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.

Event: Jean Urquhart MSP to Chair Festival of Politics Event

Scottish poets George Gunn, Aonghas MacNeacail and Janet Paisley will take part in a debate on the place of poetry in politics at this year’s Festival of Politics. This year’s festival includes a four-day programme of politics, music, art, theatre, literature and debate. The session, titled “What Place for Poetry in Politics?”, will be an opportunity to debate with some of Scotland’s most highly respected writers and poets, with the discussion focusing particularly on the place of poetry in contemporary politics, if it matters in today’s society and the impact of political poetry on influencing change.

Jean Urquhart, MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, will chair the session, she said:

“Writers and poets have always played an important part in recording our history and folk probably don’t always acknowledge that. 

“A good example for the Scottish Parliament of course, was when Sheena Wellington sang, ‘A Man’s A Man’, Burns famous poem, at the official opening in 1999.  

“But where stands the poet today?  Are they revolutionaries?  Can they influence us, should they influence us? 

“A welcome awaits those who will come along, listen to and chew the fat with three of Scotland’s fine poets who have a great deal to say on the subject.”

The session, ‘What Place for Poetry in Politics’ will take place on 25 August at 15.30-16.30 in the Scottish Parliament and is free of charge.

Event: What Place for Poetry in Politics?”

Jean will be chairing an event at the Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics on August 25th. Called “What Place for Poetry in Politics?”, Jean will discuss the role played by poetry in shaping politics with leading Scottish poets and cultural figures Aonghas MacNeacail, Janet Paisley and George Gunn. For tickets and more information, please visit: http://www.festivalofpolitics.org.uk/165.htm

Press Release: Jean Urquhart Welcomes New UHI Course (June 26th)

ean Urquhart MSP welcomed the announcement of a new postgraduate course offered by the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The MLitt in Highlands and Islands Culture, which can also be studied as a PgCert or PgDip, is thought to be the first of its kind. Complementing a course already offered in Highlands and Islands Literature, the course will examine various aspects of Highland life, including its customs, history, literature, music and geography.

The delivery of the course through video conference seminars and online distance learning has also marked out the course as a unique opportunity to learn more about the Highlands and Islands.

Ms Urquhart, a Highlands and Islands list MSP, commented:

“As a local MSP, former councillor and member of the Education & Culture Committee, watching UHI go from strength to strength and helping to bring vibrancy to the region has been a particular pleasure.

“As part of their development, I am therefore delighted to see the UHI offer such an innovative and flexible course pertaining to the local area.

 “As the course is offered on both a full time and part time basis, as well as being accessible in a distance learning format, it will enable as many people as possible to explore our past and present, maximising the appreciation of our rich and vibrant local culture.

“I welcome the extra attention this course has brought our part of the world, and look forward to people across the globe learning more about the journey the Highlands and Islands has taken and continues to take.”

Press Release: MSP to Chair Festival of Politics Event at Holyrood (June 22nd)

Highlands and Islands list MSP Jean Urquhart is to chair one of the events taking place this August under the “Festival of Politics” banner.

Ms Urquhart, an SNP MSP who stays in Ullapool, will chair the “What Place for Poetry in Politics?” discussion on Saturday 25 August at the Scottish Parliament, which will examine political poetry and its relevance today. Poets Aonghas MacNeacail, Janet Paisley and George Gunn will help assess how political songs and poems have effected change worldwide, and whether its impact is as strong today as it has been in the past.

Ms Urquhart, a member of the Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee and a lifetime patron of the arts, commented:

“This year’s Festival of Politics, which will explore the links between politics, culture and creativity under its ‘Force for Positive Change’ banner, will hold great personal and professional interest for me.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to chair this discussion on how culture can inform our politics, which is just one of many thought-provoking debates taking place in August.

“From Hugh MacDiarmid to Edwin Morgan, Scottish poets have more than held their own at the crossroads between politics and culture, and have shaped our national debates over the generations.

 “I hope that as many people as possible take the opportunity to attend one or more of these events over the two weekends in August, and that they will inform our current national debate over what path Scotland should take.”

Press Release: MSP to Chair Festival of Politics Event at Holyrood (June 22nd)

Highlands and Islands list MSP Jean Urquhart is to chair one of the events taking place this August under the “Festival of Politics” banner.

Ms Urquhart, an SNP MSP who stays in Ullapool, will chair the “What Place for Poetry in Politics?” discussion on Saturday 25 August at the Scottish Parliament, which will examine political poetry and its relevance today. Poets Aonghas MacNeacail, Janet Paisley and George Gunn will help assess how political songs and poems have effected change worldwide, and whether its impact is as strong today as it has been in the past.

Ms Urquhart, a member of the Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee and a lifetime patron of the arts, commented:

“This year’s Festival of Politics, which will explore the links between politics, culture and creativity under its ‘Force for Positive Change’ banner, will hold great personal and professional interest for me.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to chair this discussion on how culture can inform our politics, which is just one of many thought-provoking debates taking place in August.

“From Hugh MacDiarmid to Edwin Morgan, Scottish poets have more than held their own at the crossroads between politics and culture, and have shaped our national debates over the generations.

 “I hope that as many people as possible take the opportunity to attend one or more of these events over the two weekends in August, and that they will inform our current national debate over what path Scotland should take.”

Press Release: Jean Urquhart Welcomes National Celebration of Reading (June 20th)

Jean Urquhart MSP today welcomed the announcement by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop of the first ever Book Week Scotland, a national celebration of reading taking place from November 26th -December 2nd this year.

An avid reader, Jean Urquhart commented:

“I am delighted to see that the Scottish Government has initiated a week celebrating our literary heritage. Harnessing our talent, both past and present, to promote reading as a positive activity, is a welcome step that will help us to continue to benefit socially, economically and culturally from Scotland’s rich seam of talent.

“I am equally pleased to learn that there will be a range of free events and projects held throughout Book Week. It is important that as many people as possible across Scotland are able to participate in these events to grow or rediscover their love of literature.

 “I would also urge everybody to submit an entry for the ‘My Favourite Places’ anthology being published as part of Book Week Scotland. Whether it be from childhood memories or from a regular holiday destination, there are corners of Scotland that will always be special to us. I hope to see a wide range of areas, including many in my own region of the Highlands and Islands, included in the final anthology.

“I hope that my parliamentary motion celebrating this announcement will draw support from across the Chamber, and that we can join together in celebrating and making a success of this inaugural event.”

Speech: Travel and Tourism (June 21st)

I declare an interest as someone with a great many years’ experience in the tourism and hospitality industry in the Highlands. I pay tribute to those who have spoken before me, who have highlighted a number of Scotland‟s attractions, taking us on a kind of verbal tour around the country.

Tourism is hugely important to Scotland as a whole, and comparatively it plays an even greater part in the mixed economy of the Highlands and Islands. That is a part of Scotland with natural beauty and an incredible landscape, which I am sure will feature strongly in the special promotion of the year of natural Scotland, next year.

Mary Scanlon has left the chamber, but I must take issue with some of the things that she said about the Sutherland way. We have to be respectful of the environment that we have in Scotland. We have to be smart about recognising the areas that need to have cafes or facilities, but we also have to recognise the special, wild nature of the land that we have. There are three identified geoparks in Scotland, and they are all in the Highlands and Islands. All of them make specific requests in terms of relevant development. The idea that the north-west Sutherland way should have a string of facilities along it makes my—well, I will say simply that that is wild Scotland.

Scotland attracts visitors from across the world and, in the past couple of years, a growing number from across the United Kingdom. Those visitors help to maintain 25,000 jobs across 3,000 businesses in my region and bring £1.2 billion every year from the region into the economy, and it is the importance of the economy that we are talking about.

By talking about Glasgow attracting conferences, Hanzala Malik reminded me that, on 9 September 1997, which was only two days before the extraordinary vote for devolution, Glasgow hosted the annual congress of the American travel trade, with several thousand delegates. The keynote speaker was Mrs Thatcher, who took the time on “Newsnight” to tell Scots that they should vote no the following Thursday. However, we are grateful that Glasgow has the facilities to take that size of conference.

Scotland is famous for its hospitality and its friendly people. To combat some of Helen Eadie’s comments, I should say that our reputation is deserved. There may be instances such as those that she talked about, but Scotland will never be perfect in everybody’s eyes. It is too easy for someone to go out and find a place that they do not like, but they do not know that, the night before, other people have had a really good time there. The spit-and-sawdust pub can offer up as great a night‟s entertainment for some people as a five-star hotel can do for a different clientele, offering a different service. We have to be careful about how we decide on these matters. We also have to be helpful. Do we want to hammer a business that is probably suffering really badly? It, too, plays a part in the economy and needs help rather than poor recognition.

That people recognise our hospitality and the friendliness of our people is evidenced by the extraordinarily high levels of repeat business that we achieve in Scotland generally and in the Highlands and Islands in particular. The figures are there for everyone to see. Familiar faces of people who have become addicted to holidays here appear regularly. That is still a factor of our industry. I have been in the hotel trade so long that I know the grandchildren of folk who stayed many years before. That is the legacy that we can and should build on. It is ironic, in some ways, that the industry should be sustained by such levels of repeat visits, given that employment opportunities in the industry often seem to be short-term and seasonal.

There have been many changes over the years and the recent festivals that the Highlands and Islands play host to are amazing. RockNess, Loopallu and the Insider festival that was held last weekend and was attended by 1,000 people, who stayed for three or four days, might seem like small beer compared with festivals such as T in the Park, but they are right for that part of Scotland and they are due recognition.

Anyone who has attended some of the smaller book festivals will know that they are hugely personal affairs, and contribute hugely to the economy. More and more are being organised outside what we choose to call the peak holiday period.

Although “Brave”, the now-released Pixar animation, is clearly getting global attention, I would like to thank members who recently supported my motion on the Hansel of Film, which came from Shetland and takes the story of Shetland and small film-makers around the United Kingdom. It is perhaps not the same in terms of marketing, but it is just as important and such projects often capture the imagination of visitors when they come here.

Tourism is an industry that does not stand alone. Like steel making and shipbuilding, it depends on all other sectors in order to flourish. Local authorities have much to contribute by keeping the infrastructure and public facilities open and in good order. The education of our children, especially in music and language, has an enormous role to play. Crofting and fishing are among our main attractions and we should never forget that folk on holiday love to watch folk at work.

Motion:

That the Parliament recognises the achievements of tourism businesses across Scotland in achieving a 14% increase in overnight visitor revenues in 2011; welcomes the new tourism strategy prepared by the industry, for the industry, which focuses on the importance of industry leadership, the quality that visitors encounter across their whole journey in Scotland and using Scotland’s assets to create the experiences that visitors are looking for; commends the efforts of the industry-led Tourism Leadership Group in developing the strategy and recognises the important role to be played by relevant agencies and non-departmental public bodies in supporting the industry’s strategy; renews calls on the UK Government to play its part by devolving air passenger duty and to consider a reduction of VAT rates for the sector; recognises the enormous opportunity for tourism in Scotland presented by The Winning Years and the Disney/Pixar film, Brave, in particular; congratulates Glasgow on its success in winning several additional conferences with the support of the Conference Bid Fund announced in March 2012, and encourages other destinations in Scotland to use the fund to win further business for Scotland.

Motion: BBC’s Crime Drama, Shetland

BBC’s Crime Drama, Shetland
That the Parliament welcomes the decision of BBC One to commission a two-part crime drama, Shetland, based on the murder mystery novels of Ann Cleeves; understands that the drama has been adapted for the small screen by David Kane, who has also worked on other Scottish crime story adaptations, namely Taggart and Rebus; considers the production to be an excellent opportunity to showcase Shetland’s natural landscape; further considers the dramatisation to be a potential boost to the local economy; urges the production team to use as many local people and businesses as possible in the process of filming; believes that the commission will highlight Scotland and Shetland’s strong cultural heritage, and looks forward to watching the drama later in 2012.

Supported by: Mary Scanlon, Joe FitzPatrick, Rob Gibson, John Finnie, Adam Ingram, Annabelle Ewing, John Mason, Joan McAlpine, Humza Yousaf, Drew Smith, Kevin Stewart, Anne McTaggart, David Torrance, Mike MacKenzie, Margaret Burgess, Jamie McGrigor, Bill Kidd, Dennis Robertson, Jamie Hepburn, Dave Thompson, Colin Beattie, Gil Paterson, Sandra White, Rhoda Grant, David Stewart, Willie Coffey, Angus MacDonald, Stewart Maxwell

Motion: Book Week Scotland

Book Week Scotland
That the Parliament celebrates the announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs of Scotland’s first ever Book Week; understands that this will take place between 26 November and 2 December 2012; welcomes the news that the various projects and events taking place that week will be free, thus widening the possibility for participation by all; encourages the public to submit its favourite places for inclusion in an anthology of writing called My Favourite Places as part of Book Week Scotland; recognises the social, educational and cultural benefits of encouraging all of Scotland to take up or continue reading as a leisure activity; believes Scotland’s wealth of literary and creative talent to be one of its great strengths, and looks forward to these strengths being promoted as part of Book Week Scotland.

Supported by: John Mason, John Finnie, Annabelle Ewing, Kevin Stewart, Margaret Burgess, Roderick Campbell, Fiona McLeod, Hanzala Malik, Liam McArthur, Anne McTaggart, Dennis Robertson, Kenneth Gibson, Mike MacKenzie, Bill Kidd, Mark McDonald, Dave Thompson, Joe FitzPatrick, Aileen McLeod, Adam Ingram, Jamie Hepburn, Gil Paterson, Richard Lyle, Joan McAlpine, Bob Doris, Colin Beattie, Paul Wheelhouse, Chic Brodie, Rhoda Grant, Stuart McMillan, James Dornan, Maureen Watt, Alison Johnstone, Stewart Maxwell