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Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Meeting of the Parliament 07 December 2016

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Sea Fisheries and End-year Negotiations, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Paisley for City of Culture 2021


Paisley for City of Culture 2021

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

Time is tight, so I move straight to the next item of business, which is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-02149, in the name of George Adam, on Paisley for city of culture 2021. I ask members to leave quietly—your names are being taken. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises Paisley’s positioning to be City of Culture in 2021; understands that Paisley town centre has over 100 listed buildings, which is second only to Edinburgh; acknowledges the 850-year-old abbey, which lies in the heart of the town and is the final resting place of six High Stewards of Scotland, Princess Marjory Bruce and the wives of kings Robert II and III; appreciates its cathedral and that it has what it believes is the largest Baptist church in Europe; notes its museum and art gallery and recognises the artists and sportspeople across many fields who originate from the town, including John Byrne, Paulo Nutini, Robert Tannahill, Gerry Rafferty, Gerard Butler and Archie Gemmill, and considers that Paisley's rich and diverse history makes the town a fitting candidate for the City of Culture 2021 title.


George Adam (Paisley) (SNP)

Let me talk of a town called Paisley. I am not one for talking about it much, and I have not often mentioned that it is the place where I was born and bred, brought up and educated. Members probably believe that this is the easiest speech that I will make in the Parliament, but that could not be further from the truth. There is the sheer emotion of the speech. My town and the people I represent mean so much to me, and I want everyone to understand the positive Paisley vision that my fellow buddies and I have for our town. To be frank, I do not want to mess it up.

When I was first elected as Paisley’s MSP, I spoke of taking a team Paisley approach to everything that I do. That is why this place has been bombarded with all things Paisley, but it has also become part of the local parlance in Paisley: the whole town now talks of a team Paisley approach.

The bid to be city of culture can make a difference in our town. We need only look to our neighbours in Glasgow to see how a cultural festival can change people’s views of a town or city. When Glasgow’s bold bid to be European city of culture was announced, there was much scepticism. The city was in post-industrial decline and was trying to redefine itself. However, Glasgow’s time as European city of culture, and its many other festivals and events, have shown that it is indeed one of Europe’s greatest cities. We now need everyone to get behind Paisley in its new, bold bid to gain United Kingdom city of culture status in 2021, because the cultural regeneration on the back of the bid can change the world’s view of our home town.

The story of Paisley is an incredible one, and what we have achieved is inspiring. Paisley, like many other towns in Scotland, has its challenges, but it also has an extremely big heart. One of those many challenges is the fact that we have more listed buildings than any other town or city in Scotland bar our nation’s capital. That provides us with an opportunity to use such great venues as Thomas Coats Memorial church, Paisley town hall and—of course—Paisley abbey, which is the last great resting place of Marjory Bruce. She was the mother of the Stewart dynasty in Scotland and the daughter of one of our country’s greatest heroes, Robert the Bruce.

Paisley is where the cottage weavers of the 19th century became very radical in their political ideals. The Paisley weavers were at the forefront of the Scottish insurrection of 1820, although that is slightly inaccurate, because the weavers in Paisley decided to do it in 1819. After the Peterloo massacre in August of that year, a mass rally was organised in Paisley on Saturday 11 September. Radicals came from all over the west of Scotland and a crowd of 18,000 gathered at the meeting place outside the town, as a local band from Neilston played “Scots Wha Hae”. There were many speakers that day and, when the crowd dispersed, some of them decided to march down the High Street. By 10 pm the Riot Act was read and the cavalry were charging down the streets of Paisley in pursuit of peaceful protesters. But this is Paisley: the crowds were not deterred, and pitched battles occurred for several days. It was not until a week later, on September 18, that an uneasy quiet returned to the town. One year later, in the Scottish insurrection of 1820, they would march under the banner of “Scotland free or a desert”.

Later in the same century, the weavers were once again in dispute, this time with the corks, who were the merchants who bought the famous Paisley-patterned shawls. The corks would not pay the weavers for the sma’ shot, which is the small weave that holds the shawl together, because it was not seen. The weavers fought on and eventually withheld their labour. Eventually, in 1856, they had an opportunity and the corks relented. The first weekend of July became a celebration of that success and a local holiday, which is still celebrated today in our annual sma’ shot day summer festival.

We are not only a town of political radicals; we have also given the world much culturally, particularly from places such as Ferguslie Park. If members google “Ferguslie Park”, they will see all the stats on deprivation, but deprivation has never defined Paisley or Ferguslie Park. It is a part of Paisley that has given us singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty and playwright and artist John Byrne. Mr Byrne recently told The Herald:

“Paisley is a remarkable place. I hope to be involved and I support the bid. I support it wholeheartedly. I thank Ferguslie Park every day of my life for providing me all the information I ever needed about life, it was the best place I have ever been. It was happy circumstance we ended up there ... the language, the life, everything. I couldn’t have got a better education.”

In the same interview, John Byrne also said:

“I could not care less about politics. Politics is a guise adopted by crooks, criminals, bum-bags—but they are not all like that.”

I can only hope that I am one of the ones who is not like that—but I cannot vouch for the rest of you. That is another example of Paisley being a radical and opinionated town that is steeped in culture.

Paisley is the town that brought us Paolo Nutini, whose dad Alfredo still owns and works in Castelvecchi chip shop in New Street, which has been in the family since 1914. Of course, Paolo will headline Edinburgh’s hogmanay party this year. There is also A-list Hollywood actor Gerard Butler, and let us not forget Doctor Who—David Tennant, another Paisley buddie who, along with Steven Moffat, producer, showrunner and writer, brought the longest-running science fiction television series in the world to a whole new generation of fans.

There is the disco diva from Hunterhill, Jacqueline McKinnon, who members may know better as Kelly Marie. Her disco anthem “Feels Like I’m in Love” will no doubt be played quite often as we head towards the festive season. There is also Robert Tannahill, the poet and contemporary of Robert Burns.

Can we talk about the weather, Presiding Officer? We invented it. Not only have we given Scotland’s broadcasters weather people such as Heather Reid and Seán Batty, the forecasting of weather was built on the mathematical equations of Lewis Fry Richardson, a Quaker who was born in Newcastle in 1881. His research work on predicting the weather took him to the Met Office but, in 1920, when the Met Office became part of the Ministry of Defence, he promptly resigned because of his pacifist beliefs. As he had been a conscientious objector during the first world war, it was difficult for him to find a university position to continue his research. Luckily, he found a home at the Paisley College of Technology, which in its modern guise is the University of the West of Scotland. He was able to continue his work and became the college principal before retiring in 1940. The mathematical equations that are involved in weather prediction came from Paisley. It is not our fault that the weather is not good, but no doubt somebody at UWS is working on that machine as we speak.

Ironically, the college was originally called Paisley Technical College and School of Art, which brings us back to what the Paisley 2021 bid is all about. It is about telling the world the fantastic story of our town. It is about its history and achievements and, most important, its people—Paisley buddies. Our local newspaper, the Paisley Daily Express, which has been published since 1874, has supported the bid and asked buddies to say why they love Paisley. I love Paisley because it is my town and my place in the world. Presiding Officer, I have a bit in my notes here that says, “Don’t greet.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Does it also say, “Conclude”?

George Adam

It is the place where my family have been since 1759. It is where I met my wife, Stacey, and where my daughter, Jessica, was born. It is where my grandparents worked in Ferguslie mill and brought up their family in Ferguslie Park.

This bid is about us telling the world our story—who we are and what we have achieved as Paisley buddies. As we are proud of our place in the world and, considering what we have achieved so far, in all honesty, there is no need for members to thank us. However, we are asking you to back this bid. Back our bid to be the UK city of culture in 2021. Join us and ensure that this great town gets its moment in the spotlight.


Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. I am afraid that, with your permission, I have to leave shortly after my speech, as I have another appointment to go to.

I would like to congratulate George Adam on securing this debate on Paisley for city of culture 2021. I am delighted to speak in support of the bid, having been born and brought up just down the river from Paisley, in Gourock, and having had the chance to enjoy many of its fantastic cultural offerings over the years.

I think that Paisley abbey is one of the greatest medieval buildings in Scotland—not least because it is still the living heart of the community. I have fond memories of attending my daughter’s school concerts in the abbey and will never forget hearing Fauré’s “Requiem”—the most wonderful choral piece—echoing round the cloisters in 2011. It is a truly magnificent setting for music and I imagine that there will be a great deal of it in 2021.

I can also highly recommend the Paisley museum and its textile collection, which I have visited with the family several times over the years. I was unaware of the “Paisley Pearls” exhibition, currently reimagining the Paisley pattern for the digital age, but, having read about it in the “12 fascinating facts about Paisley” presented by George Adam, I hope to get the chance to see it during the holidays.

I recently learned that my grandmother, Mary McCarn, was a teenage worker in Coats’ mill, travelling there from Greenock, and I am delighted that the unsung labour of so many women like her will have a legacy in the £56 million plan to create a national museum of textiles in Paisley.

The purpose of the UK city of culture programme is to encourage the use of culture and creativity as a catalyst for change. Paisley is very well placed to achieve that and I welcome the bid’s commitment to use the title to address inequality and poverty and create new jobs for local people. It will, of course, enrich the lives of thousands of Paisley buddies by giving them access to unique cultural experiences and bringing a sense of pride to the town—something whose benefits are unquantifiable but known to touch on improved wellbeing and educational attainment.

I am old enough to remember when Glasgow was European city of culture back in 1990. That was different, of course, from this UK title, but the effect is similar and the 1990 accolade was one of the first of its kind in Scotland. It was an exciting and transformative event. As a young person in Glasgow at the time, I have wonderful memories of that year in the cultural experiences that I can say really changed me.

I particularly remember the collaboration of Liz Lochhead and Gerry Mulgrew on the experimental piece of theatre “Jock Tamson’s Bairns” at the Tramway. Anyone who saw it looked at Scotland and our national bard in a completely different way, and it is surely ripe for revival. Perhaps, if Paisley 2021 goes ahead, that could be considered.

As George Adam has said, one of our greatest playwrights, John Byrne, is from Paisley. His play “The Slab Boys”, which I saw on the BBC “Play for Today” series even earlier in my life, is one of the most inspirational things that I have ever seen. I had never seen a portrayal of urban Scotland quite like it and, of course, it was hilarious as well as touching. Byrne’s particular genius—he comes from Ferguslie Park, as George Adam said—was the richness of the Scots language in that play. I have been a fan of his work ever since, once attending an all-day staging of the trilogy at Glasgow’s King’s theatre. I could not imagine anything better than the city of culture title coming to Paisley and getting the opportunity to see more of Byrne’s work in his home town.


Maurice Golden (West Scotland) (Con)

I thank George Adam for securing this members’ business debate, and I congratulate Paisley on launching its bid to be UK city of culture 2021. I am supporting Paisley’s bid for three reasons: first, Paisley deserves it; secondly, Paisley needs it; and, finally, Scotland stands to benefit from it.

First, Paisley deserves the award because it is already a city that is rich in culture. From the world-renowned textile design that is known as the Paisley pattern to some of the UK’s finest architecture, Paisley has a unique artistic expression. Producing household names such as Paolo Nutini, Gerard Butler and David Tennant, Paisley has nurtured some of Scotland’s greatest theatrical talent and represents the best of Scottish culture to the rest of the world.

Paisley is also the setting for the famous court case of Donoghue v Stevenson, which sets out the basic criteria under Scots law for determining whether a duty of care exists. The case involves Mrs Donoghue, the Wellmeadow cafe in Paisley, an opaque coloured bottle of ginger beer, some ice cream and a decomposed snail. It is well worth a look on LexisNexis, if members are interested.

Paisley also deserves the award because of its proven drive to invest in the local community and think long term. In taking the opportunity to create a long-term fund for investment in local cultural organisations, artists and community partners, Paisley has laid the foundations for continued success and cultural enrichment.

I support the bid because Paisley not only deserves the award but needs it. The UK city of culture award is designed to reward somewhere that is committed to cultural enrichment but is in need of a boost, which perfectly describes Paisley. According to the 2016 Scottish index of multiple deprivation, 25 per cent of Paisley’s population is income deprived and 30 per cent of children in the area live in severe deprivation—in areas that suffer some of the highest deprivation rates in Scotland. In previous years, UK city of culture designation has increased tourism by up to 50 per cent, which translates into a multimillion-pound boost to the local economy. That is an opportunity that cannot be ignored.

Finally, I support Paisley’s bid because Scotland stands to benefit. The award would attract global attention, and increased tourism in Paisley, which is next door to Glasgow international airport, would be a welcome economic boost. Measures such as the transformation of Paisley museum into an international destination will not only bring benefits locally but increase the town’s international appeal. That is another great opportunity for Scotland.

I offer my full support for the motion and wish Paisley the best of luck in its bid to be UK city of culture 2021. The title is in Paisley’s best interests and in Scotland’s. In the wise words of former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, I plan to keep an eye on Paisley. I hope to see the town win the 2021 award.


Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

I thank my fellow buddie George Adam for securing today’s debate on Paisley’s bid to become UK city of culture 2021.

It has been scientifically proven that Paisley is the centre of the universe. Even MSPs such as me, who do missionary work elsewhere in the west of Scotland, think fondly of our home town and its suburbs, such as Joan McAlpine’s Gourock.

My near-identical twin, Gerard Butler, is one of many famous buddies; others include Gavin Newlands MP and a host of industrialists, scientists and entrepreneurs. However, given the short time that is available in this debate and its subject, we should consider those who have contributed in a direct cultural sense, such as actors David Tennant, Tom Conti, Phyllis Logan and Fulton Mackay, musicians Paulo Nutini, Gerry Rafferty, David Sneddon and Kenneth McKellar, painter Alexander Goudie, architects Thomas Graham Abercrombie and John Hutchison, playwright John Byrne, sculptor Sandy Stoddart, and cinematographer Michael McDonough, among many, many others.

Paisley is not a suburb of Glasgow but a town in its own right, at the heart of Renfrewshire. The town’s patron saint is Mirin, who founded a church on the site of Paisley abbey. There is a street in Paisley called St Mirren Street, and in 1922 Paisley’s renowned football team, St Mirren Football Club, won the Barcelona cup—the commemorative poster is on my wall upstairs. The fortunes of the two towns’ clubs have diverged in the decades since, but I am confident that if St Mirren continues to play as it has done so far this season, we will be hot favourites to win the Scottish league one championship in 2018.

Paisley pattern was made famous the world over by the Coats family and represents the legacy of Paisley’s one-time place at the centre of the world’s textile industry. The pattern, which resembles a fig or a twisted teardrop, is of Iranian origin. Some design scholars think that it is the convergence of a stylised floral spray and a cypress tree, which is a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity. It is a bent cedar—the cedar is the tree that Zarathustra planted in paradise—and it is a sign of strength, resistance and modesty, which are traits for which Paisley buddies are rightly famous. Paisley’s mills have long closed, but the impact of the Paisley pattern can still be seen throughout the world.

Paisley’s history is fascinating but often forgotten outside the town. Ian Jack, writing in The Guardian, said:

“There is probably no more unjustly neglected town in these islands; there is nowhere of comparable size—77,000 people—that has such a rich architectural, industrial and social history and that once mattered so much to the world.”

It is for that reason that I want to use this opportunity to touch on the town’s positive future if—or rather, when—it is named as the UK city of culture in 2021.

Paisley’s rich architectural culture runs through the town from Paisley Abbey and the town hall, down the High Street to the museum, Coats observatory and Coats memorial church, which is often described as the Baptist cathedral of Europe. Paisley has the highest concentration of listed buildings anywhere in Scotland outside Edinburgh, and it is fortunate to have two great education institutions in the shape of West College Scotland and the University of the West of Scotland.

The guidance that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport issued in 2014 states that a

“UK City of Culture should be expected to deliver a high quality cultural programme that builds and expands on local strengths and reaches a wide variety of audiences, creating a demonstrable economic impact and catalyst for regeneration as well as contributing to community cohesion and health and wellbeing.”

Securing the title will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Renfrewshire. It will generate an economic gain of £50 million, create hundreds of new jobs for local people and instil confidence in the town, helping to transform Paisley’s image nationally and cementing a deeper sense of civic pride. Importantly, being awarded city of culture will have a lasting legacy of helping to tackle poverty in an innovative way by making it easier for every local family to access cultural activities.

Paisley has much to offer. If anyone researches its proud history, they will come across countless examples of times when the people of Paisley rose and overcame obstacles. Winning the city of culture bid will serve as another example of Paisley seizing an opportunity to shape a new, positive future.


Mary Fee (West Scotland) (Lab)

As we have heard, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is quoted as saying

“keep your eye on Paisley”,

and I am glad that the Scottish Parliament is doing that today.

I thank George Adam for lodging the motion and helping to promote the Paisley bid for 2021 UK city of culture. I am proud to support Paisley, which is a town that I have represented for nearly 10 years as a councillor and as an MSP.

Renfrewshire as a whole has a long history, from the 6th and 7th centuries, when St Mirren was said to have established the Paisley settlement, through to the time of the house of Stuart in the 14th and 15th centuries, and on to the industrial revolution in the 1800s, which made Paisley known as a centre for textiles across the world. That rich history is the basis of the bid for 2021 city of culture.

People take great pride in Paisley, and they have continued the legacy of Sir Thomas Coats to make the town great. I congratulate Councillor Mark Macmillan—he is in the public gallery today—on his leadership of Renfrewshire Council and on his initiative to rally the town behind the grand idea of the bid. Councillor Macmillan has already announced his retirement from local politics as of May next year, but I am sure that he will continue to play a strong role in ensuring that Paisley wins the bid.

There are many famous and celebrated people from music, art and literature who have placed the town on the cultural map and, in his motion, George Adam referenced a few of them.

We also have a hidden set of Paisley champions: the women who helped to shape our history and the women who are spearheading the campaign for city of culture status. Paisley’s strong threadmaking traditions were supported by one of the largest female workforces in Europe, and the Govan rent strike hero, Mary Barbour, was originally from nearby Kilbarchan. Paisley has a heritage of strong women, and a noted rebellious side.

Today’s strong Paisley women include Jean Cameron, the director of the 2021 bid, who is leading the charge to change Paisley for the better; Amanda McMillan, one of only two female managing directors of European airports, who is helping to shape and boost our local economy; and strong political women who have represented the area, such as Trish Godman, Wendy Alexander and Mhairi Black.

A love of and pride in Paisley’s culture and heritage are woven into the fabric of the people of the town. I cannot think of any other town or city that is more deserving of the status of UK city of culture. I finish with the Benjamin Disraeli quotation that I started with:

“keep your eye on Paisley.”


Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

In breaking news, I confirm to members that Santa loves Paisley, too. Today’s Paisley Daily Express reported on a meeting between Provost Anne Hall and the great man himself, who told her that he had come from Lapland to tell her how much he loves Paisley.

I congratulate George Adam on securing the debate and I congratulate the team behind the bid, who have put so much hard work into it.

The UK city of culture competition offers a unique opportunity for any city in the UK to demonstrate, promote and celebrate its culture. Cities far and wide, from Plymouth to Dundee, have put their names forward over the years. Even though we are only a few terms into the competition, we have seen some fantastic cities win the prize and reap the benefits. Northern Ireland’s Londonderry/Derry became the first and Kingston upon Hull was victorious the last time. So far, however, Scottish cities have fallen short, with only Dundee having managed to make the shortlist. It is time that Scotland took home the prize.

If Hull was once the winning city because it was

“a city coming out of the shadows”,

surely Paisley must be considered a city of spirit and courage. Paisley’s mills once wove silk, fabric, shawls and textiles for the world. Nearly 10,000 people, most of them women, once filled the town to work in those mills. However, like many other great industrial towns, Paisley suffered from the decline of its factories. That did not prevent Paisley from resurging, with iconic crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin wearing the Paisley pattern on silk smoking jackets at their Las Vegas shows.

Paisley has seen some tough and turbulent times, as has been mentioned, but its inhabitants have always shown spirit and courage—as when Paisley was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the second world war and when its weavers took to the streets in the radical war in 1819, which George Adam recounted. Paisley’s indefatigable courage to recover, rebuild and inspire is one of its most defining characteristics. In my view, it should become the UK city of culture because of that resilience and its ability to reinvent itself in good times and in bad.

Paisley has long influenced popular culture. For a town of just 77,000 people, it has punched way above its weight, from Phyllis Logan in “Downton Abbey” to Gerry Rafferty in “Baker Street”; and from David Tennant crossing space and time to Paolo Nutini crossing musical styles and tastes. Indeed, the doyen of political satire and news, Andrew Neil, is from Paisley—even if his tan says otherwise. Culture is synonymous with Paisley. The Spree festival sold more than 4,000 tickets last year and was widely hailed as a great success—it was almost the west of Scotland’s own fringe festival. Sma’ shot day, in July, celebrates Paisley’s unique textile legacy and is one of the oldest workers festivals in the world. We also look forward to hosting the Scots trad music awards in December next year.

The benefits of becoming the UK city of culture are significant. The first winner saw a 50 per cent increase in visitors. However, it is about so much more than just winning a title; it is about a collective endeavour to make Paisley a better place in which to live. There is some work to be done. The all-important Glasgow airport link via Paisley is still to be built and parts of Paisley are still deprived, but I welcome the fact that Renfrewshire Council is doing so much to tackle some of the issues.

Of all the cities that are bidding for the award, surely Paisley epitomises the spirit, courage, cultural heritage and ambition for the future that are worthy of the honour. I will also be keeping my eye on Paisley, and I hope that the judges will, too.


Ross Greer (West Scotland) (Green)

As colleagues have done, I thank George Adam for giving us the opportunity for the debate today. Paisley is a wonderful town with a rich cultural history. It has very much been shaped by its industrial history and could not be more deserving of being the city of culture in 2021.

The weaving industry in Paisley has given rise to world recognition, not just through the quality of the designs—most obviously the Paisley pattern—but through the radical movements that emerged during its history. The early 19th century artisan weavers played a key role in the “radical war” of the 1820s; in fact, as George Adam highlighted, they were so up for it that they started it before the 1820s. They went out on strike to secure a more representative Government that would be responsive to their needs and not just to the needs of the ruling class. Although it was brutally suppressed, the radical uprising led to lasting changes, and electoral reforms were eventually attained—most obviously in the Reform Act 1832, although they were not limited to that act.

Even Karl Marx, in “Das Kapital”—a tome that I am sure every member has read from front to back—

Richard Leonard (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Hear, hear. [Laughter.]

Ross Greer

—drew on the example of weavers in Paisley, and referred to

“the brave Scots of Paisley”

and the labour that they poured into their production of textiles. He highlighted Carlile, Sons & Co as one of the oldest and most respected companies producing cotton and linen in the west of Scotland, having been in operation as far back as 1752. However, as one would expect, Marx took a dim view of the Carlile family and a much more positive view of the workers in their mills. Unfortunately, Carlile, Sons & Co does not produce textiles in Paisley any longer—indeed, textile production essentially stopped in the 1990s.

The weaving industry may be gone, but the rich cultural heritage is still visible in the town hall that was paid for by one old mill owner, in the museum that was paid for by another and in the multitude of streets that are named after the industry, of which Dyer’s Wynd, Cotton Street and Thread Street are the most obvious examples.

The decline of the weaving industry, along with the decline of the shipbuilding industry and the broader process of deindustrialisation in recent decades has left Paisley with huge challenges. Ferguslie Park, which has been highlighted, has one of the highest levels of deprivation in Scotland. Paisley jobcentre has the highest number of sanctions in West Scotland—a figure that we hope will drop with the changes that are coming as this Parliament takes control of the work programme. In the north-west of the town almost one in three children lives in poverty.

We know that Paisley is a brilliant town that has fantastic communities and individuals who are constantly working to improve their area. Indeed, Paisley is already a city of culture, so the bid is about more than that: it is about ensuring that Paisley’s rich cultural heritage can be put to good use to promote the town throughout the country and further afield, and to address the problems that face everyone in that community.

Irrespective of whether Paisley wins the city of culture 2021, the bid process itself will help it—although I would feel sorry for any judge who votes against it, when George Adam catches up with them.

Renfrewshire Council has set out to invest millions in supporting local arts and culture initiatives, as well as in upgrading the Paisley museum. If it were to win the award, much more could be done to raise the profile of the historic town to encourage the tourism and investment that it needs, and to give the community better access to better cultural experiences than they have had.

The city of culture bid should also be used to revive Paisley’s bid to become recognised as a city. Paisley has all the attributes of a city. The legacy of the bid should look beyond 2021 and to the status of Paisley itself for the decades and the centuries to come.


Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

I thank George Adam for securing the debate to help the Paisley bid, and I thank all the members who signed the motion and who have spoken in the debate to acknowledge that Paisley is a fitting candidate to be the UK city of culture 2021.

I congratulate all those who have made Paisley’s 2021 city of culture bid a reality and I pay tribute to the sterling work of the local partnership that has been driving the bid forward. We would not be debating a bid were it not for the vision and leadership of Renfrewshire Council leader, Mark Macmillan, other elected members, bid director Jean Cameron, and every single member of staff at the council. I also pay tribute to the enthusiasm of all the people and organisations across the community that have been right behind the bid. Many of them will join us in the garden lobby this evening. I sense in the area a real momentum behind the bid.

As someone who was born and lives in Paisley and who, like George Adam, represents the town, I am proud to speak in support of our bid to be the UK’s city of culture. We know that Paisley has, as we have heard, a proud past. A small market town that was transformed by the industrial revolution, Paisley became a world-leading producer of textiles. The weavers, the thread mills, the world-renowned Paisley pattern, the way in which the industry shaped our economic history and the culture of our community are all part of the town’s social tapestry.

As members have mentioned, Paisley has given the world great actors, poets, musicians and sports people—Gerard Butler, Robert Tannahill, Gerry Rafferty and Archie Gemmill, to name but a few. Mary Fee was quite right to acknowledge the work and contributions of many Paisley women to Paisley’s culture.

Paisley’s built heritage represents one of the most impressive townscapes in Scotland. As the motion states:

“Paisley town centre has over 100 listed buildings, which is second only to Edinburgh”.

The 850-year-old abbey that stands in the centre of Paisley to this day links us to our pre-industrial past. It is not just a monument; it is a living, active building with tours, concerts and services all year round.

There is a great deal to commend in respect of Paisley’s bid and there is much to celebrate, but the bid is more than a celebration of our heritage and creativity: it is about the future—a positive future. The accolade, the recognition and the investment that city of culture status would bring to Paisley would be catalysts for change. We all know that Paisley faces its fair share of challenges as a community, but we can overcome them. Paisley has many great opportunities ahead of it.

As we have heard, winning the title of city of culture 2021 would be a huge economic boost for the town. It is projected that it would bring about 1 million visitors to Renfrewshire in 2021, and the expected economic impact would be in the region of £50 million. Every penny that visitors spent on Paisley’s High Street would support our local economy and boost our town centre, thereby helping us to create and sustain hundreds of new jobs for people in the area. A successful bid would help every child and every family in Renfrewshire to access cultural activities, thereby breaking down barriers to social inclusion.

The bid has the potential to transform Paisley. It is a platform on which we can promote the town across Britain and around the world. We are already seeing it as an opportunity to build a new sense of pride in Paisley—not just civic pride, but a real appreciation of where our town has come from and where it is going. As city of culture, we could host more and more highlights from Britain’s cultural calendar, which would mean bringing more arts and music festivals and more great performances, concerts and awards shows to Renfrewshire.

I am proud of Paisley and I am proud of its bid. I wish the bid team every success, and I hope that it wins this very special distinction for the town. For now, I want to call on all the people of Paisley and, indeed, all the people of Renfrewshire, as well as fellow MSPs, to back the bid. Together, let us put Paisley on the map as UK city of culture in 2021.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you, Mr Bibby.

We are very pressed for time, so I thank Tom Arthur and Stuart McMillan for cutting their speeches to two minutes. It can be done—I have done it myself.


Tom Arthur (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the debate, which recognises Paisley’s positioning to be city of culture in 2021, and I congratulate Paisley’s MSP, George Adam, on securing it.

Kenneth Gibson said that Paisley is not a suburb of Glasgow. I could not agree more. I was sorely tempted to refer to it as a suburb of greater Barrhead, but I would be pushing my luck if I did that. As someone from Barrhead—“Mine Ain Grey Toon”—Paisley has played a big part in my life. Trips to Paisley are among my most vivid childhood memories—from the happy ones, including seeing the lights on Christmas eve or performing in Paisley town hall, to the less enjoyable ones, including nerve-wracking piano exams in the abbey and getting hauled around the Paisley centre in August to buy a new school uniform, which marked the end of yet another summer holiday.

Just as Paisley was an ever-present feature of my childhood, having the honour to now represent the diverse communities of Renfrewshire South, which mark the southern and western boundaries of Paisley, means that Paisley is still a big part of my life, because what happens in Paisley can have a significant impact on my constituents.

The reality is that Paisley’s being 2021 city of culture would not just be a tremendous achievement for that proud and ancient town; it could also be a boon to the surrounding communities of Renfrewshire and beyond. From increased economic activity to civic renewal, the positive effects of Paisley 2021 have the potential to be felt far and wide. The predicted 1 million visitors to Paisley 2021 would, for example, have the opportunity to take in many attractions in my constituency of Renfrewshire South—for example, the weaver’s cottage in Kilbarchan and the Castle Semple visitor centre and country park in Lochwinnoch, which is the gateway to the Clyde Muirshiel regional park.

Paisley 2021 is an opportunity to put a town whose name is known around the globe firmly back on the map. In addition to presenting an opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural history of Paisley, it would show that as well as a proud past, Paisley has a promising future.

Paisley would making a fitting and well-deserved city of culture in 2021. Although Paisley would, of course, be the epicentre of activity as city of culture, the effects would be felt across the region. A successful bid would be a huge opportunity for not just Renfrewshire but the whole of the west of Scotland. I am therefore very pleased to join my colleagues from across the chamber in wishing Paisley’s bid to be 2021 city of culture the very best of luck.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Not quite down to two minutes, Mr Arthur. I have done it, though.

I thank Tom Arthur and Stuart McMillan again for cutting their speeches.


Stuart McMillan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)

I congratulate my colleague George Adam on securing the debate. As we all know, he is not shy about highlighting Paisley in the Parliament.

I am happy to support the Paisley 2021 bid. As members will know, there is a friendly rivalry between Paisley and Greenock, much of which emanates from our footballing clubs, St Mirren and Greenock Morton respectively. As George Adam supports St Mirren and I support Greenock Morton, we always have a bit of fun, which I am particularly enjoying at the moment, given that Morton are 16 points and six places ahead of St Mirren in the league. Notwithstanding that, this bid is something that all of us in the west of Scotland can get behind. I know that Inverclyde Council has backed it, and I encourage as many people as possible in Inverclyde to do the same, as there will be benefits for my constituency, too.

I want to highlight a couple of reasons why I believe Paisley should win. First, Paisley abbey is a fabulous building with a special characteristic; its elegance and charm make it one of Scotland’s iconic buildings. I have attended a few services in the abbey, and I have never failed to be impressed by its atmosphere.

The second reason is the people. I worked in Paisley for four years and had my old regional office in the town for six, and I found the people to be similar to those in Inverclyde: friendly, warm, ambitious for their town and, indeed, funny. Working-class communities have a special characteristic that opens up a vibrancy in the arts and culture. Paisley’s history—and its patter—is a story that buddies need to tell time and again; nobody else is going to tell it for them. Historical events can become cultural and economic drivers in communities, and Paisley has an abundant amount of such history.

As I have said, Inverclyde will benefit if Paisley’s bid is successful. After all, we are just down the road, and there will be benefits from the main tourism element, whether it be people visiting our scenic golf courses or the outdoor pool in Gourock, to name just a few things.

I wish the bid team and Paisley good luck. On this issue, Greenock and Paisley can unite for the benefit of both communities.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Well done, Mr McMillan. You beat Mr Arthur.


The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

I thank members for their contributions. Clearly, there is a lot of support across the chamber for Paisley’s bid to become 2021 UK city of culture, and I welcome Renfrewshire Council’s clear ambitions to use culture and creativity as a catalyst for promoting regeneration. I met Renfrewshire Council early in its campaign to hear about its ambitions for Paisley, and my officials have met the council since then, too.

That said, the process itself has not yet been launched, and I am mindful that other Scottish cities and areas have indicated or might still yet indicate an interest in bidding to become 2021 UK city of culture. The Scottish Government and our agencies have recent valuable experience to help advise bidding cities through the process and to look at opportunities relating to their plans, and my officials have also been in contact with the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which runs the competition, to ensure that details of the bidding process are finalised as soon as possible to help Scottish cities and areas develop their plans.

However, let us focus on Paisley. It is a proud and confident town that is rooted in culture and heritage, and it is a town that not only cherishes its diverse heritage and traditions but continually seeks to create further opportunities to share and to celebrate. Indeed, I was delighted to announce earlier today that Paisley’s international festival of weaving in July 2017 will be one of the funded signature events for the Scottish year of history, heritage and archaeology.

In its exciting bid to be UK city of culture, Paisley seeks to transform its future by using its unique cultural heritage as the home of the world-renowned Paisley pattern and one-time centre of the global textile industry to attract tourism investment as well as to promote further job growth and economic stability across all of Renfrewshire. The bid will show the breadth and depth of Paisley’s cultural assets, the value of its heritage and its potential for economic social and cultural regeneration as it celebrates its rich textiles heritage while looking forward to a future that is built on innovation, enterprise, talent and community. The Paisley 2021 bid team are doing a fantastic job of highlighting the strength of their bid and the town’s drive to be UK city of culture in 2021.

On a national level, our national performing companies are already active in Paisley, as demonstrated through the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s five-year collaboration with Paisley’s spree festival and Scottish Ballet's continued partnership with the Kibble Education and Care Centre in the town. That latter project in particular has introduced creative dance and ballet to many young people who have been excluded from mainstream education because of their additional social and behavioural needs. In addition, Scottish Ballet has had 13 children from the Paisley area join its associate programme, which provides vocational, classically based training for boys and girls from primary 6 to secondary 5 as a means of developing confident, dedicated and motivated dancers. If the bid is successful, people should think about reviving the ballet based on Archie Gemmill’s fantastic movements when he scored that amazing goal in the world cup.

I am delighted that, as a result of the bid, our national performing companies are in discussions with the 2021 bid team in Paisley about looking at opportunities to work closely with the community in order to deliver programmes that enrich people’s lives and enhance Scotland’s cultural heritage.


I recognise the ambition of Renfrewshire Council and the people of Paisley, who are to be praised for looking to secure a prosperous and successful future that is firmly rooted in Paisley’s cultural heritage, which is both extraordinarily rich and historically deep. The 10-year Paisley town centre heritage strategy was a major step forward in bringing that ambition into reality. The work around the abbey has already been developing, and it is good to see progress in that area.

Paisley has much to be proud of, and it deserves a future that is every bit as great as its past. We all want Paisley to succeed. Paisley is different. It is special and unique—perhaps as much as George Adam, who lodged the motion. I expect everyone to congratulate him on bringing the debate to the chamber.

I wish everyone well for tonight’s event in Parliament. I am very sorry that I cannot join them, but I am speaking at the 40th anniversary of the Federation of Scottish Theatre at the Roxburghe hotel in approximately 10 minutes. I wish everybody well in their celebrations and activities.

The process of putting the bid together is a great achievement. It unleashes the spirit of Paisley. I hope that everybody who is involved can take the best from what they have achieved to date, and I wish everyone the best for the future.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Members will now understand why we could not extend the debate. There is a prize, which George Adam will be in charge of, for counting the number of times that Paisley was mentioned.

Meeting closed at 17:51.