St Andrew’s Day

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

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Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

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.