Tartan Week is upon us once again with tomorrow being Tartan Day. On the 6th April 1320, 6 years after the battle of Bannockburn, a letter (later to be known as the Declaration of Arbroath) was sent from Arbroath Abbey to the Pope.
The Declaration itself has now reached almost mythical status, and quite rightly so. It is one of the most profound statements to emerge from Medieval Europe. In 1951, Lord Cooper stated "There is still much to be learned from that remarkable document. Read it again and judge for yourselves whether it does not deserve on its merits to be ranked as one of the masterpieces of political rhetoric of all time". Personally, I believe it should be, certainly if you consider that there are many who believe the Declaration of Arbroath influenced the American Declaration of Independence. An argument that has its critics, but also many supporters.
Let me first make my own 'declaration' of support for the principle of Tartan Week, but what does Tartan Week (or Scotland Week as it is becoming known) actually mean? Certainly it is a cause for celebration in parts of America and other countries, and we are led to believe that it is a substantial celebration too. Fantastic footage is beamed back to Scotland each year and it looks impressive.
That said, from contact I have had from some quarters in the USA, the impact of the event in America may not be quite what is claimed. Some reports suggest that as Tartan Week falls so soon after St Patricks day, many New Yorkers assume that the parade is linked to that. Still others have suggested that the (hugely expensive) 'Scottish Village' in Grand Central Station was of very limited success because it did not focus enough on its target audience. There are many anecdotal stories of Tartan Week being a bit less succesful in the USA than we are led to believe in Scotland. Whether this is the case or not, I don't know. Certainly Sir Sean Connery has taken his charity event "Dressed to Kilt" out of Tartan Week, and some of our political leaders have perhaps failed to convey the desired impression when wearing our national dress.
In Arbroath, the very place from where the Declaration was sent, there are lots of activities from a re-enactment of the signing, to haggis hurling. The 'Yomp' that I posted about earlier was part of Tartan Week this year and there are musical events and golf tournaments. There seems to have been some administrative glitches though, with some event start times wrongly sent to the press and the invitation for the Provost's reception after the re-enactment only arriving on some doorsteps on Wednesday, the same day by which we were supposed to RSVP. I know two people whose invitations only arrived on Friday. For an event that is happening on Sunday! Not good enough in my book.
All things considered though, I just don't think it captures the imagination in Scotland the way it really should. Perhaps we need to rethink the strategy on Tartan Week, and if a new strategy needs more investment to make the event more successful, then we should make that investment, because I really want Tartan week, and all it represents to be a major part of our calendar. An event that focuses attention on Scotland and all the many, many positive things it has to offer.