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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 11 June 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Primary 1 Standardised Assessments, Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill, Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill, Standing Orders (Rules Changes), Decision Time, The Way of St Andrews


Contents


The Way of St Andrews

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16595, in the name of Murdo Fraser, on the way of St Andrews. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates the Way of St Andrews on being included by VisitScotland in the brochure, Walk in Scotland 2019; understands that this and other pilgrimage sites, including St Columba’s Way, St Duthac’s Way, St Margaret’s Elbow, St Margaret’s Loop, the Rosslyn Chapel Way, the Ladywell Way, St Ninian’s Way and St Wilfrid’s Way, are attracting increasing numbers of visitors, bringing an annual expenditure of almost £170 million per year, and wishes the Way of St Andrews and all of the country’s pilgrimage sites continued success.

17:08  

I thank all the members who signed my motion to allow the debate to take place this evening, and I thank members in advance for their contributions.

My motion acknowledges the way of St Andrews, and the wider importance of pilgrimage in Scotland, which is now included in VisitScotland’s “Walk in Scotland” brochure for 2019. This is also an opportunity to acknowledge the wider role of pilgrimage in our society, and its important economic and social aspects across the country.

At this stage, I must confess that I have never actually been on a pilgrimage, unless we count the occasional visit to Ibrox. However, pilgrimage has long been an aspect of Christian life and devotion. In western Europe, it enjoyed a golden age of 500 years from the early 11th century to the 16th century, when thousands made their way from all over Europe to places associated with saints, and in particular to key centres such as Rome, Santiago and St Andrews.

With the reformation, pilgrimage went out of fashion, particularly in Scotland, but in recent times there has been a revival of interest in pilgrimage, and that has been coupled with the development of long-distance walks or pilgrim trails during the past 20 years. For example, the John Muir way—not itself a pilgrim route, but a long-distance route—opened in 2014 and now attracts more than 300,000 users a year. The Way of St Andrews is a lay Roman Catholic organisation that is committed to reviving the ancient tradition of pilgrimage to St Andrews, which was once one of the three largest pilgrimage destinations in Christendom.

I thank Murdo Fraser for taking my intervention and congratulate him on securing the debate. Does he agree that the Whithorn way, which spans from Glasgow to the ancient historic Whithorn chapel in south Scotland, is also a welcome addition to Scotland’s rich network of pilgrim walking routes?

Yes, indeed—I am very happy to agree with Joan McAlpine on that point. I will be amazed if other members do not talk about the pilgrim routes in their parts of Scotland in the course of the debate.

To return to St Andrews, however, there are now six long-distance pilgrim ways to it: the St Margaret’s way, which starts in Edinburgh; the St Duthac’s way, which starts in Aberdeen; the St Columba’s way from Iona; the St Wilfrid’s way from Hexham; the St Ninian’s way from Carlisle; and the Ladywell way from Motherwell. I pay tribute to the secretary of the Way of St Andrews organisation, Hugh Lockhart—who joins us in the public gallery tonight—for all the work that he has done in promoting those routes.

The estimated total benefit from those pilgrim routes to St Andrews is due to rise from approximately £1.5 million today to around £2.5 million in five years’ time; those are annual figures. When Fife Council commissioned a feasibility study for the creation of a Fife pilgrim way in 2014, average daily expenditure was assessed at £12 per head, with total economic impact being assessed at £1.8 million annually. Those figures are not just plucked from the air. We have seen the importance of pilgrimage elsewhere in Europe, in particular in relation to Santiago de Compostela in Spain—also known as the Camino—which now registers more than 300,000 pilgrims a year. Some members might have seen the recent television series that covered a group of travellers on that historic route. One of their experiences was the warm Mediterranean climate, which might be less of an issue for those who travel to St Andrews.

Across Europe, pilgrimage is gaining recognition and encouragement from religious and secular authorities, not just for its benefit to private individuals but for the economic benefit that it can bring to rural and undervisited areas.

Nick Cooke, the secretary of the Scottish pilgrim routes forum—which is based in Doune—tells me that the original manifesto, “Pilgrimage Routes across Scotland”, was launched in early 2011 here at the Scottish Parliament by Action of Churches Together in Scotland. The Scottish pilgrim routes forum was established a year later. Scotland now has more than 1,000 miles of pilgrim walking routes, either established or under development in accordance with the best practice that is promoted by the Scottish outdoor access code. I am sure that we will hear from other members in the course of the debate about different routes in different parts of the country.

The Fife pilgrim way, which will be officially launched in Dunfermline on 5 July, will help to raise public awareness of achievements to date and serve as a major boost for the local economy in Fife. A new book by Ian Bradley, entitled “The Fife Pilgrim Way”, has just been launched, and will help to promote that initiative.

It is not just across different parts of Scotland that we see a revival in pilgrimage routes; English Heritage is working with the British Pilgrimage Trust to revive some of the ancient routes to Canterbury, to Walsingham, and to Hailes abbey in Gloucestershire. The Church of England has started a research project on pilgrimage and England’s cathedrals to identify and analyse the core dynamics of pilgrimage and sacred sites in England from the 11th century to the 21st century. Although tonight’s debate is mostly about pilgrimage in the Christian tradition, it is worth acknowledging that other religions have similar traditions—in Islam, there is, of course, the tradition of pilgrimage to Mecca. I am not aware of any non-Christian pilgrimage routes in Scotland, but we can perhaps consider developing that in the future.

The benefits of pilgrimage are clear. For many, it is a spiritual experience. For others, it is about companionship, as walking with a shared aim to an historic sacred destination is likely to bring people together. People see real mental health benefits from walking as a company in a shared endeavour. Pilgrimage is an old metaphor for the spiritual journey through life, and involves good fellowship. There is also a fitness benefit, as it encourages activity at a time when we all have lifestyles that are too sedentary.

The benefits of promoting long-distance walking trails and pilgrimage are clear. It is good to see the ancient tradition being revived and exciting to hear about the economic benefits to Fife and other areas of Scotland that are going down that route.

I thank again all the members who supported my motion and I am sure that, in the course of the debate, we will hear members talking about routes in different parts of Scotland and their importance to their areas. Finally, I thank again Hugh Lockhart, the secretary of the Way of St Andrews organisation, for the information that he provided for the debate and for the work that he and his group are doing to promote pilgrimages to St Andrews.

17:15  

Many thanks to Murdo Fraser for bringing this very interesting debate to the chamber. Scotland has seen a significant rise in pilgrimage in this century. That is due in part to a renewed interest in Celtic saints and the early Christian church, and to organisers being inspired by the work that has been carried out in Santiago de Compostela in Spain to revive the Camino de Santiago, which is now an internationally renowned pilgrim way, to which Murdo Fraser alluded.

An exciting attempt is being made to replicate here in Scotland the success of the Camino. The first modern pilgrim route was St Margaret’s way, which was formally inaugurated in 2012. It starts in Edinburgh and travels through South Queensferry and over to the Fife coastal path up to St Andrews.

The abbey on the Isle of Iona is the starting point for St Columba’s way, which runs eastwards from Iona to St Andrews—some 200 miles. It is a diverse and often hilly track, where pilgrims have the opportunity to see Scotland at its very best: vast mountain ranges, stunning lochs and spectacular glens. People on the route are able to visit the many villages and settlements that are scattered along the southern Highlands.

It will be no surprise to Murdo Fraser that one such village is Killin, in my constituency. Situated on the banks of Loch Tay, Killin is a small village that is nestled in the shadow of the Tarmachan ridge and Ben Lawers. Pilgrims and other visitors to this beautiful village have the chance to see the world-famous Falls of Dochart, which are in the heart of the village. As a tourist village, it is somewhat ironic that the worse the weather gets, the more dramatic the main tourist attraction becomes.

Killin’s history is of great interest to many who visit, and the history of the village has great character that endures to this day, as I can testify. The Killin incident of 1749, in the aftermath of the Jacobite uprising, gives a flavour of the type of community that Killin is. Two men who were causing mischief were captured by the British Army, not for crimes that they had committed, such as the stealing of goods, but because they were in full Highland dress, which the British Government’s Dress Act 1746 had outlawed. I bet members did not think that they would hear about that in a debate about pilgrim ways. They were captive until a large mob of the good folk of Killin secured their release. I can testify that, to this day, the good people of Killin will not stand for injustice.

Killin was once home to the Macnab clan, whose seat was Kinnell house in the village. A prehistoric stone circle can still be found in the grounds of the house—a scheduled monument consisting of six upright slabs that is a truly spectacular sight.

Why is it important to talk about the history of Killin? It is because the St Andrews ways are built as a tribute to our nation’s history. This commemoration of the legends of St Andrew, St Margaret and St Columba is a recognition of the important role that religion has played in shaping our history. It is therefore fitting that, along those pilgrimage routes, people take whatever opportunity they can to soak up as much local history as possible. The ways are Scotland’s Caminos and their importance to our country—not just the promotion of our history and culture but the economic benefit from the impact of increased tourism—could be significant.

I am pleased that, along those routes, pilgrims will have the chance to visit places like Killin and to learn from and experience the special nature of those communities. It is early days in their inception, but I hope that the interest in those routes will continue for many years to come.

Again, I thank Murdo Fraser for bringing the debate to the chamber. He referred to Ibrox. I have never been on a pilgrimage to Ibrox, but I have visited many times, and it has always been an utterly miserable experience for me. I am a Dunfermline Athletic supporter and I do not think that we have ever beaten Rangers at Ibrox, so I cannot share his joy.

17:20  

I thank my colleague Murdo Fraser for securing this members’ business debate. I very much enjoyed Bruce Crawford’s speech, particularly his comments about Killin, which is a place that I know very well, not least because it is close to some of Scotland’s best scenery and great Munros.

As a keen walker and one of the members who represents the town of St Andrews in this Parliament, I very much look forward to enjoying the way of St Andrews in exactly the same way as I have enjoyed the John Muir way and—some 30 years ago—Santiago de Compostela, although I was there mainly for tourist and scenery reasons, rather than for an official pilgrimage.

St Andrews was, of course, a very popular pilgrimage site more than a thousand years ago, given that some of Scotland’s patron saint’s relics were kept in the town’s cathedral. Pilgrims would come from far and wide to pray at the shrine for forgiveness for their sins, and that practice continued for hundreds of years until the dawn of the reformation.

The original pilgrimage was popularised and patronised by St Margaret, who was queen of Scotland at the time. Indeed, it is her we have to thank for the most ancient ferry across the River Forth, which enabled worshippers to take their pilgrimages further. Therefore, it is fitting that one of the routes of the way of St Andrews—the St Margaret’s way, which begins outside St Margaret’s chapel in Edinburgh—is named in her honour. Of course, we now have the brand-new Queensferry crossing to help modern-day pilgrims to get across the Forth—a bit different from how it was in St Margaret’s day.

Another route that pilgrims can take is St Columba’s way, which links one of Scotland’s holiest sites, St Andrews, with another, the holy isle of Iona. The route crosses some of the most breathtaking and scenic parts of my Mid Scotland and Fife region. It crosses over many mountain passes and lochsides and takes in Mull, Oban, Bridge of Orchy, Loch Tay and Perth. It is the most wonderful route—exhausting yet exhilarating for any keen walker.

Other routes that can be undertaken as part of the way of St Andrews include St Margaret’s elbow, which takes in some of the most picturesque coastal villages of the east neuk of Fife, such as Crail, Anstruther and Elie; the Rosslyn chapel way, which begins at another of Scotland’s finest pilgrimage sites; St Ninian’s way, which takes the long way round most of south-west Scotland; and the St Andrews loop, which is only 6km long, so it might suit pilgrims who perhaps have slightly less fitness, mobility or time, but it is of extraordinary historical interest, given that it goes through the centre of St Andrews.

As with many similar initiatives in Scotland, such as the north coast 500, the new heart 200 route in Perthshire and the west Highland way, such scenic routes can bring excellent sources of tourist revenue to rural areas that are desperately in need of it. A 2017 study by the University of Glasgow found that the north coast 500 succeeded in drawing in an extra 29,000 visitors—I think that Mr Fraser was one of them—to the Highlands, and in raising an extra £9 million in revenue for the local area in its first year of operation alone, so I hope that we will be able to look forward to similar results in Fife as a result of the new initiative.

Almost every major religion in the world recognises the spirituality of travel. Pilgrimages can provide great sources of inspiration for those of all religious faiths and none, and they can prove to be deeply spiritual and life-changing experiences for those who undertake them, as they offer the opportunity for reflection and contemplation. If the way of St Andrews continues to attract an increasing number of pilgrims in the years ahead, I hope that it will become as renowned as many of the world’s other sites, such as the Camino de Santiago, Mecca, the Vatican and the Golden temple in Amritsar.

I pay tribute to those who have been involved in reviving the way of St Andrews, including members of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Edinburgh and St Andrews and the students at the University of Edinburgh who helped to design the website for the new pilgrimage.

17:24  

I, too, thank Murdo Fraser for bringing the debate to Parliament, and I join other members in congratulating the way of St Andrews—or the little Camino, as it is being called—on being included by VisitScotland in the “Walk in Scotland 2019” brochure. I hope that that recognition will encourage support and participation and ensure that more pilgrims will want to join in.

The way of St Andrews was revived earlier in the decade, but I understand that its history goes back over 1,000 years to when kings and princes made regular pilgrimages to pray where the relics of St Andrew were held. Indeed, the large cathedral complex at St Andrews was built as the town struggled to cope with visitors. As a point of interest—at least, I hope that it is interesting—the relics of St Andrew were in the Parliament last November for a Catholic Church bishops conference event in the garden lobby, which I had the honour of hosting. The pilgrimage declined through wars and ended during the reformation, as Murdo Fraser mentioned. Its revival in 2012 involved 50 pilgrims, including a group of Catholic women from North Lanarkshire. Since then, it has continued to attract many more participants.

The revival of the way of St Andrews brings with it many benefits for Scotland, including, as we know, increased tourism and investment in communities that the routes pass through. The businesses that are helped most are small ones such as pubs, cafes and bed and breakfasts along the way. Although those benefits are welcome, it is also important to remember the benefits for the participants themselves—and not only the spiritual ones. As well as the obvious benefits of seeing fantastic landscapes—colleagues have mentioned those—excellent views and historic places of interest along the way, there is undoubtedly a health benefit from participating in the pilgrimage.

Recently, a number of members, including me, attended an event in the Parliament that was hosted by David Stewart on behalf of Cancer Research UK in support of its scale down cancer campaign. That event shone a light on the dangers of obesity as the number 1 cause of cancers in Scotland. Scotland now has among the heaviest populations in Europe, with 64 per cent of adults and 22 per cent of children considered to be either overweight or obese. Tackling the obesity epidemic that we face in Scotland involves ensuring that healthy and nutritious food is affordable and available for everyone and that businesses are discouraged from incentivising the unhealthiest food with multi-pack offers, for example. However, tackling obesity must also involve encouraging positive lifestyle choices such as walking. Obviously, going on pilgrimages comes under that heading.

As we have heard, the way of St Andrews draws inspiration from the Camino, or way of St James, which is the famous pilgrimage route across Europe that ends at the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela, in Spain. There are hundreds of thousands of participants in that pilgrimage each year. The majority of them walk, but more than a quarter cycle, and apparently 50 per cent are under the age of 25. That should encourage young people to walk.

The way of St Andrews is a great opportunity for people across Scotland—especially young people—to get some exercise while they take in the scenery and history that the routes have to offer. As we have heard, it starts in different places, including in Motherwell, in central Scotland, with the Ladywell way. I do not think that it has been mentioned yet, although perhaps Murdo Fraser mentioned it in his opening speech; I apologise if he did.

There are many reasons why a person would go on a pilgrimage. Around 50 per cent of participants in the Camino pilgrimage said that they belonged to a religious denomination, and they gave that as a reason. However, many others participate in order to get exercise, to see different places and scenery on the route, to take in history, or simply to escape from the stresses of everyday life. People can, of course, raise funds for a charity while they walk.

It is important that we make it clear that the pilgrimage routes are accessible to everyone of all faiths or none. I have been in Vigo, in Spain, on a couple of occasions but, sadly, I have not managed to do part of the way of St James. My health disabilities can make exercise difficult. However, even doing part of those pilgrimages results in benefits, and I intend to do at least a part of both routes at some point. I have been to Iona, which Bruce Crawford mentioned, and going there is a very spiritual experience.

I wish all the organisers and volunteers who have been involved continued success, and I encourage everyone who can to get involved and experience some of the great sights and opportunities that long-distance walking in Scotland offers by participating in the little Camino.

Once again, I thank Murdo Fraser for bringing the debate to the chamber.

17:29  

I am extremely pleased to speak in the debate, which I thank my colleague Murdo Fraser for bringing to the chamber. I was delighted to meet Hugh Lockhart, the secretary of the Way of St Andrews organisation, in the Parliament last year, when we held a fascinating discussion about the growing popularity of pilgrimage and, in particular, about how the St Ninian’s way pilgrimage route can be promoted. Hugh Lockhart’s St Ninian’s route, in effect, goes from Carlisle via Whithorn to the north and St Andrews, but I will focus on the Whithorn way, which is not quite the same as St Ninian’s way. As members know from my regular demands for a Galloway national park, I like to take every opportunity to attract visitors to the heart of my wonderful constituency.

The Whithorn way is our very own 149-mile walking and cycling route from Glasgow cathedral to Whithorn. The route has 13 segments, each with a very doable distance of about 15 miles. Each section ends in a village or other settlement, to maximise the route’s usability and its economic benefit. Local communities support it because they can see the potential benefits in areas where tourism needs a boost.

Commendably, the route has been mapped and walked by volunteers from the Whithorn way steering group. The Whithorn Trust got involved to promote the route on social media with clips that were filmed from a drone. The trust involved young people by asking them to design pilgrim stamps for schools that are situated along the route. It is a hands-on group that even helped to create part of the footpath from Whithorn to St Ninian’s cave.

To bring things up to date, this year, a grant has been obtained from the Kilgallioch wind farm fund to create a smartphone app for walkers to use, which will allow businesses to register details for people to obtain accommodation, food, walking supplies and even—for those who are fed up or have sore feet—taxis. Those involved are publishing 13 maps, printing a passport and installing signage in areas that deviate from the main paths, where, unfortunately, mobile phone signals often fail.

I do not want to get into tit for tat by saying, “My pilgrimage is better than yours,” but it is not often recognised that St Ninian was the most popular saint in medieval Scotland. In popular piety, he outdid Columba and St Andrew and, by the reformation, he had cults in England, Ireland and Scotland, and even abroad.

Can I—[Interruption.]

Excuse me.

I add my support for St Ninian. I do not think that the Conservatives will be anywhere near St Andrew’s house in governmental terms, but, if Finlay Carson ever visits the building, he will notice that the bronze doors show St Ninian on one side and St Andrew on the other. That is a fitting reflection of St Ninian’s importance to Scotland.

I can allow an extra few minutes if the member would like to continue the argument.

I thank Fiona Hyslop for her fascinating intervention.

The length of the Christian settlement at Whithorn is unparalleled. Evidence of pilgrimages dates back to at least the eighth century, when a poem from Whithorn documented the throngs of pilgrims who visited for miracles. The Whithorn Trust is carrying out scientific tests on human bones from Whithorn, which are expected to reveal a Christian settlement there from the fifth century—about 100 years before the settlement on Iona. The excavations and research are being led by National Museums Scotland and the University of Bradford, and they should shine a light on Whithorn from the fifth to the 11th century. The exciting results are much awaited by the academic community, the media and the tourism industry.

The research into Whithorn’s early origins, added to the history of pilgrimage from the 12th to the 16th century, will undoubtedly create a route that is capable of supporting the regeneration of Whithorn and the surrounding areas through heritage and faith tourism. It is encouraging that interest has already been reported from groups in south-east England in a new St Ninian’s tour for 2020.

I thank Julia Muir Watt of the Whithorn Trust for her briefing. In return, I take the opportunity to bring members’ attention to her fantastic companion guide to pilgrim heritage along the route, which is called “Walk the Whithorn Way”. I should say that other guides are available, but maybe not for the Whithorn way.

It has been an immense privilege to speak in the debate. It is vital to remember our Christian heritage while boosting tourism, which is a vital industry for Galloway and Scotland. I am delighted to do my bit to promote St Ninian’s way and the Whithorn way and to encourage visitors to experience the fantastic natural environment along the routes, which will further support historic discoveries relating to the foundations of Christianity in Scotland that were built in Whithorn.

I apologise to members for the distraction. I knocked over my water glass—I am sorry about that.

17:34  

I am very pleased to respond on behalf of the Government to what has been a very interesting debate. I hope that it has publicised an aspect of tourism that might not always be at the front of our minds when we think about Scotland’s unique offer, but which is an important one that has clearly shaped the Scotland that we know today. I congratulate Murdo Fraser on securing the debate on the way of St Andrews, which is one of many pilgrimage walks in Scotland.

When we think of pilgrimages, we often think of medieval journeys on foot to the shrines of saints, at which people seek help for affliction or ask for penance. Such pilgrimages are not as common today. Walking the same path that faithful believers walked long ago allows us to tread in their footsteps, and imagine and experience what Scotland was like almost 1,000 years ago.

A person need not be religious or belong to any particular denomination to walk the routes. In fact, when we look at similar pilgrim routes internationally, such as at Santiago de Compostela, we see that only 50 per cent of those who travel on the route identify themselves as belonging to a religious denomination. It is clear, therefore, that people travel for other reasons, including to experience the landscape and heritage, for their wellbeing or just to enjoy being in the outdoors.

Increasingly, it is recognised that the key role of tourism is its almost unique reach across our economy, our country and, now, our society. Our links with Europe are growing stronger, and we continue to have growing numbers of visitors from the European Union. What we are debating is a different side of tourism—one that is already experienced by our European neighbours and one that allows us to connect with our own sense of place and time.

Our pilgrim ways give us the chance to connect not only with our heritage, history and Scotland’s stories—Bruce Crawford mentioned the history of Killin in his constituency—but our fantastic landscapes. They also give us the chance to switch off from our busy lives and to immerse ourselves in the best of Scotland. Wellbeing is increasingly a key driver for tourism.

Long-distance walking, which allows for contemplation, is also becoming increasingly popular as a form of escape from the pressures of everyday life. The appetite for long-distance walking, including pilgrimage routes, is growing, and St Andrews has all the features that make a modern site of pilgrimage.

I have mentioned Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrimage to that famous site in northern Spain was revived recently, as we have heard, and now well over 200,000 people a year make the trip there from all over the world. About 50 per cent of the pilgrims are under 25, and 77 per cent make the journey on foot. Motives for going on pilgrimage vary, of course, but they seem mostly to include a desire to discover something new, and many pilgrims come back year after year.

It is clear that Scotland is well positioned to cater for our pilgrims, and for long-distance walking and cycling enthusiasts. We have many saints, including St Columbus, St Margaret, St Ninian and, of course, St Andrew. I was very interested in Liz Smith’s contribution and her reference to the importance to Scotland of St Margaret. Each saint has a pilgrimage route connected with them.

By connecting people with our heritage, we are able to provide them with an authentic and interesting narrative, as they experience Scotland’s fantastic landscape. Those are two of Scotland’s key strengths, so it is important that we build on them and continue to provide such authentic experiences for our visitors. Even if our visitors do not have an interest in faith tourism specifically, it is likely that they will visit at least one heritage attraction while they are here.

I am very pleased that we have good cross-party support for faith tourism and our long-distance routes. Long-distance faith routes are very much in the heart of my colleague Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. She has championed the three saints way long-distance route, through the heart of Strathearn, which is part of an even longer aspirational route—the pilgrim way—which stretches from lona to St Andrews.

As I am sure Murdo Fraser is aware, we will soon see a new route: the Fife pilgrim way will be officially launched on 5 July, and I am sure that VisitScotland will do what it can to support and promote the route.

Elaine Smith and Murdo Fraser referenced the recent impetus from faith groups for pilgrim ways. I pay tribute to them, too. Scotland has a long history of welcoming diverse communities from across the world. We have a growing reputation for developing new and innovative ways to engage local, multicultural, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, faith and other communities in all the unique attractions that our country has to offer.

Today’s debate has given us a welcome opportunity to discuss other aspects of our tourism offer: pilgrim ways are an important part of that. I am particularly looking forward to hearing the latest news about the developments around St Ninian’s shrine and the Whithorn way. Some years ago, I visited it and heard about the ambition for the way, so it is great to see the progress that has been made.

We also need to look afresh at the benefits that a vibrant and resilient visitor economy can bring. Progress has already been significant, and we continue to build momentum as we face the many challenges ahead. As we look towards the future, all that I can do is encourage our industries and agencies to bring new and authentic experiences to our many visitors. Of course, that authentic experience is not always new and, as we have heard, pilgrimages go back thousands of years, so perhaps all that we are doing is rediscovering and reinventing what was set out by our forebears.

We need to reach into the past to celebrate our heritage and history, and we need to tell our stories, but we must also embrace our shared future in a confident and inclusive Scotland. I am delighted that we have had the opportunity to discuss that today, so I again thank Murdo Fraser for bringing the debate to Parliament.

Meeting closed at 17:41.