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

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.

I move,

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.