Motion: Lerwick’s Waterfront, One of Scotland’s Best Places

I was pleased to see Lerwick’s continued regeneration recognised in this national competition. You can vote for Lerwick waterfront- or the others on the shortlist!- at http://www.rtpi.org.uk/scotlandsbestplaces .

Motion Number: S4M-09550
Lodged By: Jean Urquhart
Date Lodged: 31/03/2014

Title: Lerwick’s Waterfront, One of Scotland’s Best Places

Motion Text:
That the Parliament welcomes the shortlisting of Lerwick’s waterfront as one of Scotland’s Best Places by the Royal Town Planning Institute; notes that the waterfront will compete against what it considers iconic vistas such as the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and Loch Lomond for the prize; understands that the shortlist of 10 places was chosen from 55 public nominations; believes that the establishment of the Mareel cinema, music and arts complex on the waterfront, which also houses the Shetland Islands Council headquarters, the Shetland Amenity Trust and the Shetland Museum and Archives, has contributed significantly to the waterfront’s vibrancy; understands that the public vote to choose the top three places is open until June and can be accessed online at rtpi.org.uk/scotlandsbestplaces , and hopes that the competition sparks interest, debate and enthusiasm about the country’s natural and built environments.

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Photo: One Big Drum in the Scottish Parliament

I was delighted to meet with the members of One Big Drum in the Scottish Parliament as part of Trade Union Week. One Big Drum are a community music group based in East Sutherland that bring together children with and without learning disabilities to learn how to work and play with other people. It was a pleasure to hear the group play their African drums in the Garden Lobby, and thanks go to the STUC for the terrific programme they organised for the whole week.

OneBigDrum1

Speech: Dundee City of Culture Bid (12th November 2013)

On behalf of the Independent and Green group, I would like to echo the support for Dundee’s city of culture bid that has been expressed by members across the chamber.

Dundee is, in many ways, a microcosm of Scotland. It is a city with a proud industrial heritage that is reinventing itself for the 21st century and leading the way in video games technology and biomedical research. Over the years, it has been infused with Irish, Italian, Polish, Asian and Chinese immigrants—to name but a few—and both of its top-class universities continue to attract students from all over the globe.

The continued investment by the Scottish Government in Dundee’s waterfront will transform the way in which its citizens interact with the city and will, I hope, add further architectural excellence to Dundee’s many cultural accomplishments. I am assured by my Dundonian researcher that the city’s football teams—of which I know absolutely nothing—particularly the one that plays in dark blue, are also worthy of mention for their European heritage and exciting style of play.

What really makes Dundee worthy of its bid, though, is its people and how they have shaped their sense of self through the bid. Artists and writers are now thriving in a city that is universally recognised to be bursting with opportunity and ambition. From Sheena Wellington’s show-stopping performance of “A Man’s a Man for a’ that” at the opening of the Parliament in 1999 to the wry observations and brilliant talent of the much-missed Michael Marra, Dundee’s contribution to Scotland’s traditional and contemporary folk scene is legendary. Its links to Deacon Blue, Snow Patrol and The View and its annual blues bonanza demonstrate that that musical legacy continues to the present day.

New publishing firms such as Teckle Books and the success of the Bob Servant novels perfectly encapsulate the irreverent Dundonian sense of humour. Those success stories beget popular events, with the DCA’s Dundead horror festival and the Dundee literary festival being other highlights of a packed cultural calendar.

The bid for city of culture status gives Dundee an opportunity to celebrate all her heroes. There are too many other cultural strings to Dundee’s bow to mention: the McManus Galleries, the impending V&A museum, DC Thomson, Brian Cox, AL Kennedy, William McGonagall—I could go on.

It is worth noting in particular the continuing success of Dundee Contemporary Arts and Dundee Rep, not least because both were established at a time when some would have suggested that arts funding should be a lower priority for the city. As two key drivers of Dundee’s continued regeneration, I believe that they have demonstrated the intrinsic worth of cultural investment, and they are two potent symbols of the dedication of the city of Dundee to its artistic community. They are successful because they are used—and used well—by the folk of Dundee.

Dundee fully deserves to be awarded city of culture status, and I hope that, when the judges take in the spectacular view as their train travels over the silvery Tay, they realise that they have just arrived in a city of great culture in any year.

Motion: Condemning Moray Council Library Closures

That the Parliament condemns Moray Council’s decision to close seven rural libraries; notes that the closure of the libraries, based in Burghead, Cullen, Dufftown, Findochty, Hopeman, Portknockie and Rothes, was subject to an equality impact assessment (EIA), which recommended retaining three of the libraries; understands that, despite opposition plans to keep all seven open or to keep the three libraries highlighted in the EIA open, the council administration pressed ahead in closing all seven; considers this decision to be a short-sighted penny-pinching one that will harm the cultural and societal fabric of some of Moray’s more remote communities by removing a hub used by some of society’s most vulnerable groups; notes that the EIA expressed concerns that “the council could be at risk of falling short of its statutory duty to secure adequate library provision and would thereby be exposed to legal challenge by way of judicial review”; believes that this decision, coupled with an earlier decision by Moray Council to cut its arts budget entirely, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the importance of the arts to society and may, if challenged, cost more money through legal challenge than is saved by the closures in the first place, and calls on Moray Council to reconsider the closures as a matter of urgency.

Motion: The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil

That the Parliament notes that 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the first tour of the play, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil; understands that it was performed by the 7:84 theatre company across the Highlands and Islands, and in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ireland, and was written by a group of artists with many talents, including Gaelic singing and fine traditional music making; considers that it was effective in raising issues affecting the Highlands and Islands over the last few centuries, including land ownership, class divide and economic change; believes that its commentary on the cause and effect of the Highland clearances, inequitable land ownership and the discovery of North Sea oil still have relevance; considers that the arts play a vital role in political debate and thought in Scotland, particularly ahead of the 2014 independence referendum, and welcomes the work of writers and artists that articulates contemporary Scotland as well as The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil.

Motion: 2014 Edinburgh International Festival

I lodged the following motion in Parliament today expressing my regret at the decision taken by the EIF to not commission any productions examining the independence referendum next year. It seems such a shame that the opportunity is being passed up by the EIF to use the event to show the role that the arts can play in the big decisions of our time, regardless of their angle or viewpoint.

That the Parliament notes with regret the reported decision taken by the director of the Edinburgh International Festival, Sir Jonathan Mills, to exclude any independence-themed productions from the 2014 event; believes that, regardless of voting intentions, the cultural sector has a massive role to play in the referendum; considers that political neutrality can be better obtained through an open, fair, and balanced programme that includes the views of all sides rather than through what it sees as enforced silence in what is universally recognised as one of the most important debates in Scotland’s history; believes this to be an act of censorship that will inadvertently politicise the festival and a wasted opportunity for Scotland’s arts community, and, in order to promote an open, healthy and vigorous debate, encourages the organisers of the Edinburgh International Festival to reconsider the decision.

Motion: Gavin Wallace

Motion S4M-05639: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 14/02/2013

Gavin Wallace
That the Parliament notes with sadness the passing of Dr Gavin Wallace, portfolio manager for literature, publishing and language at Creative Scotland; understands that Gavin began his career at the literary magazineCencrastus in 1991, becoming the co-editor of the Edinburgh Review in 1994; further understands that Gavin was then hired by the Scottish Arts Council in August 1997, going on to become head of literature for eight years before taking on his role at Creative Scotland; considers that the outpouring of tributes from the arts world demonstrates the respect and affection held for Gavin and his dedication to promoting and encouraging Scottish literature;  believes that Scotland has tragically lost a passionate and able advocate of its literary culture, and passes on its condolences to Gavin’s partner, Pauline, and sons, Patrick and Alasdair.

Motion: Ainslie Henderson, International Animation Award Winner

Motion S4M-05244: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Independent, Date Lodged: 18/12/2012

Ainslie Henderson, International Animation Award Winner
That the Parliament congratulates Ainslie Henderson of the Edinburgh College of Art on being named winner in the animation category at the 2012 Adobe Design Achievement Awards; understands that Ainslie’s work, I Am Tom Moody, beat nearly 5,000 entrants from 70 countries; further understands that Ainslie enlisted the vocal help of the actor, Mackenzie Crook, for his project; considers that Ainslie’s victory, given the number of entrants, demonstrates the creative talent studying at Scotland’s colleges and universities; believes that this international recognition further demonstrates the opportunities available to those who pursue an interest in the arts, and encourages young people with creative talent to use it in whatever way they can.

Motion: Centenary of Robin Jenkins’ Birth

Centenary of Robin Jenkins’ Birth
That the Parliament acknowledges that 11 September 2012 marks the centenary of the birth of the author, Robin Jenkins; notes that his writing examined social hypocrisy and the ambiguities of morality, integrity and idealism; understands that, in addition to his published works, Mr Jenkins was known for his status as a conscientious objector and his membership of the Independent Labour Party; believes that, as with too many talented individuals, Mr Jenkins’ contribution to the arts and society in Scotland was not acknowledged until the end of his life; welcomes what it considers the belated recognition conferred on Mr Jenkins by his appointment as an OBE in 1999 and being presented with the Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2002, and, to mark this centenary, recommends reading what it considers his landmark work, The Cone Gatherers.