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27 November 2012

S4M-04970 St Andrew’s Day

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-04970, in the name of Fiona Hyslop, on St Andrew’s day: a celebration of Scotland.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

Why should we celebrate St Andrew’s day? Some reasons are historical, some are cultural, some are even political, some are humorous and some are personal.

I will start by extending our knowledge of the flag. It is also one of the international signal flags; it stands for the letter M and it means that a doctor is on board, which fits neatly with our tradition of training doctors around the world.

We have heard of countries that have St Andrew as their patron saint. He is also the patron saint of Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luqa in Malta and Esgueira in Portugal. He was the patron saint of Prussia and of the order of the golden fleece. Andrew is also the patron saint of the United States army rangers. He certainly gets about a bit—indeed, the Church of Scotland has many St Andrew’s kirks around the world, which demonstrates his reach.

Mark Griffin very nicely and properly mentioned my constituents who founded BrewDog, which is a very successful brewery. They are two young lads of Mark Griffin’s age rather than my age. My favourite beer from there—which I can just about make relevant to the debate—is Trashy Blonde, which is a very nice blonde beer. That leads me to one of the reasons why it is a little unwise for the Tories to have approached the debate in the way that they have. If we want to celebrate St Andrew’s day for party-political reasons, I have a better starting point than any of the other members, because 30 November 1990 was the day on which a removal van arrived at 10 Downing Street to remove Maggie Thatcher from that address. Perhaps the Tories will be celebrating that as well. Others may have celebrated when I left the Bank of Scotland on 30 November 1999, so it is for the goose as it is for the gander. By moving from banking to politics, I sought to improve my reputation.

Any members in the chamber who have done any genealogical research will have seen that many of our ancestors used the St Andrew’s cross to make their mark on certificates before the days of literacy.

The order of St Andrew is the highest order of merit in modern Russia. It is a very ancient order, and was suspended during the time of the Soviet Union. I note that the second-highest order in Russia is the order of St George, so they have got things right in that country at least. Recipients of the order of St Andrew in Russia have been Peter the Great, Mikhail Gorbachev and—less encouragingly—Mikhail Kalashnikov.

The name “Andrew” itself is of interest. It comes from the Greek, and means “manly”, “brave”, “manhood” and “valour”—a whole series of attributes of which I think we can all accept that we should be proud.

There are not just 800,000 Scots living in England, but 40 million Scots living around the world. The majority of my living relatives of whom I am aware live outside Scotland, mostly in the United States but also in Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Margo MacDonald: Does Stewart Stevenson feel any further away, distant and separate from his family members just because they are in different states from him? In my experience of having a daughter working in Ireland and a sister working in England, I was just as close to both of them.

Stewart Stevenson: Margo MacDonald makes a good point. Of course, the bounds of geography in the modern electronic world are much shrunk, and emotionally I feel no distance whatever. My niece in Sweden and my nephew in Denmark are Scandinavians, just as after independence we will continue to be Britons, but by geography rather than political choice.

It is interesting to look at what we have achieved jointly with our friends south of the border. I am approximately one quarter English myself, and I have a number of great-grandparents from south of the border. We have achieved a great deal together, which is to our shared credit. We have fought and won two world wars, but many independent countries joined the alliance voluntarily; we did not have to be bound in a political union to do that.

There are a lot of local St Andrew’s day events in a lot of different constituencies and we will celebrate in our own individual ways. In my constituency, we will have travellers’ tales in Fraserburgh library tomorrow; great reads for winter nights in Peterhead two days later; and, on 1 December, a meet-the-author event with Shona MacLean in Banff castle. Those will be excellent contributions to aiding understanding all around the world.

It is worth looking at what we have on our doorstep. There is a new statue of Robert Ferguson outside the Canongate kirk. He is the man that Robert Burns described as

“my elder brother in the muse”.

Adam Smith’s statue is in Canongate kirk’s yard, too. He is someone who made an immense contribution and whose works are carried by capitalists and communists around the world.

When Dennis Canavan successfully introduced his member’s bill to create a holiday in Scotland, he worked closely within the Parliament’s powers, which allow us to prescribe and create bank holidays. Bank holidays are, in a technical sense, only days on which banks may not charge interest—that is all that a bank holiday is. Of course, he also created holidays for civil servants. Would that he had been able—through that member’s bill—to create holidays for wider Scotland. That must be voluntary; it cannot be created by the powers of this Parliament.

John Park (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): Is Stewart Stevenson saying that the Scottish Government’s position is that it would create an extra holiday on this day if the powers were available?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Stewart Stevenson, you should come to a close, please.

Stewart Stevenson: I no longer speak for the Scottish Government; John Park will need to ask others whether that is what they want.

The remains of St Andrew were taken to the ends of the earth, so it is no wonder that Scots, who travelled to the ends of the earth, adopted him as our saint. I visited Hebron in the West Bank in the 1970s and, a thousand years later, there were freckled Arabs with red hair. The footprint of the Scots is everywhere, as is the footprint of St Andrew.

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