Irvine Times column, 4 December 2018

Last week I spoke in the Scottish Parliament on a motion to welcome the annual Saint Andrew’s Day celebrations.

Our national day is always a wonderful opportunity to promote Scotland to the world as an inclusive and outward looking nation, but also to reaffirm to ourselves the very things which define our values as a nation.

This year’s Saint Andrew’s Day theme was ‘Make Someone’s Day’, imploring us to take a moment of time to perform a small act of kindness, perhaps to look up an old friend, spend a bit of time with a lonely neighbour, to buy a warm drink for a homeless person, or make small donation to a food bank.

The cup of kindness is something that I am proud to say overflows in abundance within my constituency of Cunninghame South.

In Stevenston, for example, the Hendry family at Townhead Café will once again be providing Christmas dinner absolutely free for any vulnerable, elderly or lonely people in the Three Towns and Kilwinning (if interested, please call the café at 01294 287780 to reserve a place).

And not a week goes by when this newspaper does not carry stories of fundraising efforts for various worthy local charitable endeavours.

The new ‘Kindness Rocks’ campaign, from Irvine’s Rev Neil Urquhart and Father Willie Boyd, is also further promoting the message of kindness.

Working in association with the North Ayrshire Kindness Innovation Network, the two ‘Shoes Brothers’ are recording a song and a video to promote kindness at home, in the workplace, and across our communities on the run up to Christmas across the constituency.

This year also saw the launch of St Andrew’s Fair Saturday, part of the global celebration of Fair Saturday, to provide a celebration of arts and culture, and an opportunity for people of all faiths, beliefs, cultures and ethnic origins, as well as Scots internationally, to mark the contribution of Scotland at home and across the globe.

The theme of kindness was again prevalent, with contributors asked to support a social cause and to promote the wider celebration of St Andrew’s Day through their work.

Saint Andrew, of course, already has an international profile, being not just the patron saint of Scotland, but also of Greece, Russia, Romania, and Ukraine.

Last week, our Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, visited Brussels to host a concert and reception at the European Parliament, and also visited the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg to officially unveil the loan of two artworks from the National Galleries of Scotland, as a mark of respect for the institution.

Ms Hyslop took the opportunity on her engagements to reaffirm Scotland’s commitment as an open, welcoming, and inclusive nation, and received a warm welcome.

The EU has not forgotten Scotland, and we certainly have no intention of forgetting it.

Amidst the chaotic maelstrom of Brexit, as Scots we will continue to celebrate our shared European values in respecting human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.