I am delighted that my Europe, migration and international development portfolio includes celebration of Scotland’s winter festivals, including St Andrew’s day.
It is great to have this opportunity in Parliament, thanks to Tom Arthur and all the members who supported his motion, to debate the importance of St Andrew’s day.
I also thank members of the cross-party group on St Andrew’s day, and members who have spoken today for their positive and enlightening contributions to the debate.
The winter festivals programme is boosted by a funding contribution of £400,000 from the Scottish Government, and its most obvious aim is to boost Scotland’s dynamic tourism and events sectors. What is more important is that it is not all about finance. Quite the opposite is true: the winter festivals are about so much more. They are positively and purposefully entangled and entwined with boosting Scotland’s international profile, enhancing our collective confidence and affirming and promoting our shared values of fairness, kindness, inclusivity and internationalism.
That is what St Andrew’s fair Saturday is all about. It is about galvanising the people of Scotland, and people all around the world who have an affinity with Scotland, to celebrate and affirm together the diverse, compassionate and outward-looking society that we have here, and that we always seek to build and strengthen.
The common thread that again connects all our St Andrew’s day celebrations this year, reflecting the progressive and compassionate spirit of the fair Saturday movement, is a focus on encouraging Scots from far and wide to support others by engaging in small acts of kindness, as Alasdair Allan said. The Scottish Government is encouraging everyone in Scotland to engage in St Andrew’s fair Saturday on 30 November, through doing one kind act, whether that is helping a relative, friend, neighbour or stranger, showing compassion where it is needed, contributing to a local cause or international charity, or inviting friends and partners to mark the occasion together, as we do this afternoon.
The aim is not only to make a difference, but to make Scotland’s celebration of St Andrew’s day something unique by keeping local communities at the very heart of the activities, by reflecting our core values and global reputation for championing social justice, by expressing the importance that we place on the vital and integral role of young people in our society, and by working together to strengthen the inclusive nature of the modern Scottish identity.
Supported by funding from the Scottish Government and reflecting those shared values, there are a number of strands to our activities on St Andrew’s day and those of our partners in support of the wider celebration. The events programme for St Andrew’s fair Saturday showcases 115 events, led by 65 organisations and supporting 90 different charities, in 33 cities, towns and other places right across the country—from Fife, which Claire Baker mentioned, to Dundee and the north-east, which Bill Bowman mentioned, to Barrhead, which Tom Arthur mentioned. All across Scotland, there are excellent events going on and I encourage everyone to get involved.
I am delighted that the multicultural celebration of St Andrew’s day, which is delivered by BEMIS Scotland, is also going from strength to strength. This year, we welcome 22 events that will mark St Andrew’s day across the country with our multicultural communities. On Saturday, the St Andrew’s day debating tournament is being led by the English-Speaking Union Scotland and will take place in Parliament, where many young people will debate the future of Scotland together.
What makes those events so special is that they are designed and delivered by local communities that are celebrating their own unique and valued cultures and traditions, and what Scotland means for them as their home. From torchlight processions to multicultural events, from music concerts to theatre, from crafts to cinema screenings, this year’s St Andrew’s day celebration offers something for everyone. It will bring people and communities together and demonstrate the positive plurality of modern Scotland.
In these times of flux and challenge, it is important to emphasise that Scotland’s national identity is set in our internationalist ethos and traditions. Our sense of ourselves as Scots and of the nation of Scotland are, and long have been, bound up in and intertwined with a long-held wider identity as a progressive European partner and good global citizen.
On our national day—Saturday 30 November—let us celebrate and come together, look outward to the world, and never inwards. Let us celebrate as part of the international fair Saturday movement, and be ready to warmly welcome the people from around the world who will come to celebrate St Andrew’s day and the wider winter festivals, including hogmanay and Burns night. To answer Emma Harper, I say that I very much hope to attend the Big Burns Supper next year. I look forward to being there with her.
On 30 November, we will see the biggest celebration of St Andrew’s day in recent times. It is going to be a great day and, for members of Parliament and their activists, perhaps a welcome break from general election campaigning. It will be a day to celebrate Scotland and our unique evolving cultural diversity, and a day to think of others and to be kind through doing one kind act. I hope that it will be a day on which members will support me in warmly inviting the people of Scotland and our friends across the UK, Europe and the world to join in the celebration.
In this challenging political climate, on Saturday let us focus on building bridges through culture, art and communities coming together. Let us join together, let us make a positive difference together and let us enjoy the celebrations of St Andrew’s day together.
13:24 Meeting suspended.
14:00 On resuming—