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Showmen’s Guild (125th Anniversary)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 19th June 2014.

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Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-09329, in the name of Richard Lyle, on celebrating 125 years of the Showmen’s Guild. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates the Scottish Showmen’s Guild on its 125th anniversary; understands that the Scottish section of the Showmen’s Guild is the largest by area, covering fairs from John O’Groats to Carlisle and Kendal; considers that the Scottish Showmen’s Guild plays an important role in Kirkcaldy Links Market, Europe’s longest street fair; commends the Scottish Showmen’s Guild on inspecting all rides, games and attractions for safety certificates; supports what it considers the Scottish Showmen’s Guild’s continued success in regulating Scotland’s fairgrounds, providing safe entertainment for people in Scotland; compliments all the members of the guild on the way that they serve the people of the Central Scotland region, and wishes them continued success in the future.

Photo of Richard Lyle Richard Lyle Scottish National Party

First, I thank all the members who have supported the debate. I also thank all the members of the Showmen’s Guild who are in the gallery. In particular, I thank Mr Alex James Colquhoun, who is chairman of the Scottish Showmen’s Guild, Mr David Wallis, who is president of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain, Philip Paris, who is junior vice-president, and Councillor John Culine MBE, who is senior vice-president, who have all worked tirelessly for years to advance the position of the Showmen’s Guild in today’s society. I am pleased to say that the motion received cross-party support within one day, which shows the high regard in which the Showmen’s Guild is held by members of the Scottish Parliament.

The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain is the trade association for travelling showmen, who gain their livelihoods by attending funfairs. This year marks the guild’s 125th anniversary. It is by far the oldest and largest organisation that represents the industry and its community.

On the guild’s history, it was created largely thanks to the evangelical efforts of George Smith of Coalville, who was a preacher from Leicestershire. He was a self-appointed guardian of public morals who first sought to have his Moveable Dwellings Bill accepted by the House of Commons in 1889. By that point, George Smith had already been successful in persuading members of Parliament to pass legislation that restricted the lives of those who operated and lived in canal boats, and he sought to have similar measures imposed on caravan dwellers. The bill implied that those who lived in moveable dwellings were of an immoral nature, that they lived in unsanitary conditions and that children of van dwellers did not receive any education, all of which was totally untrue.

As well as being an insult to the community of travelling showmen, the accusations were a serious threat to the way of life of its members. Once the showmen realised that George Smith’s proposed measures would have severe effects on their lives, the leading travelling showmen of the day met to discuss how they might oppose the bill. Their meeting resulted in collaboration, and they decided to join together as the United Kingdom Van Dwellers’ Association. It was under that banner that they enlisted the support of members of Parliament and other civil society and civil liberty groups.

Their campaign lasted four years and finally resulted in victory when George Smith’s bill was rejected by the UK Parliament. The showmen decided that the Van Dwellers’ Association should be kept in place to represent and advocate their interests. Its initial success as an association instilled confidence and led to a series of voluntary regional committees being established in order to maintain contact with members.

By 1911, the name of the Van Dwellers’ Association had changed to the now recognisable Showmen’s Guild. The change came as the result of the appointment of the Rev Thomas Horne as the first full-time general secretary. Under the Rev Thomas Horne, the guild transformed to a well-organised and influential national body. By the end of the Rev Thomas Horne’s life, the Showmen’s Guild resembled much of its current shape. Regional committees existed on firmer footing and became the 10 sections through which the guild is administered today. Members were also required to observe a strict set of rules with a strong ethical grounding originally called for by the Rev Thomas Horne.

Throughout the guild’s 125-year existence, its role has remained unchanged. The Showmen’s Guild serves the purpose of promoting and protecting the interest of its members, the travelling showmen who provide and uphold the nation’s funfairs. It is with that purpose that the Showmen’s Guild has remained strong.

However, the members of the Showmen’s Guild are characterised not only by their choice of work; those men and women are contributing citizens to the nation, and many of them were and are veterans. During the first and second world wars, more than 3,000 showmen volunteered to fight on behalf of Great Britain. Of those brave men and women, almost 25 per cent were killed in the line of duty.

Showpeople at home raised money to pay for a fleet of 19 ambulances and the Showmen’s Guild started the fun of the fair Spitfire fund, which raised £5,000 to pay for a Spitfire. Today, the guild has a memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum remembering the fallen showmen who died in service to their country. Their dedication to their country extends beyond their ability to provide safe, enjoyable experiences for children and their families. They have a rich history of standing up to protect the civil liberties and freedom of their fellow countrymen, and that deserves our respect.

The Showmen’s Guild also deserves our respect for its dedication to ensuring that all funfairs are run with the highest standards of safety. The Showmen’s Guild places a very high value on the maintenance of all rides, as well as proper safety precautions and protocols. It has played a large role in drafting the code of safe practice at fairs. It is the most comprehensive safety manual for the industry ever produced and, since its introduction, has been expanded by the guild to include specific regulations for individual types of fairground rides. All members owning rides must submit their equipment for thorough examination each year, and annual inspections are conducted by independent engineers to avoid a conflict of interest. The scope of inspections is wide and, without adherence to high standards, the rides are banned.

With such a rich history and so many contributions to our society, I am very pleased to have the debate, to have members of the Showmen’s Guild in the public gallery and to celebrate the guild’s 125th anniversary. The guild and this Parliament have a strong relationship. I hope that, through ministers, that will continue to thrive and grow. I hope that, throughout the debate, we will all come to learn a bit more about the guild, the showmen’s way of life and the challenges that they face, including the everyday economic challenges.

I am pleased for the opportunity to speak in the debate and I look forward to members’ speeches.

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

I thank Richard Lyle for securing this members’ debate and for his work on behalf of the Showmen’s Guild. I also welcome members of the Showmen’s Guild who join us in the public gallery.

Reaching the guild’s 125th anniversary is a remarkable achievement for all involved, past and present. I am deputy convener of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish Showmen’s Guild, and we have heard much about the rich history of showmen in Scotland and the challenges that they face across our communities.

Showmen and women have contributed to Scotland’s society, both culturally and economically, for many years. As the First Minister said in 2009, when referring to the guild, their members and their families,

“showpeople are an important part of Scotland’s culture, history and economy and combine a strong tradition of family and community with a high level of entrepreneurship and business acumen.”

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

Mary Fee says that showmen and women make a valuable contribution to the economy. On this day, when the Royal Highland Show is beginning, does she agree with me that they make a very valuable contribution to agricultural shows throughout Scotland and that they encourage young people to get involved in agricultural shows, which provide a great attraction for our youth?

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

I thank Maureen Watt for her comments, and I 100 per cent concur with them.

The Showmen’s Guild is a distinct, unique group, whose culture and tradition we should both protect and be proud of. However, in the cross-party group, we often hear about the many barriers that restrict the growth and vibrant opportunities that are available for showpeople. One of those barriers is the current public entertainment licensing regime, which stems from the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. The 32 local authorities have taken what has been called a scatter-gun approach to fees and to the interpretation of the 1982 act. Some councils charge for temporary licences; some charge for a full year. Some of them charge per ride; some charge by size. Many of the conditions are unnecessary and disproportionate.

My local authority, Renfrewshire, charges £812, which is the highest in Scotland. The charge in Clackmannanshire is only £61. I have written to Renfrewshire Council to ask it to explain why the cost is so high. That expensive charge might be the reason why we have lost two annual fairs, in Linwood and at Paisley St James.

I know from my experience in local government that fairs are wrongly viewed by some people as being problematic and noisy, but we have to work to ensure that the traditions of showmen are maintained and that relationships between them and local authorities are improved. We cannot afford to lose the rich tradition of showmen and the benefits that they bring to local communities. We should support and celebrate their culture, not marginalise and stigmatise it.

We need collaboration between the guild and Scottish ministers in order to reduce burdensome red tape. The motion praises the Scottish Showmen’s Guild’s

“continued success in regulating Scotland’s fairgrounds”.

Research shows that, in order to gain authority from the Health and Safety Executive, showgrounds must comply with 20 pieces of legislation, from the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to the Equality Act 2010. The guild has been at the forefront of safety and best practice. It has been instrumental in working with the Health and Safety Executive in promoting the highest standards of public safety.

I briefly highlighted the history of the showmen in my opening remarks, and I would like to go back and finish with that. For centuries, showpeople have brought a range of entertainment services to communities across Scotland, which has included the shows in Renfrewshire to which I referred and the Kirkcaldy links market, which is Europe’s longest street fair.

As a child, I was fortunate to spend every summer in St Andrews—my father was an avid golfer. The highlight of my summer break was the Lammas market. The Lammas market has its roots in medieval history and is one of Europe’s oldest markets. I still remember running from our house in North Street up to the fair on Market Street. I can inform my colleagues in the chamber that my favourite ride was the carousel. I was not a dodgems girl or a waltzers girl; my ride was the carousel. I still cannot pass a fair without standing and watching the carousel.

Now that we are well into our Scottish summer, we know the benefits that gala days bring to our communities.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

You are now into your sixth minute.

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

I will be very quick.

We need a regulatory system that enables showmen and their families to harness those benefits and to flourish across Scotland, so that their unique history, tradition and culture can continue.

Photo of David Torrance David Torrance Scottish National Party

I congratulate Richard Lyle on securing this debate to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Scottish Showmen’s Guild. I welcome the chairman, the vice-chair and members of the guild and distinguished guests to the public gallery.

On such an historic occasion as the anniversary to celebrate an impressive 125 years, it seems proper to note the relationship that Kirkcaldy in particular has had with the showmen. The links market, which takes place on Kirkcaldy esplanade every year, has a history that stretches back to 1305 and has entertained the residents of the lang toun and surrounding areas for centuries. The links market can boast of being the longest street fair in Europe, and the length of time for which our community in Kirkcaldy has benefited from the showmen’s involvement shows that they are an integral part of the people in our town and should be celebrated accordingly.

Although this year marks the 125th year of the Showmen’s Guild, showmen have been entertaining at the links market for more than 700 years. This centuries-old tie to our community has become an important part of the town’s heritage and gives me great confidence that the work of the Showmen’s Guild will continue to bring the links market to Kirkcaldy for years to come. Undoubtedly, it also continues to raise the national profile of the lang toun every year.

I must confess that my love for the links market is more of an obsession. As someone who grew up only a street away from the site, I know from experience how hotly anticipated its arrival was every year by many of the locals. The smell and the sound were like magnets not only to me but to young children and teenagers from all around. Sixpence a day for school dinners and threepence for the tuck shop were saved up and carefully hidden away weeks in advance, such was my determination to be able to enjoy all the wonderful and thrilling rides and stalls beckoning to me, especially the one with the toffee apples. Sandwiches were made up the night before so that at least I had something to eat at school.

When I was not allowed to go to the market, the excuse was always, “I’m away out to play football, Mum.” Mum would say, “Okay, but you’d better not be going down the links market—you’re too young!” “No, I’m going to play football, Mum. I’m not going near it,” was always my response. “You’d better not, or you’re in big trouble.” With my mum’s warning ringing in my ears, off I went to the market, oblivious to the consequences later on. The old speedway, octopus and metro—what a great night with my friends. Then I went back up the road in time, so that I was safe—or so I thought. Mum: “You’ve been down the links market!” Me: “No, I’ve been playing football, Mum.” Mum: “You’ve been down the links market.” Unbeknown to me, the toffee apple that I could not resist on the way home had left its mark all over my face, so it was off to bed with Mum’s wrath at my heels.

On a more serious note, showmen of Scotland have been facing some difficult times over the past years, and to their credit members of the guild have been working extremely hard to try to resolve many of the problems that their members have encountered, with help from the cross-party group. It has been active both in the Parliament and in local authority areas and has covered a wide range of issues. It appears to be with the 32 local authorities in Scotland that the showmen encounter most of their problems. From the loss of sites to obstructions that are put in their way and planning applications for funfairs, issues have impacted severely on showmen’s ability to entertain and trade.

It seems that all of the 32 local authorities have their own rules and regulations in managing showmen and their fairs, but the most contentious issue is without doubt licensing and the conditions that local authorities attach. In Fife, the council charges a reasonable £100 for a licence for the links market, which is the longest street fair in Europe. That is surely an example of good practice. In other local authority areas in Scotland, licence costs range from a few hundred pounds to thousands, and all for a simple piece of paper to allow showmen to entertain. That and other issues with public entertainment licences cause showmen no end of problems that do not exist south of the border, where showmen travelling from across the United Kingdom are on a level playing field.

In an attempt to alleviate the licensing problems that showmen face, I urge the Scottish Government to look at the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and to consider amending it with a view to exempting travelling funfairs.

Due to the Showmen’s Guild’s strong connections with Kirkcaldy, I have asked Fife Council whether it will host a civic reception to honour the organisation’s long-standing commitment to the town. I hope that I will be able to join Fife Council and the local community in celebrating this momentous year with the members of an organisation that has historically maintained such close ties to Kirkcaldy.

Once again, I congratulate the Showmen’s Guild of Scotland on reaching its 125th anniversary. I am certain that it will continue to represent the best interests of showmen across Scotland for years to come and I particularly look forward to seeing its relationship with Kirkcaldy flourish. I take this opportunity to wish the Showmen’s Guild all the very best for the future.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I thank Richard Lyle for bringing the debate to the Parliament and, on behalf of the Conservative group in the Scottish Parliament, I congratulate the Scottish Showmen’s Guild on its 125 years of history. I have had a history lesson today. Richard Lyle’s opening speech told me a great deal more about the history and tradition that lies behind the Showmen’s Guild than I knew before. If nothing else, the debate has served to educate me and one or two others.

When I was a child, a visit to the funfair was always one of the most exciting prospects. My perception was that it was something slightly risky and dangerous—David Torrance’s mother would have agreed with me on that. However, although that was the perception, it never was risky or dangerous, and that is why it attracted young people as it did. Too often these days, we make the mistake of wrapping our young people in cotton wool, and too many of them spend their time playing video games when they should perhaps be out at the fair. It was always an exciting experience to take my own children along, and I now have the opportunity to take my grandchildren. I will continue to do so.

The safety record not only of the environment around fairs but of the equipment is great. As we heard from Richard Lyle, there were safety issues in the distant past. However, the Showmen’s Guild and the people who have been involved in it have made wonderful strides forward and we now hear very rarely of accidents at fairgrounds. That is an indication that the standards of safety that are being imposed are of the highest possible level.

There is something else going on that we need to commemorate, which falls under the heading of culture. We should pay tribute to the family tradition that exists among the showmen. In this modern world, there are few other industries in which businesses pass down through the family, and the traditions are maintained at a cultural as well as a business level. We should pay tribute to all those in the Showmen’s Guild who have fostered that business model, which is rooted in the family, as it is worthy of praise.

We have heard one or two interesting facts during the debate. I like the idea of May Fee still being willing to get on a wooden horse. She and David Torrance raised the more significant issue of regulation by local government. Today is not the first time that I have raised with the minister what Mary Fee described as the “scatter-gun approach” of local authorities. If we are to encourage the tradition of the travelling fairground, it is vital that we have some consistency around the country. I am aware that certain local authorities—including, on occasion, my own—have acquired a reputation for being difficult when it comes to the licensing and regulation process. We should seek to simplify that process, to maximise safety and to standardise regulation so that fairs can travel around the country without the process getting wrapped up in red tape.

I was also interested to hear that it was the toffee apple that David Torrance bought at the fairground that gave him away when he got home to his mother. In these days of health and safety and all that sort of thing, even a toffee apple would count as one of his five a day.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

I thank Richard Lyle for lodging the motion and initiating the debate. I also thank him for the time and effort that he has put into the whole topic, not least in heading up the cross-party group. Relationships are very important, as has been mentioned, and Richard Lyle has invested a lot of time in building up those relationships. I also congratulate the guild on reaching its 125th anniversary and wish it many more years of fruitful work.

When I was a youngster, I went to the shows in Rutherglen, in Overton park, which—if I remember correctly—was a blaes football pitch for the rest of the time. However, the area is now occupied by a care home—obviously, that is a good thing, but it means that the shows no longer operate on the site. I suspect that many of us have memories of going on rides and shooting at goldfish—[Laughter.] Sorry, I mean shooting to win goldfish. All the buzz and colour was really exciting for youngsters and I know that it still is for many.

I am happy that so many showpeople have chosen to live in my constituency in the east end of Glasgow. However, these days, there seems to be a certain amount of inconsistency in how shows and showpeople are treated across Scotland. I certainly agree that local authorities should have the right to make the decisions for their areas, but there is a particular problem with a group such as the Showmen’s Guild, which operates throughout Scotland and is treated differently in different places.

The first major problem is whether the showpeople are allowed to operate at all. We had a proposed fair in Easterhouse, which lies just outside my constituency. Verbal assurance had been given that all would be okay and people and equipment were moving to the site, and so incurring costs. However, an objection was then lodged by the police, listing all the past crime in the area, despite the fact that most of that crime had absolutely nothing to do with any fair, and that was used as a reason for turning down the application.

Another problem, which has already been mentioned, is the widely divergent levels of fees that may be charged by local authorities. For example, I understand that Glasgow charges £597, in comparison with Clackmannanshire’s £61. We can look at the individual decisions, such as council decisions to refuse a licence, and discuss why each one was made, but we also need to look at the bigger national picture and consider whether discrimination is going on against a whole group of people. This is a group of people who are very much part of the tradition and culture of this country, as has already been eloquently said by others. Perhaps their way of life is not well understood by the majority of the population and there can be confusion between showpeople, Gypsy Travellers and other groups.

Are we looking for a local or a national solution? I accept that the issue is not just national, but I certainly think that it is a national issue, as well as having local dimensions. If we are serious about helping and protecting all minorities in modern Scotland, surely showpeople are one of those minority groups and one that very much needs and deserves our active intervention and support.

Photo of Siobhan McMahon Siobhan McMahon Labour

I congratulate Richard Lyle on securing the debate and thank him for making sure that the tremendous achievements of the Scottish Showmen’s Guild are recognised in Parliament in this fitting way. To my shame, I knew very little, if anything, of the Showmen’s Guild before I entered Parliament, but I am pleased to say that, in the past three years, I have learned a great deal about this fantastic organisation and the work that it does in our communities throughout Scotland. That is not to say that I was completely ignorant of its work, but I would not have recognised that work as being anything formal and I was not aware of the substantial effect that the work that the showmen do throughout Scotland has on our economy.

I grew up in Lanarkshire and enjoyed many of the fairs that have been established over the years by members of the guild. I have particular memories of the fair that was held near my grandparents’ home in Newarthill. When the shows arrived, my brother and sister and I knew that the start of summer had arrived, too. We are only one of the many families who have had great experiences and who have such memories. That is all down to the hard work and determination of the showmen to continue to entertain our communities for such a sustained period.

Members have mentioned the fairs in their communities and their memories of visiting fairs in other parts of Scotland. My colleague Claire Baker, who cannot be with us this afternoon due to other commitments, asked me to pass on her apologies to the chamber and to the Showmen’s Guild. She also wanted me to convey her thanks to those who made her feel so welcome at the Kirkcaldy links market. Claire has spoken to me many times before about the fair, as it is the one that she takes her daughter to each year. I hope that, one year, she will extend the invite to me, too.

Members have spoken of some of the challenges for the showmen and the importance of the guild in helping its members to face them. It is simply not good enough that financial barriers are put in place by local authorities and the police. In a recent newspaper article, the chairman of the guild said:

“there is more red tape and it is more expensive to run shows in Scotland than any other country in Europe. It’s become more and more difficult to get a licence every year.”

It is time that that was met with a challenge from the Government and I encourage the minister to respond to that.

I also invite the Government to respond on the matter of registering showmen’s families at school. Under the current arrangements, there is no place where the families can indicate that their children are from a showman’s background, so their culture is not only not recorded but not recognised. The closest category into which the children fall is Gypsy Traveller, which is clearly not their ethnic or cultural group. If that happened to any other group of people, we would read about it in newspaper headlines day after day, but this matter does not seem to be getting acknowledged, never mind resolved. I hope that that will change after today’s debate.

As I said, I have gained a lot more knowledge about the Scottish Showmen’s Guild in the past few years. I now know about the Scottish section of the UK guild, the history of its establishment, who hosts the longest street fair in Europe, and how many education liaison officers the Scottish section has. I also know that showmen have their own international football tournament. My knowledge is entirely down to the hard work and determination of the guild’s chairman, Alex James Colquhoun, and his staff—in particular, Jane Rodgers. I thank them for taking the time to speak to me and keep me updated on developments, not just in Central Scotland but throughout Scotland. I greatly appreciate that.

I look forward to other people gaining knowledge about the fantastic Scottish Showmen’s Guild when Martin Smith’s feature film is completed and shown in Scotland and beyond.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I congratulate Richard Lyle on securing time for the debate. The debate focuses on the 125th anniversary of the Scottish Showmen’s Guild, which is an impressive achievement.

I am sure that I speak for many people who have enjoyed the entertainment that the guild provides in streets and in country locations across Scotland. My parents used to let me go—I must have been a particularly responsible child. [Laughter.] I see that that argument gains little support from members.

We should put what the guild does in the context of the modern world. We can go to the cinema, watch telly for hours and play on our phones and iPads, but the live entertainment and the unique carnival atmosphere that we can enjoy when the showmen come to town are very different and still attract us. It is therefore right that we express our gratitude for that spontaneous and genuine entertainment.

The Roman philosopher Seneca said:

“As the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without cultivation, so the mind without culture can never produce good fruit.”

The Scottish Showmen’s Guild is an essential and integral part of our culture. The showmen travel around Scotland, showing us things that we might not otherwise experience. They are grounded in Scotland’s past, but they adapt to meet the needs of Scotland’s future. The entertainment is family friendly and unique, and I hope that it never goes unnoticed.

Maureen Watt talked about local shows. I woke up on Tuesday morning to the sounds of the showies in the Tesco car park in Linlithgow—when I am down here I am in my wee house in Linlithgow. The showmen’s coming to town is an essential part of the annual Linlithgow marches celebration, which is about beating the boundaries of the town.

In the area that I represent, we are looking forward to the Turra show in the first weekend in August. It is the second biggest agricultural show in Scotland, after this week’s Royal Highland Show. A person cannot get into the Turra show without walking through the showground—the noise, the hubbub, the people, the toffee apples, the sugar on sticks and the sheer excitement of it all.

Over two days, the Turra show attracts tens of thousands of people, and the showmen are an integral part of that. The show complements what the showmen bring, with horses, dancing and a range of competitions, as well as around 250 trade stands and, in the adjacent industrial marquee, more than 1,700 craft displays. The showmen add lustre and excitement to that important event, to which people come from all over the world.

Thousands of people depend on the entertainment that is provided by the Scottish Showmen’s Guild. The events aid tourism by dragging people in; they are an important part of our economy.

I hope that we never forget the showmen’s contribution, but we should also recognise the challenges that we sometimes create. Let me suggest an example from my personal experience. In 1971, we had decimalisation. The penny in the roll-the-penny stall that I was particularly addicted to became a totty wee coin, but the new 2 pence coin was, of course, five times as valuable. That was a significant challenge and when we were doing decimalisation, nobody thought about it.

I owe gratitude to my American intern for my remarks. She has been absolutely amazed to discover about the Scottish Showmen’s Guild, and all that it does, in her research to help me with my contribution today. We are truly reaching out to international engagement.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

My response will be in three parts as a consequence of the debate. The first point will be about regulation and such matters that were raised during the debate; the second will be about the celebration; and the third will be a more personal element, given that other members have indulged us with their personal experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed the contributions of Richard Lyle, Mary Fee, Maureen Watt in her intervention, David Torrance, Alex Johnstone, John Mason, Siobhan McMahon and Stewart Stevenson. I do not think that I have left anybody out who contributed to this afternoon’s debate, even Mr Johnstone, who is not paying attention to my very wise remarks.

On the subject of regulation, very valid points were made about regulations and the complexity of having 32 local authorities applying 32 variations of licensing and fee structures. I am sure that members will welcome the fact that work is in hand to look at greater consistency in fees and at harmonisation across the country. That work is being done by a working group.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

One of the key themes of today’s debate has been inconsistency. Does the minister share my disappointment with the inconsistent approach of South Lanarkshire Council? After many years of having the shows in Larkhall, the council is now looking to block them. I express my disappointment for the young people in Larkhall, because the shows provide a day when all the schools come together, irrespective of their religious background.

For the minister’s information, I am a waltzers girl: the faster, the better.

Photo of Derek Mackay Derek Mackay Scottish National Party

I am not sure that I want to make any comment on that contribution, either by identifying any particular council, or by giving any additional personal information. However, I would say that, through the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, we hope to get greater consistency on matters that are sometimes best determined locally. Where there can be national consistency, we want to deliver that. I commit to working in partnership with local government to try to deliver that. I understand that there was a successful meeting with Cabinet Secretary Kenny MacAskill earlier today. We will take forward that consensual approach.

I hope that the same cross-party attitude that we have enjoyed in the chamber today will be replicated in local government when I have those discussions. I hope that I do not have the experience of finding that a party in Parliament says one thing and the same party in local government takes a different view. Mr Mason had a point in what he said about nimbyism and my planning remit. Sometimes we like folk to enjoy themselves but not anywhere near us, and that is not the kind of attitude that we want to encourage.

I am also mindful that there is no requirement for local authorities to license funfairs. It is absolutely at their discretion, so we will work on that regulatory agenda.

I was particularly interested in Mary Fee’s personal reflections because she will know my area well. I was raised in Ard Road in Kirklandneuk in Renfrew. Behind the houses on that street there is a playing field where the showmen come to put on the shows in one particular week of the year. I took a great interest in that, and I went to the shows unaccompanied—without an adult. Alex Johnstone made the point that we sometimes wrap our children up in cotton wool. However, the problem was that I was five at the time, and my family was wondering where I had gone. Such was the attraction of the shows and what was happening there that, while my family was looking for me, I was enjoying myself with the shows, and of course, the people were looking after me very well. That could have been a misdirection in my profession. I have found a happy home in politics, but we never know—I could have ended up in the Scottish Showmen’s Guild.

So, to the celebration. I commend and congratulate Richard Lyle on securing this debate in recognition of the 125th anniversary of the Scottish Showmen’s Guild. It is a celebration of many things that are good about our society; the guild has enriched Scottish society by contributing, evolving and changing and delivering fantastic events across the nation from village galas to festivals, enriching our culture and our history. It has a place for the future as well and it displays the economic, entrepreneurial, and business acumen that the First Minister has referenced.

I am also mindful that the First Minister, Alex Salmond, had the honour of being an honorary member of the guild, which was news to me but which is very welcome. I am also aware that the Scottish section of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain is the largest section, which shows the strength that it has in Scotland, with nearly 400 members building on the strong tradition of entertainment and contribution to local communities. I encourage the guild to continue its work of protecting the cultural heritage of showpeople, which helps bring communities together.

Close to my constituency is the Govan old parish church. I do not know how many people know this, but it is the recognised church for all show families in Scotland. That is manifested and evidenced by some of the artwork in the church windows, where we can see the show logo of a hobby-horse, which is celebrated in that church.

We will look at regulation and support, recognising the place that the guild plays in fairs and shows and what they do for Scotland. The history is well established. I enjoyed hearing about the Kirkcaldy links market as well, which was first established by Edward I in 1305 when he granted the burgh of Kirkcaldy the right to hold an annual fair at the Easter octave. That has grown to become the links market, which we have heard about.

This is a great celebration. The guild makes a great contribution to our communities, traditions, culture and society—all reasons to be positive about what it delivers. It contributes to the Government’s overarching objective of sustainable economic growth.

There are further opportunities ahead in 2014 and beyond, with the year of homecoming and events right across Scotland, to which showmen and women will of course contribute. They will make the year special as we mark it and show the potential that exists. There is also the celebration of the year of food and drink in 2015. I would encourage the guild to work with us to capitalise on that, too.

I am delighted to have been able to contribute to the debate and I support the motion, which has been supported in a cross-party way. I wish the Scottish Showmen’s Guild every success as it heads towards the next 125 years, so that future generations can experience all the fun of the fair.

13:12 Meeting suspended.

14:15 On resuming—