South of Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has called on the Scottish Government to do more to help utilise the economic potential of Robert Burns for Dumfries and Galloway.

The local MSP was speaking during a debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (21 January) on the economic legacy of Burns, where he urged the Scottish Government to give its backing to plans

A recent report carried out by the Centre for Robert Burns Studies revealed that in Dumfries and Galloway an estimated value of £21 million was assigned to Burns as a tourist brand, just a sixth of the £121 million generated in Ayrshire and Arran.

The report shows that while Burns makes a vital contribution to the region’s economy, Dumfries can – as the report states – “with some conviction be presented as the Burns Town as much as Ayr”.

In particular, the report highlights Ellisland farm – the home Burns built to bring his family together for the first time and where he wrote many famous verses, including Auld Lang Syne.

The Ellisland Farm Trust has developed exciting plans to preserve Burn’s legacy and transform Burns home into a world class visitor attraction and the report describes the proposals as potentially “transformative” and believes delivering them “would alone do much to increase Burns visitor concentration in the Dumfries area”.

However, while the potential for Ellisland farm is enormous, help will be needed to deliver the plans.

As a councillor in 2014, Colin Smyth helped launch the Burns trail which goes across Dumfries and beyond.

Speaking during the debate, Colin Smyth told Parliament: “When we launched the Burns trail I hoped it would be the start of a wider promotion and recognition of the breadth of the physical legacy of Burns’s time in the area.

“I would strongly urge the Scottish Government to consider carefully the recommendations of this report and in particular how it can get behind the plans for Ellisland, to help deliver the full economic and culture legacy of Scotland’s national bard.

“Dumfriesshire already has a lot to see when it comes to Burns, just look at the huge number of events taking place as part of the Big Burns Supper Festival which starts in Dumfries on Friday.

“However, while many people know that Dumfries is the place where Rabbie Burns died, there is so much more to be discovered and we want the rest of the world to know this.

“I hope the Scottish Government will take on board the recommendations of this report and help Dumfries to benefit from this historic and important connection.”

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