Thursday, March 15, 2012

Scotland to celebrate second homecoming

By Jenna Miller
Edited and Produced by Taylor Pool

“Scots have always been sort of an emigrating society,” Tony Mitchell of Edinburgh, Scotland said. “We’re almost a kind of international nation in a way.”

Scotland is famous for its massive emigration of people in the 19th and 20th centuries.  There are more people from Scottish descent living abroad than the total population of Scotland, making Scots one of the top migratory people of the world.

“Scotland’s in quite a unique position, in the sense that the Scots were dispersed all over the world,” Mitchell said in a phone interview. “Everywhere you go there will be Scottish people there.”  

In an effort to bring Scots who immigrated to other countries ‘”home,” Scotland celebrated its first year of homecoming in 2009.  It encouraged Scots to reach out to distant relatives and invite them to a year of celebration with the international “I Am A Scot” campaign.  The country hosted a plethora of events and festivals focused on culture and heritage, innovation, golf, and whisky. 

Funded in part by the Scottish government and managed by EventScotland and VisitScotland, it became the largest collaborative tourism initiative in Scotland’s history.  It generated over £50 million in additional tourism revenue and attracted approximately 95,000 visitors to Scotland – with an estimated 72,000 exclusively drawn by the celebrations. And the Scottish government plans to do it all over again in 2014. 

Tony Mitchell says a homecoming not only brings in tourism and business, but it strengthens the Scottish identity, as well.

“It’s a great thing for Scotland and the tourism industry in the direct way, but it also reinforces people’s perception of Scotland internationally and encourages investment in the longer terms,” Mitchell said.

Homecoming has other benefits

For Mitchell, he hopes the 2014 homecoming will not only bring in tourism for Scotland but will also bring customers for his business.

Mitchell is the creator of a Scottish board game called Stramash, what he calls “a combination of Frustration, Sorry, and Ludo but with playing cards instead of dice.”
Stramash - Curtesy of Tony Mitchell and

“I’m hoping that it will effect our [business]…and to raise the profile of our game to all the people who come over,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell is looking at the 2014 homecoming as a debut for his product and hopes to hold a massive competition for Stramash during the year.  He’s already been in talks with EventScotland to plan “clan playoff games” and a final championship.

“The plan is to organize a championship…it would be like a clan challenge, where clans could put forward their champion,” Mitchell said.

Although events, like a Stramash championship, for the next homecoming are still in the works, themes for the year have recently been announced.  Events will be focused around ancestry and the Scottish Government’s Year of Focus, which include food and drink, active, creative, and natural Scotland.  New Homecoming Scotland Director Tom Chamber from EventScotland will lead the festivities and the Ministry for Enterprise, Energy, and Tourism has already pledged to invest £3 million for the year.

“My feeling is that it will grow and become much more institutionalized,” Mitchell said. “If they do it every five years, I think it will become a regular and good thing to do. People will plan for and look forward to it.” 

The year 2014 will be a busy one for Scotland, as it’s not only celebrating a year of homecoming, but it’s also the host for the two of the biggest sporting events: The Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup.

And with an imminent vote on a referendum for Scottish independence, Mitchell says he’s confident the homecoming will concentrate the minds on “Scottishness,” but doesn’t necessarily see it swaying many votes.

“The people who are likely to be involved in the homecoming will probably be leaning towards an independence vote anyway,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell is undecided on the potential independence, but fully plans to celebrate his Scottish heritage and reach out to loved ones overseas.

“We would be keen for our relatives to come over, mainly my wife’s relatives who are in Canada,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell says Scotland immigrants did an enormous amount for developing countries abroad and hopes the homecoming with fortify an international Scottish identity.  

He adds, “Just because you’ve left, doesn’t mean that you’ve gone in spirit.”

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