I congratulate Sharon Dowey on securing the debate, and I associate myself with the words that she expressed. I also associate myself with the words of Fiona Hyslop; I very much agree with her in hoping, as she just expressed, that Linlithgow palace will be open to visitors again soon.
In this country, we have a wonderful history, from the wars of independence and the Jacobite rebellions to being at the forefront of the industrial revolution and the enlightenment, and the defence and liberation of the free world during the world wars. This is our story, and we can take pride in retelling that story from whichever perspective we choose to tell it. I am a Scottish unionist, and I believe that it is very important that we celebrate Scotland’s history, whether it is before or after the act of union of 1707, the 316th anniversary of which was just earlier this week.
If I may express my personal feelings—I have said this before and I will take this opportunity to say it again—I find it frustrating in Scottish politics that there are some people, although not necessarily in this Parliament, who would consign to the margins of the Scottish political spectrum those of us who believe in being Scottish and British, in the sense that they say that we are not true Scots. I am a true Scot. I love Scotland and I take a great deal of pride in our nation and draw a great deal of passion from it. That combination of Scottishness and Britishness is an enhancement. I think that I heard the former First Minister say last summer that she identified as both Scottish and British, and I think that that is a very welcome thing to hear members of the Scottish National Party say, because it will blunt some of the anger and vile hatred that some of us experience.
Whether one believes, as I do, that Scotland is empowered by being in the union or whether one does not, it is important that members of this Parliament are perturbed by and interested in the condition of Scotland’s historic sites—the symbols of Scotland’s cultural independence. All of us who believe in Scotland’s nationhood would like priority to be given to the accessibility and safeguarding of the key sites that shape our Scottish identity. I ask Angus Robertson to explain to Parliament fully why it is that, after so long, Arbroath abbey—the site of one of the proud moments of Scotland’s emergence of a nation with an identity: the signing in 1320 of the declaration of Arbroath, a document of worldwide importance—is still closed. We have heard Fiona Hyslop talk about Linlithgow palace, and it is important that we receive reassurances from Angus Robertson that it will open soon. What is the delay? When can we expect that magnificent site—the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots—to reopen?
Those are just two of the sites managed by Historic Environment Scotland that are currently closed—as Sharon Dowey said earlier, there are 47 of them. For a nation to have a greater sense of its own identity, the places where that identity was forged and continues to be shaped must be accessible to all of us. We must learn lessons from what has happened to some of these historic sites in terms of their upkeep and maintenance. Deep down, we must resolve, collectively, to support the Scottish Government to ensure that there are appropriate levels of investment and care in relation to those sites of historic Scottish heritage.
People who love Scotland feel compelled, as I do, to preserve those things that make us the nation that we are, and these historic sites are one of those things.
I am a Scottish Conservative; I am interested in conserving. I hope that we hear from Angus Robertson exactly the steps that will be taken to open up all of these historic sites, which have been closed for too long.