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Last Updated: Friday, 11 March, 2005, 15:52 GMT
First Minister to miss Tartan Day
Tartan Day parade in the US
Tartan Day has trans-Atlantic support
First Minister Jack McConnell will not be attending this year's Tartan Day celebrations in the US.

The event is celebrated annually in New York with a street parade and will take place on 6 April this year.

Mr McConnell was ridiculed in the press for wearing a pinstripe kilt at last year's event and is rumoured to be missing it due to the general election.

The Scottish Executive will be represented by ministers Tom McCabe, Andy Kerr and Patricia Ferguson.

Tartan Week is a fantastic opportunity for a wide range of public sector organisations to work together and put Scotland in the spotlight
Tom McCabe

Finance Minister Mr McCabe insisted Mr McConnell's absence was not unusual and said: "There have been years in the past when the first minister hasn't attended, and there will be future years when the first minister will not attend.

"But this whole effort is about doing what's right at the right time and not simply going through the motions."

Mr McCabe and Health Minister Mr Kerr plan to wear the kilt during their US visit.

"I think I have the legs for it. Other people disagree, but we'll see how it turns out on the night," added Mr McCabe.

During the Tartan Week events, Mr Kerr will run in a 10km event, The Scotland Run, in the city's Central Park.

He also plans to learn more about the healthcare system on the other side of the Atlantic and will also look into how anti-smoking legislation has been introduced to the Big Apple.

Lessons to learn

Mr McCabe said: "His overall aim is to learn lessons that we can bring back to Scotland to improve our health service overall.

"Clearly there may be aspects that would not suit out culture here in Scotland but there have been previous ministerial visits to the US to look at some of the healthcare innovations."

Tartan Day is just one part of a week-long agenda of events to promote Scotland abroad, known as Tartan Week, which is due to begin on 1 April.

Mr McCabe added: "No-one should be in any doubt that the executive is totally committed to promoting Scotland in the US and elsewhere in the world.

"Tartan Week is a fantastic opportunity for a wide range of public sector organisations to work together and put Scotland in the spotlight.

"It is now well established as the biggest international celebration of Scotland.

"Tartan Week is, of course, an extremely important focus for our work in the US - but Scotland is promoted 365 days a year in the US through our office there."

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