St Andrew’s Day

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

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Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

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.