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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, November 28, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 28 November 2019

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Point of Order, St Andrew’s Day, Portfolio Question Time, Women in Agriculture Task Force (Final Report), Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill: Stage 1, Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill: Financial Resolution, Decision Time


St Andrew’s Day

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-19741, in the name of Tom Arthur, on St Andrew’s day. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the celebration of St Andrew’s Day on 30 November 2019; notes that this will also mark the start of Scotland’s winter festivals; recognises that the national day is an opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s culture, heritage and national identity both at home and worldwide in an inclusive, compassionate and outward-looking manner; celebrates St Andrew’s Fair Saturday, which this year falls on the national day itself; notes that this is a global movement that encourages communities to follow the consumerism of “Black Friday” with a response through cultural activity in support of social causes in a spirit of social empathy; understands that the All About Barrhead Business Improvement District is hosting an event, the Awfy Scottish Winter Wonderland, as part of the initiative; notes that this will be a festive fair featuring Scottish entertainment in aid of Barrhead Christmas Dinner packs; acknowledges that the Johnstone’s Christmas Lights Switch On, which is being organised by Renfrewshire Council and is also part of the Fair Saturday initiative, will support St Vincent’s Hospice and Active Communities; believes that a diverse programme of events will be taking place across the country, and commends the efforts of all communities the length and breadth of Scotland in getting involved in the Fair Saturday movement on St Andrew’s Day.


I thank all members who signed my motion to enable the debate to take place, and I thank everyone who will contribute to it.

I have brought the debate to the chamber in recognition of St Andrew’s day on 30 November, which is Saturday. As the convener of the cross-party group on St Andrew’s day, I think that it is very important that we take time as politicians to reflect on what St Andrew’s day means and, more widely, what “being Scottish” means to us in all senses of the term.

It is my normal practice in debates to speak from a few notes or bullet points and, if I speak later in a debate, I often reflect on comments that other members have made. However, I will take a slightly different approach in this speech. I have the privilege of having a young man named Kyle from the United States interning for me as part of a university programme—I know that many other members have interns, too. I was keen to get his reflections—as someone visiting Scotland from the United States—on St Andrew’s day, so much of what I will say has been prepared in conjunction with him and informed by his reflections and understanding of St Andrew’s day.

As many people know, St Andrew’s day is a day to celebrate the patron saint of Scotland, from whom the holiday derives its name. According to Catholic teachings, or Christian teachings more generally, St Andrew was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee and served as one of Jesus’s 12 disciples along with his brother Simon Peter. Little is known about the life of St Andrew, but it is believed that he died while bound to an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. That was the inspiration behind our beloved flag.

It is unclear how St Andrew became our patron saint, as he never stepped foot in Scotland. There are, of course, many different stories and traditions. Some sources say that, in the ninth century, King Angus had a dream about the aforementioned X-shaped cross before a battle with England. He vowed that, if he won against the English in that battle, he would anoint St Andrew as Scotland’s patron saint. As fortune had it, King Angus won, and the rest is history.

Beyond the distinctly scriptural definition of the holiday, St Andrew’s day is a celebration of what it means to be Scottish. It has been suggested to me that, to many around the world, Scotland is symbolised by magnificent bens covered in powdery snow, Highland cows with majestic manes, expansive lochs that may or may not contain certain mythical creatures, whisky that warms the soul, and, as Kyle put it, kilted men on street corners playing bagpipes with varying levels of success. In recent years, Scotland has also been associated with a certain wizard who has a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead and learns his craft at a school set in the Scottish Highlands.

Kyle’s reflections on Scottishness are interesting. He feels that to be truly Scottish, one must embrace the country’s unique spirit. He tells me that he thinks that anyone who visits Scotland will quickly be struck by the compassion of the Scottish people and the kindness that is just built into Scottish society, in that we help others when they are in need even if we ourselves are down on our luck.

To be Scottish also means to be inclusive of others. Kyle says that if the make-up of this Parliament is not sufficient proof of that—with five party leaders who represent the different viewpoints of the Scottish people—he does not know what is. Further, he notes that it was not long ago that nearly all the parties in the chamber were led by women and that half of the party leaders were members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community—a situation that is unheard of anywhere else and of which we can be very proud.

It is in that spirit that St Andrew’s day fittingly coincides with fair Saturday. For those who are not aware of it, St Andrew’s fair Saturday is, to some extent, the polar opposite of black Friday, which takes place tomorrow. Each year, black Friday marks the peak of consumerism as people around the world capitalise on sharp discounts to mark the start of the Christmas season. To counteract that rush of consumerism, fair Saturday is a worldwide movement that encourages people to give to charity by participating in a variety of community and cultural activities. I am delighted to see that, this year, 32 communities around Scotland and across all our local authority areas are participating in fair Saturday. The many events planned include plays, arts and crafts, film screenings, live music and, of course, local St Andrew’s day festivals.

In support of fair Saturday, I would like to highlight some events that will be happening in my Renfrewshire South constituency. The first is an awfy Scottish winter wonderland, which is an annual event that takes place in Barrhead. It features live Christmas music, pony rides, a Santa express train, a fireworks display and opportunities to take photos with Santa himself. Entrance to the event is free of charge, but a small donation is requested in return for having such photos taken. All the proceeds will go towards making Christmas dinner packs for less fortunate families in East Renfrewshire. Secondly, I would like to mention Johnstone’s Christmas lights switch-on. During the event, a host of local bands will play on a centre stage. At 5 pm the music will stop for the lighting of the Christmas tree, which will be followed by more Christmas-related events. All the proceeds will go to St Vincent’s Hospice and to Active Communities, which is an organisation that promotes physical activity and wellbeing across Renfrewshire. Those are all excellent examples of people coming together in celebration of St Andrew’s day and fair Saturday and to benefit local communities.

The last point that I wish to make is about the genuinely international spirit of St Andrew’s day, which, of course, is not limited to Scotland. As Kyle notes, organisations around the world are preserving and celebrating their Scottish heritage. One such place that displays exceptional Scottish spirit is in the United States, in Kyle’s home state of Maine. I have been trained in how to pronounce the name of his home town correctly, but I will probably still get it wrong. It is Bangor, which is pronounced “Bang-ore” and not “Banger”. The town is home to the Anah Highlanders—a pipe band that plays to raise money for the Anah Shriners hospitals for children, which treat children who need specialised care, such as those with cleft palates, cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Maine also has its own St Andrew’s Society, which hosts events such as an annual Highland games and a Robert Burns dinner to raise money for a fund that awards scholarships to students who are studying subjects related to Scottish culture and heritage.

I thank Kyle for his help in preparing my remarks. It is illustrative of the international aspect of St Andrew’s day that two individuals from such different parts of the world can meet and, after just a few hours of discussion, discover all those connections through St Andrew’s day. That symbolises the way in which the day binds not just the Scottish diaspora but people from across the world through their shared values.

I very much look forward to hearing other members’ contributions to the debate. I also encourage all members to engage with their local communities over the weekend and to celebrate fair Saturday and St Andrew’s day.


There are many strong arguments for countries celebrating their national days: community cohesion, the celebration of diversity, the promotion of cultural heritage and the chance to turn a friendly face to the wider world.

I congratulate Tom Arthur on lodging his motion. I also thank the number of dedicated people—not least, Dennis Canavan—who have campaigned tirelessly for St Andrew’s day being celebrated more and more.

It is only fair to say that we have some way to go in Scotland to catch up with the way in which many other countries celebrate their national days. Ireland celebrates St Patrick’s day on a scale that rivals the celebrations of any other country’s national day, in terms of its sheer international reach. Each year, Norway celebrates constitution day on a huge scale, which involves probably every child in Norway taking part in enormous parades—not least in Oslo, where the streets outside the royal palace become a huge sea of Norwegian flags and national costumes.

Of course, the many countries around the world that have declared their independence from the United Kingdom all—very understandably—celebrate that fact in some style, taking their lead from the USA, which marks each 4th of July with fireworks, barbecues, parades and picnics. Interestingly, India celebrates both an independence day and a republic day with, among other things, public kite battles.

Although there have been many improvements, which I am sure other members will mention, why does comparatively little of that stuff happen in Scotland on our national day? The historical answer to that question is that, at the time of the reformation, all saints days, as well as Christmas and Easter, were disestablished by the state—in fact, by this Parliament. That led to Scots preferring to celebrate other festivals such as hogmanay. Christmas became a public holiday again in Scotland only in 1958. Since then, however, it has slightly overshadowed most of the winter, including St Andrew’s day.

All that said, interest in St Andrew’s day continues to grow. The lack of any obvious traditions around the day is perhaps an obstacle, but it is also an opportunity. It gives us the chance to do new things to celebrate the day. For instance, the Scottish Government has promoted a social media campaign entitled #onekindact, which has a presence on Instagram and Twitter. The campaign encourages people to post pictures of acts of kindness.

As we have heard, in a similar vein, the Government is partnering with the Fair Saturday Foundation, which is a non-profit-making organisation that focuses on supporting artists and cultural organisations to mark St Andrew’s weekend in ways that provide an interesting contrast with black Friday and the ethos that it has perhaps come to represent, as Tom Arthur said. Much now happens to mark St Andrew’s night in Scotland, as well as the St Andrew’s night dinners that take place in other parts of the world.

It must be said that there are still obstacles to overcome, not least the fact that we need to agree both a single day each year when there will be a public holiday for celebrations, and what form those will take. When I was the relevant minister, I remember running up against the “Yes Minister”-like reality that declaring a public holiday would probably require primary legislation, possibly from Westminster. Perhaps the current minister can offer his take on that and say whether I am wrong. Meanwhile, there must be things that we can do to ensure that we celebrate St Andrew’s day more.

I conclude as I began by saying that many arguments can be made for national days. Ultimately, a national festival should be about having fun and celebrating Scotland. For everyone who wants to do that, St Andrew’s day is a very good idea.

Là Naomh Anndrais sona dhuibh, nuair a thig e.


I thank Tom Arthur for bringing the debate to the Parliament—with Kyle’s help.

St Andrew’s day is the feast day of St Andrew. It is Scotland’s official national day and is celebrated on 30 November. In 2006, the Parliament passed what became the St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, which designated the day as an official bank holiday.

I believe that relics of St Andrew were on display in the Parliament a year ago, in an event sponsored by Elaine Smith MSP.

Although St Andrew was generally revered in Scotland from around 1000 AD, he did not become the official patron saint until the signing of the declaration of Arbroath in 1320, and popular celebration of his day did not become commonplace until the 18th century.

Since then, St Andrew has become involved in so much of Scotland’s culture. For example, the flag of Scotland, the St Andrew’s cross, was chosen in honour of him; today I am wearing a tie with the saltire on it.

Despite all the history surrounding St Andrew, St Andrew’s day is not as well known as festivals such as St Patrick’s day in Ireland—as we have already heard—even though it is believed that the celebration of St Andrew as a national festival stretches back to some point in the 11th century, during the reign of Malcolm III. However, despite it not being as famous as other festivals, it is a national holiday not only in Scotland, as St Andrew is also the patron saint of Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Tenerife and Barbados—and maybe of other places, too.

Having lived and worked in Romania for 10 years, I will touch on how St Andrew’s day is celebrated not only here at home but worldwide, with a particular focus on some celebrations and customs in Romania.

The story of St Andrew in Romania tells us that Romania was Christianised by St Andrew in the first century AD, as is accepted by both the Romanian Orthodox church and the Romanian state, with St Andrew being named the patron saint of Romania.

There are various activities that people engage in as a way of celebrating old Romanian beliefs associated with the feast of St Andrew. They include bringing out garlic to ward off ghosts, and eating salty bread in the hope of dreaming of the person they will marry—there is a tip.

Interestingly, given that some people wish to see wolves reintroduced into Scotland, in Romania St Andrew is invoked to ward off wolves on St Andrew’s day. On that day, wolves are thought to be able to eat any animal they want to eat and to speak to humans; the belief is that a human hearing a wolf speak to him will die, so people invoke St Andrew to protect themselves. Members have been warned.

St Andrew’s fair Saturday is Scotland’s contribution to the global celebration of fair Saturday, which is a global mobilisation that aims to create a positive social impact following the great expression of consumerism that is black Friday. Artists and cultural organisations from across Scotland and around the world will get together in a global festival that has just one requirement: to support a social cause of their choice that is close to their heart and to contribute to the wider celebration of St Andrew’s day through their show. Events are being held across my North East Scotland region, including in, among other places, Aberdeen and Dundee, which include ceilidhs and cathedral services, as well as a concert in Dundee at which the decks of HMS Unicorn will be filled with lively traditional tunes from Shetland, mainland Scotland and Ireland.

St Andrew’s day is a very important day in Scotland and globally. Although many people might not be aware of St Andrew’s wider connections outwith Scotland, it is clear that he was and continues to be an important figure, especially at this time of year. It is encouraging to see that other celebrations and events are emerging as a result of the St Andrew’s day holiday, and it is particularly encouraging for me, as a member for the North East Scotland region, to see places such as Dundee and Aberdeen getting involved.


Congratulations must go to Tom Arthur for securing the debate and to his intern, Kyle, for his research and contribution. It is great to see that St Andrew’s day—30 November—marks the start of the winter festivals programme in Scotland, and the links that have been created with the fair Saturday movement.

I will focus on two issues: the purpose of fair Saturday and St Andrew’s fair Saturday; and the Big Burns Supper festival in Dumfries. In preparing for today’s debate, after reading Mr Arthur’s motion, I followed up on the information that it provides on the fair Saturday movement. Fair Saturday is a positive initiative that is independent, apolitical and respectful of human rights, and aims to create a global cultural movement that will have a positive impact on society. It provides an opportunity for artists, cultural organisations and communities to come together in a unique festival and support social causes.

South Ayrshire Council, in my South Scotland region, has a St Andrew’s fair Saturday event at the Citadel leisure centre, where the fun swimming pool will be opened, and community engagement events are being organised across South Ayrshire to tackle isolation and loneliness. I am encouraging Dumfries and Galloway Council to promote the St Andrew’s fair Saturday events next year, having written to it to raise awareness of the Scottish Government’s St Andrew’s fair Saturday initiative. I am aware that other local activities are planned by the Dumfries & Galloway Multicultural Association and the Massive Outpouring of Love charity. I wish them both well this Saturday.

I will also briefly mention the lamb for St Andrew’s day campaign, promoted by Quality Meat Scotland. I encourage everybody to eat lamb on Saturday, because it is good fir ye. Quality Meat Scotland should be commended for that campaign.

Mr Arthur’s motion describes the events and festivals in his constituency, and I am intrigued by the awfy Scottish winter wonderland. I am sure that Tom Arthur will be able to regale me with more detail later.

The Big Burns Supper festival in Dumfries is held in January as part of the celebrations of 25 January, the birth date of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. The Big Burns Supper winter festival is now known as Scotland’s biggest Burns night party and the warmest winter festival set in the historic, vibrant south of Scotland capital. Held every year, the family-friendly event is now in its ninth year, and it will welcome 150 shows with 300 artists over 11 performance days. The various venues include bars, cafes, art galleries, museums and the oldest working theatre in Scotland, which was refurbished last year with Scottish Government support, the Theatre Royal.

The Famous Spiegeltent is another wonderful place. It has become the host venue for many live acts, and it is where the international burlesque cabaret show “Le Haggis” will be performed.

Ellisland farm, located just outside Dumfries, is the farm where Robert Burns lived before moving to Dumfries. It is the farm where he wrote his most famous poem, “Tam o’ Shanter”. I am glad to say that the farm has now joined the Big Burns Supper as a host venue site.

The funding for the fair Saturday programme has come from the Scottish Government through EventScotland and the Holywood Trust. The Big Burns Supper festival gets support from Carlisle City Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council. I thank all the supporters for enabling the festival to be held. Next year is its 10th year, and that will be an exciting event to attend. Perhaps the minister could come and join me at “Le Haggis” next year.

I again welcome the debate, I thank Tom Arthur and Kyle, and I encourage everyone to take part in St Andrew’s fair Saturday.


I thank Tom Arthur for securing the debate. I have appreciated listening to members describing the history of St Andrew’s day, as well as talking about Robert Burns, but today St Andrew’s day more typically marks the start of Scotland’s winter festivals and all the related seasonal celebrations.

The day also provides an opportunity to step back from the festival preparations, to take a break from the buying and planning and to think more about celebration of our culture. A modern part of St Andrew’s day is fair Saturday, which seeks to create a positive social aspect by bringing people together in a way that can contrast with much of the commerciality that is part of the festive season.

Black Friday, which was once little known outside the US, has quickly become an event here in the UK that lasts for days, if not weeks. It can provide an opportunity to pick up a pre-Christmas bargain, although Which? is publishing evidence this week that exposes some false bargains for what they really are. As others have, I have been inundated with emails and adverts encouraging me to spend even more at this time of year.

When we get black Friday deals, we should remember how they work and their potential impacts on workers and smaller businesses. Many small businesses and producers are unable to compete with the large-brand offers, perhaps because they are struggling to keep prices low while maintaining fair wages, or because high-quality production methods have higher costs. I encourage members to think tomorrow about smaller producers, ethical businesses, fair traders and local enterprises, and about what they have to offer by way of high-quality produce at fair prices.

This weekend, thousands of artists and cultural organisations across the world will celebrate fair Saturday. I am pleased that a number of events are taking place across my region—many of them at libraries in Fife—including art exhibitions, family fun days and creative mindfulness colouring. At each library, food donation areas will be set up for local food bank charities. In St Andrews, there will be particular celebrations that will include storytelling and craft sessions, an international ceilidh and the big torch parade, with music and fireworks, as part of the St Andrews big hoolie.

As it did in previous years, Historic Environment Scotland will provide thousands of free tickets to abbeys, palaces, castles and cathedrals over the weekend, in order to let people across the country visit historic buildings and learn about our history and culture. It is a great opportunity to get inside some of Scotland’s great attractions, including Stirling castle, Doune castle, Dunfermline abbey and palace, Aberdour castle and Castle Campbell, which are all in my region.

On St Andrew’s fair Saturday, events and activities all over Scotland will bring people together to celebrate sharing, fairness and social inclusion. The day is an opportunity for us to celebrate the culture of Scotland and to promote inclusivity and compassion. It is a day to show Scotland as a welcoming and open place in which to live and work.

The briefing from BEMIS for the debate is a welcome reminder of how St Andrew’s day reflects—as it should—the increasing ethnic and cultural diversity of our communities. Local multicultural celebrations are taking place across Scotland and present an important opportunity to celebrate community cohesion and collaboration in an atmosphere of respect and solidarity.

St Andrew’s day is a day on which we can reaffirm our opposition to racism in all its forms, and celebrate the racial and ethnic diversity of Scotland. The annual Scottish Trades Union Congress St Andrew’s day march and rally against racism will take place on Saturday at Glasgow Green. It is an important event that demonstrates the diversity and inclusivity that are vital to Scotland.

St Andrew’s day is a day of national celebration. It provides a chance for us to enjoy our cultural heritage and to encourage the diversity of Scotland and the positive relationships that exist across our communities. It is a reminder of the importance of promoting tolerance, dispelling ignorance, bringing people together and appreciating all the aspects that make Scotland the vibrant and welcoming country that it is.


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—