Making an impact with Scots abroad

SOLDIERS and politicians, inventors and explorers, engineers and educators: throughout history Scots have made an impact in countries far from home.

Next year a major international conference will examine and celebrate the influence of Scots around the globe as part of the Year of Homecoming event.

Scotland's Global Impact will be held in Inverness between 22-24 October and will bring together prominent academics, historians and other experts to discuss Scots who made their mark in countries including Canada, the US, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

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Linda Fabiani, the culture minister, was in Inverness yesterday to launch the event.

Ms Fabiani said: "Scotland's Global Impact looks set to provoke healthy discussion on the history of migration and the influence Scots have had all round the world.

"This is what Homecoming is all about – a celebration of our rich heritage and culture and the great minds who shaped Scotland and its contribution to the world. There is huge interest in Scottish history, Scots ancestry and what shapes our national identity."

The Scottish Government has committed 60,000 to support a programme of Highland Homecoming events.

Professor James Hunter, director of the UHI Centre for History, part of the proposed Highlands and Islands university, said that while Scotland has a population of just five million, there are many times that number of people who feel that they have a link with the country.

Mr Hunter added: "These people are one of our great assets. It's important that we reach out to them and take the opportunity to underline that here in the Highlands, where the population fell for so long, people are now moving into our area in large numbers.

"Scots have been hugely present and hugely influential in a whole series of countries – the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia. We have tended to make fun of our diaspora, such as the stereotype American in a kilt searching for his ancestors whereas the Irish have not done that. We need to move on from that."

Sandy Park, convener of the Highland Council, said: "We are delighted to lead the partnership, developing a fantastic programme of events next year which I'm confident will reflect the unique contribution of the Highlands to the Homecoming Scotland celebrations in 2009."

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Homecoming Scotland 2009 is a Scottish government initiative managed by EventScotland in partnership with VisitScotland. It aims to encourage people of Scottish descent to come home and join a national celebration of the culture, heritage and many great contributions Scotland has made to the world.

The festival kicks off on Burns Night, on 25 January, and will run until St Andrew's Day on 30 November.

The programme of events has been organised around five main themes – Robert Burns, whisky, golf, great Scottish minds and innovations and Scotland's culture and heritage.