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Issue 64 - Celebrating Scotland

Scotland Magazine Issue 64
August 2012

 

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Celebrating Scotland

To mark our 10th Anniversary, we decided to delve into various aspects of the nation

We are very proud to have brought you a decade's worth of history and travel features focusing on some of Scotland's most beautiful areas and illuminated the dark corners of her history. During the years we have used some of the finest writers and photographers to transport you to this ancient and most fascinating country.

To celebrate our milestone we asked former Editor Sally Toms and contributing editor Roddy Martine to pick some of their favourite aspects of Scotland: the people, places, products and events that have helped shape a nation and make it into what it is today.

We start this celebration with an exclusive interview with Scotland's presiding officer, one of whose jobs it is to raise the Scottish Parliament's profile abroad. It could be assumed that the role of the Presiding Officer at the Scottish Parliament is simply to oversee debate and the subsequent legislation, but there is so much more to it than that. Considerably more to it than that.

Over and above endorsing the questions to be asked at the weekly First Minister’s Question Time, the office involves chairing the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and representing the Parliament at home and abroad. It was in this latter capacity that Tricia Marwick was in New York earlier this year to attend Scotland Week and to participate in a series of charitable events – Scotland Unfiltered (in aid of Developing World Health), Mary's Meals, established by two Scots to provide one meal a day to chronically hungry children throughout the world, and the Big Apple Clef Award organised by the American Scottish Foundation, Creative Scotland and the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland.

In addition, she addressed the congregation at the Brick Presbyterian Church, and took part in the annual Tartan Day Parade on 6th Avenue, now in its 14th year.

“It was a fantastic experience,” she enthuses. “There was a tremendous interaction between the participant groups, the St Andrews Society of New York, the New York Caledonian Club and the American Scottish Foundation, and I loved the way in which whole families joined in. The atmosphere was really terrific.” There is an engaging energy about this Presiding Officer, the fourth in the Scottish Parliament's history since it was re-created in 1999. Tricia Marwick is on a mission to widen the scope of Scotland's governing institution as a forum not only to engage with the Scottish people, but with the global Scot and other Nations.

The programme of events she is overseeing reflects the challenge she has set herself, which began with an exhibition to showcase two 700 year old letters. The first is from King Philip of France ordering his agents to assist Scotland's thirteenth century patriot hero Sir William Wallace in his negotiations with the Pope in Rome; the second, known as the “Lubeck Letter”, carries Wallace's Seal and was sent to the German town of that name after the great Scottish victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297. It makes it known that Scotland has been 'cleansed of the invader' and is once again ready to trade with the ports of the Hanseatic League.

“There are not too many places that can exhibit history in the way that we can in the parliament building, ” she says. “When the suggestion was made to me, I said 'Yes please!'” A master stroke is that after the closing ceremony of the XXX Olympic Games in mid-August, the Scottish Parliament is hosting an International Summit of Culture, bringing representative Culture Ministers from 40 countries. “The timing was perfect,” she says.

Coinciding with the annual Edinburgh International Festival, the Culture Summit forms part of Edinburgh's Festival of Politics launched seven years ago. This year's theme is Politics, Culture, Creativity: A Force for Positive Change.

Opening in November and running through to January 2013 is a Centenary Exhibition featuring the Scotch whisky industry. “The importance of the Scotch whisky industry, particularly to rural Scotland, has long been recognised,” she observes.

It was during Scotland Week in April that she had a working lunch with Angus Hogg and Martyn Evans of the Carnegie UK Trust and attended a meeting of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, hosted by Dr Vartan Gregorian, Carnegie Corporation President and Chair of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Selection Committee.

This culminated with Dr Gregorian agreeing for the 2013 Carnegie Medal Ceremony, which celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Carnegie UK Trust, to be held in the Scottish Parliament on 17th October 2013.

“It'll be the second time that the ceremony has been held in Scotland,” says Marwick. “I've known about him all of my life,” she continues. “In Cowdenbeath we were always rather jealous of the trust he set up for kids in Dunfermline because we couldn't take part in it, but that doesn't mean to say that what he did was a bad thing.” Of all things closest to the Presiding Officer's heart, however, it is The Great Tapestry of Scotland that takes precedence. This remarkable community arts project is scheduled to be unveiled at Holyrood in August 2013 and was the brainchild of the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agencywriter Alexander McCall Smith, historian Alistair Moffat and the artist Andrew Crummy.

The intention is to produce the world’s longest tapestry comprising 120 panels and depicting everything from Duns Scotus to Dolly the Sheep. “I had the privilege and honour of making the very first stitch,” she says. “While I'm excited about the other events in the pipeline, I think this one is very, very special.” The tapestry is 141 metres in length and the final panel features Scotland's four First Ministers and four Presiding Officers to date. “What an honour,” she exclaims.

Tricia Marwick believes that the creation of the Great Tapestry of Scotland has harnessed the same spirit of adventure that existed when the annual Edinburgh International Festival was launched over half a century ago.“Underpinning it all is the Scotland we know and love,” she says. “Somebody suggested that we do it, so we did!”