ALEX SALMOND - HOMECOMING SCOTLAND 2009 - NEW YEARS MESSAGE.
The Homecoming 2009 initiative - with its 300-plus inspirational events across the country - will help Scotland turn a threatened tourism downturn into a visitor boom, First Minister Alex Salmond says in a special New Year message.
The video message was recorded at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, which is hosting Zig-Zag - Paths of Robert Burns' exhibition until February before it is taken on tour round Scotland for the rest of 2009.
It begins with a view of the original manuscript of Auld Lang Syne, and Mr Salmond saying:
"Written by our very own international cultural icon Robert Burns, Auld Lang Syne is a masterpiece that is sung by hundreds of millions of people around the world to welcome each and every New Year.
"As we know, New Year is a time for family, for reunions, for taking stock, for looking back and looking forward.
"For many people, 2009 will be an enormous challenge, with the full impact of the economic downturn starting to bite.
"At times like this, therefore, it is even more important that we pull together as a nation. The economic storm clouds are gathering. But I know that we will weather this storm - and emerge even stronger, and well placed to prosper.
"That is why we are delivering our economic recovery plan to help families and business - accelerating investment in the economy, and boosting spending on fighting fuel poverty.
"It means more money to support families struggling to pay their mortgage. And it means £70 million available this coming year for local authorities to freeze the unfair Council Tax - putting much needed extra money in people's pockets.
"We need to ensure Scotland becomes a more successful country, mitigating the downturn and leading the recovery.
"As we enter a new year, a wonderful opportunity presents itself to turn a threatened tourism downturn into a visitor boom.
"Homecoming Scotland - the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns - will be a marvellous celebration of all things Scottish: Burns himself, golf, whisky, our proud heritage and Scottish scientific advance and achievement.
"More than 300 inspirational events will take place throughout the country and across the year complementing the vast range of world class attractions already offered in Scotland.
"From the world's biggest Clan Gathering in Edinburgh to the Burns-inspired Celtic Connections programme in Glasgow, the Open Championship at TurnberrySpeyside Whisky Festival, there's something special for everyone.
"Homecoming is a chance for Scotland's international family, and all who feel an affinity for our nation, to come back and reconnect with our heritage while also learning what being a citizen in Scotland in the 21st century actually means.
"I believe there is a spirit of optimism abroad that will pull us through the hard times, that will see Scotland take her rightful place in the world, and right now will encourage people to return to Scotland for our Year of Homecoming. Or, as Rabbie would have put it:
'For a' that, an' a' that,
It's comin yet for a' that,
That Man to Man the warld o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that.'
"So get behind Homecoming Scotland and make 2009 a year to remember, for Auld Lang Syne, and for Scotland."