Today’s debate celebrates the day of our patron saint, Andrew, and gives us the chance to celebrate our Scottish heritage. As Tom Arthur’s motion says, tomorrow is
“an opportunity for people in Scotland across all faiths, cultures and ... origins ... to mark the contribution of Scotland at home and across the globe.”
I am thankful for Tom Arthur’s action to ensure that we could have today’s important debate.
Members will know that the debate complements the establishment of a new cross-party group that is charged with promoting celebration of St Andrew’s day.
St Andrew is also the national saint of other countries, including Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Russia, Cyprus and Barbados. I hope that they, too, are gearing up for their own celebrations. He is also the patron saint of fishermen, fishmongers and rope makers, which is very appropriate to Scotland, given our seafaring heritage, and is perhaps noteworthy, given the recent vigorous debate surrounding the common fisheries policy. St Andrew's credentials as a saint of workers do not stop there, however: he is also the saint of textile workers, miners, butchers, and farm workers.
It is therefore apt that, at least for some public sector workers, tomorrow is a bank holiday in Scotland. As was pursued by Dennis Canavan, the law now allows someone legally to choose not to make payments on St Andrew’s day, which is a boon for small businesses and anyone who is budgeting ahead of Christmas. It is a good opportunity for workers across Scotland to fulfil the theme of
I hope that this is a starting point for our new CPG to encourage more organisations and businesses to recognise the day, so that the people of Scotland have the opportunity to take a rest and celebrate their national identity, cultural diversity and membership of the international community.
The same impetus is at the heart of the United Kingdom Labour Party’s plan for four new bank holidays on the patron saints’ days of the UK to celebrate and share our national cultures, and to strengthen the bonds across these isles.
As the motion states, our celebration of Scotland’s art and culture is this year, for the first time, being co-ordinated through fair Saturday, when people will meet from Bowmore to North Berwick and from Stromness to St Andrews to celebrate the national day. Unfortunately, the only event that is being held as part of fair Saturday for residents of my region is in Falkirk. There is, therefore, clearly a bit of work for me to do over the next year, by going back to my region and encouraging more organisations, community groups and artists from Central Scotland to get involved, or at least to get signed up for 2019.
However, for tomorrow, I hope that all Scots—born and bred, new or simply just visiting—get to enjoy the day, rest and immerse themselves in the day’s history and our heritage.