Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser used his time during First Minister’s Questions to quiz Alex Salmond on the state of preparations for the ‘2014 Homecoming’ event.
The Member for Mid-Scotland and Fife also pressed the First Minister on the timing of the event.
In 2009, the “Gathering” was central to the success of Homecoming 2009 with thousands of Americans travelling to their ancestral home in Scotland.
However, with the cancellation of the “Gathering” in 2014 due to real financial concerns, Murdo Fraser expressed his concern at the timing of 2009’s festivities with American tourists less likely to travel abroad before the 4th of July.
Below is a transcript of the exchange in the chamber,
Murdo Fraser: I thank the First Minister for his response. He will be aware that the gathering 2014, which was to be the centrepiece of the year of homecoming, has been cancelled by Stirling Council for perfectly understandable reasons. He may also be aware of concerns that North American visitors are less likely to come to Scotland in June to attend an event at Bannockburn than they would be to attend a clan gathering event in July or August.
How will the Scottish Government and its agencies ensure that we have enough attractive events in 2014 to make up for the cancellation of the gathering, so that the large number of American visitors that our tourism industry is hoping for will still come here?
The First Minister: I direct Murdo Fraser to the president of the Council of Scottish Clans and Associations, Susan McIntosh, who said:
“we welcome the opportunity to work with the homecoming 2014 team to ensure that plans for the battle of Bannockburn ... event are developed with a clan audience in mind.”
On seeing the significance of that 700th anniversary and understanding how it must play a part in the year of homecoming, we took advice from a variety of quarters.
Commenting outside the Chamber Murdo Fraser MSP said:
“Both Stirling and the Bannockburn area will be central to the 2014 ‘Homecoming’. However, there are legitimate concerns around the timing of the event and its ability to maximise revenue from American tourists.
“With the loss of the ‘Gathering’ VisitScotland and the Scottish Government will have to work harder than ever to attract the same level of interest from across the pond.
“Nonetheless, Stirling offers a fantastic range of attractions that will suite all manner of tourists. Stirling has played an important role in shaping Scottish History and I would encourage anyone with an interest in Scotland to visit this special place.
“The celebrations commemorating the Battle of Bannockburn will no doubt provide the focal point of the 2014 ‘Homecoming’ and the Scottish Government must offer the right level of support to ensure its success.”