history, our food and drink and our traditional and contemporary culture. There is so much to talk about and so much will be happening on the day itself.
Just the other week, the members’ business debate on Scotland’s film and television industry highlighted the excellent locations and production talent that we have here. That industry perhaps offers the most effective way for us to celebrate and showcase our traditional and contemporary culture to the rest of the world. In this year of creative Scotland, I am sure that our film and television industry will continue to flourish.
Another area that I want to touch on is our food and drink industry, which we should rightly celebrate and promote as it has tremendous potential for growth and already contributes massively to the economy. Historically, our national drink has been the big-ticket export item, but recently a much more modern drinks company called BrewDog has been grabbing many of the headlines. Within a few years of being set up as a company in 2007, BrewDog was competing strongly in the international drinks market and had become one of the best-selling beers in Scandinavia. In 2010, one of the company’s founding members became Scotland’s youngest ever entrepreneur of the year.
Scotland’s food industry has always performed well and has a good international reputation—as soon as we get past things such as deep-fried confectionery and other caricatures of the Scottish diet—because of our wide range of high-quality produce. For example, Scotland’s restaurant sector has successfully blended historical and contemporary influences. With immigration from Europe and Asia, inevitably restaurants have popped up that reflect the cooking styles and foods used by other cultures, but one does not have to look too closely at the menus of our Italian and Indian restaurants and Spanish tapas bars to see the Scottish influence on their cuisine and how they have been successfully blended.
As a country, we also have a rich sporting history to celebrate. In football, the Scottish cup is the world’s oldest national trophy and was first contested in 1873. Although the national team often fails to live up to the expectations of a sometimes sport-obsessed nation, our domestic teams often punch above their weight in European competitions. Aberdeen, Celtic and Rangers have all achieved notable success. On that front, some of us—those of a certain persuasion—can only hope that history might repeat itself at Wembley next May.
People say that Scotland’s national sport is football, but I worry that it has moved on to become complaining about football. Our national pastime seems to be to complain about the performance of the Scotland football team rather than to become more active and involved in the sport. So much time and column inches are dedicated to debating issues about the Scotland team rather than boosting the levels of physical activity to what we have historically known in Scotland. I hope that the Olympics and a successful Commonwealth games will provide both the inspiration and the facilities that many people need.
The motion mentions the launch of book week Scotland, Scotland’s first celebration of reading, which takes place around St Andrew’s day and which will contribute to the celebration of Scotland’s traditional and contemporary culture. Last night, there was an event in Cumbernauld library—unfortunately, I was unable to attend—at which Harry the Polis, or Harry Morris, gave readings from a series of books. Harry, who calls himself an “observer of life”, was a police officer in Glasgow and Strathclyde for 30 years. I have read some of his funny short stories about situations that he found himself in during his time in the job, so I am sure that it was a fantastic night in Cumbernauld and a great way to start book week Scotland.
Book week Scotland and the local events that are planned for the next few weeks highlight the importance of our local libraries to documenting our people and history and making it possible for everyone in the community to research that, regardless of the ability to access the internet, which many of us take for granted. The other month, I attended an event in Kilsyth library that showcased the contribution that ordinary people from Scotland made to the international brigades that went to fight fascism in the Spanish civil war.
That local demonstration was enough to stimulate debate and to start people researching to find out whether anyone from Kilsyth joined the international brigades. A number of local people have been identified and work has started to erect a memorial to them in Kilsyth. Without the local library as a hub for that sort of activity in historical documentation and research, it would have been impossible for us to come together as a community for the project. I highlight the contribution that our libraries and their staff make to celebrating our people, history and culture.
I am still reeling a bit after the offering from Annabel Goldie. In contrast with the positive examples that we have heard about to celebrate Scotland and St Andrew’s day, all that Miss Goldie seemed to offer was to trumpet the abolition of slavery—that was the best example that she could come up with. I remind her that, even in the emerging United States of America, slavery was abolished in the majority of states by 1804, but the British empire hung on to the profits from it for another 29 years, before it was abolished in 1833.
The member might have misconstrued what I said. I was clear in paying tribute to the cabinet secretary, who, as Margo MacDonald pointed out, listed many welcome and positive activities as part of the celebration of St Andrew’s day. I merely observed that hundreds of thousands of Scots believe that we cannot look at the issue in a complete vacuum and that there is a shared history and culture. I think that it is right to reflect that.
I thank the member for that clarification, but if that is the best example that she can come up with, she is struggling to present her case.
The stories about St Andrew the apostle are many and varied. He was the first apostle and follower of Christ. As many members have said, we share him with many nations such as Greece, Russia and Ukraine. His relics are found in Scotland, Greece, Italy and Poland and are a crucial part of the Christian tradition of celebrating his feast day on 30 November. Some years ago, I had the pleasure of standing beneath the magnificent statue of St Andrew in the Vatican, which was unveiled in 1640 and above which is a relic from the cross on which he was martyred by the Romans. That led me to appreciate the close association that Scotland has with him.
It is interesting that the flag of the island of Tenerife looks similar to our Scottish saltire. One story is that it was adopted in recognition of the bravery of Scottish sailors at the battle of Santa Cruz in 1797. They were led by Admiral Nelson, but the battle ended in defeat for Nelson and he lost part of his arm as a consequence. That has nothing at all to do with St Andrew, but it has a possible link with Scotland. So every time that members see a picture of Admiral Nelson with his right arm inside his coat, they can proudly share the knowledge of how and when that happened and its connection with Scotland.
It is curious that, in many modern-day manifestations, the cross of St Andrew is depicted as dark blue when, in fact, it is azure blue—as close to the colour of the sky as we can get—and defined as such by the Parliament some years ago, including by colleagues who still serve here, as I understand.
I suspect that the adoption of dark blue had more to do with the limited early methods of producing dyes for colouring garments. Dark blue was easier to produce and provided a stark contrast with colours that opponents in other places adopted.
Andrew’s place as patron saint was established early in Scotland’s history and provides modern Scotland with not only an association with an apostle of Jesus, but a beautiful and, I hope, plausible explanation of how our flag came to be what it is.
In modern Scotland, we choose to commemorate St Andrew’s day in a rich variety of ways, including music, theatre and literary events throughout Scotland. Our schools bring his story to life, celebrate our connection with him and promote Scotland and the best that we have to offer.
Scotland’s first national book week, which was mentioned in the cabinet secretary’s motion and in her speech, features strongly in my constituency, with events taking place in Kilmarnock that involve contributions from local Ayrshire writers and others.
Something of a cultural renaissance is taking place in Kilmarnock and the town has been shortlisted for the creative places award. We have had some magnificent events at the Burns monument centre, the Dick institute and the beautifully restored Palace theatre and grand hall buildings. Some incredible work is also going on at the Centrestage music theatre in the town.
Visitor numbers are climbing, and a range of events involving music, the arts and literature has seen the town begin to reclaim its creative heritage. As members know, Robert Burns’s first book—the Kilmarnock edition—was printed in the town. We also have the only school in Scotland to have two Nobel prize winners as former pupils—Sir Alexander Fleming and John Boyd Orr.
We also have some contemporary writers—such as Willie McIlvanney or, more recently, Zoe Strachan and our fellow Ayrshire man Rab Wilson—who are making quite a contribution to the literary landscape. We should also not forget our local contemporary rock ‘n’ roll stars Biffy Clyro, who talk up the town whenever they get the chance.
East Ayrshire Council’s cultural development leader, Phillipa Aitken, says—rightly, in my view—that Kilmarnock has been a creative town for generations. Recent investment by the council and other organisations has certainly brought an exciting new era to that part of Ayrshire.
St Andrew’s day marks the start of Scotland’s winter festival and, as the cabinet secretary remarked, gives us a fantastic opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s people and history. I took the opportunity to look back and discover my own family history, using the impressive genealogy search facilities at the Burns monument centre. I discovered that my ancestors arrived in Kilmarnock from County Tipperary in Ireland in 1850, which was a turbulent time for Scotland and Ireland.
Significant past events can explain the present to us and give us a glimpse of our possible future. St Andrew the apostle knew nothing of Scotland and our nation was not yet born at his time. However, as each St Andrew’s day arrives, we can reach out to him, retell his story and retell the story of Scotland. In so doing, we can offer an enthusiastic world audience a closer look at the richness of what modern Scotland has to offer.
I thank Dennis Canavan in absentia, because he ensured that we would celebrate St Andrew’s day in Scotland. He did it against the odds, so I am sure that he will be celebrating, probably with Irn Bru.
Although I appreciate the range of activities—when we heard from Fiona McLeod about the book week, I was even more impressed—the idea of a big competition is still on. Somebody should think about running that to pull everything together.
St Andrew’s day should be a celebration of Scottishness. We should just enjoy being ourselves for the day. If Annabel Goldie wants to be British, she can be, but she will be left out of the party because everybody else will want to be Scottish. I do not see why they should not be. We have nothing to apologise for. Every other day of the year, we can be as international as we like. We can share our patron saint with whoever we want to but, on that one day, let us be Scottish.
In this debate, I have tried to illustrate that I believe that we can be Scottish and British. I and an awful lot of other people do not have a problem with that. I am just sorry that other members in the chamber seem to find it completely repugnant.
I do not find it repugnant. I find it awful sad that, because of the politics that we have in the Parliament just now, Annabel Goldie feels that she has to be British on the day for celebrating Scottishness.
After that expression of togetherness, I wonder whether I might offer just a little bit of constructive criticism. We are in danger of becoming very divided. We are not having a civil war. We are having a civil referendum. We are in danger of dividing ourselves, and we can gain nothing from it. Unless we run a good referendum, Scots will be much less inclined to celebrate St Andrew’s day following the referendum.
By a good referendum, I mean that people must feel that they own it—that it is theirs and not the province of any party. It must belong to the Scots—to each and every one of us—and none of us is any more important than the others in how we interpret it. However, the basis of that is information. Every other member will know that too, because people are saying to us, “But I don’t know where the information is. I don’t know the answer to this, that and the next thing. I want to know about defence, the currency and Europe.” We have time to provide that information in a neutral and balanced way, and not in a party-political way. There are, of course, choices to be made on all the big questions that we will put to Scots, and they will answer them in their own way, but they can do that only if the information is there.
To be perfectly honest, I am really disappointed with the Government for not having the gumption to realise that that comes before all the party-political nonsense that will divide us, I think to no good effect.
Taxi drivers in Edinburgh have told me that they want to be able to discuss what is happening with visitors who come into their cabs. Foreigners who come to Scotland just now know that something is happening and they want to know what it is. The taxi drivers have told me that they would like to be able to discuss it, but they need information with which to do that. I therefore suggest, as another idea that jumps off from St Andrew’s day, that we provide that information for people who want it, because all Scots can be ambassadors for Scotland. That would be much more likely to stimulate interest in and knowledge of the real Scotland.
Although Margaret McDougall gave a very funny speech about one-legged haggises or something, there is a real, deep Scotland about which many of our fellow Scots know little. One thing that we could do is stimulate interest in that. We will not do it if, in some way, we apologise for being Scottish and say that it has to be diluted by saying that we are British. I can feel just as British as anybody else, believe it or not, because I have a great deal in common with all the other folk on this island, but I have a friend in Barbados—she is perhaps my best friend—and I feel something in common with her as well. I do not think that there is any great merit in saying, “I’m Scottish and British,” compared with saying, “I’m Scottish and I feel all sorts of other identities too.” Those identities might be from all over the world, with different causes. Maybe we should start to think outwardly properly, instead of stopping our internationalism at Dover, because that is a gey limited way to celebrate the fact that, as we say, we come from the country that Rabbie Burns described as offering a brotherhood of man throughout the world.
I realise that we do not celebrate Burns until January—although I celebrate him every month, to be honest. However, if we can celebrate St Andrew, his influence in the world and his influence on us just as Scots, that will be much more satisfactory than somehow making it into a half-baked British apology. I appeal to Annabel Goldie, whom I know is as Scots as I am and is just tainted at the moment because we have the possible divisiveness of a referendum, to get up, have a good shoogle around and be as Scottish as I know she is. She does not have to apologise to anybody for it.
Many members mentioned the saltire or cross of St Andrew, which has its origins in East Lothian, in the South Scotland region that I represent. As members said, St Andrew is an international patron saint. He is the patron saint of many countries. However, as far as I can see—I stand to be corrected if I have made an inadvertent error—the only sovereign state that has a saltire in its flag is Jamaica.
In the spirit of the Labour Party’s internationalist amendment, I will say that it pleases me that we share a saltire with Jamaica. The Jamaican flag is a gold saltire cross in a black and green field—those are the pan-African colours—and was adopted in August 1962, on the first Jamaican independence day. I hope that all members agree that it is highly appropriate that in the week in which we celebrate St Andrew’s day we heard that Usain Bolt, Jamaican superstar athlete and the world’s fastest man, will compete in the Commonwealth games in Glasgow in 2014. I look forward to the saltire of Jamaica flying side by side with the saltire of Scotland during the games, I hope as medals of Scottish gold are distributed.
I want to consider Annabel Goldie’s warning that national identity could become introspective as a result of political independence. I ask her to look to Jamaica for inspiration. There is a small island nation, which has strong links to Africa, as reflected in its flag, and to the UK. Before 1962 the country flew the union flag and of course it remains a high-profile member of the Commonwealth.
Thousands of Jamaicans have made their home in the UK, particularly in the big English cities, just like the Scots whom Ms Goldie mentioned. Many have joint identities, but that does not make them feel apologetic for being Jamaican. By the same token, thousands of Irish people have made their homes in the UK and can celebrate their cultural identity without feeling that doing so is somehow disloyal or disrespectful to their adoptive home and without feeling that the political sovereignty that complements their national identity makes them introspective or is somehow a threat to anyone.
Ms McAlpine makes a legitimate contribution to the debate, but I point out two things. First, I have never in any way indicated that I feel that I have to apologise for being Scottish. Margo MacDonald, to her credit, acknowledged that. I am as proud as anyone can be to be Scottish. Secondly, I think that Joan McAlpine will acknowledge that the Jamaicans to whom she refers, at least in the UK, can vote for a Westminster Parliament. They are not sitting in isolation but making a contribution to the broader sense of fellowship.
We should not allow the member’s analogy with the West Indies to be forgotten. Britain and the British isles that we will have after a successful yes vote in the referendum will be very much like the West Indies. We call the islands the West Indies, but the people there know the difference between Jamaicans, Barbadians, Antiguans and so on. Relationships in the British isles—as I am sure that they will still be called in furthest China—will be roughly the same as relationships in the West Indies, if we want them to be like that.
The member made a fair point. It is worth observing that Jamaica plays cricket as part of the West Indies team but competes in the Olympic games as Jamaica. Given the country’s medal haul this year, I do not imagine that there are plans to change that.
I must make progress. I wanted to say a little about more local matters. I said that the saltire has its origins in East Lothian. Way back in 832 AD, a battle was fought near Athelstaneford. According to legend, an army of Picts under the high king of Alba, aided by a contingent of Scots, had a victory over some Angles and Saxons under King Athelstan. I do not know whether it is true, but it is a nice story. More important, apparently a saltire was seen above the battlefield and taken as a portent, which led to the adoption of the St Andrew’s cross as Scotland’s national flag.
As a result of that legend, we have celebrations in East Lothian. The saltire festival, for example, is a fantastic event, which has been a massive success for the past three years and has expanded to become a nine-day festival celebrating our music, culture and heritage. This year, celebrations began last Friday with the Haddington pipe band whisky dinner. On Sunday, a service was held in the beautiful old church of Athelstaneford, with hymns and songs about St Andrew and a ceremonial handing over of the flag.
After that, we had an amazing week of events, including a race day, a farmers market and educational events. The festival will culminate this Sunday with a Scottish music and literature ceremony, to celebrate the best in music and verse that Scotland and East Lothian have to offer. There will be contributions from Barbara Dickson, North Berwick community choir, Fiona and Kirsty Johnson, Caitlin Bruce, Alan Gay and Colin Will. Those who wish to celebrate St Andrew could do no worse than join the locals in East Lothian for their saltire festival.
I welcome the opportunity to take part in today’s debate on Scotland’s national day, the St Andrew’s public holiday. The St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007 was first supported by the Scottish Labour Party under Jack McConnell MSP’s Administration, following a member’s bill by Dennis Canavan.
St Andrew’s day is Scotland’s national day. The Labour amendment reflects that the St Andrew’s flag belongs to all Scots,
“regardless of origin, current residence and political beliefs”.
That is an important point to take on board.
The amendment also notes that St Andrew’s day marks the start of Scotland’s winter festival season, which ends on Burns Night and includes the Christmas, Hogmanay and New Year celebrations” and other cultural festivals that take place at this time of year. At a time of economic downturn, festivals are particularly important as an opportunity to attract more tourists to Scotland and promote Scottish products. Some members have touched on that. I welcome that.
Let me show members another side of St Andrew’s day celebrations. In Nuremberg, there is a Burns supper every year. It is so successful that anyone who gets a place at that Burns supper is considered lucky. As some members have already done, I suggest that the cabinet secretary pursues that type of activity around the world, not only in the USA but in all the countries with which we have twinning agreements, all the countries with which we engage and all the countries that are friendly with Scottish culture. Such links are important.
There has been some talk that we in Scotland seem to have fallen behind in our overseas activity. We cannot engage with people around the world unless we are willing to get up and do it.
We have absolutely not fallen behind in our overseas activity—it is very extensive. Indeed I was in India only a few weeks ago and one of the celebrations that I had there involved discussing with some villagers I met at a water development project poetry and our internationalism, and the fact that Rabindranath Tagore was inspired by Robert Burns and his brotherhood. Our activity is continuing. That visit also helped to bring jobs to Scotland.
I completely agree with Hanzala Malik that it is important that we encourage all of the international links that we have, to help in celebrating and to ensure that there is activity. As a Government, we absolutely want to do that. However, it is not just the Government that can encourage our twinning organisations; as Hanzala Malik knows from the City of Glasgow, cities and towns throughout Scotland can do likewise with their twin towns and cities and celebrate Scotland.
I look forward to the cabinet secretary going to Pakistan to do similar work. Glasgow is twinned with Lahore and we have a close and wonderful relationship. I hope that we will hold a Burns supper in Lahore, which she could lead.
We hope that, in the years to come, St Andrew’s day will become embedded in Scotland’s culture, of which the Burns supper is an important element. Burns suppers have become popular; we can offer vegetarian haggis for all those who have issues with meat or who require halal food.
How many events among minority ethnic communities to celebrate St Andrew’s day has the cabinet secretary or any other MSP visited? I do not think that any such visits have been made; I certainly have not made any. We must deal with that issue and encourage our minority communities to participate in St Andrew’s day. Our schoolchildren do that—that is wonderful and positive, and getting to the younger generations is marvellous. However, we need to celebrate St Andrew’s day equally with hogmanay and Burns suppers. It is important to look towards building such relationships.
If the winter celebrations are to be truly national, people should not be excluded from them. My comments about engaging with communities to encourage celebration of St Andrew’s day and what it stands for relate to Scottish Labour’s amendment and its comment on Historic Scotland’s decision to allow free access to some of its facilities. I do not understand why only that Scottish heritage organisation is taking on that challenge. I encourage all organisations—including private museums and other centres—to do the same.
I am proud that Glasgow City Council is supporting free swimming for our youngsters at school and for over-60s. I do not understand why the same thing cannot be done in all of Scotland. I encourage that to be done, starting from St Andrew’s day as a benchmark position.
There is a charge for entry to our castles, which I do not believe our schoolchildren should pay. If we are talking about heritage, promoting Scottish history and engaging our communities, we need to provide facilities.
Why should we celebrate St Andrew’s day? Some reasons are historical, some are cultural, some are even political, some are humorous and some are personal.
I will start by extending our knowledge of the flag. It is also one of the international signal flags; it stands for the letter M and it means that a doctor is on board, which fits neatly with our tradition of training doctors around the world.
We have heard of countries that have St Andrew as their patron saint. He is also the patron saint of Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luqa in Malta and Esgueira in Portugal. He was the patron saint of Prussia and of the order of the golden fleece. Andrew is also the patron saint of the United States army rangers. He certainly gets about a bit—indeed, the Church of Scotland has many St Andrew’s kirks around the world, which demonstrates his reach.
Mark Griffin very nicely and properly mentioned my constituents who founded BrewDog, which is a very successful brewery. They are two young lads of Mark Griffin’s age rather than my age. My favourite beer from there—which I can just about make relevant to the debate—is Trashy Blonde, which is a very nice blonde beer. That leads me to one of the reasons why it is a little unwise for the Tories to have approached the debate in the way that they have. If we want to celebrate St Andrew’s day for party-political reasons, I have a better starting point than any of the other members, because 30 November 1990 was the day on which a removal van arrived at 10 Downing Street to remove Maggie Thatcher from that address. Perhaps the Tories will be celebrating that as well. Others may have celebrated when I left the Bank of Scotland on 30 November 1999, so it is for the goose as it is for the gander. By moving from banking to politics, I sought to improve my reputation.
Any members in the chamber who have done any genealogical research will have seen that many of our ancestors used the St Andrew’s cross to make their mark on certificates before the days of literacy.
The order of St Andrew is the highest order of merit in modern Russia. It is a very ancient order, and was suspended during the time of the Soviet Union. I note that the second-highest order in Russia is the order of St George, so they have got things right in that country at least. Recipients of the order of St Andrew in Russia have been Peter the Great, Mikhail Gorbachev and—less encouragingly—Mikhail Kalashnikov.
The name “Andrew” itself is of interest. It comes from the Greek, and means “manly”, “brave”, “manhood” and “valour”—a whole series of attributes of which I think we can all accept that we should be proud.
There are not just 800,000 Scots living in England, but 40 million Scots living around the world. The majority of my living relatives of whom I am aware live outside Scotland, mostly in the United States but also in Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Margo MacDonald makes a good point. Of course, the bounds of geography in the modern electronic world are much shrunk, and emotionally I feel no distance whatever. My niece in Sweden and my nephew in Denmark are Scandinavians, just as after independence we will continue to be Britons, but by geography rather than political choice.
It is interesting to look at what we have achieved jointly with our friends south of the border. I am approximately one quarter English myself, and I have a number of great-grandparents from south of the border. We have achieved a great deal together, which is to our shared credit. We have fought and won two world wars, but many independent countries joined the alliance voluntarily; we did not have to be bound in a political union to do that.
There are a lot of local St Andrew’s day events in a lot of different constituencies and we will celebrate in our own individual ways. In my constituency, we will have travellers’ tales in Fraserburgh library tomorrow; great reads for winter nights in Peterhead two days later; and, on 1 December, a meet-the-author event with Shona MacLean in Banff castle. Those will be excellent contributions to aiding understanding all around the world.
“my elder brother in the muse”.
Adam Smith’s statue is in Canongate kirk’s yard, too. He is someone who made an immense contribution and whose works are carried by capitalists and communists around the world.
When Dennis Canavan successfully introduced his member’s bill to create a holiday in Scotland, he worked closely within the Parliament’s powers, which allow us to prescribe and create bank holidays. Bank holidays are, in a technical sense, only days on which banks may not charge interest—that is all that a bank holiday is. Of course, he also created holidays for civil servants. Would that he had been able—through that member’s bill—to create holidays for wider Scotland. That must be voluntary; it cannot be created by the powers of this Parliament.
I no longer speak for the Scottish Government; John Park will need to ask others whether that is what they want.
The remains of St Andrew were taken to the ends of the earth, so it is no wonder that Scots, who travelled to the ends of the earth, adopted him as our saint. I visited Hebron in the West Bank in the 1970s and, a thousand years later, there were freckled Arabs with red hair. The footprint of the Scots is everywhere, as is the footprint of St Andrew.
I am pleased to close today’s debate for the Scottish Conservatives. There have been some good, amusing and interesting speeches from members across the chamber. I pay tribute to our former colleague, Dennis Canavan, who has consistently campaigned to raise the profile of St Andrew’s day.
I once pointed out to the amazement of Dennis Canavan that Eton College—that unobtrusive school between Windsor and Slough in Buckinghamshire—which educated our Prime Minister and some lesser politicians has, for centuries, celebrated St Andrew’s day as a holiday. The reason it does that is to recognise the importance of Scotland and its people as part of the family of nations in the UK. The segment of Scottish boys at the college was usually larger than that from Ireland or Wales. On that day, the unique Eton wall game is played between the scholars and the oppidans, in which opposing scrums push a ball backwards and forwards along a brick wall, and a goal is scored perhaps every 20 years. It is similar to Orkney’s annual game between the uppies and doonies. There are plenty nil score draws of the sort mentioned by Roderick Campbell. However, the point is not the winning; it is the celebration and the continuity.
A number of members, including Joan McAlpine, have talked eloquently about the history of St Andrew and the saltire. I want to enlarge on what she said, and remind members exactly how the saltire became our flag. Precisely 1,180 years ago, in the summer of 832 AD, King Angus the Second, leading a combined army of Picts and Scots, faced a greatly superior force of invading Northumbrian Angles at Athelstaneford in East Lothian, which is just 20 miles from the chamber. The village, which takes its name from the Anglian King, King Athelstan—who would be killed in action that day—is home to our national flag heritage centre. It is housed in a 16th century lectern doocot, built in the reign of King James VI, in whose person the crown of the Scots and the Angles would finally be joined not in battle, but in amity.
Of course, that was followed by a political union, 104 years later, but it got things going in a united direction. The centre is at Athelstaneford because, on the morning of the engagement, as Joan McAlpine said, white clouds appeared in the blue sky overhead and united to form a tremendous X-shaped cross—a crux decussata—above the field of battle. I do not think that it was a UFO. The omen was taken by King Angus to be a sign of favour from St Andrew, the brother of St Peter, because it was in the form of the diagonal cross upon which the saint had been martyred at Patras in Greece. Our arms being victorious on that day, the king decreed that our national flag should be, in heraldic terms, a silver cross upon an azure field—that much beloved emblem of our nation.
The Scottish Conservatives are, like members across the chamber, fully supportive of efforts to promote our world-class contemporary and traditional culture through Scotland’s winter festivals, which begin on Friday—on St Andrew’s day. We recognise that tourism and other businesses can need extra promotion during the winter months. That extra promotion is good and we want to see a continued focus on boosting winter tourism in Scotland.
Like other members, I wish to highlight some of what is on offer in my own region, in my case the Highlands and Islands. The Highland wildlife park at Kingussie will be free to visit on St Andrew’s day, and children can enjoy free swimming at a range of Highland Council swimming pools as long as they are accompanied by an adult. Historic Scotland will have a St Andrew’s day ticket giveaway and entry to many Historic Scotland attractions across the country will be free over the weekend of 1 and 2 December. I hope that many of my constituents and visitors to the area can take advantage of those offers.
I liked Margaret McDougall’s speech. She mentioned haggis, but since St Andrew was a fisherman it would surely be appropriate to celebrate his day with festivals of fish across Scotland. After all, we have scallops, herrings, prawns, mackerel, haddock—we have the best fish in the world but where are the festivals? We do not have many festivals. Funnily enough, Willie Coffey mentioned Santa Cruz and I have been to Santa Cruz during the week of the sardine festival, which it has every year. It is a tremendous event, bringing thousands of people there, and it is generally a great success. Scotland is such a beautiful place that it always sells its beauty, but the trick is to give people more excuses to come here to appreciate that—winter festivals are great for that.
I am pleased to welcome this year’s focus on Scotland’s internationally renowned reputation for literature through book week Scotland—again, I hope that many of my constituents will take part in that. I am delighted that some of my young constituents in Shetland, who are primary school pupils, will be going to care homes for read-aloud sessions—they will read exciting stories to the elderly people in the homes. I commend Shetland Arts for co-ordinating that. The Campbeltown library is today hosting a Bookbug session, with songs, stories and rhymes for babies, toddlers and their parents, and a similar event is planned in Stornoway library tomorrow.
I hope that book week Scotland will be a boost to the many small and independent publishers and book retailers in Scotland who face such intense pressure from huge competition online. Things are difficult for them. Scotland—particularly Edinburgh—has such a wonderful worldwide reputation for publishing, which goes back for centuries. In fact Audubon’s “Birds of America”, which was sold the other day for £8 million—I think that it is the most expensive book ever published—was published in Edinburgh. We should not forget things like that.
Today’s debate has been, for the most part, useful and constructive. I support the amendment in the name of my colleague and friend Annabel Goldie, which rightly recognises that Scotland can enjoy the best of both worlds on St Andrew’s day as well as on every other day, celebrating the patron saint who helps to underpin our identity but doing so in the context of our partnership of nations, which is our United Kingdom.
I will try my best to keep to that time, Presiding Officer. It is nice to have a few extra minutes in what has been an excellent debate. I will say a bit more about the spirit in which it has been conducted later.
Twice in the past two or three weeks, I have stood in the chamber and realised that I should have stuck in at school a bit more. We had a debate about Malawi a couple of weeks ago during which I learned a lot about what is happening in that country. The information that we have heard in today’s debate—about the history of St Andrew, the things that are happening across our country now, and the things that have happened in the past—has encouraged me to have a closer look at some of the things that we do and to learn a bit more about our history.
St Andrews is in the region that I represent. What Rod Campbell said about what is happening in and around that area was excellent. The way in which he managed to bring Michael Jackson into the debate was probably the most impressive and sophisticated way that I have ever heard a celebrity brought into a debate in the Parliament. I congratulate him on that.
The fact that we have focused so much on what the date means to so many other people shows that it is important. Stewart Stevenson mentioned two or three things, although I am sure that he kept out of the debate a few other things that have happened in his life on 30 November.
I wonder whether the member is aware that people of my generation, who learned their Scots history largely from J D Mackie’s “A History of Scotland”, learned absolutely nothing about St Andrew. I was probably not aware of St Andrew until I was an adult. One thing that today’s debate shows is that there is a much wider appreciation now than there was when I and the rest of the members who are older than John Park were youngsters.
I am not brave enough to comment on people of Mr Stevenson’s generation.
It is one of the benefits of devolution, with what has happened in the Scottish Parliament and the work that Dennis Canavan took forward to put the focus on St Andrew’s day as a holiday, that there is now a far greater awareness of the day. Everybody in the chamber should take credit for that, along with previous parliamentarians. The focus on literacy and access to our historical attractions must be welcomed. That focus is important in making sure that future generations have the benefit of finding out about our culture and history in a way that people of Stewart Stevenson’s generation did not.
My colleague Patricia Ferguson focused on the work that is being undertaken to organise the St Andrew’s day march and rally, which is organised every year by the Scottish TUC. It is only right that we, in the Scottish Parliament, take the time to recognise the significant amount of work that goes into that. As a former employee of the STUC, I know at first hand exactly how much effort goes into making it happen. I am talking about not just the people who work in that organisation but the hundreds of volunteers who support it throughout the year and on the day.
People get involved in such things for many reasons. Patricia Ferguson mentioned the demographic challenges that we have faced in Scotland over the past few years and the fact that we are now growing as a country, having welcomed so many people into our country. We should celebrate that and hope that they will understand and appreciate our culture even more. We have new Fifers, new Glaswegians, new Aberdonians and new people all over this great country of ours. It is significant that the STUC marches annually to recognise that, and I have always been pleased to take part in the rally.
Margaret McDougall talked about local businesses and Arran Aromatics in particular. That shows how such debates give us an opportunity to highlight how successful these things can be. We do not have as many opportunities as we should have in the Scottish Parliament to talk about successes in our own areas.
Rob Gibson’s mention of the winter festival and the number of visitors that we get from overseas is pertinent. We just need to lift up our heads as we walk up and down to the Parliament on a daily basis to see how many people have come to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland to enjoy the things that will happen over the next few months.
Mark Griffin talked about our exports and mentioned BrewDog. As the co-convener of the cross-party group on Scotch whisky, I can see what we are doing in exporting not just products but working and environmental practices, on which we have a lot to be proud of.
Mark Griffin highlighted the fact that the Scottish cup is the oldest football cup in the world. I should have known that, but I did not. I once participated in the Scottish cup for Burntisland Shipyard Amateur Football Club, which was affiliated to the Scottish Football Association. Unfortunately, I got booked during the game and cost the side £150, which was money that we did not have.
I am not clear on the use of electronic devices during a debate—at this point, I would probably refer myself to Wikipedia. If the Scottish junior cup is the oldest cup, I have played in it, too, and I did not get booked, as far as I can recollect.
I am not aware of which is the oldest competition in history, but I understand that the Scottish cup is the original trophy and that, as such, it is the oldest trophy that is played for in world football.
I think that that shows that Mark Griffin consulted his electronic device in an appropriate manner before intervening.
There has been a bit of debate about the Scottish Conservatives’ amendment to the Government’s motion. Given the effort that Annabel Goldie has put in through her interventions and the spirit in which the debate has been conducted, perhaps the SNP whips could change the whip sheet. I would love to see us smooth a way to emerging from the debate with a consistent position that we can all sign up to. It would mean that decision time would pass a lot more quickly, too.
The second-last thing that I want to say is about the St Andrew’s day holiday. I put on record my appreciation for the work that Dennis Canavan did on that and the wider political support that enabled it to be introduced. It is a shame that we cannot drive its implementation in the private sector in the way that we would want to, but the fact that the Scottish Government and many local authorities have taken a lead in this area is a good thing.
I hope that we can go on a journey that results in our having more days’ holiday in comparison with other parts of the world. The likes of Sweden, Germany and Austria have more days’ holiday, but they also maintain high levels of productivity. The two are not incompatible, and I hope that we can have a sensible debate about that in the Parliament at some point in the future.
I have enjoyed the constructive debate that we have had. Margo MacDonald said that she hoped that it might percolate down into the way in which we hold the wider discussions that the Parliament is having. The past month or so has not been the Parliament’s finest period. We deal with serious issues and sometimes we take ourselves a bit too seriously. Today’s debate has shown that we can deal with serious issues constructively, and I hope that that bodes well for our future discussions.
I thank all colleagues for the debate, which has been useful, reflective and informed.
We have heard of a range of events that are taking place across Scotland, but of course only Jamie McGrigor could open with a discussion about Eton school’s St Andrew’s day celebration. As someone who also spent their early years in the vicinity of Windsor—I was brought up in Maidenhead—I recognise that there are celebrations for our patron saint across the UK and overseas. The list of such international engagements is very impressive indeed. I waited to hear about the list of events for celebrating Scotland’s place in the UK on Friday, but I missed that.
On reflections by members, I hope that Annabel Goldie genuinely takes on board the mood and the moment of the contributions in the debate and what has been said about our recognising that people can have different levels of identity. However, surely on our one national day we can enjoy our Scottish celebrations and our identity, and we can celebrate in song and literature, as we have heard. There are 365 days in the year, so surely St Andrew’s day is an opportunity to come together. I think that that was the point that John Park made. It is important that we sometimes come together to recognise our strengths as a country and what we have contributed.
In terms of international engagement, a lot of things are happening, from Bermuda to Bangkok: there are celebrations across the globe. Roderick Campbell’s excellent contribution started off the reflection on that aspect. Indeed, most of the contributions talked about Scotland’s place internationally and the international celebrations. In that regard, I am pleased to tell members that, when I was in Ottawa last year, I helped to launch the Canada-Scotland friendship group on St Andrew’s day. The group is holding its St Andrew’s day celebrations today, and I hope that we can send the message from this Parliament to the Parliament in Ottawa that we congratulate them on their celebrations. The Scottish Government will be represented at them by the second secretary for Scottish affairs, who is based in Toronto.
Among other interesting contributions were Willie Coffey’s comments on the saltire flag and the wonderful statue of St Andrew in the Vatican and Joan McAlpine’s comments about the Jamaican connections. We also heard reflections about the importance of helping visitors to Scotland understand Scotland and, of course, about the launch of the winter festivals, which in effect takes place on St Andrew’s day.
We want to ensure that there are things for people to do for the celebrations. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to encourage people to celebrate. The decision this year of many sports centres to open their doors for free over the St Andrew’s day weekend is therefore a welcome innovation. Patricia Ferguson raised the point that some places might be open only on Friday, but if she looks it up on the web she will find that more than 40 historic sites will have free access and that many of them are open on 1 December and 2 December. Indeed, another 76 Scottish visitor attractions are available for free access.
Another innovative development is that we now have a St Andrew’s day smartphone app, which is available on iPhone and Android. It is an essential guide to our national day, and people can download ideas about how to celebrate St Andrew’s day.
I talked earlier about the importance of St Andrew himself in terms of the town of St Andrews, the university and the founding of that seat of learning, and about why literature is so important to Scotland’s contribution to the world and why it is right that we celebrate this week with book week Scotland. Fiona McLeod gave an excellent speech that outlined some of the issues and some of the events that are taking place around that celebration of reading. It is important that we recognise that there will be a reading hour. I would encourage all those who are able to do so to take part in that reading hour; reading to others in local schools, nurseries, playgroups and old folks homes is important. That is one of the ways in which we can recognise Scotland’s literature.
The winter festivals are very important to our economy. Yes, we have the cultural celebration, but they are also about enticing people from home and abroad to explore all areas of our country, which is a great place to come to study and work, and to invest in and do business.
St Andrew’s day allows us to present Scotland as the i-nation: a nation innovative in ideas, imaginative and inventive in spirit, international in outlook and individual in experience. We have so much to be proud of, whether it is our research capacity, our renewables sector or, as the contributions from Margaret McDougall and Mark Griffin clearly demonstrated, our world-famous food and drink and our great tourist assets.
I think that we might have stumbled across something in this debate, and in that regard I pay tribute to Jamie McGrigor for his contribution. Hanzala Malik made the point that a lot of the celebrations—and many of the contributions to the debate—are actually about the celebration of Burns. Burns’s poetry is a fantastic asset for our literature that needs to be celebrated throughout the year but, as there are Burns suppers, people have a hook for their celebrations—an event they can take part in.
I was struck by Jamie McGrigor’s speech, in which he spoke about St Andrew as a fisherman. We should think about all the wonderful assets we have. Yes, we want to celebrate our beef and lamb—and our wonderful menus that can be downloaded from the aforementioned app—but perhaps we should think about celebrating St Andrew’s day through fish. We could have fish suppers in a variety of formats. Perhaps Jamie McGrigor has stumbled across the extra ingredient for how we can provide a modern-day celebration that is not like the old-fashioned traditional ones. Perhaps the outcome of this debate is that we have stumbled across a fantastic idea to celebrate St Andrew’s day.
We are now cooking with gas, in terms of the creativity here.
I want to make two additional points. One is about the importance, which is reflected in the Labour amendment, of recognising that Scotland is an inclusive country that does not tolerate racism of any kind. That has been demonstrated for many years by the STUC St Andrew’s day anti-racism march. I have taken part in that march and my colleague Humza Yousaf did so on Saturday. I encourage more of our MSPs to do so in the future.
It is a testament to this debate that we recognise the importance of what we do internally. As Hanzala Malik pointed out, it is important to involve people from our ethnic minorities in the celebration. I assure members that the Scottish Book Trust is involving the Scottish Refugee Council in the book week Scotland celebrations. That is movement, but more can be done.
I will close by paying tribute to Dennis Canavan, as Margo MacDonald did in her speech. He introduced the St Andrew’s day holiday bill to try to make sure that within the confines of the powers of this Parliament we took some steps to celebrate the holiday. I am glad that there was cross-party agreement to do that.
We want to do more. We know that our young people will be celebrating, and we are trying to encourage more schools to celebrate—[Interruption.]
Local authorities in the Scottish Borders, Angus, Dumfries and Galloway and Renfrewshire will be allowing their schoolchildren the day off to enjoy the celebrations. Increasingly, more attractions are being made available—particularly sport centres, as I said—and we are growing opportunities.
I liked Patricia Ferguson’s suggestions about how we could involve retail and shopping on St Andrew’s day. Combining that with Jamie McGrigor’s fish supper, we are starting to find interesting and exciting ways to make sure that there is plenty on offer during our celebrations.
We should not apologise for celebrating our national day and what makes us a nation. We should celebrate it through our language, literature, song and music. Rob Gibson caught the mood absolutely right in his speech. Yes, we can have different identities and many people have many different identities to celebrate but, on St Andrew’s day, please let us be proud in celebrating our great traditions and culture. We should do that in a way that offers a hand of friendship not just to others in our own country, as the Labour amendment suggests, but internationally. I am delighted that across the world on Friday, our friends—our brothers and sisters—will be celebrating St Andrew’s day.