St Andrew’s Day

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th November 2012.

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Photo of Margaret McDougall Margaret McDougall Labour

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.