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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Meeting of the Parliament 29 November 2016

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism (European Union Referendum), St Andrew’s Day, Business Motion, Decision Time, Blood Donation


St Andrew’s Day

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-02796, in the name of Alasdair Allan, on celebrating St Andrew’s day.


Presiding Officer, I wish you and other members a happy St Andrew’s day tomorrow. Scotland has a strong national identity, which is reflected in St Andrew’s day being celebrated not only in Scotland, but widely throughout the world.

For many, St Andrew’s day is marked through a celebration of Scottish culture, with traditional Scottish food, music and dance, but our national day also shows a celebration of Scotland’s unique culture, creativity, diverse communities and international reputation for promoting civic pride and engagement, as well as sustainable economic and social development, although that is less important than enjoying ourselves.

Many countries have a designated date on which celebrations are held to mark their nationhood. Indeed, as St Andrew is also the patron saint of countries such as Barbados, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria, we will not be the only ones celebrating. The importance attached to national days and the degree to which they are celebrated vary greatly from country to country, but our ambition is for St Andrew’s day to be recognised in the same manner as Australia day, St Patrick’s day in Ireland, Bastille day in France and independence day in America, with a greater tradition of celebrating this important day across the nation and more widely. We would do well to emulate the scale on which the Norwegians have the good sense to celebrate annually having a constitution. It is also worth mentioning that, tomorrow, Barbados celebrates the 50th anniversary of its national independence day.

Nine years ago, the first Scottish National Party Government initiated the concept of Scotland’s winter festivals to boost the national and international celebration of St Andrew’s day, Hogmanay and Burns night, and to showcase Scotland’s unique culture and creativity and the many reasons why Scotland should be seen as a year-round visitor attraction. Since the introduction of the winter festivals, they have gone from strength to strength. The 2015-16 programme attracted audiences of more than 300,000 people, and, in addition, 8 million people across the world were engaged in the celebration online.

This year, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs has announced a funding contribution of £390,000 to support 22 key cultural events as part of the 2016-17 programme. Those include a torchlight festival in Glasgow, an open-air ceilidh in St Andrews and a four-day festival of light at Irvine’s harbourside. This year, 10 events celebrating St Andrew’s day—in Argyll and Bute, Dundee, Edinburgh, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, Fife, Glasgow and North Ayrshire—have received a share of more than £122,000 in funding to support activities. Last year, St Andrew’s day attracted 86,000 people, with highlights including events in Edinburgh, Oban and St Andrews.

St Andrew’s day will grow in stature. With that in mind, it is worth mentioning that our aim is to see the saltire projected on to Edinburgh Castle for St Andrew’s day 2017. However, for the celebration of St Andrew’s day to be truly embedded into our culture, we need to encourage people to take ownership of their national day and to celebrate it in their own way, reflecting their own cultural and ethnic diversity. That could be, for example, by celebrating the occasion at home with friends or family, by developing events in the neighbourhood, by giving something back to the community in the spirit of St Andrew’s day or by welcoming and celebrating with Scotland’s multicultural communities on or around 30 November.

I hope that during the debate the Parliament will join me in welcoming the many successes of the St Andrew’s day celebration to date and that members will explore the many opportunities that our national day can provide in future.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the fantastic opportunity that St Andrew’s Day provides to showcase and celebrate Scotland’s unique culture and identity at home and abroad and to boost the country’s international reputation by sending a positive and inclusive message to the country and the world about Scotland and its people; acknowledges the potential of St Andrew’s Day to further spotlight the contribution that Scots make across the globe and in many different fields of endeavour while emphasising a unity through the celebration of the wide diversity of faiths, cultures and ethnic origins that is the reality of the nation today; recognises the growing success of the St Andrew’s Day celebrations over recent years and signals its support for the activities that are planned to mark St Andrew’s Day 2016, and extends an invitation to people from near and far to join the celebration of Scotland’s national day.


Today, we are celebrating St Andrew’s day. The reason why we do it is, of course, because St Andrew is Scotland’s patron saint. As Alasdair Allan pointed out, St Andrew is also the patron saint of several other countries. Additionally, he is the patron saint of fishermen, which I think members will all agree is particularly appropriate for Scotland, given our long-established reputation as a seafaring nation and the high quality of our seafood. Among other things, St Andrew is the patron saint of fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers.

A symbol of our connection to St Andrew is that our national flags are famously adorned with the cross of St Andrew, which is prominently placed on the saltire and the union jack. The flag was given its place by Óengus, who vowed that, if granted victory, he would appoint St Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. Then, on the morning of a battle, white clouds forming an X shape in the sky are said to have appeared. Emboldened by that apparent divine intervention, Óengus and his combined force took to the field and, despite their inferior numbers, were victorious.

The symbol went on to become the flag of Scotland, although we share that particular flag design with others including—but not limited to—Tenerife, whose blue is traditionally a darker navy blue. I found two interesting theories that try to explain the Tenerife flag’s resemblance to the flag of Scotland. One is that, during the battle of Santa Cruz, so revered were the Scottish sailors for their bravery and high standard of sailing that the flag was adopted by the island as its own. Seeing that we lost that battle, I have reason to doubt whether that is true. The second theory is that, because Scotland and Tenerife share St Andrew as a patron saint, they use his cross as well.

I quite enjoyed the story of St Andrew’s arrival in Tenerife, which has it that he arrived on the island just as the new wine was being produced. It would have been rude of him not to partake in the local festivities, so St Andrew took part enthusiastically. Like so many others have since, while he was abroad, trying to keep up with the locals, he ended up a little worse for wear. While he was in an intoxicated state, the local children decided to play a joke on him, tying pots and pans to his clothes so that, whenever he moved in his sleep, they made an almighty clatter and woke him up. The children, no doubt, thought that that was extremely funny, but I doubt that St Andrew was quite as amused. Nowadays, in honour of that prank, on the eve of St Andrew’s day—which is today—local children collect tins and cans of all shapes and sizes, tie them together and drag them through the streets in his honour. That is commendable, but I imagine that there is quite a racket being made in Tenerife today.

As the motion notes, we are debating St Andrew’s day, and the day will be full of activities, including in my region of West Scotland. One example is that St Andrew’s day is the starting point of Irvine’s art and light winter show, which is called “Illumination: Harbour Festival of Light”. The festivities run from tomorrow until 3 December and include free events tomorrow to mark St Andrew’s day and a firework display. In that display, the night skies above the harbour will be lit up with a Saltire.

I believe that it is also worth highlighting the work that is being done by Historic Scotland this year, as in previous years. Last weekend, Historic Scotland gave away tickets frequently so that people could enter historic sites all over Scotland in honour of St Andrew’s day. That was to give people all over the country the chance to learn a bit more about Scotland’s culture and fascinating history.

I hope that everyone who takes part in the St Andrew’s day celebrations enjoys the day. I also hope that they take a moment to consider the day’s background and history, to appreciate the wider connections around the world that our national day has.


Scots have honoured St Andrew for 1,300 years but, as both Dr Allan and Mr Corry have said, his legacy does not belong to Scotland alone. He was, in today’s terms, a Palestinian Jew. He was a working fisherman from the Sea of Galilee who answered Christ’s call to be a fisher of men. As a disciple of Jesus, he preached widely in the eastern Roman world and is credited with founding the See of Byzantium, which was later the imperial capital of Constantinople—today Europe’s greatest Muslim city, Istanbul. He was put to death by the Roman governor of Patras, in Greece, and later legend had it that he died on an X-shaped cross, which is his symbol today.

A Palestinian, a Jew, a Christian, a martyr, a working man: those are powerful words in today’s world, just as they were in the first century of the Christian era. All those things together make Andrew much more than just a national saint, although he is that too, not just in Scotland but in Russia, Romania, Greece and other places with a Christian heritage, as we have heard. When we celebrate St Andrew’s Day, we celebrate not just our own heritage but the international importance of his tradition and the diversity symbolised in his life.

On Saturday, I spoke at the annual St Andrew’s day rally organised by Aberdeen Trades Union Council as a celebration of cultural diversity and of opposition to racism and fascism at home and abroad. The Scottish Trades Union Congress held a parallel event in Glasgow.

Those annual demonstrations make a visible link between Scotland’s commemorations of a 1st century saint and the multicultural and interfaith perspectives that are so urgently needed in the 21st century. My audience included members of many trade unions and also supporters of #WeAreAberdeen, a social network that was created to counter xenophobia and racism in the aftermath of the European Union referendum.

There were families there who have taken refuge in the north-east from the war in Syria, whose story was told by a speaker from the amal committee—‘amal’ being the Arabic word for hope. There were members of the Aberdeen Hebrew congregation, the most northerly synagogue in these islands. There were North Americans and Palestinians, Nigerians and Poles, and Shelley Milne of Aberdeen’s Solidarity with Refugees, who talked about the next challenge, to support people from islands in the southern oceans whose homes will sooner or later be inundated as a result of climate change.

Those were appropriate subjects for a modern St Andrew’s day. They promoted an awareness of the peoples and cultures of the wider world and the threats that they face, alongside a celebration of our own religious and political tradition.

The cross of St Andrew, as has been said, appears in many places. It is the national flag of Scotland. In different forms, it is the national flag of Greece, the ensign of the Russian navy, the provincial flag of Nova Scotia and part of the union flag of Great Britain, which features too in Australia, New Zealand and many other places that are home to people of Scottish origin around the world.

Our other patron saint, Columba or Columcille, is likewise not a saint for Scotland alone. Born in Doire Chaluim Chille—otherwise Derry or Londonderry—and buried in Ì Chaluim Chille—or Iona—he symbolises in a way that Andrew does not the shared Gaelic heritage of Scotland and Ireland.

When we celebrate Andrew every November, and Columba every June, we are marking the link with generations that have gone before us. We are also acknowledging that our world is not limited by borders in or around this island or anywhere else. Like Andrew and Columcille, we should look to the salvation of all humanity, wherever people happen to live.


I thank the Scottish Government for bringing forward the motion and giving us the opportunity to reflect on the many benefits of St Andrew’s day as a national holiday for all Scots at home, and as a day of celebration for the wider Scots diaspora.

The diaspora community is much wider than many would think. Somewhere in the region of 50 million people worldwide claim a Scottish connection. As the supporters of having St Andrew’s day as a national holiday pointed out in 2007, there was huge potential for us in utilising our national day to promote Scotland as an outward-looking and inclusive nation with a vibrant culture as well as a destination for tourism and investment.

Scots, as we know, have been avid explorers and have contributed over the past 400 years to the creation and development of many towns, cities and states across the world, on every continent. Evidence of that is reflected in the names of many of towns and cities across the world. Rutherglen has a namesake in Victoria, Australia, and Blantyre in Malawi is also named after part of my constituency.

Wherever Scots settled, in addition to their business acumen and engineering skills, they brought elements of their music and culture, which remain embedded in those communities to this day. We are just as likely to find a McGregor at a Highland games in Colorado or Christchurch as we are in Dunoon.

Like many emigrants, Scots have founded societies and clubs across the globe, initially to provide support for impoverished fellow Scots, but also to celebrate and maintain their culture and to share it with others.

The first Scots charitable society was formed in Boston in 1657, and the first St Andrew’s society was formed in South Carolina on St Andrew’s day in 1729. Scores more St Andrew’s societies were to be formed throughout the United States and Canada over the following century. There are now hundreds of St Andrew’s and Scottish societies, clubs and associations throughout the world.

New groups continue to be created. I take this opportunity to extend the congratulations and goodwill of the Parliament to the recently formed Finnish Scottish society in Helsinki and wish it well for its inaugural St Andrew’s day event this coming weekend.

The creation of St Andrew’s day as a national public holiday is not just an opportunity for us to celebrate the positive aspects of our culture and society here and overseas. It also marks the start of two months of Scottish cultural celebration that straddle the festive season, including hogmanay, the birthday of our national bard and—also in January—the excellent and diverse Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. We certainly know how to throw a party.

Those who proposed making St Andrew’s day a bank holiday foresaw that it

“would encourage all the people of Scotland—irrespective of their ethnic origins and beliefs—to participate in the celebration of our national identity and social inclusion.”—[Official Report, 1 December 2004; c 12454.]

I believe that it has achieved that and can continue to do so.

I wish colleagues across the chamber and all citizens at home and abroad a very happy St Andrew’s day to you and yours.


I well remember two very important measures that, in 2007, the newly elected Scottish National Party Government wanted to carry on from the previous Administration. One was the newly introduced public holiday for St Andrew’s day; the other, which was in my constituency at the time, was a grade-separated junction on the A90 at Laurencekirk—and quite right too.

After nearly a decade, the Government has been 50 per cent successful. No one, least of all me, could accuse this Government of not achieving at least half its targets. However, the transport minister would be pleased to know, if he were here, that I will return to pursue that other target in the chamber on Thursday.

As members may be aware, the St Andrew’s cross is not only the flag of Scotland, as has been mentioned, but the flag of Nova Scotia and indeed of other jurisdictions. It also stands for M for Mike in the international code of signals and the phonetic alphabet. [Interruption.] I say to Christine Grahame that it does—it does.

As it happens, my older son is called Andrew; even so, I would never presume to say that I share a connection with both the apostle Andrew and the archangel Michael. However, perhaps in the chamber we all share one common trait with them. As the Bible says, perhaps we are all fishers of men, or—in this modern world—fishers of men and women. Like Andrew and Michael, we are all searching for people to join our cause to make Scotland a fairer, more tolerant and even better place for those who live here than it already is. Across the chamber, we do not always agree on how to do that, but I believe that we all share those values.

As we come into the 17th year of the Scottish Parliament, with a Scottish Government that has more powers to improve the lives of Scotland’s people, we only need a Government that is willing to use those powers for the greater good. You never know—on St Andrew’s day tomorrow, we might all get a surprise: the Government might actually use its new powers to really improve people’s lives.

Unless there are other contributions, I ask the minister, Alasdair Allan, to wind up the debate. I know that it is early, Mr Allan. I suspect that we might end the debate early.


Twelve minutes? [Laughter.]

Don’t worry, Mr Allan. Do not feel obliged to talk for 12 minutes.

Will the minister take an intervention?

I would be very grateful.

Christine Grahame has a very helpful intervention.

I have not heard any member mention Dennis Canavan, who introduced his own member’s bill—the St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Bill—which became an act in 2007. He is a gentleman who is much missed in the Parliament, and he did much to emphasise the importance of St Andrew’s day. I put that on the record. I cannot talk for any longer, so the minister will have to make up the rest of the time himself.

I am very grateful for the intervention and thank Christine Grahame for raising that point. I have written to Mr Canavan to indicate that I am very willing to meet him to hear his ideas about how St Andrew’s day can be more widely celebrated.

However brief, this has been an informative debate about St Andrew’s day. I will now bear in mind the name of St Andrew if I am ever afflicted by gout—I thank Mr Corry for the recommendation. Mr Rumbles made a rather braver attempt to attribute to St Andrew saintly powers over issues as varied as road junctions and parliamentary sarcasm.

I am delighted that this year, we are able to celebrate St Andrew’s day in style.

Mr Macdonald reminded us, importantly, of St Andrew the man, the fisherman and the disciple. In the spirit of that contribution, I am delighted that this year we are launching an initiative called share for St Andrew on 30 November. We are encouraging people to give 30 minutes of their time to share, in the spirit of St Andrew. There are many ways to take part: for example, people can volunteer, donate clothes to charity or welcome somebody new to the community.

If we are fully to harness the potential of the St Andrew’s day celebrations, we must do all that we can to engage young people in them. Therefore, it is good to see the finals of national schools debating competitions, one in Gaelic and one in English, taking place in the Parliament on, respectively, tomorrow and Monday. As well as enhancing the St Andrew’s day celebrations, those events will, we hope, shape some parliamentarians to serve in the chamber in the future.

I wonder whether the minister might join me in celebrating one particular occasion that happened on 30 November 1990. Members of my generation and perhaps a little bit younger may remember that that was the day on which Margaret Thatcher left 10 Downing Street.

I will say no more about that subject, other than that I was at university at the time.

There are some examples that we can all look at to ensure that the celebration of St Andrew’s day extends to the whole of Scotland and becomes something truly special and unique.

As far as something unique is concerned, I am sure that the minister is aware that St Andrew’s day is celebrated in Barbados as the national day of independence. Does he think that, at this time of year, it might be suitable for Scots to embrace Barbados as having a warmer climate than we have here?

I hesitate to say anything that sounds as if I am fishing for a fact-finding mission to Barbados. I have indicated, and am very happy to indicate again, Scotland’s warm wishes to Barbados on its national day.

I would also like to engage Scotland’s diverse communities in the St Andrew’s day celebrations. We are giving BEMIS a funding contribution of £54,000 to deliver a multicultural celebration of both 2016 as the year of innovation, architecture and design and Scotland’s winter festivals. This year’s programme is developing well and includes 11 events developed by multicultural communities. The programme builds on 2015 activity, which attracted 12,000 people to 65 multicultural events across Scotland, eight of which specifically celebrated St Andrew’s day.

The key to the success of the multicultural celebrations around St Andrew’s day has been a warm invitation to take part in the celebrations and the provision of inspiration and support, alongside an absolute willingness to accept that people will also want to celebrate the national day in their own way and in their own time.

In time, if we keep innovation, inspiration, collaboration and, crucially, the engagement of the community at the heart of all our St Andrew’s day activities, we will see the celebration of St Andrew’s day grow to new heights: boosting our economy; enhancing our international profile; and—most important—emphasising unity through the celebration of the wide diversity of faiths, cultures and ethnic origins that is the reality of Scotland today.

More than anything else, as we celebrate the many things associated with our national identity and culture, we should not be too dour to say that St Andrew’s day is a day for Scotland to enjoy itself.

I hope that members will join me in wishing the people of Scotland and those with an affinity to Scotland a very happy St Andrew’s day when it comes—latha sona Naoimh Anndrais dhuibh uile.

I thank the minister.

Normally, we would move on to the next item of business, but given that we have finished a little early I will suspend business for five minutes.

16:54 Meeting suspended.  

17:00 On resuming—