Scots at home.

8 04 2009

What a tremendous evening.   The event was the annual Scotland Week reception in Toronto, hosted by SDI and Visit Scotland in association with the Society for Scottish Studies.   It was standing room only but beforehand I got the chance for a private chat with Dr Kirsty Duncan, dsc03816a first time Liberal MP for Toronto, but a long term friend and champion of Gaelic.   Her fluency in the language  put me to shame but it was great to be able to thank her on behalf of Scotland and to present her with a copy of the Leabhar Mor ; one of the most wonderful recent achievements in the Gaelic arts field and which I was lucky enough to launch (in its second edition) last year in Edinburgh.

The evening blended whisky tasting (courtesy of Glendfiddich) , a Scottish chef ( Tom Lewis) , original Scottish song from the uniquely talented Roddy Hart (accompanied by RSAMD student Heather Downie who was also with us in New York) , a speech from David Hunter who chairs the Scottish Studies Society here, a welcome from Peter Lederer (Chair of Visit Scotland) and a brief word from me thanking all those involved and urging the entire company to come home to Scotland during Homecoming 09 (though not all at once – there are 5 million people of Scots descent in Canada alone and they would therefore just outnumber the existing population!).

The centrepiece was the presentation of the “Scot of the Year” award , which this year went to the remarkable and redoubtable Flora MacDonald, dsc03839who was Canadian Foreign Minister and who now oversees a dynamic foundation which she has set up and which brings help and democracy to Afghanistan.   It was amazing to see her , for I have met her before – in the dining room of a hotel in New Delhi in February 2000 when I was representing the Scottish Parliament at the first Commonwealth Parliamentary Association event we had been entitled to attend.   She is fifth generation Canadian, but fiercely proud of her Lochaber ancestry as well as her Cape Breton roots.

I had the privilege of talking to her before and after the ceremony and she is a guiding light to all those who flag – in her eighties she is off again to Afghanistan on 1st May at an age when some  people would glad just to be able to go out and get the messages !

It was wonderful to meet so many people who were enthusiastic about Scotland and keen to visit us.   But eventually it was time to go , and I finished the day with a quiet but enjoyable meal with the great Scottish Government team of officials who have made this visit possible.      And who, with me , have still got three days to go !

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