I thank Tom Arthur for securing the debate and all the members who have made such thoughtful, passionate and enthusiastic speeches. It is great to be in the chamber with everyone today and to be part of this important debate.
Our winter festivals boost Scotland’s tourism and events sectors, and the Scottish Government is proud to support them with more than £0.5 million. However, as we have heard, they are certainly not all about finance—quite the opposite, in fact. From the unifying spirit of Hogmanay to the remarkable poetry of Robert Burns and others, and from the global solidarity of “Auld Lang Syne” to celebrating Scotland’s modern multicultural identity, our winter festivals are positively and purposefully entwined with boosting Scotland’s international profile, enhancing our collective confidence, and affirming and promoting our values of fairness, kindness, inclusivity and empowerment.
Building on that, on 1 November I was delighted to launch the Scottish Government-led campaign to showcase Scotland’s biggest ever celebration of St Andrew’s day. Tomorrow—30 November—Scotland is inviting people from near and far to join in the celebration of Scotland’s national day, through co-ordinated partner activity and national and local events right across the country.
What is particularly exciting this year, as others have mentioned, is that for the first time the celebration of Scotland’s national day is linked to the global fair Saturday initiative; indeed, I understand that we are the first northern European country to join the initiative, the second in Europe after founding country, Spain, and the first country as a whole to commit to it.
This year, between 30 November and 3 December, up to 100 events will celebrate St Andrew’s day—four times last year’s number. The celebrations reach across the country, including key island communities, with events in Skye and the Western Isles.
The fair Saturday initiative was founded by Jordi Albareda Ureta, who is a really inspiring person, to promote and deliver positive social change.
Reflecting the progressive and compassionate spirit of fair Saturday, the common thread that connects all Scotland’s St Andrew’s day celebrations this year is our focus on marking our national day by encouraging Scots far and wide to support others and engage in small acts of kindness to make someone’s day. As others have said, whether it is helping a relative, friend, neighbour or stranger or showing compassion where it is needed, whether it is contributing to a local cause or international charity, or whether it is inviting friends and partners to mark the occasion together, this year throughout Scotland we are encouraging ourselves and each other to celebrate our national day by looking outwards and positively engaging in kindness.
The aim of all this is not only to make a difference but to make Scotland’s St Andrew’s day celebrations something quite unique. Our celebrations will be the biggest yet, keeping local communities at their very heart, reflecting our values and global reputation for fairness, expressing the importance that we place on the vital and integral role of young people in our society, celebrating the diversity that modern Scotland is all about and working to strengthen the inclusive nature of the modern Scottish identity. So many different initiatives are taking place, from a mass conga of schoolchildren and torchlight processions to multicultural events demonstrating the positive plurality of Scotland’s sense of national and global citizenship.
The multicultural celebration of Scotland’s winter festivals delivered by BEMIS Scotland has gone from strength to strength. I am delighted that this year groups including the Polish Cultural Festival Association, Edinburgh Interfaith Association and St Giles cathedral in Edinburgh, the Nepalese Himalayan Association Scotland in Aberdeen, the ethnic minority forum in East Dunbartonshire and the Glad Cafe in Glasgow are all celebrating St Andrew’s day alongside their own unique heritage, faiths and traditions.
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, Scotland is marking its national day by looking outward, not inward. In these times of flux and challenge, it is important to emphasise, as others have in the chamber, that Scotland’s national identity is set within our internationalist ethos and traditions. Our sense of ourselves as Scots is and has long been bound up and intertwined with a long-held wider identity as a progressive European and global partner with a broad commitment to global citizenship.
Tom Arthur’s motion makes it clear that with St Andrew’s day tomorrow and St Andrew’s fair Saturday, coupled with the commitments to small business Saturday, we have
“an opportunity for people in Scotland across all faiths, beliefs, cultures and ethnic origins, and Scots internationally, to mark the contribution of Scotland at home and across the globe.”
Whatever members or people across Scotland will be doing, I wish them a very happy St Andrew’s day, and I thank them for being part of the wider commitment to making someone’s day. Together, we can, through kindness, community and fairness, make an important difference and demonstrate to the world, ourselves and each other the very best of what it means to be Scottish.