Page last updated at 19:07 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Scots celebrate bard's birthday

poet recites burns
A "Souter Johnny" reciting Robert Burns outside Burn's cottage in Alloway

Thousands of people have taken part in events to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland's national bard.

The celebrations were led by First Minister Alex Salmond.

It also marked the launch of a year-long programme of events which the Scottish Government hopes will raise the country's profile.

A procession took place in Dumfries and there were further events which took place in Alloway, Burns' birthplace.

Sunday's events began with Mr Salmond attending a church service in Alloway, while Culture Minister Linda Fabiani and the Duke of Buccleuch took part in another commemorative event in Dumfries.

Mr Salmond later attended a wreath-laying ceremony at a statue of Burns in Ayr and then went on to the Dumfries lantern procession attended by thousands.

The 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns has been celebrated on a global scale and as it should be - with dancing, singing, laughter and of course the odd dram
Alex Salmond
First Minister
The first minister quoted from the poem on BBC Scotland's The Politics Show - a quotation which ended with the phrase "the man of independent mind looks and laughs at all that".

A number of events and exhibitions took place at various locations in Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The day also marked the start of the "Homecoming 2009" celebrations which will see more than 300 events being held across the Scotland until St Andrew's Day at the end of November.

The Scottish Government is asking "affinity" Scots around the world to return home and join the celebrations with 100,000 tourists expected and a 40m boost to the economy.

'Flying start'

Mr Salmond said: "Homecoming Scotland could not have got off to a better start with tens of thousands of people taking part in sell out events across Scotland, and around the globe.

"The 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns has been celebrated on a global scale and as it should be - with dancing, singing, laughter and of course the odd dram.

"I have no doubt that if he were here today, Robert Burns would make every effort to attend every single one of the 300 events we have planned across Scotland this year.

"And he would be delighted to see his year of birthday celebrations off to such a flying start."

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