St Andrew’s Day 2018

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

I thank Tom Arthur for bringing the debate to Parliament today. I am delighted to have an opportunity to participate, and I congratulate Gillian Martin and Tom Arthur on their considered speeches.

St Andrew’s day is a fantastic opportunity to show off to the world what Scotland does best, whether it is our warm hospitality or rich culture and history. There are many events planned up and down the country to celebrate the day.

I welcome the fair Saturday initiative, which, as Tom Arthur said, is an idea that was taken from the British Council meeting in Bilbao in 2014. Fair Saturday aims to mobilise people through social empathy rather than through commercialism. That relates to something that many of my constituents talk about, which is that black Friday is not very supportive of local high streets and communities.

That ties into making someone’s day. On fair Saturday and beyond into the Christmas period, it is only right that we take a moment to see through the commercialism and instead embrace the true meaning of the celebration of Christmas, which is social inclusivity and good cheer.

Closer to home, in my constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, some 200 pupils from Hawick, Denholm and Newcastleton primary schools will be putting on their dancing shoes for a lively night of ceilidh dancing. The event, which is held annually, is organised by local branches of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. They have certainly been putting the pupils through their paces in the run up to the main event, with six weeks of practice. Watch this space—we could have some competition for those who are performing on “Strictly Come Dancing”. I thank all those who have organised the ceilidh, and I thank Morrison’s for donating juice and snacks. Such events are fantastic for pulling the community together and offering people a chance to come together to socialise and have some fun, of an evening.

Such events strike a chord with the campaign that is associated with this year’s St Andrews day celebrations, which is #MakeSomeonesDay. If members do anything on social media, they should use that hashtag. The campaign encourages people to share a small act of kindness on St Andrew’s day in particular, but I am of the opinion—as, I am sure, are members of all parties—that we should strive to do that every day. The message from the campaign is a reminder that we all should look out for one another, whether it is popping in to visit an elderly neighbour for a chat or volunteering for a local charity, especially as we enter the darkest and coldest part of the winter.

We should look out for our elderly neighbours in particular. In my rural constituency, social isolation is a key problem that will only grow because of our ageing population. Elderly people often cannot travel around so easily, and might for days not see anyone but the local postman. I encourage everyone to check on their elderly neighbours and relatives during the cold winter months, even if it is just to say, “Hello.”

To continue on the theme of loneliness, I note that we know that it affects people’s mental and physical health. As I have said previously in Parliament, social isolation is likely to cost the national health service as much as £12,000 per affected person, and can be as significant a risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Although the Scottish Government is taking steps to reduce social isolation, a lot more can be done. Campaigns such as #MakeSomeonesDay and the activities that are outlined in the letter that I received from Ben Macpherson can go some way towards helping the situation. I hope that we will all get involved.

In closing, I wish everyone a happy St Andrew’s day, and I hope that everybody will take from it an important message, which is that small acts of kindness really can make somebody’s day.