Words of wisdom sought to mark tenth anniversary of the Scottish Parliament

Share this article

IT HAS become one of the most popular features of the Scottish Parliament building. Carved into the grey wall facing on to Edinburgh's Canongate, the quotations from celebrated Scots are established as an attraction in their own right.

Now the search is on for another wordsmith to join the likes of Robert Burns, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alasdair Gray and Andrew Carnegie by having their words immortalised at Holyrood.

Plans were unveiled yesterday to mark the tenth anniversary of devolution by adding a striking new quote to the 25 already on the Canongate wall.

The quotations – which also feature words from the Bible, Sir Walter Scott, Edwin Morgan and Hugh MacDiarmid – were selected from public nominations when the building was being designed by the architect Enric Miralles. A panel comprising MSPs, Robyn Marsack, director of the Scottish Poetry Library, Marion Bourbouze, of the Scottish Book Trust, and the poet Douglas Dunn will draw up a shortlist for the latest addition after nominations close at the end of August.

The winner is due to be chosen in October and the new carving unveiled on St Andrew's Day.

Announcing the start of the search, Alex Fergusson, the parliament's presiding officer, said: "The Canongate wall was always supposed to be a living wall, one that we would add to when the time was right. We believe that as we approach our tenth anniversary, that time is now.

"We are asking people to nominate a well-loved or significant piece of writing that is relevant for Scotland, perhaps something that expresses how they feel about Scotland, what it means to be Scottish, or hopes for the future."

Nominations can be from writers dead or alive, or even anonymous, but no more than 50 words are allowed. Suggestions for writing in English, Gaelic or traditional Scots are being welcomed. Stewart Conn, a former Edinburgh Makar, suggested an extract from fellow poet Nancy Somerville's The Big Hooley, written to mark the open day of the parliament.

Frank McAveety, a former culture minister, said: "The thing about the Canongate wall is there's not much to reflect the nation's sense of humour. I'd love to see something by Bud Neill, the great Glaswegian cartoonist."

Margo MacDonald, the Independent MSP, said: "I know some people do like the wall and it's certainly one of the less controversial aspects of the building, like the leaky roof or the windows that don't keep the rain out. I'd be happy to have 'Here's tae us, wha's like us' myself."


There is hope in honest error;

None in the icy perfections of the mere stylist.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Bright is the ring of words.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

Alasdair Gray

So, cam' all ye at hame wi' freedom

Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom

In your hoose a' the bairns o' Adam

Can find breid, barley bree an' painted room.

Hamish Henderson, The Freedom come all ye

Put all your eggs into one basket – and then watch that basket.

Andrew Carnegie

Here's a few suggestions...

Academic Derrick McClure, chair of the Scottish Language Forum

Let's ca' in the folk to the auld house

The puir folk a' thegither:

It's sunkit on rock is the auld house

And the rock's their brither.

(From The Auld House by William Soutar, 1898-1943)

Leading chef Tony Singh

Some hae meat, and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it,

But we hae meat and we can eat,

And sae the Lord be thankit.

Selkirk Grace, by Robert Burns

Former culture minister Frank McAveety

Winter's come the snow has fell

Wee Josie's nose is froze as well

Wee Josie's frozen nose is skintit

Winter's diabolic, intit?

It's Winter, by Bud Neill

James Boyle, former chair of the Scottish Art Council

We the Scottish people undertake

To take just pride in all our diverse tongues,

Folks and customs – and also what is yet

Most distinct in us: our infinite songs,

our profligate invention and our thrawn debate.

From the poem "We, the Scottish people, undertake" by Don Paterson

Do you have any suggestions for a new quote on the Holyrood wall? Leave your comments below