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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 April, 2004, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
US events 'good for tartan pound'
Brian More, from Thurso
Brian More, from Thurso, plays during the Tartan Day Parade
The finance minister has insisted that money spent on promoting Tartan Day events in the US is worthwhile.

It comes as the New York City pipes and drums parade has marked the start of the week-long celebrations.

Andy Kerr also told BBC Radio's Sunday Live programme it was "unfortunate" that Sir Sean Connery was not involved in some events.

More than 400,000 US visitors come to Scotland each year and US business accounts for about 3bn of exports.

Thousands of Americans and tourists lined the mile-long route along the streets of Manhattan to watch Saturday's spectacle, involving about 1,400 people including 45 pipe bands.

In the international global economy, where place and competition for place is absolutely critical, I think this is money well spent
Andy Kerr
Finance minister

It marks the start of a series of events running up to Tartan Day on Tuesday.

The parade, attended by members of the Scottish Parliament and the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow, is one of many events celebrating the historical, cultural and economic links between the United States and Scotland.

Mr Kerr stressed that Scotland needs to be seen on this kind of world stage.

He said: "What we're talking about here is a few flight fares for people to get over there, some money to provide support to exhibitions.

"In the international global economy, where place and competition for place is absolutely critical, I think this is money well spent."

Tartan Day Parade
Tartan Day Parade bagpipers march down 6th Avenue
First Minister Jack McConnell was flying out of Glasgow on Sunday morning, while the parliament's Presiding Officer George Reid arrived in America on Saturday.

Mr McConnell said: "Today's Scotland is hungry for success, we have a national ambition to be among the best in the world and we are working hard to make that happen."

John Swinney, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), is visiting the United Nations, delivering speeches at New York's Columbia University and Georgetown University in Washington, as well as holding meetings with senior members of Congress.

He is also due to meet Sir Sean, a key financial backer of the SNP, during his visit.

Sir Sean row

Mr Connery is the focus of a spat with the first minister, after the actor declined an offer to meet Mr McConnell in New York for talks on promoting Scotland abroad.

The James Bond star is reportedly still angry at the way he was treated in the promotion of Scotland's bid to host the Ryder Cup.

Mr Kerr said it was "sad and unfortunate" Sir Sean was not taking part in some events.

We've got to leverage not only the brand of Scotland, but leverage Mr Connery - and he is right behind us - if we treat him properly
Jim Mather
SNP MSP
"Knowing Jack McConnell very well, knowing the effort he's putting into Scotland world-wide, I just simply do not believe that we have dealt with Sir Sean Connery in the way that is portrayed," he said.

But SNP Highlands and Islands MSP Jim Mather said Scotland could not afford to lose high profile support.

Mr Mather told the BBC's Politics Show: "That particularly famous Scot is the one that galvanised Tartan Day 2001, I can't imagine it having been anything like as successful without him."

He added: "We've got to leverage not only the brand of Scotland, but leverage Mr Connery - and he is right behind us - if we treat him properly."

Plans to celebrate a national day in Scotland are also being looked at by the executive.

Meanwhile, the finance minister revealed the executive is to donate 5,500 towards a memorial garden for the UK victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Stone quarried from Morayshire and Caithness is to be used throughout the garden, which will be located at Hanover Square in Manhattan.


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Ken Macdonald
"It's a popular port of call for politicians from the old country"



SEE ALSO:
Sir Sean backs Tartan Day plans
02 Apr 04  |  Scotland
Tartan Day drums up support
05 Apr 03  |  Scotland
Tuning up for Tartan Day
30 Mar 03  |  Scotland
Pipers on form for Tartan day
07 Apr 02  |  Scotland
Stars back Scots cultural showcase
26 Feb 02  |  Scotland


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