Malcolm on The Winter holiday, Burns, cultural diversity, and the retail trade.
St. Andrew's Day debate (on motion S3M-946) S3M-946 Linda Fabiani (Central Scotland) (SNP) : St Andrew's Day - That the Parliament believes in the importance of celebrating Scotland’s national day; recognises the opportunity that it offers to both celebrate what it means to be Scottish in the 21st century and to promote a fair and inclusive society; notes the Scottish Government’s proactive support of a programme of events throughout the country and all of Scotland’s six cities; commends the work of schools and community groups across Scotland in teaching our young people about St Andrew’s Day and promoting diversity through their celebrations, and furthermore thanks the St Andrew’s societies, Caledonian societies, Scottish Development International, Globalscots, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and all the other overseas organisations who have planned over 100 wide-ranging celebrations in countries around the world. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab): I am very pleased again to be taking part in the celebration of St Andrew's day and the winter festival that will follow. I am also happy to support the motion and the Liberal Democrats' amendment. However, although I support the sentiments that are expressed in the Conservative amendment, we cannot support it, as it would delete ours.

I say "again", because I have a strong sense of déjà vu about everything that is happening at this time. The new Government has helpfully left all the previous Executive's old press releases on its website. There I am, as the previous Minister for Communities, stating in a release last November:

"Scotland is a place where we can all benefit from a diversity of cultures, religions and backgrounds. The contribution of everyone should be valued and the events taking place on St Andrew's Day will remind us again of how rich our cultural influences are here in Scotland."

One of last year's events was the one Scotland ceilidh, which we ambitiously planned to be held in the open air. At least the new Government's jig in the gardens, which will take place under canvas tomorrow night, is more realistic about Edinburgh's weather.

The one Scotland, many cultures theme is rightly at the heart of our celebration of St Andrew's day in modern 21st century Scotland. Integration and multiculturalism are not contradictory—as some argue—but two sides of the same coin. As we rightly strive to ensure that ethnic minority communities are integrated as equals into Scottish society, we should recognise that integration will be all the stronger if it is based on respect for diversity.

Like the motion, I commend the work of schools and community groups across Scotland in teaching our young people about St Andrew's day. As under the previous Administration, packs and flags have, I believe, been sent out to schools. I am sure that many different activities will have been developed by schools throughout Scotland.

However, St Andrew's day is not just about Scotland. We should remember that St Andrew is also the patron saint of other countries, including Greece and Russia. I am told that he is also the protector of Romania.

Margo MacDonald (Lothians) (Ind):
Does the member think that Russia and Greece remember that St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland? Perhaps they concentrate on the fact that he is their patron saint, too.

Malcolm Chisholm:
I am not in a position to answer that question, but I hope that the answer is the former. As with last year, many different events will be supported across the world tomorrow. I join others in thanking all the bodies that are referred to in the motion for the work that they have put in

Scots around the world are our ambassadors. They can spread the message about the modern 21st century Scotland that we want to build. As Scots in the past went out into the world, our population is now growing as we attract more and more people to Scotland. A modern diverse Scotland welcomes people from across the world and embraces their enterprise, culture and ambition. On St Andrew's day, therefore, we should celebrate not just shared Scottish traditions, but our shared future.

Just as the broad definition of culture leads to the celebration of diversity, so its narrower artistic definition should lead us to the same conclusion. As we have reasserted our Scottish identity over the past few years through the achievement of home rule, we have seen a blossoming of literature and other forms of art. However, the writers do not all say anything like the same thing and many of them do not write about Scotland at all. For the most part, they are outward looking and they often draw on other cultures: Janice Galloway has reflected on the life and position of Clara Schumann and Ali Smith has transposed classical mythology into a modern setting. That is the modern diverse culture of a modern diverse Scotland. That is what we should celebrate at this time.

It is not that there is anything new in all this, given that the winter festival that begins tomorrow will culminate on Burns night. It is hard to think of a writer who has had more international themes or more international recognition than Burns. Debates may rage about his views of Scotland within the union, but they are irrelevant to his underlying appeal. Scotland's history and culture belong to us all; they should never be hijacked for narrow political purposes.

Clearly, the new Government has aligned culture with Scotland's international image and relations. That has some advantages in promoting Scotland abroad all the year round and particularly on St Andrew's day. However, there are two dangers. First, it could result in too narrow a definition of Scottish culture. Secondly, it might overlook the central importance of promoting culture at local level.

In celebrating Scotland and Scottish culture today and looking forward with confidence to the future, we should focus clearly on two central questions. What kind of Scotland do we want to create? How do we ensure that national cultural standards and increased access to culture go hand in hand? I endorse the motion's reference to

"a fair and inclusive society", but I have some concern that fairness has replaced social justice in the Scottish Government's lexicon. I hope that they mean the same thing, but I am not entirely sure. We have not time today for a detailed debate on what kind of society we want to create, but our amendment raises a specific aspect of that issue that is also relevant to the winter festival theme.

I will not embarrass the Scottish National Party too much by quoting all the SNP members who supported the final outcome of the Christmas Day and New Year's Day Trading (Scotland) Bill, but suffice it to say that Jim Mather—now Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism—stated:

"We are particularly persuaded that the bill and its amendments offer an opportunity to ensure a sensible balance between the competing pressures of spending time at work, enabling people to earn and trade, and having the time to celebrate and relax with family and friends."—[Official Report, 7 March 2007; c 32805.]

Jim Mather's boss, John Swinney, waxed even more lyrical about the value of the bill in promoting a better work-life balance. In the light of those two ringing endorsements from the Scottish National Party's business team, it is hard to understand why the Cabinet Secretary for Justice decided to invoke business when refusing to commission a study of the effect of a new year's day ban on trading by large retailers. Can the minister give a better explanation for that overturning of Parliament's decision than the ridiculous excuse that the justice secretary gave at question time last week—that he could not afford the study because of the Edinburgh tram? If £300,000 extra is being spent on St Andrew's day this year, surely it would be reasonable to spend a third of that amount on an important study?

Given that we are celebrating Scottish culture, I will end by addressing the second question that I posed on cultural standards and access. I reassert the concern that I expressed at question time about the backward movement of cultural policy over the past few weeks. I set aside the budget, as I have asked questions about that; I will keep my powder dry until I receive the answers.

The statement that the minister made on 7 November, which ditched the local authority sections in the draft Culture (Scotland) Bill and binned all the central recommendations of the Cultural Commission was a serious backward step for culture in Scotland. I repeat the question that I asked during question time: how are we to address the current perceived inequity in access to cultural provision when there is no outcome indicator for culture among the outcome indicators for local authorities?
Linda Fabiani said that the bill had no teeth, but it certainly had more teeth than her non-existent proposals. At least it would have placed some requirements on local authorities.

At a Scottish Arts Council conference some time ago, Annamari Laaksonen of the Barcelona Interarts Foundation, who is one of the leading cultural thinkers in Europe, said that, on the basis of international research, Scotland's intention to adopt a practical rights entitlement approach to culture was considered widely to be in the vanguard of cultural policy in Europe. That approach has now been consigned to the dustbin. Although the new Government talks a good game about Scottish culture, we must have serious concerns about how it will deliver.

I move amendment S3M-946.3, to insert at end:

"and, recognising that St Andrew's Day is the start of Scotland's Winter Festival which includes Christmas Day and New Year's Day and concludes on Burns Night, looks forward to the success of all components of the Winter Festival starting with the events on St Andrew's Day, and in this context regrets that the Scottish Government has overturned the decision of the previous Parliament to commission a study into the impact of a ban on large retailers trading on New Year's Day."
November 29th 2007, (Column 3970-3)